CD release tips

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When it’s time for your CD release, a clear, consistent message will help focus your audience and help you rebuild momentum

So you’ve put your blood, sweat, time, and money into making your brand new CD. Now what? Do you have a plan to make it successful, or were you just going to “get it out there?”

One of the best ways to ensure disappointing results with your new CD is to release it with no plan for how to market it. You can do better than that! Time and time again I’ve seen artists release CDs by just “making it available.” They just put out a CD and ask people to buy it. They don’t pick a single and they don’t have a good plan to build anticipation for the release. Don’t let that be you!

When Lady GaGa or Jay-Z releases an album they don’t just put it out there and see what sticks. They release a single in advance of the album. They build anticipation. They execute a plan.

Music is released this way for a reason. When you take the shotgun approach to marketing your music by releasing everything everywhere all at once, you lose a tremendous amount of power and effectiveness because you have no focus.

Songs take time and repetition to gain momentum. You need to market your music with focus in order to get repeat listens and build that momentum.

Music is largely social. It’s one way that we connect to other people. We relate to others through shared experiences, often through music. This is why, no matter how technology evolves and distribution and consumption become diversified and fragmented, there will still always be hit songs. People want to have a shared experience. They want to relate to other people who are listening to the same thing at the same time. So why then do so many independent artists inhibit this process by releasing 12 songs at one time with no clear plan as to how people are to digest and experience them?

One of the first rules of marketing is “the confused mind always say no.” You want to lead people very clearly. Your marketing should have a consistent message. When you release your single, your message might be, “This is the song, and I want you to listen to it! Download it for free at our website.”

You want to get everyone on the same page. There’s power in focus.

The idea is to get people hooked on your single first to build anticipation for your album. Make them want to know more. Don’t just throw it all at them. Lead them. Give them something they can chew on. You wouldn’t try to bait a fish with a buffalo, so don’t make the same mistake with your audience. Give them something small that they can digest in order to get them excited and curious about the rest of your album. If you do this effectively, then you can multiply your results tenfold compared to just dumping an album without a plan.

Here are some step-by-step tips to help make your next CD a success:

  1. Pick a single before you have a release date for your CD.
  2. Choose a release date for the single that’s a few weeks ahead of the release of the CD.
  3. Build anticipation for the release of the single. Mention it on your social networking sites, website and mailing list at least a few days in advance. If you have a good story behind it or anything interesting to say about it then talk about it. You could even add a countdown timer on your website to build the anticipation.
  4. Launch the single on your website. Create a very simple landing page with:
    • A graphic that promotes your new album with the release date.
    • A small MP3 player or a video player that plays your new single or a 90 second sample of it.
    • A mailing list signup form.
    • A very visible graphic that says: “Sign up for email updates to download this song for free!” or something similar.
  5. Use all of your social media outlets, your mailing list and any other means to direct people to your website immediately upon the release of the single.
  6. Play the single at every show after you release it online.
  7. Use your mailing list, social media, live shows and word of mouth to build anticipation for the album in the days leading up to the release.
  8. Have a CD release party.
  9. Work it! Sell some CDs! As the late, great Jim Rohn used to say, “Maturity is the ability to reap without apology and not complain when things don’t go well.”

Now is the time to reap without apology.

Article by Scott James of The Independent Rockstar Blog.

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58 thoughts on “CD release tips

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  2. Nice article and advice, but have you ever considered that some of us are creating music that’s not ‘singles’ driven?

    And that’s one of the most consistent shortcomings of these tips by Dismakers: they assume that everyone wants to be a pop star; the next Gaga. Please open your ears to other types of music; you’ll be amazed at what you may find.

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  4. Cd’s for a working band are just another way to make the band more profitable. A cd release party can easily bring in a couple thousand dollars once a year or so. If you release cd’s too often people will eventually not take your release party’s seriously… selling them to cheap, or to high dosent work either. best thing to do is have a release party, and then promote them at your gigs, and sell a few between the set’s when your on break…  

  5. If you are an undiscovered independent music artist, releasing a single,
    or creating anticipation, is not going to do anything. The big artists do it
    because they can, everyone else is just trying to be found in the
    first place. Most other bands, and artists, sell most of their CD’s at their
    shows/gigs. If you don’t have a CD to sell, than you are missing out.
    The faster you make a professional sounding CD, and the faster
    it get’s out there, the better. Most bands/artists that make CD’s
    will never sell enough to make any money, it’s very tough
    out there, so much free(or downloadable music). They
    can just go to You tube a get free music anytime they want.
    CD production companies make their mone on a ll the
    want to be music artists, and there are thousands of them.

    1. Even if you’re independent, or without a budget, the advice is still the same – the focus needs to be there and the message needs to be clear.  Don’t actually get singles PRESSED, have them available for download on various sites.

  6. I am a Jazz pianist who leads a piano trio and duo. We’ve just finished our first CD in a state of the art digital studio where I teach, but being a marketing rookie, I appreciated all the help. I’m not quite sure how the pre-release of a single works in Jazz, since the market share is generally much smaller than rock and pop music (which I also enjoy), and the idea of a “hit” single is generally not part of the Jazz ethos. I’m just raising the question of how music style might affect marketing approach.

  7. Great article and very timely for us with a debut album “Crystal Ball” scheduled for a release party here in Seattle this coming September. We knew we needed to “hype” the release and your article and accompanying comments gave us valuable information on just how to do that.

    Thanks Disc Makers! You’re always providing educational and though-provoking ways to make a dent in this highly competitive but rewarding adventure. It’s greatly appreciated.

  8. I have made a c.d. basicly for family and friends, but it is liked by them and I have been asked how they can download or get one. It is not professonal. Just old songs , that are liked. Would appreciate your information. Thank you verda

  9. My music is good. It’s well written, representing years at this craft. I would not do a gig without planning from the time I loaded the equipment,till the time I turned the key on the lock later that night. I wonder what I was thinking when I put out my last release and didn’t have a marketing plan.
    It’s like playing a club and not asking whose got the check?

  10. Thanks so much! This information is invaluable. I truly appreciate you helping us navigate successfully through this thorny road called “The Music Business”. Thanks for helping us expand our business savvy.

  11. Beautiful and timely article. I am an independent recording artist working on “building” buzz for my new project and I have a marketing plan pieced together however, these ideas have given me inspiration and motivation to push harder and smarter. Thanks for placing the battery in my back…JE the “Coatdragger”

  12. These are all delightful ideas. I particularly like the idea of building value on the stage and insisting that everyone leave with a copy. With the stupendous values offered through Disc Makers, the band that I promote and I have figured that we could get CDs professionally produced in cardboard envelopes for as little as 79 cents each (if purchased in quantity of 1000). And 59 cent each if we take advantage of their $200 off savings certificate. Wow, we could sell them all day for a buck. Because of these great prices, this leaves plenty of room for profit, even after paying studio costs.

  13. Awesome advice! I am in the middle of writing and recording tunes for a forethcoming release and there were a few things I didn’t consider. Your article has me adjusting my approach! Thanks for the great tips!

  14. Hi Everyone,
    And thanks to Discmakers for making this great information available. I sure learned some new tricks here that I will be implementing very soon! I am a soloist (due only to the lack of notoriety and resources to form a backup band) and have found that whether you are a performing musician, a band, a soloist, or whatever, we just need to keep getting up every day, putting on our best face and promoting ourselves shamelessly at every opportunity. I’m preaching this to myself as well as to anyone else who reads it… Have a great day!
    Jack Brown –


  16. Thanks for the article, it was very helpful. You’ve shown an approach I never considered.
    I’m just about to finish my first CD and this info will come in very handy.
    Thanks again

  17. thx a lot that was very helpful…. i see that i need a lot of help now as a husband with 4 little ones its not easy as a artist thanx again.

  18. Great advice!

    I released my first album last year after releasing 3 singles, getting buzz on online blogs and doing a few shows. I just released my first music video and the response overall has been amazing!
    Definitely plan on implementing your tips on the next record.

    I would like to add that once the album released, get as much press as you can. I did a live performance on a Good Morning TV Program and my sales shot up 100%! Every little bit of press counts!!

    Keep hustling!


  19. Scott, Dude, Man, Thank you so very much!! And thank you folks for your comments. I love the admonishment to have gigs lined up for after the single release. Good stuff! Now, if we can just get those venues to fall in line. . .
    Heh heh

  20. I read the article, to be honest all the tasks you stated on there seemed like a good aproach. The thing I wanted to know is how to get a large audience to my music website? With out obviously spending thousand of dollars on radio commercials. How to get my name out there as a recognizable music name in front of the whole hip/hop rap audience?

  21. thanks for the insight i will take that into consideration i was just in the process of selling all my music now i will give them one track at a time

  22. I am currently preparing to release a brand new CD of great cover tunes called Retro-Respect. I was getting agitated because obtaining the licensing was delaying the release, but now I’m glad as I was able to read your insightful tips before it was too late. Thanks!

  23. Fabulous advice! I’m preparing to put out a 2-disc set of the 95th birthday concert held for my late father, jazz musician Franz Jackson, and have been thinking of marketing ideas well in advance and these are great ideas!

    Thought I’d add my two cents and mention that one thing I’m planning to do is to offer Facebook and mailing list fans the opportunity to “pre-order” or “reserve” a copy of the CD at a discounted rate. That way, I’m gaining a bit of capital towards other marketing and/or helping to offset production costs while creating a buzz about the upcoming release.

    Thanks for the great tips from everybody!!!! I’ll definitely be implementing some of those suggestions going forward!

  24. I have gotten some really poor advice from well meaning people who aren’t in the music business. I released my first CD last year and it really took the wind out of my sails…and sales. I had a huge following waiting for the CD release, or so I thought. I couldn’t afford to release a single and then the album like you said. Anyway, when the CD came out everyone expected me to give it away for free because I was their friend or relative. I did create value for my CD, that it was a long playing CD by two accomplished musicians, and how great the project came out etc. No one wanted to pay the $15 for the CD. Some of my friends said I should give them away for $5. I told them a high quality CD is worth more than $5. I still owe money for the project and couldn’t afford to give them away that cheap anyway. I have given some CDs to people that honestly wanted one and couldn’t afford it. The next project will be a Christmas one. I may do all digital releases instead of a hard copy and then perhaps I can incorporate some of the advice in the article.

    1. Hi Diana! I can understand you wanting to do a christmas album but seeing as you’ve had problems once trying to sell your cd and you still REALLY want to do this Christmas project – Do it as inexpensively as possible, meaning you on guitar or piano – don’t forget – at least with your other cd you can sing those songs anytime to promote it.
      With holiday albums, you only have a small window to sing the songs to sell it live, promote it. I know from experience. Just being devil’s advocate but why would people spend the money on your christmas cd if they didn’t on your regular cd?
      And yes, doing digital only will keep your manufacturing costs to nil, etc. I guess it depends on whether or not you play live alot, that helps sell actual manufactured cds.
      Just something to think about, concerning the Christmas cd.
      Good luck to you in all you do though!!! 🙂 Stay positive!

  25. Good plan, I can definitely see the positive path way it may lead too. Personally I feel that every marketing plan is successful in it’s own way. However some plans work better than others and may work better for some artist than other artist. I believe if you use different plans at different times or even at the same time it can also lead to positive feedback and sales. I like your example ( You wouldn’t try to bait a fish with a buffalo ). However a buffalo prepared correctly will attract more fish. Yet your plan is still consistent and correct for what you or others may want. This is what I meant when I said that every marketing plan is successful in t’s own way. I learn from many and I will continue to get better as will we all.

  26. Thanks for this article, but I’d like to add something more prominently to the sentence “Play the single at every show.” It may be so obvious because given the talents and aspirations of the intended audience, it is gracefully assumed, but for anyone in the business:


    A band or performer ought to have a list of gigs as long as your arm in front of you at the time of the CD release. That way people when they firstly check you out see that you’re not fly-by-night, but a serious performer who will be around for a while delivering interesting experiences.

    While this may not get a label’s interest, you may find people admiring your committment which is a power in and of itself.

    Conversely, bands without a schedule, while they may have an interesting single, will have a difficult time getting traction with it because each time you play out is a chance to write a press release about it, to talk about it to people at the show, and your friends.

    In this day and age, where everything can be copied and stolen, your exploration and standing in meatspace is more important than ever.

    Godspeed to everyone in the business.

  27. I just released my new EP and think I may have messed up because I released it all at once. 3 of the 5 songs are already available for free downloads. My reasoning was that I would reach more people and expand my mailing list by offering great incentives to join BUT the 1,000 true fans over reaching a mass amount of fans is more important. Those 1,000 true fans turn into your gateway to everyone else because they spread the word for you.

    So I guess the best thing for me to do now is, only offer one of the new songs for free and one or two of my older tunes.

  28. Great article and great comments!! My plan of action is not to do a “physical” realease of a single but to promote a free mp3 of my song from the current compilation album we have coming out. I have some connections to various podcasts to play the song, mention the album it comes from and of course where to buy it.

  29. excellent advice most people listen to a SONG and dont even know who is playing it. its all about the song and getting the connection to the group/artist

    without several hundred masterpiece number one quality songs the name Beatles would mean nothing.

  30. Thank you for the tips.
    We´re releasing our first full CD in April.
    One of our ideas was to give out 50-100 CD´s by asking our fans to invite and increase our fan-base on our Facebook page and the amount of CD´s would depend on how many fans we get.
    Any thoughts on that? 1/10 would get a CD sent home!

    1. Hey Finn,

      My first thought is that you might get a better return on investment with facebook advertising. You can advertise your fan page on a pay-per-click basis. It’s pretty easy to set up. Right under your photo on your fan page you’ll see ‘Edit Page’ and then right under that ‘Promote with an Ad’. Just click on that and follow the instructions. Chances are that if these fans are going to give a good recommendation to other people, then they’d buy the CD themselves. Sell them the CD for $10 instead and then invest that money to gain 50 fans per CD via facebook advertising.

      I do like the idea of encouraging fans to spread the word though. You might also consider doing a promotion for people who tweet about you. I’d suggest creating some specific content just for that kind of promotion. Your superfans are the ones who will make the best evangelists and give the most passionate testimonials for your band. They’re also the ones who would want your b-sides/ live tracks/ bonus videos etc.

      If you don’t ask your 50-100 best fans to buy your CD then you might be giving up the money that would have paid for a new website, a professional photo shoot or new video. Your true fans want you to succeed and in most cases, would feel good about their $10 going towards a brighter future for your band.

      Also, I would hesitate to advertise free CDs unless you ask for something of high value in return and/or you have a great plan to leverage the free CDs into something profitable. I’ve seen artists who think that the way to go is to indiscriminately give everything away for free or very cheap. I think this is usually because a) they have their own ‘issues’ with money and b) because they think that if they spend enough of their own money to give things away for free then they’ll get so many fans that they’ll somehow become successful. Instead they end up broke, burned out and disillusioned. It doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re doing, but it’s a scenario that you want to be aware of.

      You really need to believe in the value of what you’re offering. If you have any doubts about the value of your CDs or anything else then you’re going to have a hard time selling those things. If, on the other had, you know in your heart that your latest CD is priceless, that it will be the soundtrack to amazing memories for those who buy it and that you, yourself would walk 10 miles to a record store to pay $15 for it then you’ll do a much better job of conveying that value to your fans. Anything less and you’re doomed from the start.

      You want to assign massive value to everything that you offer, whether you give it away or not. If someone gets something from you for free then you want them to feel like they really got hooked up. If you don’t give much value to the things you give away then not many other people will either.

      One of my favorite ideas for selling CDs came from Terry McBride of the Nettwerk Music Group. He was managing a band who sold an average of $300 per night in CDs. They would mention from the stage that they had CDs in the back for $15 and on average managed to sell about 20 of them. Terry asked them to change their approach. He came up with the concept of ‘everyone leaves with a CD’.

      The band would talk about their CD (build value) and how much it means to them and how much they wanted everyone to leave with a copy. They asked people to pay what they could, but even if they didn’t have any money they asked them to take a CD. They made their pitch twice per show. Before long they were averaging $1,200 in cd sales a night! And the best part was that because so many people had left with a CD they had an enormous increase in attendance for future shows.

      Brian Mazzaferri of I Fight Dragons learned about this idea through Derek Sivers. The band was selling a disc for $5. They started with the ‘everyone leaves with a cd’ idea and the results were as follows: The average price that people payed for the cd was $4.98, but the total number of CDs the sold per night doubled!

      If you decide to go with this approach then my advice is to practice your pitch. Say things that build value for your CD, connect with fans on a level where you really want them to share the experience of your music, and keep your pitch simple. Don’t say things like “pay what you can, but if you can’t pay then just find Tenise and give her your email address and then Joe will give you a CD.” Make it super simple: “Tara has CDs – right over there – pay what you can, but PLEASE LEAVE WITH A CD.” etc. If you can, then have someone collect email addresses from people in line to get your CD, but don’t mention anything about that during your pitch. Give them one simple call to action at a time.

      Hope that helps. Good luck with the new CD!

  31. Hey, thank you for posting this! I’m releasing my new band album on Saturday! This is great advice. Glad to see that I am doing something right. 🙂

  32. Thanks Nick!

    Linguistic, it’s more about the concept and the presentation than the budget. Whether it’s a blasted all over the radio or it’s just a cdr that you pass out to fans, the idea is all about giving them something that they can easily digest and an experience that they can share with other fans.

    If you are on a budget then you really need to be efficient and plan your moves wisely. The music has to be great and you have to work a plan that will work for you. What you don’t want to do is just dump an album on people with no plan.

    One well presented song can go a long way towards getting people excited about your CD and your live shows too for that matter. Give the world your best song on a silver platter, by whatever means available to you, and then you can leverage the results into more fans and more sales.

  33. I agree with Nick. I have a demo that I have been just giving away hoping to draw some attention. Any suggestions for smaller local bands like ours…. I mean. It’s not that easy to “release” a single….

  34. Thank you for the insight… I wish I would have had someone like you to help me when I was starting out. This is a tough biz and every little resource that can help is appreciated!!!! Keep the help coming my brotha!!!

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