10 Things to Do Before You Release Your Album By Jeremy Rwakaara Following are, in no particular order, 10 important things you need to do before you release your album: 1.) If you are hiring musicians (background singers, instrumentalists, etc.) to play on your album, you will need to make sure they fill out a Musician Release Agreement or talent release form. This agreement is not necessary for musicians that own their own record label, are performing on their own album, and will pay for and release the album themselves. It is used more for the "hired guns" than group members. 2.) All writers and publishers involved should fill out a Songwriter / Publisher Share Agreement that spells out their writer and publisher shares. This agreement is a document that all writers and publishers should sign and keep for their records. Any money made from the songs (except for money paid to the writers and publishers by their respective Performing Rights Organizations) should be split up according to what is spelled out in this agreement. 3.) All involved songwriters should fill out a Form PA and register their work (the songs) with the U.S. Copyright Office. 4.) The artists / performers or the record producer (or both), unless Musician Release Agreements have been signed, should fill out a Form SR and register the album (sound recording) with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you are the writer and performer / producer on the album, you can fill out just one Form SR instead of both forms. 5.) Register for an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) for your songs. The ISRC is a unique international identifier for songs (tracks) on sound recordings. The ISRC functions as a digital "fingerprint" for each track. Unlike a Universal Product Code (UPC), the ISRC is tied to the track and not the carrier of the track (CD, cassette, etc). In addition, the ISRC remains allocated to a track regardless of changes in ownership. It is an extremely powerful tool for royalty collection, administration, and anti-piracy safeguards in the digital arena. The ISRC is usually inserted onto the CD master during the mastering session. 6.) If you include songs on your album that you have not written yourself (i.e. covers), you will need to obtain a Mechanical License from the Harry Fox Agency (via Songfile) that will allow you to manufacture and distribute up to 2,500 copies to the public. If you happen to know the songwriter(s) yourself, you can negotiate a fee directly with them or just write up a Notice of Intention to obtain a Compulsory License and issue it to them. 7.) If you wish to have your own UPC Bar Code, you should become a member of the Uniform Code Council. Several companies, for example CD manufacturers, will offer you a UPC Bar Code free with their services. Keep in mind that in these cases the UPC Bar Code will belong to the CD manufacturer. If you produce another album, it will not have a UPC Bar Code unless you get another free one from them or someone else. Having your own Uniform Code Council account will allow you to assign all your music-related products a unique UPC Bar Code in your company's name. 8.) As a songwriter and/or publisher, in order to get paid for the performances of your songs on radio, TV, nightclubs, in airlines, elevators, jukeboxes, etc., you should join a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). In the United States, you can join ASCAP or BMI. Another U.S. PRO is SESAC, but affiliation with SESAC is by invitation only (subject to review by their writer / publisher relations staff). 9.) As a Sound Recording Copyright Owner (SRCO – e.g. artist, producer, record label), in order to get paid for non-interactive digital transmissions on cable, satellite and web cast services, you should join SoundExchange. They are designated to collect and distribute royalty payments to member Sound Recording Copyright Owners. 10.) Add your songs to the Gracenote Media Database. When correctly updated, song titles and artist names will be displayed on media players (e.g. home stereos, computer media players, satellite and terrestrial radio, mp3 players, cell phones and other wireless devices, etc.) that take advantage of the Gracenote Media Database data. Alternatively, you could use a freedb-aware program to upload your songs into the database. PLEASE NOTE: The contracts displayed above are for educational purposes only. As with all contractual situations, you should have your contracts drafted and/or negotiated by an experienced music business attorney who is well-versed in drafting and negotiating these types of contracts. If you need help finding an attorney, you can start by going here.