"5 Steps To a Successful CD and Vinyl Album Release" with a A Vinyl record on fire in the background

5 Steps To a Successful CD and Vinyl Album Release

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Too many artists record and release their album without giving any thought to how to make it as successful as it could possibly be.

Yes, we live in a streaming world, and you should release everything you do digitally, because that’s where people discover and listen to music. But every successful album release should include a physical component (CD, vinyl, or both). Of course, release all the singles you want just digitally, but your album drops should include physical media, too.

Here are five tips for how to make your next album release as successful as possible.

Step 1: Make sure your album looks and sounds great

Your music has to sound great and look great. It needs to be well recorded with a solid mix. And then you have to get your album professionally mastered to optimize the sound for when it hits the radio, the club, the car stereo, or your fans’ headphones.

Too many artists skip this critical step, and they underestimate how much of a difference professional mastering can make. Especially in today’s music industry, where you might record and release four singles over the course of six months, then put them together with six more songs for an album. If you don’t master those separate tracks, your album won’t have a cohesive sound.

Additionally, your album art needs to be killer. Your cover needs to look so good that people who see it are compelled to pick it up when they see it on your merch table, or to select the thumbnail when they see it online.

This design should not be done by your bass player’s cousin who knows Photoshop. Designing an amazing cover requires skill that not just anyone has. Your designer needs album professional album cover design experience. Just take a look at a few of these examples.

While they may not all be your taste, the covers are each compelling and interesting in their own way.

Step 2: Plan what you’ll do with your album

To be successful, you need a plan. It can be a simple plan that probably doesn’t take more than an hour to put together. Before you release your album, you need to have given at least some thought to what you want to do with your album, and how you want to do it.

Do you want to sell your albums? If so, what will be your sales outlets? Your website? A Bandcamp page? What about local record stores? Any other places you can think of, like… the local skate shop?

Of course, there’s selling them at your concerts. And, of course, offering to autograph them at your merch table, to delight your fans … and sell more albums!

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Step 3: Think about how you’re going to get the word out

Once you’ve given thought to what you want to do with the album, you need to think about how you’re going to let people know about it. Yes, I’m talking promotion.

You can certainly do a bunch of things for free. Do you have a mailing list? If not, do you at least have email addresses from people you know? You can reach people extremely effectively through email and tell them about your album, when your release party is, and where they can buy your album online.

Then there’s social posts you need to create, but note that just a regular post has a very limited reach. If you just post something online, no more than 20% of your friends and followers will actually see it in their feeds.

Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, X, they all need attention in today’s crowded social media environment. It’s a lot of content to create, potentially.

Then, add in video content for YouTube and TikTok and Instagram reels. Because, like it or not, the visual component is essential to today’s album release.

Do you need to do all of it? No. But based on where your fans hang out online, you’ll need to do some of it. Give some thought to how you will find time to do that, and what kind of content you will be able to create that generates some excitement.

As a follow up to your plan, you’ll want to sit down to figure out what kind of content to create. How do you figure that out? Simple, actually. Look around at what others are doing. What are other artists like you doing? Subscribe to their emails, follow their accounts, and find out.

Step 4: Support your release with live events

Next comes your release concert. In fact, for many artists it’s not just a release concert, but several concerts, or even a tour to support the album. Remember, releasing an album is a big deal. It doesn’t happen often. You need to celebrate the release, and a concert is an awesome way to draw attention to your album. Plus, that’s when you can sell a bunch of products at your merch table and start recouping your investment.

Step 5: Figure out where you need to spend some money (and how much)

Speaking of investment, the final step of a successful release strategy includes money. Any successful album release means you need to be prepared to drop some dough. Recording, making your records and CDs, designing the cover, and mastering your sound all cost money.

Just as importantly, to get above the noise from a promotion perspective, you’ll need to spend some money promoting your music. Those could be boosted posts, or trying out Instagram advertising, or audio ads on Spotify to get people to discover your music. Figure out how much you want to spend on promotion, and then double it … and even that may not be enough.

Now, can you release an album while pinching pennies? Of course. You could take your mix, not master it, create your own design, and spend just $150 for 100 CDs in jackets. You could rely on only email, word of mouth, and organic social posts to get the word out.

And that may all be fine … your album will be launched and out there. But you won’t be optimizing your chance at success, at reaching the widest audience possible, and maximizing your streams and sales.

And that is what releasing an album is about, isn’t it? It’s about getting as many people as possible to hear it and own it.

Indeed, there’s some real work involved with a successful album release. But a lot of it is actually fun, creative work. And, it’s a lot easier if you have a plan. In fact, that plan can even include when</> you’ll make time to do some of the promotional activities I mentioned.
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And most importantly, having that plan will lead your album to be a lot more successful than just receiving your shipment from Disc Makers, scratching your head, and wondering, “shoot, what do I do now?” So don’t put it off. Make a plan now for a successful album release.

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Tony van Veen in the Disc Makers lobby

About Tony van Veen

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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