I get asked about release plans and timelines quite a lot and have put together a fair few in my time, so thought I would share and outline some basic thoughts of mine as relating to the self-releasing musician or band. Keep in mind, every release project is different — what might work for one band may not work for another — however you should hopefully find most of the below tips relevant. Of course there is much more you can do and tailor accordingly, but this should be a good starting point.
An important question to ask yourself first and foremost is how you want to be portrayed, whether this is your first or your fifth release. There are great blogs out there about building up your “brand” and I highly encourage you to look them up. Consistency and quality should be the overriding factors that shape your campaign — this applies to all content, messaging, sales, as well as all live and promotional activities. Please do yourself a favour and read up on all best practices for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (or other preferred sites). There is a wealth of great information out there.
4-6 MONTHS BEFORE RELEASE
In my experience, everything in the DIY world takes more time (for the most part). This may not be true for everyone, but when budgets are low, resources limited and favours plentiful, delays are bound to take place. Records take longer to record, mix and master. Videos take longer to film and edit. Website work can drag on, artwork can be difficult to finalise and spec…. you get my point, so be mindful of it.
So, 4-6 months ahead of release would be a good time to:
- Get your single/EP/album recorded and mixed
- Start work on the artwork
- Do a photo shoot
- Sort out a distribution agreement: Figure out if physical distribution makes sense for you or whether digital-only is the way forward. Negotiating the right contract for you can take time and be costly if lawyers are involved, so educate yourself as much as possible prior to starting this process. There are of course routes that do not involve distributors at all but in today’s world (2013 at time of writing), having your music out on every major digital store around the world is invaluable.
- Start working on consistent social media re-skins: Make sure your FB/ Twitter/YouTube channel/artist website all look visually appealing and consistent
- Do you have an official site? If not, register your domain and set one up. If yes, is it up to date or does it need to be refreshed?
- Brainstorm a list of social media content you will aim to put out over the course of your campaign
- If investing in a publicist and/or radio team, arrange meetings with all prospective people and be ready to have them hired by the end of this period
- Sign up with a mailing list company for a regular newsletter (Mail Chimp/ FanBridge / Constant Contact)
CONTENT TIPS: Compile studio footage, photos of writing sessions, photos of song arrangements or sheet music if applicable, release snippets from demos, behind-the-scenes at photo shoot.
3 MONTHS BEFORE RELEASE
- Get your release mastered
- Register all tracks with Gracenote
- Register with a collecting society (i.e. PPL in the UK). Clients of The Orchard can take advantage of our worldwide Collections service on offer. Contact your client rep if you’d like to find out more.
- If you don’t have a distributor or third party handling this for you, register your tracks with said collecting society
- Finalise all release artwork
- Finalise a new biography/press release
- Set up a private stream of record (The Orchard Press Kit/SoundCloud/The Orchard Promo Player — all available via The Orchard Marketplace)
- Send out newsletter announcing your release to your mailing list. Tip: include a private link to an exclusive YouTube video of a rehearsal/writing session/listening session.
- If applicable, print promo copies of your release (cheap options include plastic sleeve CDRs with printed insert; most companies can turn these around within 48 hours and they look great).
- Get new website + all social media pages ready for launch
- Start teasing your fanbase with more regular updates
- If doing a press campaign, your promo team will want to begin work now. If doing it yourself, service all long-lead press.
- Start thinking about merch: Who will create designs? What will be on offer? Get quotes from various companies and make an educated decision with regards to quantities.
- Is your music radio-friendly? If so, start doing thorough research on all potential radio targets to reach out to next month. If you are hiring a radio plugger, they will hopefully have all bases covered.
- Gig gig gig… I won’t go into too much detail since it will vary from one artist to the next, but you need to be gigging leading up to release and certainly following on from release.
CONTENT TIPS: Create a release announcement video, gig announcement video, share a stripped down performance, share album art or teasers of it, build excitement.
2 MONTHS BEFORE RELEASE
- Launch new/updated website + all re-skinned social media sites
- If doing a D2C campaign (selling directly to fans via a D2C platform or via website), set up a pre-order limited edition bundle (this could be as simple as offering signed and numbered copies, or as intricate as a £100+ package including merch, vinyl, poster, special items, VIP passes…). Check out Ganxy and DIY Music in The Orchard Marketplace.
- Start radio campaign. Check out iPluggers for an affordable plugging service that could complement your own efforts.
- Set up pre-orders for digital (and physical or D2C if applicable). Spread the word as much as possible, include the link in social media messaging, newsletter, online features and blogs, etc. Your distributor should give you the option of choosing an exact date for when the pre-order goes live, both physical and digital (The Orchard Workstation lets you select your own preferred date at the time of uploading via Release Builder).
- Announce official release date + release artwork + tracklisting
- Start online campaign towards end of this period. Either hire an online promo team or start reaching out to relevant blogs, news sites, tastemakers, live listings sites, etc.
- If doing a song or video premiere next month, create a top 5 list of potential online partners, and start pitching now.
- Newsletter tip: Announce the release of your first single, and promise an exclusive free download or preview via mailing list only. The more exclusive your mailing list becomes, the more success you will have with building it and making it a focal point of your messaging.
CONTENT TIPS: Create behind the scenes/making-of official video, playthrough of tracks, post photos of lyric sheets, official photos, post/share early press and online reviews. Set up a release-specific Facebook tab using a service such as FanRx, available in The Orchard Marketplace.
1 MONTH BEFORE RELEASE
- Be sure to update your distributor on every bit of activity you are doing. All press/radio/online results, all touring activity, high quality content, and EVERYTHING else. Your distributor will be pushing your release during this period and if you can provide them with enough ammunition, they should be able to properly fight your corner and get your music out to as many people as possible via various means.
- Push your pre-order link more than ever, but make sure that “sales” messages from you do not make up more than 25-30% of all messaging.
- Release a professionally-shot “official” video for one of your songs. This is based upon a one-single-prior-to-release approach. If your budget stretches to more than one video, you will want to release a first video around the 6-10 week mark, and another around the 2 week mark. Need help finding a director/film team? A service such as Radar, available in The Orchard Marketplace, could be very helpful.
- Make sure the song for which you have shot the video is available to buy/stream by the time the video is premiered.
- Do thorough press and radio pushes leading up to release, or stay on top of your hired teams to make sure they do so. Remember, the more you show you care, the higher the likelihood of your enthusiasm being replicated by those around you.
- Newsletter tip: Provide a free download link to first single and video sneak peak one week prior to official release, exclusive photos, invite to private living room performances where release will be available for purchase ahead of release date, invite to launch gig, contests for tickets, contest for VIP passes, etc.
CONTENT TIPS: Set up a Q&A section on your website or via a 3rd party platform and encourage more dialogue, release live footage of a full new song, release an official video for single, upload an acoustic performance of your single or other track from the album, upload photos of the exclusive packages you are selling, upload photos of physical items as your receive them.
DAY OF RELEASE
- Make a big splash about your release! Encourage your fan base to share share share — share photos of fans with your album, share stream links, share download/buy links, share videos, share photos, etc. This can be helped by the creation of easily sharable widgets, embeddable players… the easier you make it for people to spread the word, the better the results.
- Upload all of your tracks onto YouTube with the album artwork. YouTube is the #1 music search engine and should be looked at as a streaming platform. Make sure you are monetising your views either via your distributor or via Google directly.
- Send out newsletter on this day with all buy and all stream links
- If playing a launch gig, post soundcheck photos, gig photos, and post-gig photos
- Encourage fans to write reviews of your release and feature them on your site/blog/social media
- Ask questions on social media! Favourite tracks? Favourite lyric? Favourite musical passage? The list goes on and on.
Stay tuned for PART 2: How to Keep Momentum Alive Post-Release