So, you’ve created a beautiful and or banging new song. You’ve spent the time writing the melody, the hooks, the lyrics, arranging the song into its constituent parts and assigning all the different instrumentation according to the sections of the song. You’ve tried to make it as attention-grabbing as possible. You have rehearsed it so many times that now you’re singing it in your sleep. You’ve gone into the studio or recorded in your home studio and painstakingly recorded, edited and mastered it so it is the EXACT record you want to release. You have also maybe posted once or twice on Instagram about the release close to the release date but is that enough? What about an actual music release schedule?
Does that sound like you? Then your pre-release game could be letting you down in a MAJOR way and undoing all the hard work you’ve just put into creating that amazing new song. Do not underestimate how invaluable pre-release promotion is and the difference it can make to the success of your new song. Contrarily, do not underestimate the contribution that a lack of promotion can make towards the all too common complete anonymity of your song. It is the reason why major labels and even smaller labels spend good money and invest in a big way in promotion and spend a good few months doing just that.
I get. I really do. You’ve done all that work and now you just want to release that song to the world and know that it is out there being listened to. But, because you’ve done all that hard work and to make your song as successful as possible, you owe it to yourself to do it the right way and that means promoting it as far as possible as early as possible before release date.
BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean spending big bucks. Look, we’d all love to have the promotion budget of a major label but the reality as an Independent musician is that most of us don’t have that kind of money to spend on promotion. That’s OK and also completely doable and in your control. It just means you need to get creative and that’s the fun part.
I know, I know. You’re a musician and you just want to write, record and perform music. I used to have that mentality. That kind of mentality can seriously hold you back in the modern-day music industry. But the truth is that unless you’re signed to a major label where they have departments dedicated to taking care of every aspect of promotion, you are going to have to get your hands dirty and take this on yourself or if you’re in a band, assign something to each member of the band so that the duties are shared and won’t seem as overwhelming. If you’re a solo artist, it’s all yours. But it still needn’t overwhelm you. It’s amazing being an arty creative. However, creativity needs organisation to thrive.
So let’s get organised. If you haven’t done so already, what I have found extremely useful is to create my own RELEASE SCHEDULE. Now this will almost look like a to-do list which it essentially is. However, everything on that list is on there to promote your release. It has really been of great value to me and I’m going to share it with you here with the aim of helping to give you a release checklist even if it ends up looking drastically different from mine.
Music Release Schedule
FIRST AND FOREMOST:
Very important: First make the track and have the final Masters in your hands. Delays with recording, mastering etc can happen and delay your whole schedule so it is better to know that this is ready. This allows you to completely focus entirely on the promotion without stressing about the studio. You are going to need this when it comes to some of the aspects of promotion anyway.
3 Months Away Release Schedule
Choose and announce the release date on your socials. This kick starts the public interest of your fans/followers and holds you accountable so that you don’t procrastinate and sit on that release forever tweaking it which is too easily done. Choose a date at least 2 months away but ideally 3. This doesn’t mean 2/3 months of continuously plugging your release on social media as fans will soon tire of that. More so it is the time required to get all your mechanisms in place to get your release as much publicity as possible.
Choose a distributor
If it’s your first release you might not know that you can’t just upload your songs to Spotify. They will only deal with entities with established contracts. This is where distributors come in. They upload it for you and most will collect the royalties you’re owed. Importantly they should also display important analytics information which will show you who to market your music to.
If it’s not your first release you might still not know that Spotify actually has a list of preferred artist distributors. These are, according to Spotify, Distrokid, CD Baby, EmuBands and Record Union. However, I use one not on this list and they work perfectly fine. The only difference according to Spotify seems to be the preferred ones provide instant access to Spotify for Artists but as I say I can access Spotify For Artists externally with no issues. You just have to register separately with Spotify here.
Choose / Create Artwork
This can be done later on in the timeline. Although it is not time-critical, make sure you allow enough time for the graphic designer to do it if you’ve outsourced it or for you to design it if you’re taking this on yourself. Remember, it needs to be ready for when it is time to upload your track to your distributor as well as blogs and radio/media. They will also have specific dimensions they require so if someone has designed it for you they will need to be contactable when the time comes as they may need to change this for you. If you’ve done it yourself make sure you know how to reduce pixel size for example.
Check out Canva if you want to create artwork yourself.
A visual artist like Laurence Crowe creates stunning artwork, be sure to check out his Facebook and hit him up, if you’re looking for a cool, original CD cover, logo or merchandise.
Submit to Spotify
Make sure you submit your track to Spotify in good time, as part of your music release schedule. Spotify state to make sure you do this about a month before your release day to ensure there is ample time for consideration in their playlists. You can do this through Spotify for Artists which is primarily a great tool to track and analyse your stats such as how many people are listening to your song, location, demographic etc but you can also submit your song to Spotify through it. By doing this, it goes to the Spotify playlist curators where it can be picked from a list that they can then add to their playlists. Make sure you do this BEFORE you release your song as you cannot submit tracks that have already been released. Also, in doing this they will also add it to your Release Radar playlist which is what notifies your followers on Spotify that your new track is out which is why this is SO important to do as the more activity and traction your song has on release week the more likely it will be picked up by the algorithm and included in a playlist.
2 Months Away Release Schedule
Update your socials
This may sound obvious but you’d be amazed at the amount of people that do all the work of producing a song and then put out one or two posts on their socials along the lines of ‘this drops Friday‘ (posted on the Monday of that week). I see it all the time. This is simply not good enough. There is no buzz or excitement generated about your release. It may sound cool, or you might think it sounds super cool, but it’s too cool. It’s ice. It tells people that it’s not that important. You might see some big names do this but they’re already established; you’re an independent unknown and you will need to work harder to get to that point. For my EP release, I did a full 14-day countdown. Everyday. Remember, people need to see something several times before it sinks in to their subconscious and even begins to create anticipation. I will be doing a separate article on Instagram Release Strategy as it’s too long to include here. If you’re not hyped about, how is anyone else going to be? Hype is infectious; spread it.
Find cool social media templates on Canva.
Social Media Theme
Following on from the above, decide on your theme for the campaign and stick to it. For example, for my Dragonfly Instagram campaign, all my posts had a purple, pink or blue filter on them as they are the colours typically associated with Dragonflies. Post captions directly related to your song title. For example, one of my captions read ‘Feeling as free as a Dragonfly.’ Devise yourself an Instagram pre AND post Release Schedule. As mentioned above, I will be writing an article on this shortly.
Submit to Blogs
You may think that blogs don’t have a following anymore and you’d be right in that their readership and following is reducing. However, two things are key with blogs;
- The more indexed pages you have on Google referencing your name the easier you are found online. Blogs help to increase your online presence in the early stages when there is not much of you to be found on the internet. This, in turn, builds your legitimacy and visibility.
- Some of the bigger blogs such as A N R Factory actually have industry representatives and scouts reading them so it could pay big time to be featured in these. You could go through the many lists of all the blogs online and email directly with a pitch on why they should feature you and a link to your music. If you choose this route, I suggest an email tailored to every individual blog you write to mentioning something specific about them that you like or admire. However, this could take a long time. I suggest using what typically most indie artists will do; Submit Hub. A word of warning, the feedback is extremely honest. However, if you can handle that and learn to you use it constructively you will be fine. Submit Hub allows you to submit your track to hundreds of blogs and influencers for free at the click of a button. You write a short intro and if your song is what they are looking for, the blog will feature your song. It is extremely useful if not for featuring in blogs for the constructive criticism that will only help you improve going forward.
Get and promote your Pre Save link
Distribute this link everywhere. This is vital towards getting some movement on your track which will work in favour of Spotify’s algorithm. Most distributors now do this themselves which didn’t use to be the case. Emu Bands have a really good article and useful screenshots on how to do this independent of your distributor if they don’t offer it on Smart URL. The article is here.
Naturally, you will want to be played on and apply to the biggest radio stations as possible as soon as possible but you’re better off starting small. Unless your track is a 1 in a million track, the big national radio stations won’t play the music of an unknown artist unless you shell out some serious money for a radio plugger (£2,000 – £8,000) and even then they do not guarantee that your track will be played. The best thing to do is start submitting your track to regional radio stations so that you get some airplay under your belt. Then when you have a good amount of regional stations playing your song, you can pitch to the bigger stations with some credibility being the regional stations. It’s a bit like a CV in the workplace; once you’ve got a few smaller jobs on your CV, it shows that you can do the job and you can start applying to the bigger companies. If you’re really stuck and can’t get any national airplay at all, you can always start with the online radio stations and work your way from there, so make sure to include this in your music release schedule.
Send Music Video to Video Services
Such as https://www.peachvideo.com/en-gb/fastrax/ This allows you to submit your video for use on numerous platforms including TV.
1 Month Away Release Schedule
Release Cover Video
This one is optional but I have seen a few artists gain exposure pre-release using this method. Choose a song by an artist currently active on social media. Create the video ensuring good lighting, brightness and of course sound and upload it to social media including Youtube tagging the artist whose song you are covering. Then ask all your followers to tweet that artist to check out the video. This is a risky proposition as it can seriously annoy said artist however if it is of good enough quality, and your voice and playing are strong enough it could get you retweeted on an account with millions of followers of which I don’t need to tell you the importance. This will then channel people to check out your social media profile which will, of course, have your next release song and the release date proudly displaying which should then direct them to the pre-save link and then eventually Spotify when it is released.
See how all these music release schedule methods are intertwined? It’s like using a funnel to get a bottle of wine into a decanter. A good case study for this is Louisa Wendorff. She wanted Taylor Swift to hear her mash-up of Taylor’s songs ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Style.’ Louisa used her fan base of roughly 1000 Twitter followers to all tweet, Taylor, the link to the video at the same time when Taylor was online. As I say most of the time this will annoy the artist, however this time it worked a treat and the video got retweeted by Taylor to her 52 million followers.
There is no better way to build up anticipation and hype for your next release than by playing live. Here you have the freedom to engage people and show your personality that may just be the missing link in people connecting with your music. The key is not to push the hard sell, play a few tracks that grab the attention at the beginning of the set even if it needs a cover or two thrown in for good measure. Then you can discuss the track giving some background to it. I’ve found it really helps to have a story here to pull people in so that by the time you start playing the track they are already emotionally invested in it. As with anything emotive, psychology plays a big part. You can then announce the track name, release date and don’t forget to mention your Instagram or Twitter names as they will then be able to keep track of not only the release but more importantly of you. Make sure you document and upload videos and photos of this to generate even more buzz on your socials and allow the people that can’t be there at your gig to connect with your personality online.
Organise a Single Release Show
Invite as many people as possible but not just your friends. Contact and invite as many local bloggers and industry-relevant people as you can as well as any Instagram influencers. Crucially, invite as many bloggers and industry people online as possible. That’s right, live stream that thing on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube and show people what all the fuss is about. (You might need a few phones on the go!)
Secure an Interview with a Blog
This will help to show the different dimensions to you and reveal a personality to the person releasing the song which is important in helping people connect the pieces to your song.
Run Instagram and Facebook Ads
Create a fun and engaging ad on Facebook and Instagram relating to fans and showing your character as much as possible. Make it engaging and personable. In platforms where people consume immense amounts of information, give them a reason to click. This might include a 15-second clip of the music video or track if the video isn’t ready with the story behind the song directing them to your pre-save link or offering them something like a free copy of the track. This will also work in your favour if the ad is strong enough to secure listens and followers on Spotify as well as followers on social media.
I hope this is of value to you. Did I miss something? Does your music release schedule look drastically different? Did you not have a pre-release schedule before? Comment below on anything I’ve missed or could do with adding!