So You're Gonna Put Out An Album

(Originally posted on

You've done the talking. You've hyped it up. You've even got it all recorded. Now you've got to figure out how to release your album to the masses. Whether you're a veteran emcee, a young new cat or a fresh indie label, there are lots of mistakes to be made, and many things to learn. Having put out an album, I'd always wanted to make a nice checklist of things to do, so that next time I wouldn't make the same mistakes twice.

At the same time, I figured there are lots of artists and labels out there that could benefit from this list. It is by no means a complete guide to getting your album out, but it could provide a pretty good starting point.


If you want to be taken seriously in this rap game, then you need to have at least an album or single professionally manufactured. Manufacturing is basically taking your final master copy of the album, along with your artwork and duplicating it to make copies.

There are many places where you can have your album manufactured. The best bet is to ask locals where they had their album manufactured. Keep in mind, that shipping costs can potentially add a couple hundred extra dollars, so try to find a company in your hometown where you can pick it up yourself. Also, some companies offer discounts if you're a member of certain associations. For example, offers a 10% discount for East Coast Music Association members.

If you choose to do the design for the packaging for your album, this can save you 200-400 dollars. Most manufacturers will be able to provide you with strict specifications for the dimensions of your design. Be sure to create it at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi) for best results. The design can be created using software programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Quark Express or Adobe Illustrator. To figure out what should be included in the design, see the 'CD Packaging Checklist' below. Otherwise, you can submit all the photos and materials you want on the design, and most manufacturers will design your packaging for $200-400.

Some manufacturers will provide you with freebies like a barcode, poly wrap, and clear CD trays with B&W printing under it. You'll need a barcode if you want to sell your product in retail stores. Be sure to ask the manufacturer what you can get for free. Don't forget that tax and shipping will usually be extra.

If you're a serious rap artist, then you'll probably be looking into making some vinyl. I've listed two websites below that support vinyl manufacturing. It might be worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of making a 7" record versus a 12" record. See the 'Promotion Distribution' section for information about shipping costs.

Overall, it's best to shop around to try and find the best price. Here are links to a few Canadian manufacturers. - makes vinyl - makes vinyl

CD Packaging Checklist

This was taken from the New Brunswick Sound Initiatives (NBSI) website, with some modifications made by myself.

Many of you are preparing to release your new CD. In the excitement of finishing your studio work, you may forget some important details regarding your CD packaging. As with everything, first impressions do count! Consider that your press kit and CD will often get separated, so the CD itself should provide all necessary information.

Make sure you include the following details regarding your CD packaging.
These should be printed on the back of your CD jacket:
   * Track list with tracks numbered, and length of each song given (especially if you will be shipping to radio)
   * Your copyright notice (indicating the year of production, your name, and the (c) symbol), also, copyright notice referring to who owns the master recording (indicated with the (P) symbol) - Download it below
   * A statement prohibiting reproduction e.g. "All Rights Reserved. Warning: Unauthorized Reproduction, Copying and Rental of this Recording is Prohibited by Law."
   * A bar code - necessary if distributing to retail outlets. (Your manufacturer can usually obtain this for you.) It's not advisable to place a bar code into the design yourself - as manipulation may effects its "readability" by electronic scanners. You need to obtain separate bar codes for CDs and cassettes (as they are two different items and two different prices).
   * The MAPL logo - necessary if shipping to radio in Canada. - Download it below
   * Logos of any agencies from which you received funding, along with any other sponsors' logos.
   * Your catalogue number (a.k.a. release or matrix number - on the album's spine) should be placed on ALL elements of your album. You make up your own, unless your label has assigned one. It identifies your disc at the manufacturing plant, and is used by record stores for cataloguing.
   * The Distributor's name if you have a distribution agreement in place.

These items should be printed on the CD itself:
   * Artist name and CD title
   * The MAPL logo (if it's Canadian content) - Download it below
   * Your copyright notice (see above)
   * The "compact disc" logo MUST be clearly seen - Download it below
   * Your catalogue number
   * "Made in Canada" / "Fabriqué au Canada"

These should be printed on the CD insert:
   * If you can afford it, printing the lyrics out is really handy for those who will review your CD or consider it for airplay.
   * Songwriters, musicians and producers should be clearly indicated for each track.
   * Writer and publisher credits (copyrights)
   * Contact info - address PLUS email or phone is best
   * Acknowledgments. Appropriate credits should be given to people, companies that have contributed to your recording.
   * Production Team and Studio Information should be clearly indicated.

And on the front cover:
   * Artist name and title of CD. Make it obvious which is which. Think about how your product is displayed on retail shelves.

Download Logos:
   Click here to download a .zip file of the MAPL, (p) and Compact Disc logos.

Retail Distribution

Distribution plays an important role in getting your album on shelves across the country or even just in your local area. You can choose to do this yourself, but will probably face a challenge getting retail stores to put your CD on their shelves. Most artists tend to seek out a distribution deal with a company. A list of FACTOR recognized Canadian distributors is located here:
If you have a solid marketing plan in place, or even better, a business plan, then this could help you get a distribution deal.

If you're looking to shop your album to record labels, then this 2000 directory could be a good starting point:

There are also numerous online locations where an artist can sell their album. For example, provides such a service here:
For online distribution, it's best to shop around.

Promotional Distribution

If you're getting serious into this rap game, then you'll probably be looking to put out some vinyl. Vinyl tends to be quite a bit more expensive than CDs when it comes to shipping and manufacturing costs. One 12" record can cost upwards of $8-10 to ship in Canada. It's been suggested to me that taking out an account with FEDEX, and shipping by ground could reduce the cost. An alternative is to make 7" vinyl, which is cheaper in cost, but will allow for less playing time.

Record Pools

Record Pools are a great way to save money when distributing your vinyl release to DJs. According to Soul Choice's marketing manager, "record pools are probably the most under-used resource in the music industry." The way a record pool works is quite simple. The record pool accepts material from artists throughout the industry and then sends it to all the DJs who subscribe to that record pool usually every 2 weeks.

As an indie artist, it's usually a free service to you. You phone the record pool (see websites below) to find out their mailing address and how many member DJs they service. For some record pools, like Cheer in Toronto, you send a sample on vinyl or CD for testing, and they will determine if it is a potential club record or not. If approved, you pay for the costs of manufacturing your vinyl and/or CDs. Then you pay for one shipment to the record pool. That shipment must contain enough vinyl and/or CDs to service all the record pool's member DJs. In the majority, artists submit 12" vinyl. Also, providing a radio edit version gives you a better chance of getting played.

However beware that the DJs in these record pools generally tend to focus on mainstream rather than an underground sound. Based on his days DJing on campus radio, one indie manager felt that, "the only people in record pools are wannabes who are just in there to get the commercial stuff. You'd be better served mailing more CDs and press kits to campus radio." Since vinyl is so expensive, it ends up being a risky judgment call.

As a general rule, unless the record has a video in medium-heavy rotation or heavy radio airplay there's no point in wasting money sending the wax to pool DJs. Instead, send them directly to the right DJs based on the objectives of the artist.

Canada's National Urban Chart (NUC) is compiled using input from ten of Canada's most renowned urban record pools and is published Canadian Music Network Magazine. Those ten pools are:
   Flavor Pool (4 regions: Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver) -
   Soul Choice (National) -
   Request Pool (Toronto) -
   Mad Play (Toronto) -
   HOT (Montreal) -
   Hip Hop Parade (Vancouver) -
   S.U.B. (Eastern Canada) -

You can find a slightly outdated and quite incomplete list of record pools throughout North America here:
A list of Canadian Urban Record Pools, with phone number contacts can be found here:

Many a thanks to Mel over at Soul Choice for answering all my tough questions.


If you want to get some extra exposure, then it would be a good idea to send copies of your album to radio stations, newspapers, magazines, websites and local media. You're much more likely to have your album reviewed if you send a manufactured album, as opposed to a burnt CDR of the album. It looks more professional. Remember to remove the poly wrap. It might be a good idea to put a sticker on the album letting them know which songs are the first two singles. In addition, you should include at least a biography. And if you can, include a little gift - like candy, but not crappy candy, good candy. One of the cheapest places to get padded envelopes is Dollarama.

For bigger websites or magazines, you should include a full press kit. A press kit might include a biography, discography, press clippings, list of past shows, track listing for the album and a CD containing an electronic press kit with pictures. Also, it might also be worthwhile to include an 8x10 photo in some press kits.

A good resource for finding radio, TV and newspapers in your area can be found here:
A complete list of Canadian campus radio stations can be found at the NRCA webpage:
Here's a list of "Rapnetwork Record Breakers DJ Panel":

Radio stations that report to the Nielsen Broadcast Data Services (BDS) are viewed as the more elite stations. Those stations are the stations that tend to make or break you with regard to radio play and chart position in Canada. Most non-BDS stations pay close attention to the play lists at those BDS "tastemaker stations" and program according to their trends. Therefore, it's really tough to break Canadian radio without the majority of these stations in your corner. So it is probably worth the effort to submit your music to these stations. (For more information on registering your song with BDS, see 'Additional Tasks' below) View a list of BDS stations here:

Additional Tasks

After you get your finished product in your hands, there are number of other tasks to be carried out to ensure greater success:

Legal Deposit:
Pursuant to the National Library Act and the National Library Book Deposit Regulations (1995), Canadian editors of sound recordings are required to send copies of their publications to the National Library the week following market launching. The Secretariat expects the recipient to take part in the legal deposit program. To find out the terms and conditions of participation, please contact the National Library of Canada by telephone at (819) 953-8509 or by E-mail at .

In order to receive royalties within Canada, you need to register your works with SOCAN. If you haven't already signed up, then you can do so at . It's free to sign up online, otherwise the paper route costs $25. You can contact SOCAN online or toll free at 1-800-557-6226.

If you have distribution, you should register with SoundScan so they can track your album's sales. This may assist in receiving grants from FACTOR, VideoFACT or PromoFACT. Information is available at: . You may contact Client Services in the U.S. by email at or contact the Canadian office at 416-979-4614 or .

Broadcast Data Services
If you intend to have your song played on commercial radio, e.g. Flow 93.5, then you'll need to register your song with Broadcast Data Services. It's free of charge. They can be reached in Canada at 416-979-4614 or or online at . Online, go to 'Submit Music', and follow the instructions to submit your radio single. This internationally renowned service monitors the frequency with which a song is played on all stations that report to the service.

ANR (All New Releases) Lounge
An innovative online service to help recording artists reach Canadian radio. The ANR Lounge allows users to create a virtual promotional kit for their new release, including sound clips and images, for distribution to radio. All you have to do is register online.

(Originally posted on

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