5 Lessons Learned from My First Independent Music Release

Paper Planes, Worlds Collide EP

Bradley A. Denham
Nov 23, 2016 · 4 min read

It’s now been nearly four months since the release of the first record I have had the pleasure to work on: Worlds Collide, a six track concept EP written in collaboration with singer-songwriter friend, Justice Johnson.

I composed the instrumentals, overseeing production and release of the EP. Justice wrote the lyrics and sung his heart out, quite literally if you’re aware of the inspiration behind the record.

Taking on the role of independent music producer and wearing all of the included hats here are the top five lessons learned from my very first release.

Fan Base First

This means two things: you should always think about your audience before yourself but more importantly you need a fan base first before you can successfully release any original music.

Otherwise you’ll end up with a dud, like us.

As you can see from this screenshot from bandcamp our single, Humble Yourself, outperformed our 6 track EP, Worlds Collide, by over 30 downloads.

This just reaffirms that we live in a singles culture.

Close friends and family will always be there for you so don’t be discouraged but fans won’t come out of the woodwork worshipping the ground you walk on as soon as you drop some tunes. Always stay humble, be interesting, and let your talent shine.

Build a fan base first before releasing larger projects like EPs or albums.

NEVER Rush Release Dates

If I have ever learned anything from Star Trek, I learned it from this 30 second exchange between Captain Kirk and Scotty:

https://youtu.be/t9SVhg6ZENw

Always and I mean always multiply however long you think something will take by at least two, if not four like Scotty if you want to look like a real miracle worker.

We’re all guilty of hollow promises because plans never seem to go according to plan and life ultimately gets in the way. Plus you look like a hack if you’re constantly saying “soon, soon, I promise…” then the next thing you know a year’s passed you by, we’ve all been there.

I rushed the release date and the record suffered in both terms of quality and reach.

Work in silence, announce release dates once your projects are completely finished. If someone asks how things are coming along, blow time expectancy out of proportion.

Stay in Your Creative Lane

I can write lyrics but I’m not a lyricist. Justice can play guitar but he’s not a producer.

Whenever we would try crossing each other’s lanes things got sloppy and time was wasted. There were a few times that our suggestions to each other made their way into the songs but arguing for an hour over a particular lyric or instrument just to end up letting the lyricist decide the lyric or the producer decide the arrangement was outright counterproductive.

By all means speak up and pitch ideas back and forth, it’s all for the benefit of the art. When the time comes to commit to a decision though, let the strongest in their lane make that call.

Too many cooks in the kitchen ruins the soup.

The same philosophy applies to making music.

The best results always came from letting ourselves do what we do best and staying out of each other’s way.

Build a Team

You can’t do it all, as much as you think you can, you can not. Trust me, I’m that guy that thought he could but I’ve learned to let it go and I believe it’s helped both in my personal life as well as my musical endeavors.

Find people who’s strengths are your weaknesses, people that consider your work as playing. Not only will the operation run smoother, faster, but your blood pressure won’t be nearly as high either.

Of course being an independent musician does require substantially more work, there were times where I was spending way too much energy on things I wasn’t very good at.

Those were the times I should have found others to do the job better than I could.

Treat Your Band or Artist Image as a Business

We had visions of our band being some pure Tibetan Monk living on a mountaintop where in reality we should have been acting more like car salesmen.

Because in all honesty that’s what music is, music is sales.

Being a band or an artist, you are a business. You sell things and to sell those things you need a brand.

Music is a business, just like everything else in life. You need a detailed business plan, knowledge in finance, connections, and so much more.

You never hear about the “starving businessman” but everyone likes to go on about the starving artist.

Pick up some business books and build a brand with your music.


So there you have it, the top 5 lessons learned from my first independent music release!

Hopefully you got some value from this article, if you did please share it with a friend who may need it.

If you’d like to check out Worlds Collide you can get it from this link below!

https://thepaperplanes.bandcamp.com/album/worlds-collide

Although Justice and I aren’t actively pursuing Paper Planes at the moment, you can like us on Facebook through the link below.

https://m.facebook.com/thepaperplanes/


Follow me on social!

Twitter: bradleydenham1

Instagram: bradleydenham

Snapchat: thebraddenham

Bradley A. Denham

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Writing my version of the human experience one day at a time.

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