There’s a lot of planning and production that goes into releasing and selling your music. This series of blog posts breaks it all down and gives you a blueprint to achieve success.
Before you release a full album or a new single (or three), take the time to look into the future, ask yourself important questions, and make a plan to give your release the best opportunity to be heard by the most people. By targeting current fans and new listeners, you can grow your fan base and grow as an artist.
In this four-part series, Carter Fox — Disc Makers’ social media marketing manager, touring bassist, and solo artist who recently hit the 1.5 million stream milestone for his single, “Eclipse” — discusses how to make the most of your new release by applying a three-phased music promotion methodology, which includes a planning phase, preparation phase, and promotion phase.
How to promote a release, Part 1: The planning phase
The planning phase of your music release encompasses the time after you’ve completed the final mixes of your music, registered them with your respective performing rights organization, and copyrighted your work directly through the US Copyright Office or by utilizing a service such as Cosynd.
This phase consists of three primary objectives:
- finishing your music
- finalizing your creative assets
- establishing a basic plan for your release schedule
Understanding what to do during this time will help set your release up for success in the long run.
Finish your music
I’m assuming you’ve already “finished” your time in the studio and are wrapping up the final mixes, but to truly finish your music, you must determine how you will be releasing this project.
- Will it be a digital-only release available on streaming services or Bandcamp?
- Will you use an independent distributor like CD Baby or Distrokid?
- Are you signed up with an independent distribution partner of a major label such as AWAL or the Orchard?
- Are you signed and have label support and resources?
- Will be it released on a limited edition vinyl?
- Will be it available on CD or cassette, and what type of packaging will you use?
- Will you create a collection of music, videos, behind-the-scenes photos, and more to be shared on a custom-printed USB flash drive?
- Are you going to release it as an NFT or a collection?
- Will it a combination of the above so it’s a physical and digital release?
Your decisions will depend on your budget, the timing between finishing your recordings, your larger marketing plan, and your general artistic vision.
Once you’ve determined your release plans, you will want to ensure your music is mastered so that listeners hear your music as you intend it to sound — regardless of how a fan consumes it. Mastering will help ensure the music sounds the same, whether through Spotify on headphones, a CD in a car, or on a high-end stereo system.
You can have your music mastered by a professional mastering engineer from a reputable studio in your own network, or be the professional engineers at the SoundLAB at Disc Makers, or by an algorithmically-charged automatic mastering tool available online. Depending on which method you choose for mastering, the time it will take and amount it will cost can vary. I recommended you work with experts in the field.
Finalize your creative assets
Once you determine your release and distribution plans, you can begin to design your album artwork, single artwork, merchandise, web and social profile updates, and everything else. During the songwriting and recording process, you’ll likely have come up with themes and ideas about what the music means, the stories it tells, and what visual representation you would like to accompany the music.
The beginning components of cover artwork, videos (official music videos, lyric videos, instrumentals, remix videos, et. al.), press photos, and other visual components to be used in social posts, email newsletters, and digital/print ads can be captured while you’re working on recording your album in the studio and during this time of planning.
Album/single cover design
Creating a captivating cover for your release is important. You want to catch the attention of listeners, convey your story or message, and create a unique identity that will help set you apart — all at a glance. Work with a graphic designer with a creative eye and ability to use the limited space for all it’s worth.
You may be a visual artist in addition to a musical artist and can handle conceptualizing and designing your own cover artwork, merchandise designs, and various imagery you’ll need for your release. But if you’re not, you can find talented professionals on websites like Fiverr, use your own network, network through social media, or use professional design services such as the ones offered by Disc Makers.
The cover artwork for your release will act as a spearhead, leading your branding and helping to draw in more listeners and fans.
Depending on what kind of video you are looking to create, there are different methods you can use, but it is important to create content that matches your brand and captivates the audience. It’s also a great way to promote your music on multiple channels while telling your story, setting you apart from other artists and creating additional promotional opportunities.
At the very least, consider creating an “official” music video and accompanying lyric or instrumental video, depending on the song. If you are able to record acoustic versions, have other artists cover your song, or work with other outlets to create additional content, you can develop more opportunities for new listeners to discover your music and more content to share with your fans.
In the true DIY spirit, once you’ve determined what type of video you’re creating, you can conceptualize, plan, produce, direct, and edit it all yourself, which takes time but saves you money. This makes a lot of sense when creating content for social media, but you can also work with creative individuals you know or connect with content creators via social networking and email. You can also use online resources to pitch your ideas to directors or seek resources for creating low-budget or free lyric, instrumental, and official videos (Show.co and Canva, for example). Just like many other decisions in your release planning, these choices come down to budget, timing, and vision.
Make sure your website, social media profiles, streaming profiles, branding for emails, digital and print ads, and other communication channels are up-to-date to match your new release and create a coherent personality across your platforms and channels. Update profile pictures and banner imagery with new photos and images to get your fans excited about your new release. These images should match the theme of your new release and can inform people when the release in coming out, where it will be available, and other places people can find you and connect with you online. You will also be able to use these assets to create digital advertising campaigns through Google and Facebook (which I’ll discuss further in later posts) and print campaigns, in additional to sharing them organically through your social profiles and via email.
You’ll want to have an updated press photo and press release drafted so you can inform news outlets, magazines, and blogs about your new release. The press photo should be a professional photo that represents your artistic brand to be shared in articles and press coverage. It can also be utilized as your social media profile picture and imagery for your profiles on streaming services.
The press release should be a written informational piece about yourself and your music. This can be adapted for the outlet you’re reaching out to for length and content, and it can also help create your pitch for editorial playlists on Spotify and Amazon Music. There are services that can assist with this, including ArtistPR and The Indie Bible.
To prepare yourself for building up publicity and preparing for your release, check out this free excerpt from industry expert Ariel Hyatt’s The Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity.
With all these assets ready, questions answered, and pieces set up, you’re ready for the last step in the “planning” phase: Planning your release schedule. We’ll tackle that topic in the next post!
Read the series
How to promote a release and sell your music, Part 1
How to promote a record release, Part 2: Your release schedule
Preparing your music for distribution: How to release and sell your music, Part 3
How to promote your record release
Carter Fox is a bassist, entrepreneur, and astronomical enthusiast whose spent the past 15 years as a performer, producer, and digital marketing strategist for numerous artists and businesses across the world. In addition to being an accomplished musician, Carter is also the social media marketing manager for Disc Makers. You can find his music on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and his official website.
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