A complete guide to releasing an album with Mums
Blog by Roanne Wood under Creative & Branding, Live, Media, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music
Releasing an album is a milestone for any musician. It’s a concoction of all the best songs at that certain era of the band and is essentially your chance to show off. Albums aren’t an easy task, there’s a lot of work involved, right down to the writing process following through to how and if it’s going to be released. Every musician has their own vision, their own way of doing things and this is my account of releasing a debut album with my band Mums.
Here’s a brief account of what Mums are all about: we’re a trio who put ourselves under the ‘noise-rock’ umbrella and have been working the UK underground scene for a good few years, releasing singles and EPs here and there. We’re involved in a musical community which boasts many multi-talented individuals. No one is just a guitarist in a band - they’re also talented photographers, videographers, artists…oh and they also screen print t-shirts. So in that sense we are extremely lucky to be involved with these talented sorts and they all played their role in aiding the release of our debut album ‘Land Of Giants’.
Why we decided to release an album
The time felt right and we were ready for our first album. We had a bunch of songs, probably 12, that were all contenders. We didn’t go through a pre-production process like locking ourselves away in a fancy cottage for a month to write material. Instead, we had been gigging the songs for a while and had mastered the way we wanted them to sound.
We really wanted the album to be released on vinyl. So we needed help doing so! We thought the best thing for us to do would be to record the album, paying for everything ourselves, and then using the finished product as an offering to independent labels. This way we had full creative control over the sound of the recordings, where we recorded the tracks and which songs we recorded. We also thought that by offering a record label a nearly finished product, it would hopefully make the whole idea of working with Mums more appealing.
The recording process
We recorded at Brock N Broll Studios in Chorley with our good friend Whalley. We chose to record with Whalley as he ‘gets’ our sound. We liked what he had worked on previously, he had a nice little studio and he’s a lovely guy! The album took just 4 days to record. It was a live set-up as we wanted the recording to sound just like we do live. Originally we recorded 11 songs overall but we’d decided we only wanted 10 on the album so it was a case of eliminating the potential ‘filler’ track.
Recording, mixing and mastering was all done by Whalley. Unfortunately, the studio we recorded at is no longer around due to terrible floods but Whalley is still available to record, mix and master. The ‘band pot’ covered the majority of the costs. Any money Mums make from merchandise and gigs (after fuel is covered) goes back into the pot to fund big things like recording, getting t-shirts printed and the occasional band Wetherspoon’s breakfast. We did have to reach into our pockets for this as well, but it was something we were all willing to invest in.
There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with mixes for a short while but we eventually got there - after a lot of group chats, lots of listening to mixes on our commutes to work and feeding back to each other with any bits we weren’t happy with. Overall though, it was a very smooth and stress-free process.
The creative side
In between mixing and mastering we worked on getting the album artwork complete. Again, another offering to a record label to save time and money for them. We asked Lewis McLean of the band Lake Of Snakes if he could do it for us. He makes fantastic collages and we had our eyes on one design in particular; a piece called ‘Land Of Giants’. He kindly offered to assist with the artwork and we got an amazing deal from him. We also worked with Sam Almond of the band Cactus Knife to take photographs of us for the back of the album sleeve.
The hunt for a record label
Once we had the digital cover of the album and the mixes ready, we uploaded the album onto SoundCloud as a private link with the album cover displayed nice and big, and a mini biog with a write-up about Mums. We also stated that we were seeking a label to release this album on vinyl.
Finding a label to work with wasn’t an easy process. There were lots of ignored emails. We had friends of friends contacting people they knew at labels on our behalf, but they’d reply stating that they didn’t have space to release anything new. At this point we were debating whether we should just put the album out ourselves. That’s when we came into contact with Alex from Manchester label SuperStar Destroyer. I was shocked when a mutual friend let us know that Alex was interested and put myself and Alex in touch. The email conversation was very to the point and the deal was sealed within a day. No contracts, no meetings - just another music lover who is also passionate about vinyl and is willing to put money, time and effort into a release because he likes what a band are about.
Alex had seen us live before and knew a lot about Mums and was aware that we were making somewhat of mark on the underground music scene so I’m guessing things may have been a lot different if he had never heard of us. Alex, who set up Superstar Destroyer when he was working as a music journalist, tells us: “It’s kind of an honour that people trust you to release their stuff…and I guess that’s what I keep coming back to. I just want to do a good job and get this music that I love out there. The timing for Mums getting in touch was just right for the label.”
The aim was to release the album in October. It was now March so ordering the vinyl needed to happen imminently. After a few listens, Alex suggested a re-order in the songs. This opened up a whole new window for us and almost blew our minds. We were so set on the track order but it got us thinking about how it could work in other ways. We all agreed on a new track order, again in a very swift and smooth manner, and the vinyl order was sent. 300 records were pressed.
Alex states that “Vinyl is complicated from the point of view of a label as it’s a large upfront cost, large postage cost and sells way better on tour than it does via the label store, but you really can’t beat records on vinyl as a physical representation of the music. It certainly lends a certain completeness to a project if you’re able to justify the cost.”
The deal we made with Alex was that the profit from the digital album sold online would go to Superstar Destroyer, and all profit from the vinyl album sold at gigs would go to Mums. We sell each vinyl for £12 and have over 100 vinyl to sell ourselves, so it was a very kind gesture from such a small label.
Promoting the album
So far, the costs for releasing our album had worked as somewhat of a collaboration with Alex. We paid for the recording, mixing and mastering, artwork and photography for album cover, and Alex paid to put our album onto sweet vinyl, get it featured in digital stores such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and he also paid for a music video and new press shots.
One thing we struggled with massively was anchoring a PR company to work with us to promote the album. I must admit, our music is not for everyone and I get that. The majority of PR companies prefer to work with acts that they know people will definitely like. In the end, we never secured a PR company to work with, but we did manage perfectly well without one.
As we’re a band that’s largely about our live show, we’re fortunate that the majority of people who have seen us live really enjoy our music and one of those people happened to work at Loud & Quiet Magazine. We managed to get an online interview ready to tie in with the album launch, followed by numerous positive reviews from music blogs and local magazines, along with airplay from Amazing Radio, several podcasts and other radio stations. They may not have been the best known websites and stations to some (we’re not talking BBC Radio or DIY magazine!) but they are respected in our scene and are better suited to what Mums are about.
The launch of Land Of Giants!
The album launch was booked in for 21st October 2016 at Islington Mill in Manchester. Another friend of ours, Simon Catling from Soup Kitchen Manchester, wanted to work with us for the launch and promoted it for us. We picked some of our favourite bands to play, those being Grey Hairs, Super Luxury and Lake Of Snakes.
At this point, a teaser track from the album and the pre-order was available on Superstar Destroyer’s Bandcamp page. People were getting excited and the pre-orders were frequent. We chose a lead track from the album, ‘Little Did He Know’, to be used as a single and released a video to accompany it. The video was released 16th October, a week before the launch. We filmed with IMPATV who had filmed a Mums live set at Supernormal Festival the same year. We really loved what they’d done, luckily they were based close to home and were willing to fit us in. (If you’ve ever watched Tim & Eric then you will get the video completely!) In the run-up to launch we did interviews, lots of launch promotion, plenty of boosted Facebook posts, plus some good reviews had come in.
Of course, on the night of the launch a lorry overturned on the M62 meaning Jack (Vox & Guitarist) was running really late, along with all of our gear which some of the other bands on the bill were supposed to be using too. After a mild panic, Jack eventually arrived and everything ran smoothly from there. The venue was pleasantly full and our vinyl albums were getting snatched up from the merch desk!
Life after the album release
Since we released Land Of Giants we’ve supported TRAAMS (Fat Cat Records) on a bunch of dates in the UK, have been confirmed for Raw Power Festival in London, Fat Out Fest in Manchester, and have been booked to support the holy grail that is Part Chimp, as well as Hey! Colossus.
So this is my account of everything that went in to the release of our debut album ‘Land Of Giants’, from a band who like to be in control, like to support independent creatives and don’t take themselves too seriously. I think every other band or artist’s experience of releasing music will be different and there are no rights or wrongs. The fact that we have been gigging for a while, meaning plenty of people have seen us live, definitely worked in our favour. We have been very lucky and we’re extremely proud of what we have achieved. Hopefully this blog will provide inspiration to other unsigned and emerging bands and artists to show that you don’t need to be signed to a major label to have your music released onto vinyl. It’s also vital to use the talent close to you and support your friends.
Thanks to Alex Lynham (Superstar Destroyer Records), Nick Duke (for putting Mums and Superstar Destroyer in contact), Michael Whalley (Recording, mixing & mastering of the album at Brock N Broll), Sam Almond (Album photography), Lewis Mclean (Album artwork), Sam Curran (Launch poster, merch design), Crooked Cartoon (Screen printing of merch), Simon Catling (Promoting the album launch), Islington Mill (Album launch venue), IMPATV (‘Little Did He Know’ video), Mark Elmore (Press shots)
Check out the video for 'Little Did He Know' here:
Guide to self releasing your album as an emerging band