[This post was written by guest contributor Dave Kusek of New Artist Model.]
In the past, there was only one way to release an album. You spend months – or even years – writing and recording an album, you build up to the release date with a tour announcement and lots of press, you drop the album, you go on tour to promote, and then you go back to the studio to do the whole process again. You end up with a growth chart that looks like a series of large spikes followed by drops in income and awareness.
Even into the digital age, this black and white process is still the norm, but there are more and more musicians breaking out of this box and experimenting with new strategies. You don’t need a major label marketing team behind you to try a creative album release of your own.
Let’s look at a few different strategies and how you can implement them right now with the resources you have available.
1. Perpetual Release
This strategy really blows the notion of the traditional album release right out of the water because, basically, there is no album. Instead, you shorten the album cycle to just one song and release once a month, once every two months, or whatever you can reasonably achieve without sacrificing quality. Use the time in between each release to execute mini marketing plans for each song, building awareness and interest.
The cool thing is this strategy is really malleable, so take the idea and run with it. Of course, you can choose to release your original songs this way. You can also use this concept to put out covers between traditional releases to maintain a level of awareness and avoid the dreaded drop in sales and interest. Karmin and Pomplamoose are two bands that really owned this strategy for cover songs. Sign up for this free webinar interview with Jack Conte of Pomplamoose for even more great tips and strategies!
This is a great strategy for indie bands and musicians just starting out trying to raise awareness and reach new fans. Not only are you constantly pumping out new content to keep your fans listening, watching, and sharing — the short cycle between songs also means you can really learn from each release. You might find out that your fans prefer your acoustic tracks, or that people tend to lose interest in longer tracks. Learn and adapt.
2. Multiple Singles
We all know the single strategy. You release one song prior to the album drop to get people hyped. However, more and more musicians have been taking this strategy further by releasing multiple singles.
Push out a few songs at regular intervals before your album is set to release. This could be one per week, one every other week, or whatever works best for you and your fan base. This helps draw out the revenue spike and gives your fans something to get excited about. You could take it a step further and get your fans sharing. Make a goal – it could be x number of likes, retweets, or shares. Tell your fans that you’ll release the next single when you reach that goal. Of course, this could easily backfire, so make sure you choose a number that’s achievable!
3. Secret Release
The secret release was really brought to everyone’s attention after Beyoncé’s self-titled album suddenly appeared on iTunes with no build-up, press, or even tweets in December 2013.
If you’re in the early stages of your career and haven’t built up the dedicated fanbase Beyoncé has, you probably don’t want to go full-blown secret album, because you risk no one actually finding out about it. You can, however, make certain elements of your album release secret. Arcade Fire played a secret show under the name “The Reflektors” to promote their album Reflektor. As an added catch, fans were required to dress in formal attire or in costume. As a result, only the most dedicated Arcade Fire fans were at the show – the ones who would get online immediately afterwards and share their experience with all their friends.
Exclusive previews and album releases have become very popular in recent years. Beyoncé gave iTunes an exclusive period before the album hit stores, Daft Punk released Random Access Memory exclusively for streaming a week before it was available for purchase, and Skrillex previewed the entire Recess album via the Alien Ride app.
You don’t need to have an app developer or a big-time sponsorship deal to have an exclusive preview. You could give your email subscribers and exclusive sneak peek at your new album or song. Just create a secret page and embed a streaming player. Other tools, like Patreon, allow you to release content that only your patrons can see, which is a great way to give them exclusive early access.
This strategy builds off the single concept, but you can really get creative. Instead of releasing full songs as singles, give fans previews of the lyrics, album artwork, the instrumentals, or even rough ideas. Coldplay sent their fans on a hunt for handwritten lyrics hidden in libraries across the globe, but you don’t need to go that extreme.
The Wild Feathers made the album available early at their live shows in the week leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album. On top of that, every album sold included two CDs – one to keep and one to share with a friend. By selling the album early they are specifically targeting their super fans – the ones who would come out just to get their hands on the album before everyone else. They are also the ones most likely to share with their friends. Giving them an extra CD to do just that really empowered their super fans to share.
Bio: Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model (newartistmodel.com), an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. He has worked with musicians his entire career, providing tools, mentoring and knowledge necessary to be successful in the music industry. Get five free lessons from the New Artist Model online courses when you sign up for our free video training series. For even more tips, sign up for this free webinar interview with Jack Conte of Pomplamoose.
[Music image from Shutterstock.]