Planning Your Next Music Release
by Robert Flis / August 11, 2020
As artists adjust to a quickly shifting landscape, questions arise over the best way to approach releasing new music. Are the days of full-length albums behind us? How do you compete with the thousands of other artists releasing music digitally each day? To answer these questions and more, CD Baby’s Darryl Hurs led a webinar hosted by Global Toronto called "Planning Your Next Music Release: Promotion and Distribution Tips" which details best practices for releasing music in 2020.
Firstly, we need to recognize the different phases of a music release which can be broken down into 4 parts: Creation, Business, Strategy and Execution.
Before you release anything, it needs to be written and recorded! (duh.) This seems like it goes without saying, but many artists have a tendency of envisioning a release date before their music is even close to completion. This is fine if everything goes according to schedule, but who are we kidding, delays happen, and they can totally disrupt a release schedule. You do not want to be finishing up a song and saying to yourself “ok, it’s done, let’s release it next week!” It’s normal to be excited and want to release your new stuff immediately, but a marketing strategy needs to be developed first. In order to give yourself enough time to develop that strategy, choose an appropriate time to record. The summer months (June through August) are a great time for many Canadian artists to be in studio, so that your music will be ready for a fall release, which is when your audience will be best prepared to receive it.
Many artists dread the business side of the music industry (with reason), but it’s an important part of the process that can’t be ignored. Before you start planning your release, make sure you have your song registered with SOCAN and other appropriate organizations. Have you agreed upon splits with other songwriters and musicians who worked on the music? Having your business affairs in order as soon as a song is completed will save you headaches later on and make the road to releasing your music that much smoother.
Strategy is everything when it comes to giving your music the best chance to be heard. The better you plan, the easier the execution will be. One of the most important aspects of developing a release strategy (which can also be one of the hardest for artists) is not to rush. Give yourself the time you need to do things properly. If it takes 2 months, that’s ok. It’s better to take more time and have a great release, than come up with a half-baked strategy and stumble over the finish line. Coming up with a timeline is a great way to stay organized and track your progress. Artists should try to plan 12 to 24 months ahead and include blocks of time for writing, recording and marketing. Google docs and spreadsheets are useful tools that can be shared with band members and people you’re working with so that everyone’s on the same page.
Marketing, content creation and execution are the final steps of your release process and they’re arguably the most important. There are countless ways to execute your marketing strategy, and the best ones are tailored to you and personalized to suit your audience, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Music: Consider releasing singles instead of full albums. If you have 3 singles, you have 3 chances to submit for Spotify playlists. If you release an album, you have one chance to submit one song to playlists. Algorithms on Spotify want to see you releasing often, so the more frequently you release, the better. Instrumental versions are super important for sync and song placement opportunities. Just remove the vocals and have your song mixed and mastered without them. It’s also a great idea to release lyric videos and make sure your lyrics are typed up everywhere online so people can find you.
Social media: Plan and schedule your social content using scheduling tools/software to maximize your time. Come up with evergreen content you can post anytime and can reuse or transform in different ways. Make sure you’re not always trying to sell things to your audience. Post buffer content in between that adds value and creates engagement with your fans. Make sure to constantly evaluate the content you release. Note what kind of content gets higher engagement and what gets less and adjust accordingly. Use tools like Facebook Pixels to build an audience and gather data. Join groups like Indepreneur to find helpful tips and engage with other artists. Follow social influencers like Gary Vee whose series “My 2 Cents” is a great resource. Find your top-trending hashtags and be consistent with your posting. Try to post once a day for 90 days and watch your audience grow!
Website: Social media is great, but your website is YOURS. Every artist should have one and it should be the one place that all your social media accounts drive traffic to. Use it to collect emails and send out newsletters to your fans letting them know what’s going on with you.
Merch: It’s still great to release physical products. Even if people are streaming your music, they still want to own something tangible, so sell t-shirts, CDs, vinyl and anything else you can think of! Be creative with your merchandise.
There’s a lot more to releasing music than it seems on the surface, but if you take it step by step and make sure that each step of the process is well thought out, you can maximize your chances for success. After all, the goal of an artist is to be heard, so taking the time to plan your release is just as important as creating the music itself!
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