To distribute your music work online professionally as a self-releasing or independent artist, you have to consider these main steps: 

  1. Prepare audio files:

How to prepare your audio files or your masters for uploading to your online distributor:

The ultimate recommendation is to use a professional mastering engineer, and let them know that you are going to be using on line distributor, they can create the master copies for your music. Especially if it is an album, you will give them the opportunity to sequence the album as a whole, to make sure that it flows very well, and sequence of the gaps and fades. So if you are looking to get an album professionally distributed, it is great to have a professional mastering engineer/service and what you should expect to get back from them is at least a folder of wave files, normally they would have the track number in the title of the wave files,

You might also get a DDP master from you mastering engineer as well, which is used for CD distribution, some distributors will accept a DDP part 4 online distribution. In terms of the type of wave files that an online distributor will accept, it is 44.1-khz sample rate at 16 bit by default. In addition, if you happen to have your own ISR codes before you use online distribution service, make sure that your mastering engineer knows about those codes so that they can embed them into the master files, otherwise you can upload the wave files and have your distributor like cdbaby for example generate and embed new ISR codes for you. You can take those codes and give them to your mastering engineer to embed in the distribution files also.

  1. Create artwork:

Album artwork is still critical for success; album art is the bridge between liking a single song, learning more about an album, band, or producer. Even though albums could be chopped up, moved around, put onto playlists, or rearranged into a different order, they are still browsed and bought in the same way a physical release was. If someone likes a song in a playlist, the album art has become the listener’s first step to digging deeper. The image leads to discovery. The art remains a vital space to grab attention, contextualize a song, or tell the story of a whole album.

Some artists have what it takes to use Photoshop and design their own artwork, some can afford to hire a graphic designer to do the work for them, and some do not. If you are one of those who do not, you might find a free artwork solution offered by a music distributer or find free or paid service online. Whatever your choice is you have to understand that artwork is as important as your music.

Here are some online free / paid artwork – images services:

To distribute your music to Spotify, Apple Music and ever other major streaming platform, your album art has to fit some criteria.

Follow these guidelines and you will be good to go when it comes time to release:

Album cover size:

  • Minimum 3000 x 3000 pixels
  • A square
  • Minimum 72 DPI
  • JPG or PNG format

Album cover specs:

  • No blurriness or pixilation
  • No URLs, hashtags or handles
  • No pornographic images
  • No references to brands

Use the image editing tools I mentioned above and your album art will be all set when it comes time to release your music.

  1. Create a portfolio website:

Online portfolios are not just for certain fields or industries anymore. The importance of having a professional online presence is more important than ever, especially for artists and an online portfolio will certainly increase your visibility and presence. Creating your portfolio website allows you to share and showcase your work easily with the audience you would like attract. Online portfolios are not only for streaming your songs but also a first impression for audience, record labels, and fans. They can include your contact info, calendar, and events.

Some artists can create their own portfolio websites and take care of server, hosting expenses, maintenance, coding, and SEO etc. On the other had some can’t and even if they could they do not have the time, that is why lots of paid / free portfolio creation solutions are available that will facilitate the task for them.

Here are some portfolio creation sites:

  • Behance It is ridiculously easy to sign up and upload your projects, and having a Behance is an essential for any fresh talent wanting to get noticed.
  • Adobe Portfolio  is free with Creative Cloud, along with access to the full Typekit font library. 
  • Websiteroof website builder is an easy to use website builder with tons of ready to use themes, you can try a demo  and browse themes before you purchase a plan.
  • Wix is innovative and evolving, and we spotted many fresh grads this year opting for it for their portfolios.
  • Fabrik Although new to the scene, Fabrik is designed specifically for creatives to showcase their best work, as it was curated from London’s film and design industries.
  • FolioLink has an in-built editor to create custom thumbnails and batch tools. In terms of promotion, the product allows for increased search engine optimisation (SEO), mobile optimisation and blog features.
  • Weebly  it was founded by three college friends who wanted to make it easier to display and promote their work online. Today their site has a plethora of features that make it a top choice for building a slick portfolio.
  • Viewbook There are a number of different galleries and formats to choose from with each image hosted on the Viewbook cloud. Other features include dedicated support, password protected pages and fast loading times.
  • SmugMug is a site that combines the showcasing, sharing and selling of photos and imagery. Upload unlimited images and videos and choose from a wide range of design templates – thankfully no need for coding.
  • Squarespace  is known for its beautiful templates that will help to get you started with a more professional aesthetic to Behance or Adobe Portfolio. 
  • Portfoliobox is designed specifically for creatives, Portfoliobox is well set up for galleries, blogs, e-commerce, gorgeous profiles and more. It is easy to navigate for those focusing on the visuals, and has some truly beautiful portfolios to prove it. 
  • Cargo is simple, effective and shows off some truly great work – and it is recently updated with all new features. 
  • Format has dynamic, beautifully responsive themes (especially with mobile) Format has a dizzying range of pricing plans from personal (100 images) all the way up to unlimited (which, unsurprisingly, offers unlimited images – and custom HTML & CSS editing). 
  • Carbonmade website may not be the sleekest or aesthetically pleasing at first site, but we were thoroughly impressed with their beautiful themes. As they describe it, “our gorgeous themes are so nice you’ll think they’re Canadian.
  • Moonfruit has some pretty cool, stylish and flexible template designs. Its blank canvas editor leaves room for creativity, but also space for irritating misalignments – which blank canvas editors on competitors like Wix do not suffer from.
  • Dribbble  is a first and foremost a design community where all sorts of creative types share their work. It is a great place to explore, learn and, of course, show off. The format is ‘shots’ – small screenshots of designs – so you might want another main portfolio site as well as Dribbble.
  1. Find an online distributer:

For this part, you should do your homework, do your own research, and find the best music distributor that fits your needs the best. Keeping in mind your finances and situation, for example a music distributer like AWAL will allow you to distribute your music for free but will charge a 15% cut. Here is a list of the most popular online music distribution services:

  1. Use music blog sites:

In this section, I will be talking about SubmitHub as an example of music submission site, please note that you have to do your own research to select a music submission site(s) that fits your needs, budget, and genre.

SubmitHub is just a place where you can pitch your Spotify release or your music releases to bloggers, playlists, and record labels. Its highly recommend that if you are a self-releasing artist to push your music to Spotify playlists, if you get on the right playlist, it can really accelerate your brand on Spotify and accelerate your career. A record labels could be more interested, and if you pitch yourself to record labels, afterwards they will be more interested in you knowing that you have a good following on Spotify.

Some channels and some playlisters will accept free submissions however, I do highly recommend that you buy some credits and use paid submissions, this way you will be up against less competition, and you are getting to higher-quality submission processes for blogs, playlisters, and labels.

At this point, you are also going to make sure that all of your social media is already looking good. In terms of status and activity, they will look at those when you do submit your music to them, they want to know that you are already building a brand, putting in the work, and throwing things on daily basis to communicate with your audience. So make sure that everything looks good, and you have your Spotify artist profile setup along with Sound Cloud or whatever social media platform you are using. If you're paying money to submit to these people you want to make sure that you're communicating as much value to them as possible, so I highly recommend that you do that before you proceed with using.

SubmitHub is not the only way to do this, I do recommend supporting this by doing your own research to find playlisters, labels, and bloggers who do not use SubmitHub and use their own processes, and then you can submit your music to them. Moreover, that might be one outcome of your own research, maybe you want to make a spreadsheet of labels and playlisters that you want to submit to, then find out and document their submission processes and push out to them as well.

Here are some other music blog sites to submit your music:

  • A&R Factory is a popular music blog with a wide-ranging readership, including record label owners, publishers, radio stations, PR executives, managers and sync licensing firms from all over the globe.   
  • IndiePulse is an advocate for the independent music scene, featuring news, interviews, reviews and video. IndiePulse also offers a platform for artists to be heard with its online radio station IPM Radio.
  • HighClouds describes itself as the Music Junkies' Holy Bible. Originally, an online radio station, the site now focusses on album and EP reviews for emerging artists of all genres.
  •  Xune Mag accepts submissions from bands and artists of just about every genre, offering emerging, unsigned musicians the opportunity to be reviewed, interviewed and added to playlists. 
  • Indie Music Shuffle  a diverse group of people who are excited about sharing new music. They do not write bad reviews, so everything you read about is something they like and believe is worth checking out.  
  • Aquarium Drunkard is a music blog with reviews, interviews, features, mp3 samples and sessions. It accepts all sorts of submissions and covers contemporary sounds with vintage garage, psych, folk, country, soul, funk, R&B and everything that falls in between.  
  • Music Emissions was created to present one person's critical thinking on independent music. Up and coming musician can build a profile on the site in the hope of getting featured review. 
  • Aurgasm is an essential destination for passionate music lovers around the world, featuring an eclectic range of tracks from unsigned bands and solo artists all over the globe. 
  • Country Fried Rock is a one-hour, weekly radio road trip that features some of the most exciting off-the-radar artists talking about and playing the music that moves them.  
  • Drowned in Sound has everything to keep you up to date with reviews, music news, and community posts. The site commissions around 15 album reviews a week.
  • Emerging Indie Bands is dedicated to highlighting the very best up and coming independent musicians from across the globe, review and promoting hundreds of exciting unsigned artists. 
  • FACT has built up a reputation for featuring some of the biggest up-and-coming artists. They have offices in the UK, US and Australia and their own online TV channel! 
  • Knox Road is your ideal music fix, and sometimes more. Support what you like. It's pretty simple, really. The website also accepts submissions from unsigned artists looking to promote their music. 
  • Kings of A&R is a one-stop shop for information about new music trends and finding new music. The site accepts music submissions from all types of bands and artists. 
  • Metal Injection offer the latest news and reviews from around the metal world, mainly for metal videos. You can also upload your own videos for the site moderators to consider for promotion.  
  • Indie Music Filter is Toronto-based music blog dedicated to finding the best new music available on the internet from the best new up and coming indie bands. 
  • The Music Ninja is a multi-genre music discovery site based in the deep, dark and melodic shadows of the internet.  
  • Pigeons & Planes is a music discovery and the perfect place to go to uncover lots of fantastic new music, whatever genre you're looking for from anywhere in the world. 
  • Songdew is a platform for independent musicians to promote their music and reach masses with various opportunities. With a community of 20,000+ musicians and over 1 million listeners, Songdew helps musicians to be discovered. 
  1. Join SOCAN:

SOCAN is a member-based organization that represents the Canadian performing rights of more than three million Canadian and international music creators and publishers. SOCAN playing a leading role in supporting the long-term success of its more than 115,000 Canadian members, as well as the Canadian music industry. SOCAN licenses more than 125,000 businesses from coast-to-coast and distributes royalties to its members and music rights organizations around the world. SOCAN also distributes royalties to its members for the use of their music internationally in collaboration with its peer societies.

In 2014, SOCAN collaborated with Audiam, which is another collection agency that finds videos on YouTube that use its customer’s songs, authorizes YouTube to put ads on those videos, and administers the artist’s share of the money back to them. That means if someone uploads your original music to YouTube SOCAN will collect your royalties from YouTube through Audiam using content ID technology.

When signing a contract with SOCAN keep in mind that you will be asked to choose your USA Affiliate, BMI or ASCAP.



Fayez Saidawi

Courtesy of RAC