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How To Release Music as a New Artist

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

You’re new to music and have just made your first recording. Congratulations! Now, how do you share it with people in an impactful way? The landscape of releasing new music online or physically (e.g. music distribution, music marketing, and music promotion) is far different from in the past. With all the music available today, it can be difficult to stand out as an independent artist. Here are some tips to teach you how to release new music and reach an audience.

Preparing For Your Music Release

Like Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” That’s the first step when figuring out how to release music: having an actual plan. Start planning ahead of completing your music so that you have a realistic launch timeline.

CREATING A RELEASE PLAN

  • First, set a release date. Giving yourself a release day deadline is good, even if it changes. If you’re releasing physical products, have them finished and checked for errors before you book any venues for a release day party.
  • Next, outline your promotional strategy. Here are some questions to spark ideas: Will you hire professionals (publicists, radio promoters) to assist or try to DIY? Which radio shows, blogs, and publications will you submit to? Who is your target audience? Where are they found? Finding a music marketing plan template online is a great way to focus your first campaign, even if you do ultimately hire professionals.
  • In figuring out how to release music, you’ll need some money for music promotion. The more money you have, the more promotional options you’ll have – but money doesn’t always buy results. It’s more about targeting the right audience and executing. If you can afford to hire music industry professionals, it is often worth it, but make sure they are trustworthy and have a solid track record. Some people will respond better to you promoting yourself. A pro publicist has a better shot of getting you reviewed in Rolling Stone, but you’re often better off contacting that local music blog writer and developing that relationship yourself.

FINALIZING YOUR MUSIC

  • Have your music professionally mastered. Mastering involves adding EQ and compression to boost your recording to a radio-friendly volume. Save money for this step, as it can make or break your recording if you’re an independent artist!
  • Equally important is your visual presentation. Have album cover art designed that represents your music’s identity visually. Consider what the image will look like when it’s tiny and next to your album title on a streaming platform or service, as well as the larger aesthetic picture.
  • Once you receive a finished physical copy, you must learn how to copyright your song and register your release with the Library of Congress to ensure copyright ownership. Go to copyright.gov for all the info on how to do this.

BUILDING AN ONLINE PRESENCE

  • Start building your social media communities before the release date. You’ll need a website – this will be the nexus for all info about your music. You’ll also need presences on all the main social media platforms. Instagram and TikTok are especially pertinent for musicians as of 2024.
  • Engagement is crucial in the early stages of social media community building. You want your fans to feel as if you are having a two-way conversation with them. Post consistently about your activities; make your fans aware of upcoming important dates.
  • It reads like annoying marketing-speak to talk about “content” in relation to music, but when exploring how to release music, content is “everything you post about that’s not your music.” Not every post should be a promotion, but they should all tie into your brand and how you want to present yourself. See Ariel Hyatt’s Social Media Food Pyramid for a structure of how to post for maximum return.

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What Are the Steps To Releasing Music?

Now that you have prepared for your release, here are some steps to begin the actual process.

REGISTERING WITH PERFORMING RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

PROs (performing rights organizations) collect royalties on behalf of recording artists for public broadcast and/or performance of their songs. The main ones are ASCAP and BMI; you must register yourself and your release to collect these royalties!

CHOOSING DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS

  • When determining how to release music, decide whether to release physical product – CDs, vinyl, or cassettes – or just release the album digitally (for download and streaming). Keep in mind that manufacturing physical products can take time, and vinyl pressing may take over a month to complete.
  • If you can afford it, then the choice to make physical products is up to you. Consider whether you have the audience that’s willing to buy it. The profit margins on physical products are generally high, so if you can sell it, it is often worthwhile to do even a small run.

PRE-RELEASE ACTIVITIES

  • To build momentum for your release, offer your audience teasers. Teasers can be singles released before the full album, videos or trailers that offer a sneak peek into the release, and behind-the-scenes posts giving a glimpse of your process.
  • Have followers pre-save your music on the streaming services before release. There is no way to track conversion rates from pre-saves to listeners, so it’s not clear how much it helps, but it can’t hurt. On Spotify, editorial playlists are curated based on followers, and if someone pre-saves your song, they might follow you. Pre-saving also makes your audience aware of the release date. Tell them about pre-saving well in advance.
  • When learning how to release music, the live performance will be your best promotional tool. Whether it’s a release party in a venue or live stream event, there is no better way to build excitement than a release shindig where you play the music live. Make sure to have any physical products finished and in-hand before you book the event.

How Do You Release a New Song?

SINGLE VS. ALBUM STRATEGY

One of your big decisions now is whether to release a single or a full album. If your goal is to increase your audience and boost streaming, then a single or series of singles is the way to go. Singles generate enthusiasm and keep you fresh in the audience’s minds. Conversely, if you have an existing fanbase, a full album with more music will be more satisfying to them. Peter Gabriel released his last album one single at a time; there’s great benefit in that strategy, or, at the very least, releasing some singles before an album to generate some buzz no matter which direction you choose.

MARKETING YOUR SINGLE/ALBUM

Telling people about your music is the hardest part of self-promotion but is necessary if you are learning how to release music. Creating engaging and shareable posts will inspire your followers to action through the concept of “attraction rather than promotion.” In other words, don’t make it all about “me, me, me.” Be funny, interesting, and creative; the people will be intrigued. A little humor goes a long way, but keep your humor like everything else that’s in line with your brand. Promote your single on social media, on your email list, and to music blogs – the more comments, the better!

TRACKING PERFORMANCE

How will you measure if your release is successful? Sales of physical products and the number of streams would be an indicator. Response on social media via likes and comments would be another. You can track data analytics of your release’s performance on the artist profile of the streaming platform or service, including demographics and the location of your listeners. If your single is not gaining traction, it’s not necessarily a failure! Maybe you haven’t found the right audience or the social media algorithms are hiding you. Learn from follower feedback and analytics to ensure you are putting your music in front of the right people.

Digital & Physical Distribution Basics

UNDERSTANDING DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION

If you want to get your music onto streaming services, hire a digital distributor; this is one area where doing it yourself is impossible. Choose a reputable company like Distrokid, CD Baby, or another established distributor to avoid getting ripped off. The digital distributor will collect your royalties from the streamers and pay on a regular basis.

THE VALUE OF PHYSICAL COPIES

For a music lover, there is nothing like physical media. In this digital world, the visceral experience of holding a CD or a vinyl record in your hand is cherished by many. If you can afford to make it, it’s a great gift to your fans. Disc Makers can help you manufacture CDs, vinyl, and cassettes, and there are companies you can pay to distribute your products to physical stores. Keep in mind though that selling your record in Walmart might thrill your relatives, but unless you have a national audience, it will not accomplish much, as people don’t often impulse-buy unheard records in stores these days.

Post-Release Activities To Sustain Momentum

Once your initial promotional campaign has finished, you’ll want to continue the buzz and keep the interest alive with a few simple post-release actions.

CONTINUING TO ENGAGE WITH YOUR FANS

Hopefully you gained new fans during your campaign! The final step in how to release music is continuing reciprocal fan interaction including updates, videos, and live performances. When you notice the hubbub begin to die down, it’s time to plan the next release.

LIVE PERFORMANCES AND TOURS

  • Again, there is no better way to promote your music than to play live. Play as much as you can in situations where people will come to hear you specifically; you need to have their rapt attention with as few distractions as possible. If you’ve never booked an actual tour before, seek the help of an established touring artist and/or a professional booking agent to help you avoid common pitfalls.
  • Just the physical act of playing live will not necessarily lead to increased sales. Using strategies by people like Tom Jackson of Onstage Success will help maximize sales at your live shows. One easy action you can take: always mention the merch table at least twice in a set.

Launching Your Music Career With Disc Makers

As a new artist, learning how to release your music can be overwhelming. You now have a methodical roadmap to follow: make the best music possible, create a marketing plan, promote your music online, build enthusiasm with your followers, and enlist as many professionals as you can afford. Consistent effort applied consistently will bring results! Disc Makers is here to assist you through every step of the process.

Your music isn't ready until it's been mastered

Chris Huff

About Chris Huff

Chris Huff has been a professional singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer for over 25 years. He has worked as a sideman with Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul, and Mary), Echo and the Bunnymen, Chuck Hammer (David Bowie, Lou Reed), and Tom Kitt (Broadway composer of Next To Normal). Chris also wrote liner notes for David Bowie’s Live And Well CD, and his full-length album, 'bout Time is available on iTunes.

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