Song, by Toad


Song, by Toad’s Rough Guide to Self-Releasing an Album

This is a bit of a case of the blind leading the blind, I freely confess, but from more or less the minute I started releasing albums on Song, by Toad Records people have been asking me for advice on how to do so themselves, so I have written a rough guide.

We actually did very well, both with planning and press, with our first release (although the finished CDs only arrived an hour before the launch party doors opened, so we did have our hairy moments).

This was down to two things.  Firstly, and most obviously, our first release was Meursault’s debut album, which is about as good a record as any label has released in the last ten years, so having incredible material makes a big difference.  Secondly, I spent about three hours sitting in the sun drinking beer with Johnny Lynch from Fence Records at that year’s End of the Road Festival, during which time he patiently explained more or less all aspects of being a record label, which was an incredible help.

So after all the help I received when I was starting out (and believe me, I am entirely aware of the fact that I am still just starting out) I figured I should at least try and pass some of that help on.  So I have written what is more or less a rough checklist along with some practical advice for those looking to self-release their own albums, and for labels who are just getting started.

Click here to download Song, by Toad’s Rough Guide to Self-Releasing an Album.

As I say at the start of the document itself, please don’t take this as either definitive or authoritative.  I have only been running a record label since the Autumn of 2008, and we are hardly a very big deal, so I really am just passing on what little I have learned so far. That said, if you’ve never released anything before there is a surprising dearth of really practical information out there, so maybe this’ll be useful.

And if I have made any really egregious errors or there is something which very notably lacking please do let me know, and I will keep updating it to make sure it is as close to being useful as I can manage.

66 witty ripostes to Song, by Toad’s Rough Guide to Self-Releasing an Album

  1. avatar

    I fucking love you

  2. avatar

    Great as usual Matthew

  3. avatar

    Well, maybe not interesting for most of my readers, who probably don’t give a shit about this kind of thing! But I wrote it out for a friend of mine and so I thought that given it was written I might as well share it.

  4. avatar

    So so useful. Thanks Matthew.

  5. avatar

    I have no intention of ever releasing anything, but i still read it, and thought it was great. It’s not ever going to be “useful” personally, but it’s bloody interesting all the same.

  6. avatar

    You’re wrong Matthew, i already Retweeted it and it is already making its way in France so i would say that it interests your readers (at least me).

  7. Oh to have had this in September. Still, great presuming there is a next time…


  8. avatar

    Cheers. It’s amazing how long and drawn out a process it is, if you want to do it right.

  9. avatar

    so that’s how you do it!

  10. avatar

    Aye, like you’ve been struggling.

  11. avatar

    Amazing! That´s a really helpul guide…

    Thanks so much!

  12. avatar

    It reads like a biography of my life actually.
    Good work putting it together.

  13. avatar

    Thanks so much for this Matthew, its probably the most useful thing I’ve ever seen.

  14. avatar

    Assuming it’s all largely accurate of course. I was hoping some of my record releasing budies might point out any obvious shortcomings.

  15. avatar

    Totally unrelated, for which i apologise, but i’ve just realised that Mr Toad has a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in the header image for the site. This makes me like you even more.

  16. avatar

    I prefer Tanqueray actually, but didn’t trust my drawing skills to make it obviously recognisable.

  17. avatar

    “I prefer Tanqueray actually”

  18. avatar

    I still have some of that stuff in the house actually. It cleans creosote off the brushes worryingly effectively.

  19. avatar

    Do a Google image search for “Asda Smart Price Gin” and check the source for the first hit.

  20. avatar

    for gentlemen of an age.

  21. avatar

    Looks braw, good work Matthew. You do realise I will now be releasing ‘the tantrum man tapes’ on an unsuspecting public, wohahahaha

  22. avatar

    That’s an incredibly generous gesture to share knowledge that must have taken you a lot of sweat and heartache to acquire. I have been at the mercy of small labels who have fucked up the promotion time and time again simply by getting the timing wrong. Even paid publicists have cocked things up with lousy efforts. Nearly all the radio play and reviews I have ever had have been from things I’ve posted myself. Nice to have some sage advice from someone who gets their hands dirty and gives a shit (not a great mix of metaphor I’m afraid).

  23. avatar

    Milo, the tantrum man tapes? What? Have I been shouting at people whilst pished again?

    Paul, well maybe. I’ve had so much help myself though, from people I can’t really pay it back to, that I guess I felt I had to do something to deserve it, even retrospectively!

  24. avatar

    Blimey this wearing a shirt stuff is paying off……..really enjoyed the read thanks.

  25. avatar

    Today, Cogstar, I am mostly in my pants.

  26. avatar

    Excellent stuff…wish I’d had someone to hand this to me two and a half years ago. The time factor really is important.

    Oh, and avoid a certain CD pressing plant in England whose name rhymes with Whisk Lizards.)

  27. avatar


    love Wanger H.

  28. avatar

    Astonishing effort, Matthew. That’s as good a guide as anyone could hope to find. Thanks also for making me realise I would never want to even think about setting up a record label!

  29. avatar


    I’m waiting on a Whisk Lizards order.

    What was your experience Ed? Bad service or bad produce?!

    They’ve been quite on top of things so far albeit very cold on the phone. Guess I’m not paying them to be my best friends but I’ll get that put in the quote next time.

    500 CDs + card wallets + delivery + bonding experience + VAT.

    Actually, no VAT, cos we’re f**king mates now, ok?

  30. avatar

    This is very good.

    All very helpful. It drives home exactly how slap dash we’ve been with releasing stuff.

    We used ‘Whisk Lizards’ for our CDs and we were pleased with the results and the service was okay. I think it took a bit longer than suggested the second time, and their customer service weren’t the most helpful about that, but otherwise they were fine. Perhaps we were just lucky.

  31. avatar

    I think that’s really good.

    I can second AWAL for digital distribution. 100% fantastic.

  32. avatar

    Having spent some time in design and distribution as a young ‘un, you must acknowledge that any decent manufacturer will inevitably have a few hiccups. If you can find someone you trust to help you out when the shit hits the fan, that’s important. Adam at Datacatch has been awesome for me, as has Steve at Euro-disc and Matt at Air Studios.

  33. avatar

    That’s really well written and well thought-out, but I like the generous spirit in which you wrote and posted it. A nice thing to do. I actually read the whole thing and even sort of understood it, so well done.

  34. avatar

    Well I don’t know if it’s all that well thought out. It’s more of a ‘what seems to be the case so far’ kind of thing, but as I have said, I am so very far from being an expert that it feels a bit cheeky to write this, honestly. Still, I do wish it had been around when I started the label, so I guess it’s not all that hubristic.

  35. avatar

    Cheers for posting this, not only did I spend some time at work “looking busy” but there’s loads of useful stuff in there.

    Good work

    loads of love Paul

  36. avatar

    My experience was that Whisk Lizards took longer than they said they would TWICE; the second time was for a repressing. When I got in touch to check on the order, they said they hadn’t been sent the audio.

    This was despite the fact that they’d already been sent it, they couldn’t be bothered to phone me even though they had the number. The product was fine – but seriously late, even allowing for weather. Customer service was abysmal.

  37. avatar
    Tim London

    Matthew, you could give some of the online gurus a run. I’m going to pass this around to any artists looking to do DIY.

    Re: journalists & radio producers. You can follow up mail outs with phone calls, it’s allowed and expected.

    Re: the use of getting coverage in the glossies etc – you might not sell any more because of it but other ‘music people’ pay attention which keeps the merry go round of chat going.


  38. avatar

    Yeah, I know there are great benefits to appearing in the monthly glossies, but the point I was trying to make was that for the majority of indie artists, particularly those self-releasing, you’ll make better use of your time focusing on other areas. The amount of work it takes to achieve what will probably end up being nothing could well end up detracting from other areas where you might actually achieve a lot more.

    The other point you make is really valid, and one of my biggest weaknesses. I despise picking up the phone, I really do, so badgering journos and radio producers is something I have been absolutely terrible at so far. I can even see exactly why it would make such a difference, but I still can’t bring myself to do it properly.

  39. avatar

    This is going to be pretty useful in the next month or so. At least I won’t be a completely headless chicken.

  40. avatar

    Thanks so much for this Matthew, really generous and clear! It’s going to be so useful. Need to get my arse in gear and get on with stalking some journalist contact details.

  41. avatar

    Yup, pretty sure I’ve been going about it all wrong. Playing it by ear indeed!

  42. avatar

    […] I read this excellent article by “Song, By Toad” about self-releasing an album, and it helped keep my momentum going, after having the inspiration a month ago I’m […]

  43. avatar

    Hello there…when i click the link it says file not found?? 🙁

  44. avatar

    Yep, apologies, just about to fix that…

  45. avatar

    Should be okay again, sorry about that.

  46. avatar

    This thing is amazing. Thanks so much. If I’d ever had to get a bible, this would be it. MUCH obliged.

  47. avatar

    thank you!!!! thank you 😉

  48. avatar

    Thank you so much! That’s exactly what I needed, and I’m going to follow your steps when I release my album later this year. This is priceless.

  49. avatar

    […] Probably my post on how to self-release your own record, which I wrote earlier this […]

  50. avatar

    Most helpful. We are starting out and really not looking forward to the boring slog that I think you know all too well.

    I will be spreading this and checking back often.

  51. avatar

    Having gone through the album release process once a few years back with mixed results, this was a very, very useful read indeed. I shall be referring to it several times in the coming weeks, I am sure. Thank you most kindly for sharing your thoughts.

  52. avatar

    I’ve gone through the album release process before with little planning and marginal success. Thank you so much for offering this perspective. Truly an invaluable resource.

  53. avatar

    Loved, loved, LOVED this guide, and loved how you just laid all out there realistically. You have a great blog!

  54. avatar

    Thanks guys, glad it’s proving to be of some use.

  55. avatar

    This is the most straight forward, unpretentious description of planning an album release I’ve seen. All information – duly noted! I especially appreciated the info about bloggers – keep it simple. So many of them seem to want you to spend a day on their blog, sink your teeth in, get to know it, but musicians want to send their release to hundreds, possibly thousands of blogs. It’s just not possible. The best thing is to keep it concise and respectful and if they want to blacklist because you didn’t comment on their latest Bon Iver post, so be it.

    Thanks for writing this!

  56. I would like genuinely to thank you as well. That’s an amazing guideline. I will pass it forward as soon as I get more expertise in the music industry.

    Edjackson Ferreira

  57. avatar

    I just read the whole thing — thanks for posting it. Inspirational gems like the following were especially appreciated:

    “Almost no-one is prepared for the slog and the drudgery of trying to make a breakthrough in music, and most people give up after a couple of years.”

  58. avatar

    This is lovely. Very kind of you to lend a helping hand to those of us who are also still ‘just starting’ after what may even have been a ‘false start’, because we seem to have done it all wrong the first time… ha! Thanks very kindly. We are planning another few releases this year, so this info should definitely come in handy… Thank you Matthew.

  59. avatar

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  60. avatar

    […] croaks. Toad, aka Edinburgh’s Matthew Young, has also set up Song, by Toad Records, written a Rough Guide to Self-Releasing an Album, and recently pitted his favourite wheaty mind-bending drinks against our cherished vinyl – […]

  61. avatar

    […] croaks. Toad, aka Edinburgh’s Matthew Young, has also set up Song, by Toad Records, written a Rough Guide to Self-Releasing an Album, and recently pitted his favourite wheaty mind-bending drinks against our cherished vinyl – […]

  62. avatar

    WISH I had read this pre my pre-release time!

  63. avatar
    Tim Woodbridge

    Many thanks for this – I’m using it to organise (the frightening amount of) tasks I have to complete between now and my self-imposed-EP-release date during Sept 2014. I especially like the pub task at the end… can that be done first?

  64. avatar

    Hi Matthew,
    This is fantastic, and I’ll definitely be using it for our Album ‘release’ in October!
    Just one question; since you wrote it in 2011 have things gone more digital with press and radio, or is it still all about sending physical CDs?
    Samuel Biscuit

  65. avatar

    Hi Sam – well with radio you pretty much have to send CDs still, or it seems to get ignored. I think most other press can be done digitally these days though. Good luck!

  66. avatar

    Thanks for taking the time to do this Matthew, really useful advice, simply put, much appreciated:)

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