Release Your First Single – Part 1: Prepping and Post-Production

By Jason Stallworth

June 2, 2020

You’ve got this awesome song you’ve written and you want to release your song to sources like Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, etc.

After all, music is a huge part of who you are, and you want to leave behind a legacy.

The problem is that most musicians never make it this far. And that’s because releasing your music sounds like an overwhelming process and many don’t know where to start.

But there’s no need to fear, because Jason is here (uh, that’s me)!

In this post, I’m going to give you some actionable steps to releasing your first single. Of course, you can also apply this to a full album.

I’m also going to cover the important things you need to think about to promote your song and your presence as an artist. The last thing you want is to release your song only to hear…crickets!

Important Notes:

  • This is Part 1 of my ‘Release Your First Single‘ series to help you with everything you need to release your song (there will be at least 4 parts to this series!).
  • Some of the links I’m recommending are affiliate links and I do get rewarded if you take action on those.

***If you want to get a jump-start on all of this, specifically promoting your music so that it can be heard by thousands, check out Savvy Musician Academy

(I’m actually an elite-veteran student and their programs have literally shaped my own music career.)

Treat Your Music Like a Business

Before we dive into the actual steps, the first you need to do is flip that switch in your head that you’re probably not used to using. It’s that part of us that sounds boring and doesn’t feel like we’re being ourselves, simply because we (you and I) are artists.

You have to develop somewhat of a business mind. I know, I know…We cringe when I hear the word ‘business.’

Actually, let’s change that to entrepreneur…that’s much better, right?

Anyway, here’s the painful truth…

It doesn’t matter how great your song is or how amazing of a singer you are or if you can shred sweep arpeggios up and down the neck – no one is going to listen to your music unless you:

  1. Let them know it’s out there
  2. Give them a reason to listen to you

And ‘being awesome’ is not a valid reason for anyone to listen to your music. So, swallow that pill first, and then we can move forward.

Jason’s Mistake: When I released my first album, Apocalyptic Dreams, back in 2013, I had the mentality of ‘If you book them, they will come’ – quote from Wayne’s World!

Sure, I told my friends about the album and shared it on Facebook and all. But that’s not enough. In fact, it’s not even close.

But don’t worry, I’m going to circle back around to this in Part 3 of this series.

First, let’s get your song ready!

How to Have a ‘Release-Ready’ Track

Apocalyptic Dreams CD - open

Chances are your song is written and perhaps even recorded. But there are other aspects of having what I call a ‘release ready’ song.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this section:

  • Parts (instruments) in the song that you are not an expert at
  • Mixing your song
  • Mastering your song
  • Artwork

What to Play and What to Outsource

Let’s say you’re a guitarist (which reading my blog, there’s a good chance you are!). And the song you want to release is a guitar-based instrumental.

If you truly want your single release to be freaking amazing, please, please take my advice to heart…

Chances are you’re going to play and record all of the guitar parts to your song. The rhythms, leads, any clean or ambient parts. It makes sense because that’s what you’re great at.

But this does not mean you should attempt to play everything else yourself, like bass, drums, keyboards, etc. And just because you know how to play those other instruments doesn’t mean you should.

**By the way, why is it that after band practice the guitarist always goes over to the drum set as if they can actually play drums?? Lol…seriously!

Another thing is if you play everything yourself, your song is going to sound one-dimensional. It’s not going to have the ‘life’ and energy that you get when you collaborate with other musicians.

So here’s what you do instead:

  • Make a list of the instruments that you’re not an expert at (use a spreadsheet like Excel, Google Sheets, or Apple Numbers)
  • Take a look at that list again and be honest with yourself; just because you can doesn’t mean you should
  • Create a budget for your project – keep in mind that your greatest cost will more than likely be the drummer because of the amount of work involved and the studio space needed to record drums, but it will be the best investment you’ll ever make!
  • Reach out to professional musicians for your song by using social media or Google search what you’re looking for – there are plenty of pro musicians looking for work!
  • DO NOT expect or ask friends (or allow them) to record those instruments for free! That’s a horrible practice and it could come back to bite you…just don’t do it!

Jason’s Mistake: I played all instruments for my first 2 albums except for the drums, in which I programmed myself (actually, for my first album, I used pre-recorded loops, but I still compiled them myself).

My 3rd album, I wised up and hired someone to do the drums, and for every album thereafter, I hired a real drummer to record drums in their studio. And although I consider myself a ‘good’ bass player, I’m going to hire a ‘real’ bassist for my next release.

Mixing Your Song

This is crucial part of having a great release. Now, if you’re an audio engineer as well as a musician, then you may tackle this on your own. And these days most of us guitarists and musicians have a small home recording studio.

But there’s two things to consider here…

  1. If you mix your song yourself, I still recommend having that second pair of ears to give you an honest opinion about the mix
  2. Even if you are great at mixing you still may consider hiring someone as we can have a weird bias to our own music and may not hear certain things that an outside perspective would point out

Here are some vital mixing tips if you’re doing it yourself:

  • Never rely solely on your own ears; find people that will be brutally honest with you and give you feedback
  • Don’t just listen to your final mix in the studio – dump down the file and listen in multiple audio sources, especially sources that the majority of people will be listening on like in a car, headphones (cheap and expensive ones), computer, etc. – listen to the playback in as many sources as possible

If you decide to do the mixing yourself, let’s cover some technical aspects about your song file that you will render from your studio DAW:

  • Most sources require your file to be WAV, FLAC, or AIFF (in some cases, MP3, but that’s going to be lower quality)
  • Sample rate: 44.1 kHz and in 2-channel stereo
  • Bitrate for WAV, FLAC, and AIFF should be 16-bit
  • Bitrate for MP3 should be between 128 kb/s and 320 kb/s

If any of these steps are confusing to you, then I strongly recommend hiring someone to do your mixing.

If not, then you’ll be tempted to rush through learning this process and you’re welcoming many mistakes.

Remember, other people, especially pro audio engineers that work in the studio day in and day out, are going to hear certain things that you will not.

Mixing is a delicate part of the process. And I’ll tell you my story…

I’ve hired out the mixing in the past but when I compared the final product to my own mix, mine was just better.

But I still had other trusted professionals listen to my mixes and give me constructive feedback. So even though I did my own mixing, I had a lot of professional help, and I made sure that they were compensated in some way for their time and expert opinion.

Mastering Your Song

You may or may not know this but mixing and mastering are two completely different processes. In fact, if they’re not done by separate people, they should be performed on separate days.

Many have the false notion that mastering is just loudness. Sure, that’s part of it but that’s actually a small part in the grand scheme of mastering.

**Time to insert a pun: ‘Mastering of Puppets!!

Unlike mixing, where you may do it yourself, I do not recommend mastering your own song. Find an expert for this.

TIP: Find an expert that’s in your specific genre. Like finding musicians to record tracks for your song, it’s pretty easy to use those same methods (social media, online search) to find someone or a studio to master your song.

TIP 2: Facebook Groups are also a great source for finding help with your release; chances are you’re already a member of several that will have what you need.

Artwork for Your Single

Masterpeace album artwork

This should really be the first thing you do, or at least start, when you decide that you’re going to record a single to release.

Unless you’re just completely amazing at doing artwork, specifically with digital design tools (and I don’t mean creating logos in Canva), hire someone for this. Don’t skimp on this.

You can quickly find people on sources like Fiverr or any freelancing platform. Or reach out to people you know and on social media.

Jason’s Mistake: For practically every album I’ve released, with the exception of my 2019 album, Masterpeace, I wait till the last minute to get artwork done.

Seriously, the album was done and ready only to realize that not only did I not have artwork but had not really thought deeply about what I wanted for my artwork!

The result was the release was delayed several months that I had originally planned.

What’s Next?

Whew, that was a lot we just covered to get your song prepped for release. But it was all worth it because, at this point, your song is ready to be released!

If you have any questions about this post, please do the following:

  • Copy the link to this blog post
  • Go to my Facebook Page and create a new post
  • Paste the link with your question, and then click ‘post’

Like that cheesy Bon Jovi song, I’ll be there for you!

Release Your First Single – Part 2: Creating Your Online Presence

Keep it Metal,


P.S. If you’d like to jump ahead, I encourage you to check out Savvy Musician Academy.

I’m a veteran elite member of this awesome academy and it’s responsible for putting my music on the course it’s meant to be on! Learn more here.

Jason Stallworth

About the author

Jason is a melodic metal solo artist, songwriter, acoustic performer, and co-founder of Metal Mastermind.

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