Album Release Checklist
Objective: Give bands a tool to organize everything they need to release their album.
When you see a band show up on your favorite website like Stereogum or Pitchfork it may seem like voila. The media loved the band and it was instant success.
Sadly, that’s not how it works. There’s a lot of time, effort and behind the scenes work that needs to happen before a band gets to that point. You need to start by having a plan and being extremely organized in your approach.
Below are 12 items you should have in place when planning your album or EP release:
If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll want to make sure your website or EPK is up to date while making a great first impression. First, the website can serve as an EPK which should include streamed music, bio, hi-res publicity photos, artwork and press quotes. You also want to think about what the website or EPK is conveying overall. Does it look dated or scattered? It could send a message that you don’t take your music seriously or you’re not ready to take your band to the next level. If you don’t have a website, you can also use sites like Bandcamp, ReverbNation, or Sonicbids to create EPKs.
Is your bio updated with your accomplishments? Does it have a distinct story angle that only you could tell?
For tips on how to write a great bio read:
3. Publicity Photos
Your publicity photos are often the first impression of your band. You want to make sure the story they’re telling is representative of your sound and where you want to be in your musician career.
For ideas on how to create a great band image read:
4. Album artwork
Before setting any release date for your album, make sure you have finished album artwork in hand. It’s not uncommon to make multiple revisions with your graphic designer. You don’t want to set a release date and then have to beat the odds on timing to give it the awareness it deserves simply because your timeline was cut short with delayed artwork.
5. Single artwork
If you’re releasing singles off your album (and you should), you’ll also want to think about single artwork. You’ll need this to submit to Spotify for the single release and blogs like to include the single artwork with posts about singles. Don’t make this an afterthought. Also, be careful about making the artwork too similar to the album art that it could confuse the listener. You want consistency that makes it clear it’s part of your album without being redundant. Think of it the way you would an art collection. No two pieces are alike, but it’s also clear they belong together.
6. Mastered file
Before you announce any release dates, make sure you have the mastered files in hand. You want to make sure you’re putting the best you have into the world. I’ve seen mastered files get delayed up to six months because the files weren’t mastered correctly.
7. Streamed audio link
Set up a streamed audio link for the single you’re planning to release on a site like Soundcloud or Bandcamp (or both). You’ll want to use this link to send to media asking them to cover your single, on your social media to promote to your fanbase, and any band newsletters you send out. You should also have a private streamed audio link of your album or EP for industry people to hear your music. Because an album is a bigger investment of time for the journalist, it can often take anywhere from 2-6 months to see an album review show up from when you first contact the media. It should also be noted that very few outlets outside of small blogs review albums of emerging artists.
8. Social Media
You’ll want to start teasing your fans about new music well in advance of the release. If you’ve let your social media lapse while you were in the studio, start by reconnecting with your fans with consistent posts throughout the week. Use your banner to promote your upcoming releases and give clip in the studio to get your fans excited. The #1 mistake I see bands make is totally ignoring their fans while they are in the studio, and then expect their fans to immediately support them when the new record is ready for release. It doesn’t work that if you. If you’ve ignored your fan base, you’re going to need to spend extra time rebuilding that relationship because most likely they’ve forgotten about you.
9. Release dates
You should set release dates for the singles you want to release as well as the album. The global release date which is the music industry standard, falls on Fridays. Your album release date should always be set on Friday to give credibility with media and the industry. This would be the case even if you planned your local record release show on Saturday or another day of the week. Commercial singles are set for Friday as well, but there’s more flexibility there to release on another day during the work week. Lastly, you need to plan time to build impressions, meet media deadlines and Spotify lead times for the release. As a general rule, you’ll want to start contacting media about three months prior to the album release and Spotify about eight weeks. That said, it takes time to build. Stereogum or Spotify most likely won’t come on board the first time they hear about you. You need to show them you’re viable by securing other Spotify playlists, media coverage and growing your Spotify streams and social media engagement.
10. Press list
This will most likely be the most time intensive of all the items you’ll work on. It can be tempting to simply pull a random list that states, “These blogs want to cover your band!” There’s more to it than that. Do they cover your genre? Do they cover bands at your level? You can absolutely use those types of lists as a starting point, but you should also go to each site and make sure you’re a band they’d want to cover. If you don’t, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin, annoy the media you’re sending your music, and most likely end up discouraged based on a lack of results.
If you’re an indie rock band we’ll get you started with our Ten for $10 Guide. We take all the guesswork out of who’s a fit and save you TONS of hours it would take to do it yourself. You can find more about the guide here.
If you’re in a genre outside of indie rock, request a Ten for $10 guide for your genrehere. Once there is enough interest we’ll create a guide for that genre!
11. Album Release timeline
You should create an album release timeline mapping out a week by week schedule of what you’ll need to work on each week and when you’re releasing your singles and album. We created a handy dandy album release timeline template you can find here.
We’ve created a 12 week album release timeline to help you map out your release without a lot of guesswork. You can get access by submitting your email address here.
If you want to have your song and albums on Spotify and iTunes you’ll need to work with a distributor. You should start working on this four to six weeks in advance as a minimum to insure your song and album is available by the release date. CD Baby, Tunecore or Symphonic are different distributors who can help you with this.
It’s a lot of work planning out an album release, but you’ll be thankful you took the time when the results speak for themselves.
If you wish you had more guidance on how to organize and plan your album release, find out more about Ignition, our DIY program for running your own music pr campaign. We’ll walk you through step by step each week so that you can make sure you’re on top of your game. Read about Ignition here.
Download our handy dandy album release planning template, which will make it super easy for you to plan out all of these steps when releasing your album! Click here or the image above and download!