How to release music in 2017

I come from the slightly bygone era of putting out a cassette, then maybe cdr or cd demo/EP and playing gigs to get it into people’s hands. I briefly operated a very small record label and broke even on my one release- 10+ years ago. I have some (now) dated experience.

My question is how does one release experimental electronic music in this modern age. For reference, I do not use a smartphone nor Facebook. I would probably be a Luddite were it not for MI. I have read about cassette releases, and pressing companies seem to include online mp3 sales as an add-on for pressing a batch of cds.

What has worked for those of you that have released your own music? Perhaps I should note that live performance is central to my approach. I have always considered this critical to my own music making and subsequent promotion.


Right now the cassette format seams to sell in itself, i.e. people seem to be interested in buying cassettes regardless of the quality of the music. That being said I’ve only seen cassette releases of 100 copies or less. So we’re talking really tiny releases.

Selling music today is hard. Just getting people to listen to your music is as tough as it was 20 years ago to sell your records. The market if flooded with huge amounts of quality home productions being given away.

I’m just glad that a few hundred people are willing to listen every time I release a new track. :slightly_smiling_face:

Bandcamp. Release a physical copy as well, such as tape, minidisc etc but bundle it with a download code. Some people like having the item but want the music digitally.

Techmoan suggested using odd formats to generate publicity. Elcaset, DCC, video tape even.

release free with the purchase of a tangible good. Fidget spinner, yoyo tshirt, 3d printed chess piece whatever.

I appreciate the responses everyone! @lisa confirms some suspicions I have been holding about the cassette revival. I hear you about just wanting to get the music out. @6581punk I will look into bandcamp. In the far north of NY state, the cassette would be an odd format, of course everything I do is odd here, so no problem there. I will check out the video, thanks for the link. @herrprof you make good point, particularly if everyone will be listing on their phone anyway. Should probably start distilling spirits or something…the chickens are producing lots of eggs now that I think of it…

Much food for thought, thanks all!

A couple of quick things I’d like to share with you. Keep in mind that some are just personal – and hence very subjective experiences – but they might be useful to know I guess. Others are advices I got from people, who I’d like to pass on here.

  • Producing your own album is only 20% of the hard work. The really hard work is: promoting, selling and managing everything that comes after you’re done with making the music, having it properly mixed and mastered and transformed into something people can listen to, like a tape.
  • many people told me that the best way to release some music is still through a label, but to find a label you need to play live, and get noticed. To do so you need to play in the right venues, places that are linked to the type of label that you’d like to be on and have a certain prestige, so the fact that you play there help you in being perceived as important as well. Having a label reduces the above mentioned burden a little bit, but you’ll probably still have to do a lot yourself.
  • If you don’t play live it will be very hard to sell anything. I’ve made various experiments on bandcamp to figure out the dynamics involved with publishing album both digitally and physically and usually if you can sell a handful of copies it’s already a success. Interestingly, making them a free download didn’t seem to change much.
  • do not ever attempt to make a vinyl if you’re not 100% sure you’ll be able to sell them. We did this one years ago and still have many copies left:
    Everything we sold was at live gigs, we only sold two copies online, one through bandcamp and one outside of it (before bandcamp) through facebook.
    Making the vinyl didn’t help us to get more live gigs, only real-life connections and people hearing us play did.
  • My feeling with tapes is the same as others have expressed, they are much easier to sell than other formats right now, especially for experimental music. I haven’t released a tape yet, but that would be my pick for the next release.
  • Try to get people to feature you in articles, podcasts, etc. but be warned, it’s a lot of work.
  • Avoid being spammy, not sure it will work, and you’ll just help making the internet more annoying place.
  • if you’re not very active online, you’re not in several groups and you don’t have a network of people you interact with, your chances of getting people to listen to your album are very low. But if you play a lot live, that’s probably a much better channel to get in touch with people.
  • if you live in the middle of bloody nowhere it’s harder than if you live in a bigger city.

Hmmm, probably harder today to sell music than ever due to everything that’s already been mentioned above. Possibly start off putting music onto Soundcoud and see what feedback you receive? Even that is a lottery as everybody always seeks to try and pigeonhole any and everything. Trying to create a buzz around your product is probably key to some sort of success but even then that’s no guarantee.
I have around 19 pieces of music on Soundcloud at present but accept that it is probably only ever going to be a personal sense of achievement…
Some links included below

Hi Lisa,
please send me some links.



@Papernoise thanks for your always well-organized thoughts! I am in total agreement with you about live performance, but of course that isn’t everyone’s motivation. It is mine, however.

@ianbenn I see your point about the challenges of a flooded market. I have had some music up on Soundcloud for about a week and have gotten some listens. I won’t post them here as they are up in the Music sub-forum, if you are interested.

This has been a very helpful thread, and enjoyable to read. If others have insights or experiences/observations please don’t be shy!

Owner of two record labels here. Don’t have much time at the moment to write a long answer but I’ll come back and edit it.

Short answer :
Best combo nowadays is the Bandcamp + Spotify/Youtube option. Record stores are nice but I feel like they still exist to keep some useless positions (I’m thinking Distributors, Web Shops and PR). You don’t even really need a label, except if said label is just a collective of people helping each other getting them out there. Even in a flooded market, if you have the talent, there’s space for you.

Long answer soon.

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Thanks for the info. I think the need to play live is a bit sad, just because not all musicians or musical styles work in a live performance format.

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I’d say that you don’t have to but you need to reach out somehow. By just making great music and posting it on Soundcloud or Bandcamp nothing much will happen. Promotion is needed and live gigs is hard work but quite a rewarding way to promote your music. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Really good observations @Papernoise.

I have a few observations of my own I’d like to add.

Beyond playing live, I think that having a strong social media presence goes a long way, especially in 2017 when most people are glued to their phones. It can be a bit soul crushing to give into that, but it really does help. Not even in a spammy way, it really is a huge boon for making connections. This is no doubt the fastest and relatively easiest way to reach people.

I loathe promotion. I always feel like there is a fine line between being proud to share what I’ve worked so hard on and feeling like I’m clogging the internet with more audio garbage. Sometimes it helps to just say f*** it and just get your music out to as many places as possible, but without it feeling spammy. When you post something somewhere, make it personal.

Totally agree with @Papernoise on vinyl. I was in band several years ago and we did a run of vinyl despite very few non-friends and family knowing who we were. Needless to say, it did not sell at all and it ended up costing us a lot of money. With CDs or tapes, the loss wouldn’t have been as steep.

I absolutely love tapes. They are relatively cheap to produce (it wouldn’t even cost very much to invest in equipment to duplicate your own tapes), you can sell them at a reasonable price compared to vinyl, and they feel more special as a physical product compared to CDs.


@Claude @DMR @Wildfrontiers glad to be of help, but as I said, keep in mind these are just very personal and thus subjective opinions of mine and some stuff I have been told. I’m mostly in a very similar position as you Claude, with my band kvsu (and now with another new project) we have always struggled with releasing music and have made many mistakes doing so. It’s a big learning process I guess, so there’s more mistakes that will be made I’m sure.
So I’m really glad for this thread, thankful for all the shared experiences so far and very interested in hearing more!


One thing I’ve noticed is that my gear demo videos will garner thousands of views, whereas videos of my music performances will have hundreds of views (often less). One strategy I’d like to try with a future album is to release a bunch of demo videos of gear used in the tracks to promote the album. Has anyone tried that?

Live performance is all about how you go about it. If you expect it to be a gig with people watching you perform live on an instrument with no visuals then naturally it will be a bit flat.

But approach it more as some sort of artistic performance, visuals, dress up in some unusual outfit/costume then it can work. A lot of DJs wear masks or outfits.

Thanks so much for this ongoing conversation everyone!!! @spoitras I do think that in this community it is certainly possible that we fetishize equipment to the extent that, at least I, don’t spend enough time exploring what people DO with it.

@DMR totally understand not being into live performance. For me it is a strong urge, although there are artist compromises one makes, particularly if one’s music is not composed specifically for a live venue.

@Wildfrontiers I grudgingly accept that social media is here to stay. This forum and Muffs constitute most of my online activity. Putting up a couple soundcloud pages was a big step…

@6581punk capes it will be. Also burning incense at our next gig.

@Shabax waiting for the long answer…appreciate the short one

Completely agree with the tips @Wildfrontiers and @Papernoise gave.

Social Media really is key. And Instagram seems to be the easiet way to get people interested in your music. Followed closely by Youtube and Facebook. Soundcloud is almost irrelevant in my opinion. I still upload a track or two of a release there but it’s more for the sake of supporting every channel.

I started a small tape label in the beginning of this year and so far it’s going well. For artists, the main thing such a label can offer is being in good company. With every new release, sales of the previous ones go up as well and people discover other music. Bandcamp is great that way.

Besides that, a small label can help with promoting your music to some degree, as it is a bit easier pushing other peoples music instead of your own and followers expect a label to be a tad more spammy than artists.

But if your social media game is decent, there is nothing stopping you from releasing your music on your own. A physical version (tapes) definitely helps. Not just for people digging the format but to have something to take pictures of and talk about. It is way more attractive than posting just a jpg of an album cover all the time.

So try to make some noise first and gain followers. Then release your music. It is way tougher the other way around :slight_smile: