For many of us, the goal of starting a music career is never realized simply because we don’t know how to make an album. But what if I told you that with the right tools, planning, and preparation you could have a complete body of work ready to be released in just a few months? And that you could do it from the comfort of your own home?
Sounds impossible. But in reality, it is completely doable. In fact, many of today’s up-and-coming artists have done just that. So, where do you start?
Step 1 – Choose the type of release
The first decision you need to make before you even write your songs or record your music is whether you want to release a single, EP, or album. This initial choice will set the tone for every resulting step.
With a single, you’ll want a track that draws in listeners and helps you build a solid fanbase. These are generally more upbeat and fun to listen to. An EP is a short body of work to hype up your listeners and prepare them for the eventual album. EPs are a good way for newer artists to build an audience before releasing an album.
Finally, an album is a complete body of work with featured artists, better recording, and more music. There is no rulebook when it comes to releasing music. Make your decision based on the amount of original content you have and the time you intend to put into your recording before you release any music. The cost of recording may also factor into your decision.
Step 2 – Record your music
A huge part of learning how to make an album is in learning how to record your music. If you don’t know how to mix and master your audio you will:
- End up spending a lot of money paying someone who does
- Put out poor quality sound no one will want to listen to
For the uninitiated, mixing is when you adjust various sounds and layer them to create a dynamic listening experience. So if you want to lower your base and let your piano take the lead you’ll need to learn how to properly mix your sounds. That includes techniques like lowering the treble, dropping the gain, etc.
On the other hand, mastering deals with aspects like compression techniques and EQ levels. So, learning how to adjust attack and release timings to create a specific end result comes under this domain. There are plenty of tutorials and guides to help you get started. Recording professional quality music at home takes effort, but it will definitely leave you a better musician and help you release your album.
Of course, if you don’t have the time to learn all this from scratch and would rather outsource the task you can go to sites like LANDR or eMastered. The professionals on these sites will help you get your music ready for distribution.
Step 3 – Pick your distribution platforms
Depending on the type of record you make you’ll have various options for distribution. You can go with the big digital stores like Spotify and Apple music. These have specific categories they will put you into. For example, Spotify does have a category for EPs, so if you release a tracklist with up to 6 tracks or one that is shorter than 30 minutes they will list it as a single. Everything else goes under album.
Apple and iTunes have three categories. The singles list if you have up to 3 songs that are under 10 minutes. EP charts with 3 songs that add up to a listening time of 30 minutes with a single song that is 10 minutes long. Alternatively, if you release up to 6 songs that add up to 30 minutes that’s also an EP. Finally, a body of work larger than that will be listed as an album.
As a newer artist, you may go a different route, choosing to upload to platforms like Soundcloud and Bandcamp and where you can build an audience. Promoting your work on various social media platforms until you gain a following will help you grow your career one step at a time.
Step 4 – Choose the album art
Don’t underestimate the value of good album art. As a new artist, marketing your music well is the key to building a fanbase. And the cover art plays a huge role in that. New listeners are trying to gain a feel for who you are, not just as a musician, but also as an individual. When your artwork represents you and is individualistic instead of generic it will draw people in and make them want to stick around.
There are also certain technical aspects to pay attention to.
- All cover art needs to be formatted to fit a square
- The digital image will be bigger than 3000 by 3000 pixels
- Start with a large image so it doesn’t become blurry when you compress it
- Try not to add URLs or other information that could crowd your album art. This includes social media handles, brand logos, etc.
- Keep it clean and original
- Make sure the art is 72 dpi or higher
Sort out all the details with your art well ahead of time and make sure you credit any artists you work with.
Step 5 – Cover your bases
This includes everything from clearing your samples to listing your collaborators. The last thing you want when you release an album is legal trouble. As a new artist, you want to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes.
Whether your featured artists contributed an entire section of your song or just one line you still need to give them credit. Also sort out your ISRCs, which stand for International Standard Recording Codes, and make sure you keep detailed records for all your music.
Finally, clear all your samples before using them. It doesn’t matter whether the artist is a huge pop star or a small-time indie band, you don’t want your music to be taken down once you’ve put it out. So make sure you cover all your bases.
All in all, learning how to make an album is mostly trial and error. But these key steps should help you get started.