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The Costs of Release Day: Songwriting Math 101

Are you planning on releasing a single or an EP any time soon? Times are changing and now people can start producing and recording music in their bedrooms. All you need are programs such as Logic Pro and ProTools (or even GarageBand). Let's just say you plan on doing all the production, marketing, recording, mixing, and even mastering. You might be wondering what your final costs are going to be to release that single. In this article, I will break down those costs for you.

First, you have to decide on a distributor. I have gone through CDBaby for years and have had no issues whatsoever. CDBaby charges $9.95 per song/per release. Distrokid charges a starting rate of $19.95 per year. I like the option of only having to pay a one-time fee per song because I generally only put out maybe a few singles a year. It gives me the freedom to plan per release.

If you do not feel comfortable mixing and mastering your music, this is where your costs will start to increase rather fast. Most of the time, engineers will charge either a fee upfront or per hour. Starting engineers in the industry, like myself, will generally start at a rate of $45/hr. You can find someone to master your song as well starting at $25/hr. The mixing process could take three hours, so you're looking at around $135 for mixing plus that $25 for a master.

Including the CDBaby distribution and these costs, you are now at $169.95.

Wait, did you need session musicians on your song? The standard rate for a session musician is $100. You have a two-hour recording session, with two session musicians, that's going to be $400 right there. (Now the easiest way to bypass this is to network with friends and see if they drop their rates).

Adding the cost of musicians to your previous total, you are now at $569.95 for the release of your one single.

This is not an article to discourage you from pursuing your passion for releasing music. Once it is out there, it is your pride and joy. I know many people who have done Kickstarter campaigns for releases and offered people who donated early access to music or small gifts such as stickers and CDs. You must know the costs going into releasing music so you can decide how much time and energy you want to put in so you don't have to spend that much money.

It is not easy being a musician, songwriter, or artist. It can take YEARS before you start earning back what you have put in. Do it with an open heart and an open mind. Do not get discouraged because you are only averaging $10 a month from your distributor. I will be writing further articles about songwriters in the industry and more unique ways we make our income.

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