How to write, record and release an album!

A how-to from a "professional."

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How to write, record, and release an album!

1 – Write twenty to thirty songs over the course of a year or so.

Writing songs that no one will ever hear.

2 – Choose ten to fifteen you can’t imagine not recording. Discard the rest but then expect that in a few years you’ll listen to some of them and think, wait, a few of these were better than the ones we chose for the record!

3 – Reach out to a producer to see if they want to work together and send a few songs to see if they have good ideas and are a fit for what you are trying to make.

4 – Talk to the producer, like their vision, and agree to work together! Then spend weeks trying to find time in your busy schedules to record together!

5 – Once you have decided on what dates you are going to record, find a studio to work in together and book travel.

Flying to record our album!

6 – Hire an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (the nicest person you’ve ever met) and the best drummer ever (who has played on other records of yours)! Keep tinkering and toying with the chosen songs until it’s time to go into the studio.

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7 – Email all the files you have for every single song so the producer can build sessions to work from. Feel embarrassed that your sessions are messy and even after eighteen years you’re still using a lot of hacks to record, instead of learning the “right way” to do things. Then decide, who cares, it’s working, why change it?

8 – Head to the studio for the first day and feel very nervous because for the first time since you were nineteen, you’re paying to make this album yourself and you want to make something extraordinary. You worry after twenty-five years and nine records you can’t do something fresh and new, and you should just quit. But then as you pull up to the studio you decide, fuck that, of course you can make something badass and original and exciting.

Collaboration is key! We’re better together!

9 – Spend a lot of time, like a lot of time, talking to the producer, telling stories from your collective fifty years in the industry together.  Laugh a lot.

Jon Congleton making magic.

10 – Decide you should get to work. Watch the producer lay down new instrumentation for the songs and schedule musicians to come in and track bass and drums and more guitars and keyboard. Eventually, you’ll sing on the songs and write harmonies and lay down more instruments. All the while, you’ll gossip and talk way more hours each day than you record and you’ll order food and a third iced coffee and then you’ll decide a song needs a bridge, so you’ll go to your hotel to write a bridge and fail at it, so you’ll steal a bridge from one of the many demos you discarded that might be better than the songs you chose to record and it’ll be a win. Do this for a month until you declare that the album is finished!

11 – Mix the album.  This process can take a month or so.  You’ll get mixes emailed to you, you’ll make notes, they’ll make changes, you’ll get new mixes sent to you, you’ll make notes, they’ll make changes, until eventually, IT’S DONE!

12 – Master the album.  Basically, this process makes it so the album sounds great everywhere, even on phones which is great because everyone listens to music on their phones now.

13 – Name the album. This is surprisingly easy. Don’t tell anyone until…very soon.

14 – Pick singles. This is always so hard. No one ever seems to agree, or know conclusively, and this will give everyone room to say, well I didn’t think that was the most obvious song anyway when it doesn’t go viral on TikTok. 

15 - Hire a couple of photographers to take photos of you to use for album artwork, merchandise, tour posters, album marketing, social media, etc.

16 – Hire a creative director to design album artwork, single artwork, merchandise, ad mats for the tour, and everything else visual.

17 – Hire video directors to make music videos for the singles. Stress out because you are still deciding what the singles should be.  Stress out more when the singles change.  Stress out, even more, when you get the budget for the video and realize it’s five times when you have.  Start from scratch on the video concept.  Repeat for each single.

All dressed up and ready to shoot a video…

18 – Approve a tour routing! Wring your hands because you can’t go all the places you want to just yet.  Choose a support act for the tour! This is harder than you’d think! First, you make a list of bands you love, then you see who’s available, who might be interested, then you see if there are any conflicts in their schedule, then you shake on it and you have a support act! Pick a name for the tour. This is usually the album name if it’s the first tour of a cycle. Create a tour poster!

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19 – Read and write endless emails about social media and the release process and asset creation. Feel driven mad by it all and daydream about the days before social media even though those days kinda sucked too because you were at the mercy of mainstream media and the press and radio and that was shit as well.

20 – Drop four or five singles over a few months before the release, what the industry calls Waterfalling.  Also release videos for those songs between those drops, along with new press shots, album, single, merchandise, pre-order and tour updates, pre-sale links, pre-save emails, and tweets about the album. 

21 – Do tons of interviews and photo shoots for the new album.  Talk a lot about the TV show you just made.

22 – Promo and press! Start planning your visits to the big cities to talk to people on camera about your album nearer to the release. Also plan to play record stores and radio stations and meet fans and take photos and shake hands, and hopefully not get Covid!  

24 – While you’re doing promo and press from home, rehearse for tour!  This entails standing in a room 8 hours a day playing the set list of songs you have agreed to play – usually 22 or so songs – again and again and again until muscle memory takes over and you could play them while thinking about renovating your bathroom at the same time.

25 - Finally release the album three hundred years after the first single came out and five thousand years since you wrote the first song. Snap photos of yourself in front of a digital billboard and post that photo to your social media. Pray people actually listen to the album because it’s the best one you’ve made in years and you want people to hear it, enjoy it, learn all the words, and sing it on the tour you’re about to go on.

26 – Leave for the tour! Hopefully, you remember all the words, and don’t get Covid!

Me on the tour bus!

27 – Wrap up touring one year later.  

28 – Say you’re not going to make a new record right away, go on a little holiday.

Me on holiday.

29 – Get bored, and a week later start writing new songs for another album.

30 – Repeat 1-29.