How to Release Your Album Successfully (Even If You Don't Have a Record Label)
Whether you paid thousands of dollars working with a great producer or made your own bedroom recording, chances are you want people to hear your music.
You're also probably really excited to get your music out in the world. So much so, that within a week from from receiving your music, you already have it out in the world.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen a band post their last day in the studio on Facebook and then two days later announce the album is available. It's also the biggest mistake you can make if you have a small fan base (aka you're not Beyonce or Taylor Swift).
In order for people to hear your music and increase the chances your album or EP release will be a success, you need to create a solid plan before you release the record.
1. Do NOT release the record the same day you receive your masters back.
This is the #1 mistake we see bands make. You’ve spent months, if not years, on your album and you just want people to hear it. I get it. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, you greatly reduce the amount of people hearing your music by releasing it right away.
There isn't a band on an established indie label or major label who releases their album this way. Even those who give the perception the album is dropping right away had to plan an effective marketing plan months in advance to make it a success. Ads had to be bought. Press releases written. Marketing strateegies created. Their record labels planned well in advance and released the record at the most advantageous time while building a buzz in ADVANCE with press and their fans.
Lead times have shortened in recent years, but you still need time to build awareness with media. The shortest lead time we follow is twelve weeks in advance of the release. This gives us time to release singles off the album and also raise awareness about the bands who aren't yet known by bloggers. Spotify is changing the game a bit as Spotify playlists gain popularity, however, many will want to see you have some sort of press exposure or social media presence.
2. Make a list and check it twice.
First things first, you should be sending your music to bloggers, online media, radio and Spotify curators to increase your fanbase. And that begins with targeting the right contacts.
Research the best publications for your type of music and then send it to the person who seems most likely to cover it. If you want a review, send it to the music editor or reviews editor. If it’s a specific writer, drop them a line telling them why they'll like it based on what they've written about.
And don’t send your dream pop album to a writer who only covers traditional Americana artists. No matter how good your record is, he won’t be into it and most likely the only coverage you’ll get is on his wall of shame.
Maybe you really want a magazine like Gorilla vs Bear to cover your band. Check out their site and see what coverage they give to bands at your level and genre.
Here’s the good news about having to wait to release your album. It doesn’t mean you have to wait to release any music. In fact, I highly recommend releasing a single right away to start getting the music out there and also test how people react.
If you want coverage on blogs, offer at least one downloadable mp3 through Soundcloud for their readers. Although most blogs are now fine with a streaming option, there are those who will only accept a song that is downloadable. The fate of Soundcloud is also somewhat unknown, so I recommend also utilizing Bandcamp and Spotify to release streaming versions of the single. This is a great way to build press early to increase both fan and press interest, thus increasing your chance of a successful release.
4. EPK-Electronic press kit.
Your website can serve as your EPK. A press kit should consist of a hi-res publicity photo (at least 300dpi), bio, mp3s or streamed audio they can hear. We create media pages for our clients based on what the journalists most often request from us and what could potentially increase press coverage for the artist.
- Bio-Create a strong story angle that is definitively you and hasn’t already been said before.
- Great publicity photo. Look at some of your favorite blogs to see what types of photos they post to give you ideas. It should tell a story about your band, look professional and catch attention.
- MP3-Do NOT include your entire album or EP on your website before the release date. You should only have the mp3 you’ve already released and then password protect the album through sites like bandcamp or soundcloud to give media access.
- Press Quotes-If you've received press, include press quotes with the highest profile or the best quotes at the top of you page.
5. Social Networking.
If you want to up your music promotion game, make sure you are sending teasers about the upcoming album on twitter and facebook while branding the release date.
This can be done with a few simple tricks:
- Retweet when a fan or blog says something great about your music.
- Involve your fans in the process by giving sneak peeks of cover art, publicity photo shoots, videos or anything else they want to know about.
- Pay attention to where you receive the most engagement and make sure you plan out more of the same.
- Ask your fans to retweet and share your facebook posts with their friends.
- Create banners announcing the release date. (We love free service Canva.com for this).
Green Light Go: Take a look at your website and make sure you have the four components of a press kit in place.
Sharing is Caring: Know someone in the studio? Share this article with them to help launch a successful record release befire it's too late.
If you've ever built your own press list you know how time intensiive (and downright discouraging!) it can be. Let us save you some time and frustration with our Ten for $10 Indie Rock Directory. We not only tell you ten blogs who will cover your band, we give you tips on how and what to pitch each outlet. Find out more here.