Thinking Outside the Box – Thinking like a Record Label


Last week Sean Atkins of The Lost Sea came up with a really great idea for artists in Pittsburgh –  The Digital Mixtape. An online compilation CD with up to19+ songs by indie artists.  Web surfers can go to a website, download the mp3s and be exposed to several artists they’ve never heard of (and a few that they have).  Each artist on the compilation spreads the word about the mixtape and the end result is hopefully a larger, shared fanbase among all artists. (p.s. read a recent Grassrootsy interview with The Lost Sea)

You’ve seen this model before.  Record labels do it all the time!  They create a sampler of several artist on their label and send to radio stations, fans, clothing corporations, and music distribution companies. 


Independent artist are often set back by their frame of reference.  They often think they can’t do something b/c they are not as large or as rich as a record label.  Not the case. In fact,  its sometimes easier to do things as an independent.

Take for example, The Digital Mixtape.  If you already have a website, it costs absolutely NO money to upload some mp3s and send people a link to download the music.  You spend $0 pressing CDs and everybody wins out.  Indie artists are also more willing to give away a free song and there are no corporate loopholes to jump through or contracts to sign.

So here are some more ideas for how you can be effective as an indie artist by thinking like a record label…

Cross promotion
hink about the artists that you perform with on a regular basis. Each time you promote your show, you are promoting them as well. Go the next step.  Put their website on the flyer/poster.  In your newsletter (about that particular show), include a link to their site.  Ask them to do the same. Put a link to their website on yours.
Its always better to have someone (other than you) talking about your music.  Labels adopt this pretty regularly.  For example, they have their newer artists go on tour with their bigger named groups…etc.

Podcasts and Online Radio
Back in the day (and even still today), radio stations would send hard-copy demos of new music to their database of stations…or to a network (i.e. KISS Radio) and then that network would review the music, pick the songs it liked, and send to the stations it owned. 

Being an indie artist doesnt mean you can’t get radio play. It just means you have to find new ways to be heard.  Podcasts and online radio are the new wave of the 21st century. They level the playing field for all artists.  In fact, most podcasts and online radio station are created by everyday people like you and me – and they’re more willing to give independent artists a chance.  Sub-Rock Music is an excellent example. 

Also, submitting to these outlets takes little or no money (as most ask to be sent an mp3).  Its a win win situation. Every once in a while you will still need to mail in a hardcopy.

Hard Release Date
If you visit Kenna on myspace, you’ll see that he has a timer counting down to his next CD release.  As of right now he is 154 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes, 40 seconds away!  Can you imaging thinking that far in advance!  Did you ever wonder how music companies build hype around a CD. They pre-promote…they get the word out months ahead of time. They make sure that everytime you hear about an artist you like, you’ll learn a significant fact about them. If you think about it, everyone knew Coldplay was coming out with a CD months before it even dropped.

Most indie artists wait till the last minute.  They wait for the CD to arrive at their doorstep before doing anything about it. Think outside the box.  Every month closer to your CD release, build a little more buzz. Bust your but so you don’t miss your release date. And if you have to push the date back a couple weeks, don’t be afraid to do that. Better to have a great project than one that’s on time.

Visit the How to Score Reviews of Your CD post for ideas on drumming up publicity for your CD release.


Here’s another post on mimicking.
If you have other suggestions, please post them below. 

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2 Comments on “Thinking Outside the Box – Thinking like a Record Label”

  1. KSE Says:

    Nice post on Compilation CD’s and CD Releases.

    Texas Music Magazine does a compilation CD each year of all “Indie” Artist across several genres of music.

  2. Phil Says:

    My previous band (The Chop) did this exact thing. We released our record, not a mixtape, online for free. We asked people to make a Paypal donation and with certain donation levels they got shirts, printed CDs, their name in the liner notes, or we would even write and record you a song (topic of your choice). We made enough cash to print the CDs, shirts, and get the discs to the people that had paid for a physical copy. One person even wanted a songs written for them.

    Fortune favors the bold.

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