Recently we’ve had a splurge of music-makers asking for pointers/advice on the mechanics of releasing music- how to capitalise on the all-important release day (…and week… and month…) and maximise the impact of your record. You’ve spent countless hours (and pennies!) perfecting your songs and getting them recorded, mixed and mastered- it’s critical to not lose focus and make sure your release strategy backs up the effort you’ve put into making the music.
Here’s a rundown of our top tips for maximising the punch of your releases:
1. DON’T set a release date before your assets are ready to go
This is one of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt over the years- get EVERYTHING (and we mean EVERYTHING) ready to roll before setting a release date. Have a folder on your computer filled with artwork, an EPK, press shots, bio, music video(s), lyric video(s), acoustic performance video(s), teasers, the Masters (WAV and mp3 master versions), social media posts and especially social media banners.
If you spend the whole process gunning for a specific date stuff either gets rushed or simply isn’t ready in time. It’s so important to have a full release strategy (including PR- see below) in place around the date that you work to- setting a date too early on can be catastophic. It’s important to work to deadlines, but you don’t want the whole release to be slave to an immovable date, particularly because so much can be out of your hands when creating collateral.
For example today we pushed a release back a week to match the diary of an awesome PR company we wanted on board- we’d discussed it anyway to allow more breathing room for another release, but it made the decision easy to be able get the PR firm on board by matching their diary. Keeping our dates as flexible as possible up until the last minute gave us wiggle room for stuff to come together more. They were also asking what assets we had for the release- to tell them we had a music video, acoustic performance video, artwork and collateral social posts/banners and promo shots all ready to go sealed the deal.
Once the music is finished and ready get all your artwork, branding, video and visual assets finished then set the releases date- you have to be patient but it’s worth it in the long run.
2. DO make a video
We harp on about this quite a bit, but it’s easy to underestimate the strength that video brings to a music release. Having any combination (or all of…!) music video, acoustic video, behind the scenes (BTS) video and lyric videos gives more assets to release in the run-up to or wake of your release date. It gives you access to a far wider audience, especially the younger demographic who use YouTube and other video-sharing platforms more than traditional television. Aim to create a VEVO channel, giving extra credence to your video content on YouTube and giving you another platform that’s world renowned for music related video.
3. DON’T use the iphone/desktop app to generate an Apple/iTunes link
Sounds so simple but we’ve fallen foul of this a few times before we worked out the issue. When you click ‘share’ in your iTunes or Apple Music app to generate a link it creates a territory specific link that will open up your country’s store when people click on it from abroad- or sometimes won’t work at all internationally. The way round this is go here to generate a link:
These links work globally by opening up the store/app of the territory that the user usually makes their purchases in. Perfect for posting on social media where your fanbase will be international and perhaps not centralised in one territory.
4. DO your research before picking an aggregator
Don’t know what an aggregator is? Check out our industry glossary HERE. Theres a wealth of options available for how to get your releases on to digital outlets, all with a variety of methods for payment. On one end of the spectrum you can pay entirely in a percentage of your sales revenue, with no upfront fee (great if your figures mean you wont be shifting tons of copies/streams online). The other end is no percentage of sales but an upfront (an often annual fee)- either per release (like Tunecore) or annually for all releases (like Distrokid). Some services even often a blend of these 2 models. It’s important to weigh up all the options- do a forecast of your sales (based on how well previous releases have done, your social media/mailing list reach, your strategy of stores- e.g. streaming vs. downloads) and pull together a spreadsheet to work out what is the most financially beneficial over 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years of your music being available. It may even be worth forecasting how much music you plan to release in the next year or 2 to see if an annual multi-release model is best for you.
It’s worth reading a few forums to find out how their customer service is too- are they quick? Do they solve the majority of problems? There always tends to be little hurdles and hiccups with releases- they get attached to the wrong artist page, a store accidentally goes live before release date, etc. so it’s important to also weigh up how easy they are to deal with and how effective they are in trouble shooting on your behalf, particularly with the bigger DSPs.
Whichever you choose make sure you do your research, do your maths and pick a partner for the long run. Tunecore make their money by artists forgetting they have releases available (or being sentimental about taking them down) and still charging annually more than the release will be generating in 5 years time. Make sure you think and plan ahead!
5. DONT forget about PR
PR is an absolute minefield- but that doesn’t mean you should either forget it or bury your head in the sand. PR can be a killer addition to your strategy- taking your release to a far wider audience than you could achieve alone and helping you to avoid repeating yourself and plugging the same thing day in/day out on your social media channels. Depending on the agency, PR can provide any one of radio plugging, digital marketing, Spotify playlist pitching, getting media coverage (online and physical) and reviews, creative content writing and creation. Their job is to market your release (and you) to the media and hence music-buying public- weaving a tale of your history to create a good ‘hook’ or niche to what you and your music are about. Though they often have great skill in creative writing, pulling together press kits and shoots their real value mostly lies in their contacts. Who can they reach and get to hear your music that you would never be able to without personal relationship? Whether it’s a key writer on an influential blog to tastemaker DJ at the hippest radio station in your genre, you’re paying for them to get your music into influencer’s ears, and to convince those influencers to talk about and further share your music.
Perhaps this is why it’s such a minefield- because in the end there’s no guarantee that the people they’re pitching to will pick up the release or share it. The key to focus on is creating good music in the first place that you can get passionate about, that your PR agent can get passionate about and easily sell to media for them to get passionate about it. Beyond that it’s highlighting interesting elements of your story and giving ‘meat’ to the message you’re trying to tell your fans. “Oh look- I’ve just released some new music” isn’t interesting to fans- but picking out interesting elements of the writing, recording or release process to focus on helps peak fan’s interest and gives the PR agent something to get their teeth into.
It can seem a lot of money to fork out for PR- but if you believe in your music enough (and it’s good enough) you’ll need that wider audience to market it to. Get recommendations from friends who’ve had success with certain PR firms and avoid any that smell of falsehood/can’t specifically show what they’ve done for other artists (in a similar genre to you). There’s a whole raft out there trying to take advantage of unsuspecting artists with no chance of landing you anything. There are no guarantees in PR so spend carefully- but do spend!
We wish you luck! Comment below any questions or thoughts- what’ve you found worked well for you on previous releases? What didn’t work well? We’d love to hear from you.