Releasing music in this crazy, over saturated world is a bitch. With 30,000+ tracks per day going up on Spotify how in the heck are you supposed to stand out? When we build our musician’s Total Tuneups the #1 thing artists ask us for is a specific step-by-step music release plan. Each plan we create is highly customized, but there are some steps to master and a general timeline. I have outlined them for you here…
Three Months Before Music Releases
Make sure your legal is all tied up and copyrights are registered. Also, I don’t have to tell you to have agreements with band members and for-hire players do I? 🙂
Choose Or Register With Your Performing Rights Organization.
You probably already know this but just in case – to collect your royalties you’ll need to sign with a both a Performing Rights Organization (“PRO” for short) and SoundExchange. The three options in the U.S. for PRO’s are ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI.
For live royalties, BMI and ASCAP both offer portals to collect royalties from playing live. Once your songs are registered on the PRO database, you log in and enter any dates you have performed those songs, where they were performed, and which songs. The PRO companies payout quarterly so be sure to enter the performances soon after they are through, otherwise, you could miss a deadline!
You also have to register with SoundExchange, which focuses on royalties for your recording (mechanical rights), while your Performing Rights Organization focuses on royalties for your song (performance rights).
Document the Recording & Creation Journey For Your Fans
What may feel mundane to you – writing, recording, mixing, mastering, being in the studio, etc. – can be really exciting for your fans. Taking them on a behind-the-scenes journey of this music release is a great way to form a stronger bond with your current and growing fanbase.
Send updates on how the recording, mixing and mastering is going using videos and photos via your socials, plus capture longer-form stories for Instagram Stories and for your newsletter.
Engage with your following on milestones like artwork and song titles by polling your fans and holding contests to select what cover or title to go with, have your fans weigh in on photos, graphics and get them involved with the process. The goal of all this activity is to get people excited so they are engaging and sharing your updates.
Create Your PR & Marketing Plans
A big component when releasing new music is getting PR. You can accomplish this by hiring a team or by going the DIY route. When hiring a PR team make sure you do your homework and make sure your music is a good fit for that firm’s approach and philosophy. Be sure that the team talks to you about their well-thought-out plan for your campaign.
A PR company should work with you to make sure you are fully prepared before you are introduced to the press. This is the first part of their job when you engage a firm.
If you’re going with a do-it-yourself approach, here are some tips for an effective music PR campaign:
Create Your Playlist Plan
Submit Your Music Directly to Spotify
Simply sign into your artist account (or Spotify Analytics if you are a label) and choose your best song. When submitting, take extra time to give a detailed description of the song. Supply any and all relevant information about the song to easily guide editors to the best placement for your music.
Build Your Own Playlisting Initiatives
If you don’t know all the steps to set up a playlist, follow this step-by-step guide. Start building and sharing playlists. You need to build up plays as this impacts the current song that you are promoting, as well as any forthcoming singles. Use interesting titles and themes to grab people’s attention to aid with search.
Find Playlist Curators & Pitch
This is, of course, easier said than done! It is not easy to find curators, but it is possible with some dedication. Google and all the Socials are great places to start. Reddit has an active Spotify Playlists Page. There are also quite a few on SubmitHub that you can access for a small fee.
Two Months Before Music Release
Finalize your Single / Album / EP Artwork
Your artwork should be ready, on brand and amazing! Ask your designer to animate it or break it up into tiles for Instagram, and resize it for all your social posts.
Get Great Photos
Make sure you have at least 3-4 great images. Variety is important. Most music blogs feature square or horizontal photos. When getting photos taken, think through your brand and think about variety to keep your images fresh as time goes by.
Research Which Spotify Pre-Save / Marketing Platform is Right for You
You will need to run a campaign to get that Spotify track pre-saved! There are a bunch of great sites to choose from. Feature.FM has Action Pages to help build your audience – click here to create one. From The Site: Action Pages are highly engaging pages that reward fans for taking the actions you want in the platforms you want and provide you with deep insight into your audience.
Toneden can also facilitate social media follows/likes and/or email addresses for free downloads. You can also optimize Facebook ads via Toneden, and customize those ads more than you can under the Facebook Ads Manager. Show.co is owned by CD Baby and is integrated so you can use it as well.
Focus on Increasing Your Audience
If you have been recording new music, you may have taken your eye off of the constant grind it takes to keep your socials and your newsletter growing. This takes a lot of heavy lifting and your whole band or team should be helping.
Use my Social Media Tuneup system to diagnose each one of your sites and socials and get them updated.
If you have not kept up consistently, find your friends and people you admire (bloggers, other artists, venues, local spots you like to hang out in, etc.) on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and start following!
This will increase your audience, because many of the people you follow will follow you back – especially if you already know them. Also, start reaching out to people in your inbox and outbox and get them on your list (remember it’s illegal to just sign people up, so do this with integrity and ask each person). Your newsletter is the place where you will be able to monetize so, don’t skip this step.
Prep Your Social Media Content Calendar
Your content calendar is outlined with all of the assets that you need for your release with dates for each asset/action needed. Countdowns, art reveals, listening party or live release party announcements, ticket links and calls to action (like Spotify Pre-saves) are all fodder to add to your content calendar.
Use my SMM Organizer to organize all of your posts and your VIPS. This will help you keep track of all the content that you will post. You can see there is a tab for each platform. If there are several of you in a team or in a band, assign one platform per person. You will also see a VIP tab here – this is where you will add industry people you need to connect with in real life.
Six Weeks Before Music Release
Submit Your Music to Your Distributor
If you are leading this music release with a single (or two), make sure to let them know you are releasing a single(s) FIRST before the EP (if this is the case). You must have your single artwork ready at this time! Tunecore, CD Baby, and other aggregators need upwards of 6 weeks to send your music to iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Music, and other digital service providers (DSPs).
Submit Your Single to The Spotify Curators
Login to your Spotify For Artists account and submit your track for playlist consideration. Follow this guide so you don’t miss an opportunity.
Launch a Facebook Like Campaign to Get More Followers to Your Page
Or if you have not done so in a long time, go through your personal Facebook Page and ask all of your friends to Like your Page.
I know this may seem crazy to do during a time when Facebook is catching a lot of heat but promoters, venues, and music bloggers still look at social numbers so make sure yours are consistently growing (and don’t buy fake fans ever!)
One Month Before Music Release
Release Your First Single
You may want to consider releasing 2 singles – in this case, drop that in under 8 Weeks Before release! This is a great way to build buzz, get fans excited, and also get some music bloggers interested. Any reviews you can place will help build your overall online profile.
On the press side of the house, aim for appropriate blog targets. If you are a brand new artist, Pitchfork is probably NOT appropriate. Go for smaller, more targeted music blogs!
That being said, be sure to reach out to your “within reason” dream targets with your single(s). It’s not the best idea to wait to reach out to these loftier sites with your album.
Album reviews take a considerable amount of time and, if you look, most music sites are reserving these full album review slots for the most anticipated albums so don’t feel disappointed if you don’t get full album / EP reviews (they are not en vogue these days).
Download and read our Spotify & SoundCloud Guide to make sure both of those platforms are set up correctly and you have done what you need to to get these working for you.
Announce a Music Release Event: Live Show, Live Stream or Listening Party
If you play live shows, book a release show or a Live Stream and do something to make this show more special than the others. Decorate the venue, or your studio if you are live streaming. When we get back to normal life and you can have a real release party at an actual venue, work with the bar to create a special shot or cocktail, pre-sell a merch pack, hire a party bus, ask a food truck to pull outside the venue, etc.
You might want to consider a special interactive ticketed Zoom live stream using Sidedoor with a co-host to facilitate special moments with your audience. Here is our Live Stream marketing checksheet to help you along.
If you don’t play out, create a listening party at a small bar, create an after-work happy hour, or choose a local favorite coffee shop. If you are just starting and don’t think you can draw a large crowd, hold a listening house party with wine tasting, cupcake bake-off, fondue party, etc. Think about your fans and make this special for them. And, of course, the key is to announce that tickets are on sale and share links!
Launch Your Music PR or Playlisting Campaign
This is a great way to build buzz. If you are hiring a PR team, this will be when they will launch.
Two Weeks Before Music Release
Build the Momentum!
Keep the excitement up on your socials by scheduling countdowns across your socials.
Send an email to your superfans and ask them to sshare your music on release day on their socials. Give them the tools to do this properly. This means write the posts for them to share and provide the artwork!)
Write your “Day Of” Newsletter so it is ready to go out.
Hold a contest to win the new music or give away tickets to your show or listening party.
Be Ready For Release Day
Prep Your Website:
- Change the artwork on your homepage to announce the new music
- Add an announcement to the News section
Skin ALL socials with “out now!”
- Use Canva to size and design
- Create graphics for each platform to post
- Send out a newsletter announcement to your mailing list. You should ideally have already asked your super fans to help you get the word out!
- Change your bio to announce the release – add the musical note or an appropriate emoji, too! Add the streaming link
- Create a release tile and post with the album / single art and say “out now” with a CTA to click the link in your bio
- Create an Instagram Story video and post
- Go to Instagram Live and talk about the fact that the music is available and ask for fan feedback
- Make a fun video about the release – and Boost!
- Boost or Buy an Ad announcing the release to your fans and a lookalike audience
- Edit the “About” section to include the new release
- Post a status update announcing your release, and pin it to the top as a timeline feature
- Go to Facebook Live and talk about the fact that the music is available and ask for fan feedback
- Header and Profile Photo: Keep these up to date and in line with the rest of your social profiles
- Image Gallery: Choose images most aligned with your brand and recent music
- Social Media Links: Add links to your socials. Here’s a How To from Spotify on adding those and an image gallery
- Spotify Bio: With 1500 characters to share with your fans, you can update this whenever it makes sense for you. Keep your bio updated, include shows, notable press, and new singles. Optimize your bio by tagging other artists when appropriate
- Add an Artist’s Pick: You can designate a song, album, or playlist as the “Artist’s Pick.” This will appear at the top of your profile with a note from you. You can add a custom image to your Pick or share tour dates if preferred. Read more here.
- Tweet out your release announcement
- Pin the tweet to the top of your profile page
- Go to Buffer and program the tweets for 1-3 times a day for the next 10 days
- Customize the banner to announce the new music
- Add your streaming link and mention the release the “About” section
- Upload a video of the cover art with the track playing in the background
And Finally … Keep Up The Momentum!
Phew! That was A LOT. Now, you have to keep the energy up and the word out. Your new baby will be new for quite some time; even though it feels like it may be the end of the journey, it is really just beginning.
Learn more about release plans with Ariel’s latest book Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity