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A few simple ways to make a bigger impact at your next CD release party

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.”

How to make the most of your CD release party5. 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.

If you need help creating a professional musician website, check out HostBaby and try it FREE for 30 days.

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!

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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.

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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.

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  • Some Guy

    Gotta disagree with no. 3. Videos and music have nothing to do with one another. Music videos are incredibly pointless and often ruin the imagery of the song…especially if you don’t have the talent or budget to create visuals that can actually capture the essence of the song itself..

    • Alex Burton

      You sir know nothing. A survey done across the USA stated after radio youtube was where most people found new music was youtube. Yes you can have a lyric video but they do not engage and audience as much as an actual music video.

      The being said music videos do not ruin the imagery of a song they enhance it if done properly.

      • Some Guy

        You said it yourself; “if done properly”… That is exactly what I stated in my comment. Here’s another statistic for you; according to a study by me watching YouTube, 99.67% of music videos are terrible and ruin the aesthetic of a musical composition. Aside from “Thriller” I can’t think of another music video that succeeded in “enhancing” the imagery of a record. I could give you a laundry list of music videos that are terrible and have even ruined great and good songs.

    • thoughtless world

      Videos bring the visual to the music any real musician/artist knows that

      • Some Guy

        Any “real musician” will allow the music to speak for itself. The lyrics and instruments are to paint a visual..I can imagine how a music video would destroy some of the most poetic and aesthetic songs out there. Could you imagine if Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” or Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” fell victim to someone creating a music video..? Music is an art form and a medium itself.

  • Tombé Kemayo

    To the author Chris Robley: I think this is all great advice, but I’d like to present something for discussion, or a future blog post, whatever.

    The music world was completely shook by the release of Beyonce’s lastest album, and the biggest phenomena of it all was that she did the exact opposite of all these tips: no single, no video, no tour, no press. All that came after the actual release of the album. But she still sold over a million copies in less than two weeks. I guess my main questions would be –

    1) Why and how do you think this incredibly unorthodox method of releasing an album actually worked for her?

    2) Do you think something like this could ever be duplicated, or was this designed to only work one time and one time only?

  • Hi T,

    Great point to add to this discussion. But I do think that these types of secret overnight album launches only work for GIANT GIANT superstars: Beyonce, Radiohead, etc. The media goes into overdrive to catch up with the fact that they missed a big music story — so suddenly everyone is talking about the release all at once in the news, blogs, social media, etc., and that helps drives sales. But if an unknown or moderately successful band puts out an album this way, no one in the media cares (unless there’s some really newsworthy gimmick along with the release) — and then it can have the opposite effect,… it’ll just get ignored (and then the band will have missed out on opportunities to get media coverage lined up in advance).

    @ChrisRobley

  • Tree Frog

    Interesting perspective Chris, But as an old 60’s psychedelic trippy hippie artist and producer still playing festivals I do see and am thrilled that many there are younger faces in the crowds.. My son being one of the (He will drive for days to get to Red Rock for a DTO show).. I have observed the so called ” Instant gratification” of instant, portable downloads among this generation but there still does seem to be a huge loyalty towards following the careers of certain bands they like and I see many turning back to the “neo-hippie’ music and following Dead & Bob Marley tribute bands (this gives me great hope for the younger generation being salvaged and totally into Milly and Snoop somebody).. I’m not particularly thrilled with giving all my hard work away for free after an investment of $700,000 in studio gear. I also agree with Niel Young regarding quality. One of your writers about a year ago was raving about the convenience of having 60 hours of music on his Ipod.. I am still and Analog studio, Tape, Tube everything including mics, compressors, EQ’s, Verb. Delays, and on and on. I do use Pro Tools HD for editing.. A six minute song off a Studer A800 2 inch tape 24 track into Pro Tools is a round 2 to 4 gig in Wave. If I want to upload it to the Web it gets munched into 22mg of MP format.. No one can tell me there is no quality loss, and I have a stack of Real Time Analyzers to prove it.. 97% tonal quality degradation on the average.. Why on earth would I put a 100 hours into writing, recording, mastering, editing to have that be ones final product?.. Still, it is a great medium for mass distribution so I understand the appeal..not to mention portability. There was an amazing article written by one of the ‘inventors’ of the web.. He wrote it in 1981.. he made a prediction that someday we would have some kind of portable, hand held device that could check NYSE, send BBS or fax (pre-email, remember we did not have cell phones then so he didn’t even know what it would be called), and maybe even have the capability to make something like a phone call and or take a picture…He had no clue what this would look like or how it would work (we call them smart phones) but the point is, his concern was that there would be a constant flow of data input coming in every 15 seconds that one would have to respond to and that it would overload the sensory stimuli thus creating an entire generation that suffered from ADHD… Now, we have Starbucks, and everyone sitting at the table do not talk to each other, they text will listening to their era-buds..and take Prozac or Ritalin

  • meredithw

    Are you saying we should have our CDs in hand, and then not put them on the internet for sale or sell them at shows for another 3 months? Our friends have been waiting a couple of years for us to finish our CD, and it’s finally here. For a midsize town local band’s first CD, is this timeline really necessary? My (amateur) thinking is to have a big CD Celebration party at our “home base venue”, sell them first hand, put them on the internet, make some contacts locally to get reviews and possible radio play, and then see what happens? Does anyone recommend a modified timeline for a CD release for us small town folks? Appreciate your input!

  • I would actually recommend the exact same timeline, with the exception that you CAN start selling the CD immediately to fans at shows (and friends and family).

    Giving yourself that ramp up to the “official release date” lets you get the most out of your album launch. Yes, it’s kind of an arbitrary marker if you’re not planning a big national PR campaign, but having that “it’s almost here” feeling can help you get more local press coverage and such.

    @ChrisRobley

    • meredithw

      Thanks Chris! What about having the cd available on iTunes,etc? One more idea, what are your thoughts on having a smaller Preview Party, then working the timeline up to the official cd release?

      • Yeah. I think the preview party is a fine idea. As for iTunes, I would hold off on releasing it digitally until your official release date, when everything goes live (physical and digital). However, you can and should do an iTunes pre-sale, where it’s available for pre-ordering up to a month in advance. That way you can still direct people there to buy it leading up to your release.

        @ChrisRobley

        • meredithw

          Thank you! Very grateful for the advice!

  • Björn Broekert

    Hi! Hope someone could give me a little advice. I started a band a few months ago. Things are going well and we are about to record our first EP (already made appointments with the studio and such). The problem I see, and the rest of the band doesn’t, is that we literally have no fan base. We’ve had two shows (wich were well recieved though) and no social network yet. A reason to record the EP was to promote ourselves to venues and gain a good fanbase but is it wiser to wait until you have more people that know you? I don’t know. Hope someone can help me.

    • Well, there’s no right approach, but if you DO have the budget to record, why not? It’ll help you earn fans online, get bookings, etc. However, if you think that you’re still too young a band to do a great recording, you could convince the other members to wait until you’ve got more rehearsal and gig time under your belts before heading into the studio.

      Tough to weigh in without knowing your history and music, but I would say don’t be afraid to go into the studio (if you’re musically prepared), even if you don’t have anyone coming to your live shows yet.

      @ChrisRobley

    • StevenCravisMusic

      Start a facebook page for the band. Then use https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager to boost an ad that includes a good video of your band playing, or demo song widget, or photo, etc.. along with info about the upcoming concert and link to your web site. It allows you to target specific interests, so type in the name of 3 famous bands that you think have a similar kind of fan base to the kind that would enjoy your band. If you want to target specific loctions/cities, etc.. you can, or you could just let ti be worldwide. If you target a younger age range, like only up to 24, you’ll get a bigger result for the dollars you spend, only because more of those generations will react quickly to these ads (plus there are options in ads manager on facebook to simultaneously target Instagram users of the same proflie you define. In first creating a new ‘ad’ within the facebook ads manager, you can choose main goals, one of the choices is gain Likes to your facebook page. That might be a good start. Also on your facebook page, in the about section, if you can fill out all fields completely, Facebook is supposed to give you the ‘blue’ checkmark. That marks it as the ‘official’ page on facebook for your band. Not totally necessary, but just a nice touch.

      • Steven,

        Great tips. Thanks so much for sharing ’em, and sorry it took so long for me to moderate the comments here. Sprinting towards our conference!

        @ChrisRobley

  • That’s brilliant!

    @ChrisRobley

  • How are you trying to share? On social? Email?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Skinny Hightower

    Very useful advice!