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Who needs labels anyway when I can do it all myself and save money?

Yes, you can, and many do. So many, in fact, that there’s a massive musical glut online getting worse by the minute; how are you going to not get lost in the fray? Listing is easy, placement is hard. That’s where a label comes in – to get you visibility and attention – so you can spend more of your time doing what you do best: making music.

Results are not guaranteed but here’s what we cover:

  1. Guidance through the production phase. Is your cover art going to be legible when small? Did you add the right UPC and ISRC codes to the DDP? Do you know the specs for all the artwork assets? Is the track sequence optimized for maximum effect? Do you need a letter of support so you can pursue grant funding early on?
  2. Posting metadata to the DSPs around the world using best naming and format practices. Fixing listings when DSPs display algorithms screw up.
  3. Being your behind-the-scenes advocate for special industry opportunities (promo rebates, sales incentives, etc). Placement on iTunes front page or appearing in a Spotify playlist doesn’t happen by itself.
  4. Licensing consideration for film and TV, ringtones, choreography.
  5. Arranging for mechanical licenses to be paid to rights holders.
  6. Tailoring a media campaign to targeted reviewers and radio hosts. Long term commitment to promoting your work since every title in our catalog is actively used in many on-going ways.
  7. Reporting feedback from PR efforts and rolling them into new social media postings to our eager followers.
  8. We enter your work in every appropriate category for the Grammy Awards (the rest is up to voters).
  9. Being in the catalog is also being part of the larger innova (and ACF) family; we love to make connections between artists for referrals and collaborations, and to keep you in mind for curated live showcase events such as Innova-Fest. Networking is our middle name.
  10. Last but not least, collecting all the revenue and sending it on to you.

You have worked hard on your music. We will work just as hard on getting returns on your investment. Our staff are all composers so we understand your artistic concerns while also being crazy about getting your work out there to anyone who will listen.

What’s a CD? I’ve heard Vinyl is catching on…

Compact discs (CDs) are still a thing, even if your laptop doesn’t have a slot for one. We make them (in admittedly limited quantities) so we can cover all format bases and ensure your work reaches more potential markets. Reviewers and DJs often need them and some audiences for some kinds of music do indeed still buy them. (And when they do, the purchase of one CD yields about the same money as 100,000 streams.) A well-produced, handsome physical album can stand as a testament to your work that is harder to delete than a random link or a lengthy search through some streaming platform. And a glorified business card is still a gift worth giving.

As for Vinyl, yes, there are enthusiasts and fetishists if your music and that demographic are a perfect match. We can and do produce them but they are slow (12 weeks to produce), heavy, expensive to ship, and bulky to store. It is arguable they sound better than digital but people may well listen better when the playing ritual is more conscious and aware.


Just as the music on the label is exceptional, we too like to make exceptions. Every artists’ needs and available resources are different and we don’t want to leave anyone out, for any reason, who might benefit from our services. So, while the process for a full release is our primary model, we also offer a limited number of workarounds on a case by case basis. There are thus three ways of releasing your work on innova: Full Run, Short Run, and Digital Only.

Full Run:

Physical product (500-1000 CDs or occasionally Vinyl) and promo

Digital and physical distribution

Full on-going PR campaign

Artist retains rights and 100% income

Cost: Manufacturing + mailing + $3500 admin fee

Releases per year: 20-25


Short Run:

Physical product (300 CDs or occasionally Vinyl) and shared promo

Digital and physical distribution

Shared PR efforts ganged with others

Cost range: $900-$1200

Releases per year: 0-3


Digital Only:

Digital distribution

Online PR

Artist retains rights and 100% income

Cost: $300 set up fee

Releases per year: 0-4


Why choose innova for your album?

We can provide assistance from inception to realization for your project, guiding you through the technical and financial details of recording and distributing an album. Because you, as an innova artist retain 100% of the intellectual rights to your work and we pay all proceeds from the album directly to you, we have no incentive to rip you off. We are just in it to make the world a better place through new music.

Being part of innova means being part of a nationally and internationally respected and recognized label that regularly gets press and radio play from places as far flung as South Africa, the Czech Republic, the UK, Italy, and beyond, as well as at home from places like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the L.A. Times, Time Out Chicago and stations like WQXR, WFMU, KUT, and many, many others.

You will receive honest value for your money; if you add up all the costs of mailing, marketing and follow-up time, you’d come up with more than you are paying us. Your administrative fee covers part of the costs for us (the rest is subsidized by our endowment) and puts you into our catalog with both physical and digital distribution and promotional support in perpetuity. And your proceeds from sales all go directly to you. What’s not to like?

As an innova artist, you maintain artistic control of your work, with us assisting you with everything from graphics to layout to one-sheet creation. If you want to work with your own designer or have a custom job, that’s great; we’re flexible.

Our distribution through Naxos of America means your title will be available in stores across the country, plus available from dozens of digital retailers. The list of digital service providers (DSPs) currently includes:

247, 7digital, adshare, Amazon, AMG, Amiestreet, Apple Music, ArkivMusic, Arvato, AspiroWiMP, Atrada, ATT, CatchMedia, Chandos, ClassicalArchives, Divibib, eClassical, Eircom, Emusic, Google, Gracenote, Grooveshark, HBDirect, iMediaCast, Ingrooves, iTunes, JBHiFi, LaLa, Lamediatheque, LastFM, Limewire, MOD Systems, MondiaMedia, MusicBox, MusicNet, MusicVault, Musiwave, MuveMusic, MySpace, Napster/Rhapsody, Neurotic, Nokia, Omnifone, Overdrive, PrestoClassical, Qobuz, Rdio, Resolute, Securycast, Simfy, Slacker, Sony, Spotify, Spotify2, Tekked, TOnline, Tower, VisionForum, Youtube Red, ZVOOQ and some other ancillary partners. 

Your physical album will also be fulfilled directly from us via a secure shopping cart on innova.mu with same-day shipping.

Your release will be promoted through innova’s Facebook page (4000+ fans and counting), via our Twitter feed, @innovadotmu, on our Soundcloud page (soundcloud.com/innovadotmu), and on new and developing social media platforms.

We will work closely with you to compile a custom-tailored list of press and radio to promote your release to and follow up with links to reviews and radio playlists as they appear. We will coordinate with your own marketing and touring efforts to make the most of your own contacts and hard work.

I need access to a studio to record my music. Can innova help with that?

We can offer you discounted time in a top-class digital recording facility such as Minnesota Public Radio’s Studio M here in Saint Paul. You need to be a member of the American Composers Forum and get yourself here, but the use of the studio, including engineer, is cost effective. Tell us a bit about your project, your needs (from tracking through mastering), and your preferred schedule, and we can put you in touch with the studio.

My goals for my music are worldwide fame, ideally capped off with a private jet including a whirlpool tub. Is that a problem?

Pump those brakes. Before investing the time and money to make an album and enter the commercial marketplace, reflect realistically on what you hope to achieve with your recording. Now that Garageband comes prepackaged with every Macintosh, it’s easier than ever (and getting easier all the time) for anyone and everyone to put out a record. Of all the titles released in a year by labels, the overwhelming majority will sell fewer than a thousand physical copies, and that’s not even counting self-released titles.

None of this is to dissuade you; it should motivate you to stand out in a crowded marketplace and innova is poised to help. Once your album is released, you will need to generate interest and demand. We can get it online and into stores and in front of the right people, but promotion and sales come about from a team effort. Remember: distribution is not marketing. Your innova album can pay for itself if you perform frequently, know your audience, and keep pushing your visibility. We’ll make sure your release is ubiquitous and the buzz is sustained.

In this age of the long tail, one of the most valuable services we can provide is a persistent presence for your release. So long as innova exists, your release has a home on Apple Music, Amazon, and dozens of other digital retailers. Keep in mind that every sale now and forever (and that can be a long time) goes directly to you.

So you’re saying I’m not getting that jet. Why wouldn’t I want to put it out myself, then?

Innova’s niche in the new music world may or may not match your needs. If you can’t commit to playing frequently and envision your release mostly being bought via personal contacts, local consignment, or at occasional shows, you may be better off pressing your album yourself.

But if your music is the kind of challenging, boundary-breaking work that we find exciting and that we think will find a wider audience when it gets into the right hands, innova might just be the right fit. We have some prestige in the field and your work would share a catalog with some pretty heady company.

Can you help me promote my release show?

Up to a point. We are active on social media and always want to know about your upcoming performances, but mostly as a way to point people back to the album, which is really our specialty when it comes to promotion. The very specific and targeted work of generating press releases and following up with local press to make sure there are maximum eyeballs at your show is beyond our capacity, as are booking your national tours, and sending detailed tracking of radio plays. We can provide a base level of service here, but there are outside PR firms and managers better suited to that work and we are happy to coordinate our efforts with anyone you hire.

I have a CDR master, liner notes, and some graphic concepts ready to go. Plus, I’ve given up on the whole jet thing. I’ve got money to cover the manufacturing expenses and some good ideas about reaching potential buyers. What next?

By gosh, I think you’re ready to fill out an application and send it in along with a write-up about the album and any marketing ideas you have. If the review committee thinks it’s up innova's alley and that we can do you right by, we’ll send out the contract and put it in line for production. The general timeline for releases runs about 3–4 months. We need at least a $1500 deposit before sending your files off for manufacture; the balance is due within 30 days of when we get invoiced.

Can I see a sample contract?

Sure. Just write to us for a copy.

I’d like innova to do my design, but I have materials like scanned photos and text for the liner notes. What format would you like all this stuff in?

We’ve got tech specs for you right here.

Is there going to be a problem with mechanical licensing?

Nope. Our distributor, Naxos of America, takes care of all licensing needs. Just tell us the publisher’s or composer’s name if it’s anyone but you.

I meant renting a mechanic for upkeep on the jet.

That’s on you.

You asked me to draft a one-sheet. What’s that?

The one-sheet walks point for your release. It usually consists of a short, snappy paragraph or three about your release, any killer press quotes you may have already gotten, and information about the release itself including a picture and track listing. The text should give an instant snapshot of the release and let press or radio know why it should interest them. We ask you to write something for it so that we can then massage it into virtual ninja of promotion. We want to know what matters to you about your release and that in turn helps us understand what’s going to matter to all those people out there. It’s a chance for you to reflect on the project, so any and all things you think are relevant are welcome and encouraged.

If you need further encouragement, we post the one-sheet text from all our releases to the artist pages on this website, so browse through a few and see what style might suit your release best.

Who is eligible to release a record on innova?

You will need to be a member of the American Composers Forum (no great hardship, just join here). We are not a vanity label for member of the club, though. Non-U.S.-based projects may use the innova label so long as you have a decent marketing plan and the music is primarily new and American (ie, you at least visit often to play).

Does innova make a profit?

Nope. Nor a loss. By charging a minimal service fee (matched by our endowment earnings) to cover staff time, promo costs, office, and storage expenses—and by releasing a minimum number of titles per year—innova breaks even. Innova is stable, established, and can afford to take artistic risks whether or not your title is a big seller. That does mean, however, that any extra expenses (additional ads in magazines, promo above and beyond a standard level) are passed on to you.

Can you breakdown the pricing structure for CDs from wholesale to retail?

Certainly. Single CDs sell to outside distributors at $7.50 per unit, then they mark them up to stores for about $9.50. Purchases directly from us are credited at $10 and the suggested retail price is $15, although you will see them at a range of prices depending on the retailer. Once they are out of our hands this scheme is liable to go crazy though and we are not responsible for any prices you may see online.

I have a concert in three weeks. Will my CDs be ready?

You’d better clear the jetway, because this is going to take a Herculean effort. In the best of circumstances, this is a tricky proposition. We can pull out the stops if it’s that important BUT your efforts should not undermine our national promo campaign (and official release date) which takes at least three to five months to gear up.

I know people who bought my album weeks ago. Why haven’t you sent me a check?

The short answer? We account to you twice a year, but send checks annually. The long answer? That money has to come to us from the distributor, then we have to update accounts against returns, then we have to wait for an annual audit before any money goes out.

Can you tell me how many units my title has sold?

The short answer? No. The long answer? We can track inventory here at innova and at Naxos, but there are so many variables as far as consignment stock and returns at physical stores that it’s nearly impossible to give an accurate count of units sold. What we can track is the money coming in, which can give a rough estimate of units (mixed in with digital download and streaming sales). That estimate, though, is subject to the vagaries of retail pricing.

Why do some titles sell more than others?

If we could give you the answer to this, we’d give up the record business and work on something more lucrative, like cold fusion. It’s the unfortunate truth that the market rarely responds to quality alone. The story of the release matters. Your story matters. Your hustle is important. Your willingness to push the product matters. Word of mouth plays its part. The simple viability of the music in the overcrowded marketplace is something that we wish were less important, but it just is. But if you work with us, we’ll work hard for you.

What's this about digital files, MP3s, and such? Are they catching on?

Yes, but in our world the physical entity, the CD album, still has a purpose (even if it's only to out something in a conductor's hand, on a reviewer's pile, or DJ's shelf. About 60% of the sales income is currently from digital sources (DSPs) so physical CDs still have an important supporting role to play.