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Distributing Music 2020 (Digitally)

Think about realeasing your music? Want to get on Spotify, Apple Music and other major streaming sites but have no idea how? keep reading below!

Prior To Release


Prior to releasing music there are various factors you must take into consideration. If your song is ready? If you feel it is ready to be released, you must check your master and optimize it for what distribution sites you are going to use.


iTunes

iTunes downloads are now 256 kbps AAC. iTunes uploads require uncompressed, 24 bit .WAV or .AIFF files which are transcoded to 256 kbps AAC (identified with the .mp4 or .m4a extension) further down the line.

Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for iTunes:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to –1 dBFS. Apple recommends leaving 1 dB of headroom to prevent any clipping from occurring due to the noise added by the AAC encoder.

●  Forget about the Loudness War and go easy with any compression, limiting or dynamics processing. Compress a track for the purpose of improving the sound quality, not for increasing the volume. SoundCheck in iTunes uses an advanced algorithm to determine perceived loudness (not simply the peak/RMS values), level match each track to –16 LUFS, and then add this volume information to the metadata in the header of each audio file. A ‘competitive’ track with no dynamic range now sounds less good in iTunes when played next to a track with greater dynamic range.

Spotify

Spotify will accept audio at any sampling rate and word length so ideally you should aim to upload 96KHz, 24 Bit audio masters. Spotify will then transcode the uncompressed master to the correct streaming format for its various playback platforms and subscription options, as outlined in the following link: https://support.spotify.com/ie/article/high-quality-streaming/


Spotify Audio Settings

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to no higher than –1 dBFS.

●  Spotify normalises music to around -14 LUFS.

YouTube

YouTube transcodes all uploaded video (and the contained audio) in order to offer streaming qualities at 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p, 1440p (2K) and 2160p (4K). Youtube uses the H.264 video codec with the AAC audio codec. The quality of stereo audio playback depends on the user selected streaming quality setting as follows:

●  360p and 480p video will playback audio at 128 kbps

●  720p, 1080p, 1440p (2K), 2160p (4K) video will playback audio at 384 kbpsYouTube can only down-convert video, so it’s best to upload the highest quality level you can within the H.264 codec. Why not upload a .MOV with uncompressed audio? For best results, YouTube actually recommends uploading media that is already encoded, rather than uploading a .MOV that contains a full quality .WAV file.


Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for YouTube:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to no higher than –1 dBFS.

●  YouTube normalises music to around -14 LUFS.

●  Not all encoders are created equal. Render from the video editor in full, uncompressed quality for both video and audio, and then audition the audio visual qualities of different media encoders.


Soundcloud



SoundCloud transcodes uploaded audio to 128 kbps MP3. If an audio file on SoundCloud is made available for download, the downloaded version will be in the original format. Uploading an MP3 is redundant since SoundCloud will transcode it anyway, which could in turn introduce more artifacts to audio that’s already compressed. Therefore, the best practice is to upload an uncompressed, 24-bit .WAV file and allow SoundCloud to process it.


Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for SoundCloud:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to –0.3 dBFS. This is an acceptable threshold tomitigate most of the clipping that occurs during the encoding process. However, depending on the source material, you may find a margin of –0.5, –0.7, –1.0, or –1.5 dBFS sounds better, with less distortion.

●  SoundCloud does not have a feature like Apple’s SoundCheck, so an audio master destined for SoundCloud has more freedom to raise the overall RMS level for competitive loudness.

●  Using a stereo imaging tool, narrow the high end between 5–20%. A lot of side information is lost during encoding and an extremely wide mix is more susceptible to noticeable artifacts.


Artwork


Artwork is an important factor in releasing a single or album as it is the first thing a viewer sees. You need something thats eye catching and makes you want to click on the song and listen. Do your research, get some design samples and have a basic idea of you would like as your cover photo. A great website to aid you in this process and in all ways of design is Canva. A free platform with tons of templates & Designs.

https://www.canva.com


Distribution Site's


Distribution sites are how you are going to upload your songs to sites such as Spotify, apple music and much more. There are a vast amount of these websites and they make the process very easy and seamless. But in saying this it can come with a price. Most distribution sites come with a subscription package, or a pay to display type format. Meaning that you may pay a small fee to the site for allowing them to host your music plus paying a fee to upload to streaming sites. In saying this you are given a barcode that not only allows you the ability to sell your music in stores, but also the ability to track sales. Distribution websites also give in depth analytics on sales. Important for understanding your audience. When it comes to getting paid for your plays and sales, sites can vary in how they carry this out, depending on the package you sign up for, sites can take a cut of your sales or charge a more upfront fee for distribution while you keep all the royalties of your music. In My experience there are two tried and trusted Distribution websites.

https://cdbaby.com

https://www.recordunion.com


Promotion


It is advised to always set a future date for you release. Usually always on a Friday for new music. The reasoning for this you might ask? Time to promote, submit and plan your release. Promotion is an important aspect of reaching an audience. Without people knowing that you are releasing a songs/songs there won't be listeners. The best and free ways of doing this are through your own social media platforms. Share, promote, add previews to get people talking and excited. Facebook & Instagram adds can reach a wide audience but can be an expensive promotion technique. Use influencers on instagram, get your preview/song featured to reach a wide variety of real people. You can also apply to Spotify to be in their playlists while reaching out to owner playlists on spotify is a good way to drive sales. You can do this by searching big playlists on Spotify and finding an email and sending them your song that way.



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