Many musicians look at the mastering and manufacturing of their CD as a kind of finish line. They work hard and drop lots of cash to record and mix their songs, and once the product is in their hands, there’s usually a great sigh of relief and/or a huge sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, at this point lots of bands make the mistake of saying, “Oh, we’re just gonna put it out now and see what happens.”
When hundreds or thousands of copies of your album arrive at your doorstep, in beautiful vinyl or CD packaging, you should already have an album release plan in place — because after all that cost and effort, you want your fans to actually hear and purchase your music, right?
Don’t assume that just because your album goes up for sale online or suddenly appears at your merch booth that anyone will know about it, care about it, or want to buy it. You need to build interest in advance of the album’s release.
But turning the launch of your new music into an event that your fans will eagerly anticipate is, of course, easier said than done.
Here are ten tips to successfully launching a new album
1. Create awareness for the album while it’s still in the works.
Use your email newsletter, blog, and social media accounts to keep people posted on the recording process. Share pictures, video clips, and rough mixes from the studio. Depending on how long your production period is, you potentially have a whole year or more to get your fans psyched about the upcoming album.
2. Release a single 1-3 months in advance of the release.
Well, I suppose I should say “choose the single” first. Ask your band mates, producer, engineer, graphic designer, manager, and close friends what they think the strongest, catchiest tune is on the record.
Before posting the song online and making it available through digital retailers and streaming services, you should hype it up on all the usual channels: website, email newsletter, social profiles. Create a special poster or online graphic for the launch of the single with the artist name, song title, release date of single, and — in smaller font — the release date for the full album (and maybe change your web headers, banners,and profile images to get the word out about your new song).
Other ways to build buzz for the single: a countdown on your website; a blog post with the story behind the song; tweets with lines from the lyrics, or… ask your favorite blog if they’d be interested in doing an exclusive, where (for a limited time) the ONLY place fans can hear or download the new track is on that blog. Since the editor/blogger will want to drive as much traffic to their site as possible, they’ll have an incentive to give you some extra promotional love.
Be sure that wherever you DO decide to launch your single (whether it’s on your own site or someone else’s), the release date for the full album is prominently featured alongside the new track.
3. Shoot a music video.
Whether you do a conventional video production with actors and sets, or some kind of low-budget stop-animation shoot, or something as simple as a photo slideshow — make sure you have a video that launches shortly after the single to support the song, and also to get additional coverage for your upcoming album release on blogs and music news sites. Plus, if the song and video are great, your fans will share them with their friends.
4. Make your single ubiquitous.
Find multiple ways to get that song in front of your fans. Don’t be obnoxious, of course, but approach it from multiple angles: a news announcement, the story behind the song, details about the recording, thanks and credit given to the players and people who helped you record the track, alternate mixes, etc. And, as Scott James recommends in his article on album release strategies, “play the single at every show after you release it online.”
5. Plan your album release party.
Be sure to give yourself about 3 months of cushion between when you get your CDs back from the manufacturer and the date of the release show. This gives you ample room to send your complete album and press release out to bloggers, radio program directors, podcasters, journalists, keepers of community event schedules, and more. It also gives you some wiggle room in case there are any unforeseen delays with pressing your discs or vinyl.
Make sure your release party is a special event, something more than just an ordinary show: maybe a different kind of setting, different stage design or instrumentation, special guests. Once it’s booked and you’ve figured out how to make it an unforgettable concert, promote the hell out of it (along with your new album) online. Create a Facebook event. In the real world, put up posters all around town. See if you can play an in-store performance at your local record store. And most importantly, get your existing fans, family, and friends excited about it so they’ll bring as many people as they can to see you play.
6. Alert the press!
Time for some PR outreach. Remember those bloggers, DJs, and journalists I mentioned above? Send them each an email with the details about your new album, your CD release party, and why it’s an event worth writing about. Also be sure to include a link to your music video, and a link to the press page on your website that has audio for your new album, hi-res band photos, and some notable press quotes (if you have ‘em).
7. Line up distribution for your album.
Ideally you’d have your distribution lined up before this point, but I realize most bands don’t think of it until they’ve got the actual discs in their hands. So,… set up your distribution — with CD Baby, of course! Make sure your CDs and vinyl are in-stock and ready to ship well ahead of your release date. Make sure your album will be available for pre-sale on Amazon and iTunes, and available everywhere else on the release date, too.
8. Revamp your website.
The last time you probably did a big overhaul on your website was when you put out your last album, so go ahead and give it a refresh. Consider using elements from your new album design to add consistency to your visual branding. Update your bio, photos, and music player. Also, make sure all your links are live and relevant. Add links for your new album on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.
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9. Follow-up with the media.
You’ve already done your initial run of alerting the media, but follow-up about 3 weeks before the show. If they haven’t already decided to write about you, this might be the nudge they need. Plus, you never know if something else they’d planned to cover has fallen through — and here you are presenting them with an attractive alternative!
10. Play your heart out at your CD release party.
The big day has arrived. Be sure you communicate with the sound engineer to make the night a success. Oh, and make sure your merch table is set up so you’ll sell as many of your albums as possible. Then there’s nothing left to do but rock it!
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There’s plenty more you could do to make a bigger splash with your album release: book a tour, shoot additional music videos and stagger their release throughout the following year, attend music conferences, play at music festivals, etc. But if you can accomplish the ten items listed above, you’re in a good position. Remember, try not to stress too too much. Your album release should also be a happy occasion, one that you can be proud of for years to come. So I wish you much fun when you put out your next record.
What would you add to the list? What’s worked best for you when you’ve released a new album? Let us know in the comments section below.