In today’s streaming era, while music promotion should launch a new album release, your music is always “on the shelf” and lightning can strike long after it first hits the marketplace.
I want to tell you a story of an album that hit number one on the Billboard albums chart a whole year after it was released. I read about it a little while ago and thought, that’s interesting. And it reinforces something I’ve been mentioning repeatedly over the past year or two — that album release cycles have changed drastically in the streaming era. No longer do you just drop a new album, do six weeks of promotion and touring, and hope for the best.
That’s how it used to be when all we were doing was selling CDs and selling downloads. Today, it’s also about racking up streams. That means that while promotion right around your release date is still essential to kickstart your album’s momentum, it can actually take much longer for an album to pick up steam.
Stream your way onto the charts
One reason is that today, every play is tallied as opposed to the purchase of a disc. If I buy a disc and listen to it twice, it counts as one sale to the good people at Billboard who track this stuff. If I listen to it 200 times, it still only counts as one sale. But if I stream an album 200 times, the difference is huge to the folks tallying up the charts. But it takes time to listen to an album 200 times — or 50 times for that matter. So it takes longer for many albums to start charting.
Another reason why it can take longer to chart is that promotional activities or playlist placements that happen after the release can have a big impact. There was a CD Baby client named Perrin Lamb who, more than a year after his album was released, got a song placed on a huge Spotify playlist and ended up getting more than 10 million streams on Spotify, earning him around $60,000 in royalties for just that one song. Again, that was a year after it had been released.
So, now there’s this Australian rapper called the Kid Laroi. He dropped his latest album over a year ago — he called it a playlist, but, really, it was an album. And what he did that was different was he kept adding songs to the playlist over time and reissuing his playlist — i.e., his album — with more songs.
Every time he did that, all the streams of the new tracks were added to the existing tally that had already happened on the album, so the numbers just kept growing and growing until, a year after release, it landed him the number one spot on the Billboard albums chart.
Music promotion is a long game
So, what’s my point? Should you keep adding tracks to your album? Should you pitch yourself to big playlists? Sure, you may want to try it. It doesn’t hurt to experiment with those kind of things.
But my real point here is: don’t think promotion is something you only do at the time of your album release. I mean, that is the most important time to do your promotion, but don’t despair if your album doesn’t get significant plays 90 days after release. In this day and age, you need to keep working your album and the tracks on it over the long haul.
Your success in the streaming era gets counted not with one-time, upfront sales like in the days of exclusively physical product. Now it’s stream by stream, and it takes time to generate those streams. And your royalties also trickle in over time, so you need to keep working that album at least until the next album is ready to go.
Endless shelf life
Again, one of the differences between the streaming era and the physical era is, if your album stopped selling during the physical era, retailers would take it off the shelves, because shelf space was limited, and they would put a new album in. With streaming, your album is always available, so there’s much more opportunity over time to keep promoting and maybe lightning will strike.
Let me tell you an interesting aside. As you probably heard, we recently introduced Ads for Artists. It’s basically, an affordable ad agency that makes it easy for a music artist to advertise a song or album on Facebook, Instagram, and on big music websites like Pitchfork, Billboard, and Rolling Stone.
But the thing that is most interesting to me is that many of the artists who’ve tried it — I think more than half — had released their album a year ago. And only now are they starting to pay to advertise it.
Why? I don’t really know. Maybe it took them a while to get their budget together. But the good news is, in today’s streaming world, it doesn’t really matter when you released your music. Yes, it’s better at the time that your album is released, but if that doesn’t work, you can start promoting it whenever you want to. You have an open-ended opportunity to drive extra streams, extra sales, and extra royalties.
I did a test and personally spent $200 promoting a song that I had released way back in 1995, and that old song got over 35,000 impressions and 14,000 engagements — a stream, click, like, share, or comment. Not bad for a 25-year-old song, right?
So don’t give up hope if your album sales haven’t lived up to expectations yet. With a bit of creativity, marketing, and promotion, you have a shot that something can happen in the future.
Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.
Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.
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