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Book Review | Guidebook To Self‑releasing Your Music

By Matthew Whiteside By Phil Ward
Published July 2024

Guidebook To Self‑releasing Your Music -- By Matthew Whiteside | SOS Book Review

In a surprisingly on‑target example of online marketing, ads for Matthew Whiteside’s Guidebook To Self‑releasing Your Music began to appear in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago. And as somebody who both finds the commercial side of the music business interesting, and who has a slowly growing collection of almost finished music that someday it would be fun to set free, there was no question that I wanted to read it.

So I requested a review copy from Matthew (appropriately, the book is self‑published, with an editor paid via crowdfunding) and it arrived the following day. And, cutting to the chase, it’s really great! Both an interesting read and incredibly useful if self‑releasing is your thing.

Matthew is a professional musician and composer working primarily in the contemporary classical genre, with numerous standalone works, as well pieces for film and TV, to his name. He’s carved out a successful niche for himself. He self‑funds and self‑releases most of his music and he has clearly over time become extremely knowledgeable and proficient at the process, so the information contained in the book is very much written from a “been there and done it” perspective. The word ‘guide’ is absolutely spot on: it’s a book that could very effectively hand‑hold you through a self‑release process, although at the same time, it’s not overly prescriptive. It offers suggestions, principles and concepts, but at the same time accepts that you might need or want to do things slightly differently.

Matthew’s writing style is engaging and approachable and he explains some pretty complex concepts, particularly in the sections on Right and Registrations, very effectively.

It’s not a huge book and I found it a pretty comfortable read over a few days. Matthew’s writing style is engaging and approachable and he explains some pretty complex concepts, particularly in the sections on Rights and Registrations, very effectively. Along with those sections, the book covers the whole creative process from choosing people to work with, be they other musicians or producers, through budgeting, fundraising, recording, post‑production, registering rights, distribution, PR, advertising and using social media. Some sections are UK‑centric in that they describe, for example, the music rights and registration process in the UK, but even so, the basic principles Matthew describes hold true or have equivalents in other territories. The book ends with a fascinating explanation and analysis of the music streaming business, and if you didn’t really appreciate just how broken is the streaming business model, prepare to have your eyes opened and mind boggled.

The sections in the book on recording, mixing and post-production land in territory where we Sound On Sound readers like to think we know every hill, dale and shortcut. However, firstly, it does no harm to read an alternative perspective on things that we believe we already know and, secondly, Matthew’s work predominantly resides in a genre where musicians play from scores using acoustic instruments, and the disciplined style of recording that demands is many miles away from, say, endlessly scrolling through reverb plug‑in presets or deciding just how dirty that strummed D minor should be. It’s a discipline that I suspect many of us rather less professionally trained musicians (I may well be lecturing myself here) might find useful to borrow from.

Commit To Succeed

Matthew doesn’t pull any punches in describing just how much hard work, organisation and commitment is involved in making a professional and successful job of self‑releasing, but in explaining the processes so clearly he makes it all seem more feasible than daunting. If self‑releasing is on your list of things to do, Matthew’s book is very highly recommended.


eBook £10, softback £15. Prices include VAT.