My Album is Finished — Now What?

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Ten cardboard boxes arrive in the mail containing a thousand shrink-wrapped CDs. You’re feeling pretty proud. All those precious hours writing, practicing, scrimping & saving, recording…

All for NOTHING!!!

… unless, of course, you can get other folks to take an interest in your music and actually LISTEN. But how?

The DIY Musician’s Post-Recording Checklist

When your album is finished, your work is only half done; and oftentimes, that first half is the easy part.

Radio promotion, PR, booking, web maintenance, and all the other “business” elements of a music career generally don’t come naturally to artists. But if you can learn to embrace the fact that these tasks NEED to get done in order for anyone to hear your music (and chances are that no one else is going to handle all those things FOR you), then you’ll eventually find a sense of fun and accomplishment in the non-musical chores too!

So, here goes:

1) Make sure you have 3 or 4 great band/artist photos-

Promotion goes in waves, and it’ll help “keeps things fresh” to have a few options in the band photo department. Choose your favorite two pictures to post on your website and social media profiles, to include in physical press kits (though they’re usually not required), and to make available for high-resolution download on your website’s press/media page.

Then 3-6 months later when the initial buzz from your release wears off, you can update your site with the next batch of photos (perhaps from a different location, with different outfits, different vibe, etc.). The new photos could coincide with a tour, benefit, video release, or some other newsworthy event that helps remind the press and fans about your recent album.

2) Put your press kit together-

A press kit should include your band bio, notable quotes from past reviews, contact info, and most importantly– what is happening with your band RIGHT NOW that is exciting– a copy of your new album, of course! Also, it’s up to you whether you treat this like a traditional multi-item press kit or print up one-sheets (where all the relevant info is on one sheet of paper), but you’ll need to have a “press release” mindset here. Your press kit needs to convince critics and journalists to care about you. Talk about why your music is unique and amazing without overselling it or making impossibly bold statements like “the greatest thing since Radiohead.”

Here are two articles about what makes a good press kit:

Music Publicity 101

Writing an Artist Press Release 101

3) Update your websites-

Got new music? New artwork? New band photos? New… news? Show dates? New bio? Make sure to update your website and all your social media profiles.

4) Submit your album to Gracenote and AMG-

Ya know how when you put a CD in your iTunes player, it recognizes the songs? That is the work of a magical musical database called Gracenote. Click here to find out how to submit your music to Gracenote.

Ever wonder how those official-looking artist bios and album reviews end up on iTunes artist/album pages? That’d be the work of All Media Guide (formerly All Music Guide). Click here to find out how to submit your music to All Media Guide.

5) Line up distribution-

For a one-time fee of $49, CD Baby will distribute your music to all the major digital retailers (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc.), stock physical copies of your album (CD or vinyl) in our warehouse and handle order fulfillment/shipping to your customers, make your album available to over 2500 brick and mortar record stores worldwide, collect money for the usage of your music on YouTube, and provide you with the tools you need to sell your music (MusicStore for Facebook app, Music Store Widget, linkmakers, and more).

Distribute your music through CD Baby today.

6) Book a CD release party-

Now that your CDs are in your hands, it’s safe to book your album release party! Work with the venue to make this a special evening for you and your fans. You probably won’t have another night like it for the next couple years, right?

7) Mail press kits to “the media”-

Once you’ve got a firm date and a supporting bill worked out for your CD release party, let the world know! Mail your press kits to the “the media,” including weeklies, newspapers, magazines, blogs, local radio, podcasts, etc. If you’re a local band who doesn’t do much touring, focus your PR efforts on your region, letting people know about your new album and your release show.

If you’re a nationally touring act, expand your campaign accordingly. (Obviously at that point you’ll be telling the press about your new album and a whole tour, rather than just a single show).

For some advice on how to approach the media, check out this interview with former Willamette Week music editor Amy McCullough from the CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast.

8) Launch a DIY radio promotion campaign-

Radio is STILL important, believe it or not. But you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a commercial radio promoter. Instead, narrow your focus and send your new CD to college, community, satellite, internet radio, and podcasts.

Here’s how to launch your own DIY radio campaign. 

9) Create video content-

YouTube is fast becoming the world’s most popular music-discovery website. And videos are a great way to get your music in front of new fans. Here’s some advice on how to create and promote compelling music video content that will help you sell records.

10) Coordinate your social media and email newsletter efforts-

Check out our advice on how to promote your music on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, and your email newsletter to engage fans and get them excited about your new album.

11) Get your name and logo out there-

Burn your logo and band name into the memories of everyone who sees them. Make posters for your show; hang them up around town. Create artwork for online promotion; share it! Repeat, repeat, repeat.

12) Tour!-

If you can make the time commitment, touring is a great way to earn new fans, make new connections and friends, garner more press and radio attention, improve your performances, and to generate content (photos, essays, videos, etc.) for your blog and social media efforts.

Start performing regionally; as your fanbase grows, so will the ground you cover.

Click here for lots of advice on how to book, prepare, and pull-off a successful DIY tour. 

I hope this list helps you organize your efforts after those CDs arrive in the mail. Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

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  • Ybnrml696969

    did all that. doesn't work for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    thanks for this article! i will be sure to follow some of the guidelines that i haven't done already. my cd was just released and i'm looking for ways to get it out there more.

  • You are correct…it definitely does not work for everyone…I like the ideas though…

  • Sebastian

    Great! It's not important whether it works in detail – important is that there is a list to follow and you just do it. It saves time and energy to have these guidelines. Thanks CD Baby! As always

  • Dankerwin75

    Great advise. Wish I had done that six years ago? Maybe I wouldn't have had to work this crap day job. New Album coming up I 'll give it another shot.

    • antonio

      right now I do media/ent. business coaching and I pick up alot of tips to help my clients through this blog
      alot of the information is free for anyone with internet access but some musicians don’t have the time or don’t want to learn business
      The Walking On Water Media/Ent. Business Coach Antonio
      I would like to share my Music Business blog

    • antonio

      keep your 9 to 5 crap or not and funnel that into your music venture once your home/personal needs are meet
      I tell my clients all the time keep a decent job and use any extra money to pay for promotion getting a nice income tax refund then get a billboard $1,500 to $2,000 for 4 to 6 weeks..just make sure you have a product
      use the google tool like adsense,adwords,analytics,places,etc.
      The Walking on Water Media/Ent. Business Coach Antonio

  • DevilsCaretaker

    Solid advice as always! This is definitely where 80% of us, me included, fall short. Music is only half of the equation, business is the other. I personally am starting to feel like the title should be reversed in the independent world! Business Music!

  • bowlingovalmusic

    album is finished, time to make a new one

  • Ian

    I just finished a new CD which is a collaboration of various musicians from all over the world. As such I have no band, can not tour. Could someone write an article for us, the kind of musicians who work in a studio and write GREAT music but who would still like to have their music heard. I plan on having this CD distributed with CD baby again. (my music is in the prog rock/funk… section of the shop shelves 🙂

  • Love this post! These are essential things to consider and plan early. It’s especially important to have a distinct theme to help your album stand out from the zillion other new indie releases. If you can’t grab people’s attention, curiosity, and memory right away then it hardly matters how great your album may be.

    I have a “toytronica” band using toy instruments and broken electronics. While working on my latest album I redesigned my website and promo materials using visual elements from the cover art. My bio and album description include hooks that press and radio people can grab onto and use in headlines.

    I also made a bunch of videos using vintage cartoon clips which were easy and fun to put together. People post my videos, images and free printable goodies on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, giving me lots more free promotion than I could ever get on my own.

  • We have done most of whats here and we are seeing increased opportunity. Not great but better. so we will continue working it.

  • Andrewfairchild

    I think its all about eating and breathing and dreaming about music. 100% hard work, perseverance and investing money. You can't make money, if you don't spend it. How you market yourself is also a big thing. You just have to find the few people that like your music and truely good music will spread like wildfire if you find your fan base. I am producing someone who has never done anything on the music release side, but she performs alot. It takes every free moment i got, promoting her, scheduling photo shoots, performances, musical ideas, video shoots. Just got go for it and keep working at it! I think this is a good guideline. Don't expect INSTANT FAME!

  • Joshua Ingram

    I’m actually about to start a new project and will be interested in kind of following this method. I like the sequence of events here and i think I’ll try to stick to it as best I can. Though I too have done most of this in the past, it seems like I was always trying to catch up instead of laying it out beforehand. I will keep you updated as best I can on the progress.

  • I'm surprised you only mention one social media venue, YouTube. Passenger (a UK artist, popular in Australia) got to number 2 in iTunes charts last Friday when his album was released. He tours, he busks, he participates in lots of local events (like the Melbourne Tram Sessions) but he ties it all together with his Facebook page. His activity ties his audience to him. At a concert, tour, busking or other event your audience's interest might be piqued, but their engagement will be transient. Having a easy to find place for them to connect, which you update regularly, will hold their engagement. A Facebook page beats a poster that is plastered over in 3 hours, any day.

  • Isaac

    On the contrary, Andrew, this article and your response make the point that it is not "all about eating and breathing and dreaming about music." It's about marketing. for myself, If I wanted to be in marketing, I'd have gone to business school. Instead, I went into music. I thought I was pretty good, but it didn't matter. People who were better marketers got the better gigs. Let's face it: music is nothing more than a product, and those who market it better will be more successful, even if the product isn't as good.

  • Fotg_2006

    Interesting, reading others' comments of pros and cons of this business. We're about to release a new album, after about 6 years so the comments on social media do's and don'ts helped a lot. I'm renewing my interest in blog-reading; it's amazing how 1 or 2 little words or ideas from others have ignited my motivation to persevere! We're a seasoned gospel-music group with only a few media connections (1 with Morgan State University Radio) and not a lot of time for touring extensively, so I was encouraged by the comments about focusing on press releases regional listening audiences and college radio stations. Glad I took the time to read what was on your site. The business side of music's not "a piece of cake" but I can totally understand how essential it is for us to be savvy about it. Thanks.

    Pat, from Full Of The Gospel Music Group, Glen Burnie, MD

  • FFRD

    Hit “LIKE” and all your dreams will come true.

  • Ali Vail

    What should the cover letter look like when sending your CD?

    • There’s no single correct approach. It could be a standard piece of paper. Could be a glossy one-sheet sorta thing. Could be littered with rainbow stickers or Sharpied X’s. Whatever works for the vibe of your music, so long as all the necessary info is easily readable.