The first quarter of the year (Jan to March) is often the best time of the year for a new artist to release an album, as it’s the least competitive. Plus, the Valentine’s Day period is one of the biggest sales periods of the year.
This post was updated February 2017.
All too often, musicians rush to release an album or EP without considering what the best time-frame for that release may be. Just because your album is done doesn’t mean you have to rush it out – there are numerous factors to take into account before you confirm your release date.
Here are some tips on how to schedule and promote your album’s release.
If you can’t ship it, don’t promote it
Don’t announce your CD release show or release date until you have your physical product in hand! It’s not uncommon to hit a snag in the recording, manufacturing, or proofing stages that can throw of your original timeline. Don’t start creating hype about your release date unless you are certain you can deliver the product to your fans! This also applies double to your CD release shows. If you don’t have your physical product to sell at the show, it’s is a wasted opportunity!
What’s the best quarter for sales?
Each sales quarter has its own advantages and disadvantages. The fourth quarter, for example, which runs from October to December, is traditionally the most competitive time of the year to release an album. All the major labels and big independent labels are releasing their latest products, and therefore consumer and media attention is often focused on established acts. That leaves less space for unsigned or local acts. It may be a good time of the year to start a teaser campaign by covering a well-known holiday song and posting it to your YouTube channel or using it as a free download. This will help you build your fan base, tap into the fan bases of other artists, and maintain your visibility during the manic holiday music season.
By contrast, the first quarter of the year, January to March, is often the best time of the year for a new artist to release, as it’s the least competitive. Media is on the look out for what will be hot in the new year, so it’s perfect timing to introduce yourself to bloggers, journalists, radio program directors, etc. However, it may be harder to draw a big crowd for your CD release shows as consumers will be watching their bank accounts after the Christmas spending spree. That said, the Valentine’s Day period is one of the biggest sales periods of the year so also think carefully about your release around this date.
The second and third quarters are festival time, and a lot of editorial space in music media will be dedicated to festivals. If you have managed to secure some festival slots, then this is a great time to have a new product out in the market place. You can harness festival fever to your advantage. Be aware of key holiday dates like July 4th when people often take vacations, or big sporting events; consumer, media, and gig attendance will be low around these periods.
Know the time-line of your target market
If you are targeting college students, be aware of term schedules, college radio schedules, and lead times for college gig bookings. Don’t release an album over the summer when everybody is on vacation.
Plan a comprehensive CD release tour in conjunction with your release
Journalists will want to see that you are in demand as a live performer before writing about you. Keeping that in mind, it’s important to note that the two quietest touring months are January and July. That can make it difficult to find other acts to partner with on gigs.
Ensure your music fits the season
Is your new album/EP jam-packed with summer tunes? Are they winter-y and romantic? Think about creating bonus tracks to exploit holiday themes in order to capture the imagination of new fans.
Be aware of lead-times
Typically, magazine editors plan their issues three months in advance. This means that, even for the biggest artists, PR reps need to notify editors about upcoming releases several months ahead of time.
In comparison to established acts, your release date might not be intrinsically “newsworthy” to the media, so you will have the flexibility to work your release for six to nine months. You should still be aware of editorial lead times as many journalists will want to link album reviews with your tour dates. Even for short-lead media, such as online magazines or blogs, the process of introducing yourself, sending out information, and following up takes time and persistence.
To summarize, make sure you thoroughly research the following factors before confirming your release date:
- Sales periods across the year.
- Holiday dates and festival dates.
- Editorial timelines and factors affecting limiting editorial coverage of new artists.
- Local, regional, and national events that may interfere with gig attendance and fan outreach.
Remember, do not rush when your are getting ready to release an album. Plan, plan, plan!
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