Your best social media strategy is to entertain your fans throughout the year rather than just drop an album and disappear. Create a strategy to make your fans anticipate your every release — music, videos, merch, and more — and attract new fans in the process.
Posting on social media whenever you feel like it is fine for casual artists, but if your goal is to build a dedicated fan base, you’ll have to do more than take pictures of your lunch. It’s your music, videos, art, merchandise, and events that your fans enjoy the most. To make sure you give them what they’re looking for, you need to plan the release of your music and other content by putting together a release schedule.
There are many good reasons to create a release strategy for your music
First, if you start getting your fans used to a release day, they will start anticipating getting each new song, post, or video you drop. They will make it a habit to look for new things from you on “new track Wednesday.” This is how the most popular webcomics, blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts thrive.
Second, social media platforms are programmed to reward creators who release on a schedule by automatically recommending them more often to new people. For example, YouTube will put you in the recommended videos more often if you never miss your schedule date.
Third, a regular schedule makes it easier to coordinate your promotion and publicity campaigns.
Below are ideas on how to structure your music, your secondary content, and your release calendar so you can grow your fan base.
Music release strategy
If you generate an album’s worth of material each year, consider creating multiple mini-releases out of it in addition to releasing an album. The streaming platforms reward this strategy: more than two-thirds of all songs played on the largest music streaming platform, Spotify, are singles — not albums. So when new releases come out, they’ll choose just certain tracks and the platforms will put them on “new” or “discovery” playlists. Organizing your releases this way means for each new song release, you have a chance to win new fans and get your existing base excited to check out your latest music.
For example, a 12-song album could be broken up into a single, a three-song EP, a single, another three-song EP, a single, and finally, the full album. By dropping your music out over five releases before the final album, you have six things to promote and talk about with fans throughout the year.
But it gets better: you’re not just talking about the six releases, you’ve got before, during, and after each release to work with: creating anticipation for the upcoming release, promoting the release once it’s out, and then posting reactions to the last release after it came out while teasing the next one. You can even look for curated playlists to feature your single.
Also, the same 12 tracks might generate even more release ideas. Consider all of the below options when planning out the year:
- EPs (an “album” of 3-4 songs)
- Single releases (1 song)
- Remix releases (different dance or electronic versions of your “radio track(s)”)
- Alternative version release (different tempo, mood, or style of the same song you released)
- Live version releases (different versions of your studio tracks — either as a separate EP or as a song added to an EP)
- Unplugged version releases (different versions of your studio tracks — either as a separate EP or as a song added to an EP)
- Demo version releases (which can be included on your EPs)
- Full album release
Secondary content releases
The music provides a good base of releases throughout the year, but there is even more to add to your release schedule for your fans to enjoy. These secondary content items are all within reach.
If you create music videos, these should be released after the single, EP, or album they’re supporting. Doing so provides extra promotion as well as another “event” to share and talk about with fans and followers, and there are plenty of other videos beyond music videos you can make. These include behind-the-scenes videos, fan-made videos you promote, vlogs, live videos, and more. Consider the ones that make sense for your music.
Artwork and photos
The artwork and photos you create for your singles, EPs, and albums can serve multiple purposes: not only will this function as album art, it can also serve as pre-release content you can share with your fans and followers. In fact, your art can often be repurposed in many ways if you have access to graphics tools or work with a graphic artist. Consider creating album art, EP art, posters, desktop wallpapers, phone themes, making-of/behind-the-scenes photos, and more. Plan out when to drop your artwork and photos within the context of your music and video releases. While album and poster art are good for the weeks before you release your music, live show photos and making-of/behind-the-scenes photos work well for post-release. Some bands even put together photobooks of stills from the studio or on the road to generate hype.
Whenever you create and release new merchandise for sale, it’s another reason to reach out to fans and followers so they know it’s available and what it looks like. Pace out the merchandise in between music, video, and artwork releases. All of the artwork and photos you share can generate merchandise too. If you’re looking for great merch ideas, check out Merchly!
Events and shows
Each time you play live is an event on your calendar to make the subject of your releases and posts. But playing live can help you create a ton of content even for the fans who weren’t there. This includes photos, videos, audio recordings, live-streaming, and more. Even parties that you throw and other events generate a lot of content — all you have to do is capture a couple of things from each to do a posting that your fans will enjoy.
With the huge amount of possible music and secondary content you can generate, you should aim to post weekly, or at least aim to post pre-, during, and post-release messages every two weeks. Whatever you decide, make it a regular schedule so your fans and the social platform algorithms get to know your schedule.
When planning out your schedule on a calendar, start with the big releases first and then fill the calendar in with the smaller releases centered around your music. For example, a 12-song album breaks up nicely into singles and EPs through the year, and the occasional music video tied to this can be weaved in between. Then fill in the rest of the gaps with merch releases, live shows and events, and art. It won’t take long to fill your calendar if you mix the small releases with the larger ones.
A release strategy gives you more than just a way to engage with your fans online. It makes it easier to promote, so you’ve got something to focus on rather than constantly coming up with things to say on social media. Generating consistent buzz around your music will pay off when it’s time to tour or sell your music.
Of course, there’s a lot more you can do to maximize the promotion around your releases and get noticed, which we cover in our book, Making Money With Music.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
Give away your CD (and make money doing it!)
Collect everything your recorded music can earn: Pt. I
Pricing merch for sales and profit
From your brand to your fans: Making music merch work for you
Creative advice for your next music videos
One thought on “A release strategy to fill your yearly calendar”
My main problem with all the releasing of singles, EPs, remixes, live versions, etc. is the cost associated with doing them. Through CDBaby, a standard single release distribution is $10, along with $5 for a necessary UPC. For more than one song per release, the cost skyrockets to $50 for distribution and $20 for barcode. So four singles ($60), two EPs and a full album ($210) brings the cost to $270. Not a lot, perhaps to some, to play the game. Getting 300 people to buy a $1 song shouldn’t be that hard, and there’s the cost made up. So if a group has a big fan base or lots of friends and family willing to support them.
Another way to go about it (or around it) is to put out the CD with a future release date and publish YouTube videos for each song to build anticipation. Such a strategy might or might not work with the other distributors, like Spotify and Apple Music, etc, if they see possible profit being shunted away from them. I don’t know. At the numbers I’m looking at presently, it’s not enough to matter, I’m sure.
Some of the other gambits are easier to do if you have the skill to run a commerce site.
As far as the multiple releases, though, I would like to see an article published that takes those costs in mind so that readers get a real-world idea of how many times they’re going to have to pull out the credit card.