Create Great Music.
Let’s be honest here; consumers aren’t stupid. They may not be music connoisseurs, but they certainly have musical tastes and an absurd amount of music discovery apps and website options to choose from. However, studies show that music discovery continues to be dominated by the radio. And we all know major recording artists dominate radio airplay–thanks to promotion departments with big budgets. But we also know that independent artists are selling records and indie artist are winning Awards. This is because their music is cutting through. Not because a shit load of blogs write about it, but because it’s great music that incites a response. Bad music is shit. Good music is tolerable. Great music incites response; and the response is repeat streams, evangelical shares and downloads.
Set A Release Date & Schedule Distribution.
One of the challenges upcoming artists face in building a release campaign is not giving themselves a sufficient amount of lead time to layout and execute the details of a plan. You need time to do all of the work involved with a release. Sometimes, you’re so excited about your new record that you post it up prematurely. This is fine if you have no intent to commercially release the record. However, if you do want to generate sales–and your fan base has not historically been quick buyers of your music–then you need time to start generating buzz and momentum. Most major labels spend no less than 8 to 16 weeks planning towards the release of a single. Sometimes they push the release date back if they have not reached certain goals by specific weeks (although this mostly happens for albums, and not singles). You should consider giving yourself no less than 6-12 weeks from the start of activating your campaign. Also, the release date you select can also be a factor in the success or failure of your release. Some parts of the year there are a lot of major artist releases. Therefore, radio play, blog features, press/media coverage is focused on these major releases. Holiday season (October-December) and Spring are two of the biggest seasons for major releases. However, there is discrepancy in the music industry on when is the “best” time for upcoming artists to release music. Some say that the Summer is solid, and that’s because of the major label hiatus (execs going on vacation) and the increase in music events such as summer concert series, indie music festivals, etc. While I agree that the summer months are much better than Holiday season in general, it’s a whole different story if you’re releasing a Holiday themed song. The bottom line is, selecting a release date is part smart and part timely. Once you’ve determined when you want to release, you need to schedule the distribution.
Set Reasonable Goals.
Now that all the “administrative work” is complete, it’s time to develop a plan and get to work. A good plan needs concrete goals. One of the ways to measure the effectiveness of a plan is to determine if you’ve reached or exceeded your initial goals. Too often, upcoming artists create music, throw it up on the Internet and are disappointed with the outcome. But, you may be selling yourself short by not setting reasonable goals in advance. In fact, you may have exceeded what the music ecosystem has determined as your demand/worth based on your existing support system. As an upcoming artist–even with no fan base–there are reasonable goals that you can set that have nothing to do with record sales. Your goal may be to earn X number of video views, or X number of music streams, or X number of shares, or X number of downloads (including free downloads).
Marketing & Promotion Planning.
Once you’ve set your goals, you need to think about how you plan to reach and exceed those goals. There are a number of approaches. I am a huge proponent of integrated marketing approaches. That is, tactics that overlap and contribute towards the impact of two or more goals. For example, if you have a video on YouTube, at the end of the video should be a download link for the song that was just played (use YouTube’s video editing features to embed links in videos). If you print up flyers and posters to promote upcoming gigs, include your social media links. To reach a goal for shares of a song; consider creating a “Share And Win” campaign on social media. The basic premise is that by sharing your song or flyer, the action represents an entry for the chance to win something such as a pre-release or tickets to an upcoming gig. A cool way to promote your upcoming release is by giving away a previous release or a record you do not intend to release. Check out SocialUnlock, which is a platform that lets you setup a campaign to give away music in exchange for social interactions (such as “Likes” and Shares). Also, look into securing radio airplay on a number of the independent radio sites. You want your song on air no less than 4 weeks before the release.
Line Up A Few Gigs.
When releasing new music, it’s helpful to perform the music in front of an audience prior to release. If the music is as great as you think, they’ll respond. If the response is not what you expect, you’ll have some food for thought in terms of continuing the journey towards a commercial release. Reaching out to local bars, nightclubs, small concert halls with upcoming artistes nights. You also might be able to secure gigs by directly contacting medium sized tour management companies and booking agencies and talking your way into opening up for a bigger act that’s coming to your city.
Seek And Secure Publicity.
There are an insane number of music blogs generating exposure for new music every day; connecting music lovers with upcoming artists. There are three basic types of publicity you want to secure and it’s a good idea to make this part of your goals. First, you want music reviews. If your music is great, the reviews will be amazing. If the reviews are negative, then you might have a rude awakening that will help you evaluate your music. Secondly, you want interviews. Often, music bloggers will simply send you a list of questions via email that you respond to and send back with a biography and discography and they take it from there. The third kind of publicity is features. Ideally, you want to be featured on the main page of the website/blog. Normally, the feature will include a photo and link to a post (either a review or interview). Most websites/blogs have a contact page. Find that page to submit your press release (oh yeah, you should probably write a press release) or click on the author of any given music post to locate the information of a specific writer. Another form of publicity is radio interviews. While it is incredibly difficult to get an interview with a mainstream radio station, it is not that difficult to get an interview with an independent or lesser known radio station. There are a number of independent terrestrial radio stations in and around major markets. Do some research and give them a call about setting up an interview. Also, many of the djs on mainstream radio stations have their own Internet radio shows. Reach out to them to see if you can set up an in-studio interview at their Internet radio show. The idea is to capture your interview on video and to post it on YouTube. Another publicity boaster is a Wikipedia page for your band. Hypebot explains how to get your brand on Wikiepedia.
Review And Adjust.
I know you may think the last step is a cop out to providing some useful information, but the reality is reviewing and adjusting efforts in the remaining weeks or days before a release can be the difference between good response and bad ones. Have you reached your goals with two weeks left until the release?
Throw A Party!
You’ve worked your butt off. Celebrate with a single release party. You might offer fans a ticket to this single release party as part of the bundle when you’re gigging to raise awareness of your release.
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