Photo by Rhianonne Stone (@rhianonnestone)

Planning Ahead for Success

In 2023, I released my debut album, “Romance” — a cinematic neo-soul record with themes of romantic love, inner healing, and treating women with kindness and respect. For my campaign, I released four singles (one every eight weeks) through CD Baby leading up to the album release in September.

There were highs and lows, but crucially, I felt a significant build in my audience’s excitement over time due to my meticulous content creation planning. I ensured that my social media content clearly presented my artistic story, including thought-provoking musings and poems in the captions.

The Value of Music Visuals

“Romance” was an interdisciplinary project, so visuals were key to my campaign. I arranged a number of photo and video shoots with professional photographers throughout 2021, 2022, and 2023 to create high-quality content. I had over 300 photos stored, which allowed me to plan ahead of schedule, reducing my stress levels throughout the campaign. 

Since I prefer an old-school aesthetic, I only needed basic software to capture the desired lo-fi feel. I used the free version of Canva to edit photos, and iMovie on my old MacBook to edit any video footage. For future releases, I’d also consider using tools like CDB Video Creator to create Spotify Canvas videos.

Building Music Community and Supporters

One of the biggest learning curves from the campaign was understanding where my art fits within the music industry. 

I don’t write typical “radio” songs, but my projects have strong cultural and creative narratives, which work well when seeking out collaborators and music press.

I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years now, and within that time, I’ve made many organic press contacts and befriended a number of local artists. The majority of my collaborators for “Romance” were members of Popgirlz Scotland, a feminist support group I founded, and other female contacts I had made at industry events.

Photo by Rhianonne Stone (@rhianonnestone)

The Power of Press

In turn, my strongest press pieces for the campaign were achieved through my longterm supporters, including The Skinny, Wide Days Scotland, The Herald, The List, and Snack Magazine. 

I also received a significant amount of UK-based BBC Radio support (Tom Robinson at BBC 6 Music; Vic Galloway, Janice Forsyth, and Roddy Hart on Radio Scotland; and Shakk, Emily Pilbeam, and Nick Roberts on BBC Introducing).

In search of some international traction, I utilised playlist submission sites where I was able to filter blogs that matched my genre. I wrote clear press statements for each song, which led to extremely successful results. My music performed best outside of my home country of Scotland — particularly in North America, where I achieved regular support from the likes of EARMILK.

Playlisting Lessons

Despite these successes, I did learn a few lessons about how to go about pitching for playlists. At times, I did feel disheartened due to a lack of success with Spotify or DSP playlisting out of the five singles I pitched. After doing some research, though, I learned that 70-88% of first party Spotify playlisting is given to major label artists and on average, it takes 7-8 songs before you hear a woman on an algorithmic playlist. 

If I had known these statistics prior, I would have extended my campaign to 12 weeks per single to prioritise my mental health.

I found these statistics extremely sobering — but at the same time, they helped me feel more confident in the quality of my work. Now I know that some goals are only out of reach due to misogyny and major label deals within the industry. It’s important that these statistics are recognised so we can implement new strategies to support women and independent artists.

In Conclusion

My debut album release as an independent musician has been one of the proudest artistic moments of my life.

I’ve realised everyone’s path in music is incredibly unique, and I’ve learnt a valuable lesson about the importance of authenticity and patience. I’m currently in the studio creating my second album, and looking forward to bringing my new insights into my next campaign.