We started with the Why’s of a music album release plan in Part 1.
Now it’s time for the How. Here’s your advance plan for the release.
6 Months In Advance / Finishing The Album
Budget - Take a good hard look at what you can afford to spend on promotion. If you're printing CDs, there's $1000-2000. Apart from that, you can get a lot done for $1500 of promotion, and more for $5000. But if you don't have that, you can still get it out there with digital distribution and the cheap version of everything here. You can't spend money you don't have. And shouldn't spend anything you don't want to on this uphill climb.
Advisors - Have a couple trusted friends listen to the record before you lock down the mix. Once you send if off for mastering, it's too late - it's pencils down time.
Lyrics Check - Are the lyrics articulated? You know your words because you've lived with the songs. But if a newbie listens and can't tell what you're saying, remix it or even re-record the lyric. You've spent 200-500 man hours on this thing, spend 1 more if you care about the lyrics.
Publishing Company - Do you have an affiliation with a songwriters "Performing Rights Organization"? If not, do it - pick ASCAP or BMI. I'm ASCAP and love them. And do you have a publisher? If not, don't worry. Just make up a name you like and voila, you're a publisher!
Copyright - Get songs to US Copyright office. There's some debate over if you'd get burned by not doing this. But if you want to do this right, get it done.
Artwork - This is going to take a while. Even if you don't print up CDs, you'll need artwork. If you ARE printing CDs, the specifications and templates can be exacting.
Printing CDs - Find CD printer and schedule if you're up for it. We've noticed a huge drop off in our CD sales vs. digital. Most of us don't even have a real CD player in our houses anymore. But remember this: If you are looking for any radio airplay, almost every radio station still wants to have physical CD copies. And a lot of reviewers still do as well. Not printing CDs can save you a lot of money, but you're cutting off some fans that want to support you at a live show and some radio/reviewers.
Explicit Content - Think about this before mastering. If there's one swear word on the whole album, it needs an explicit warning. This can take you out of consideration from a lot of places that would user your music; maybe a tv show wants to use your music but sees "Explicit" and moves on to the next artist. I'm all for swearing, we did it a lot on our Chubbed Up record. But it better be worth it for you to get the Explicit tag.
Mastering - Your engineer can master the record for you. But if you have the money, we really recommend using a separate mastering professional. It's just one more highly-qualified set of ears to really help your record for not that much extra money.
Release Date - Set your release date way in advance. If you think you'll need 4 months to get it ready, take 6 months.
College! - College radio or publications may be part of your target audience of influencers. Remember that they are not around in summer or winter break. If you have a release date of March, hit your college people in November - before there's a whole new person in that student position in January.
Covers - Any cover songs? If yes, then you must get the rights. It's very mechanical and reasonable. Go to the website for Harry Fox Agency (aka Songfile). It's easy. CD printers will not print an album with a cover song where you can't show rights and distributors won't distribute it digitally either.
Document Recording - Take photos and post social media during the recording. People love peeking behind the curtain, so let them enjoy it.
4 Months In Advance
Reviews - Get some reviews going. Start with your friends, ask them to describe the song and what they like about it. Ask your friends in music to give you a quick review. There are some services for paid reviewers, too - and not all are scams, several are really reasonably priced.
Testimonials List - If you have any previous reviews, press clippings, anything, make hay of these. And put these testimonials on your web site. They really do make a difference.
Your Street Cred - Try getting a Wikipedia or IMDB page going. If you've ever done more than just walk by a movie set, you can probably get a credit on IMDB. And you may be able to create a Wikipedia page for yourself as a musician if you have some documentable, objective evidence. You're building credibility here.
Photos - Get some really good photos together for your press kit, your website, your social media. No matter how many good photos you have, you will churn through all of them. So get as many as you possibly can.
Make Ads - If you have any money in your budget for advertising then early in the process, create a 30-second audio ad ready, and a 30-second video ad. Even little $25 Facebook Ads can really get you some new eyeballs and ears.
Create EPK - This is worthy of an article in and of itself. You HAVE to have an "Electronic Press Kit" up on a website where you can point reviewers, radio people and influencers to your music pre-release. You want it to be eye-catching, fun, describe you and your music quickly, easy to get photos, videos and music files. Seriously, if you need help or consultation with this part of things, feel free to reach out to me. This is important.
Which Media - Get a physical and digital distribution plan. CD Baby is a great digital distributor. Are you going to do CD Printing? Maybe Groovehouse or CD Baby is good, we've done both to great success. Do you want to do a little vinyl? I was silly enough with the Hiya record to also release on 8-track. I'm not kidding.
Codes - ISRC Codes are digital identifiers and definitely need to be on your music. You'll also want a UPC bar code on on a physical CD. Check into them with your distributor/printer, or ask us if you have a question.
Target Lists - Make lists of who you want to hear, review or play your album. I have a giant spreadsheet of 200-600 critics, 200-400 radio stations, 100 podcasts who like to review and promote indie bands. If you're list of people you're going to send your album to is only about 30-40 people that's not enough; I guarantee that record will be totally ignored for all intents and purposes.
First Contact - With the above list of reviewers/radio, etc. start by reaching out how you should get them your record. Tell them BRIEFLY (one sentence mentioning your genre) you have an album coming and you want them to be able to have it. How do they prefer to receive it?
Press Releases - Another subject worth a whole article. Journalists and bloggers need these. You'll be amazed how many print outlets will actually run your release word-for-word if they run the article. Now here's the thing about a release: Just because it's about you doesn't make it interesting. I'm begging you, do not write and embarrass yourself with a release that amounts to Local Band Releases Record. Make it interesting to strangers, the more unusual yet true the better.
Singles - Releasing any "singles" separately? If so, then make this part of your whole release plan. If your record comes out in June, then maybe release your lead single in April. For digital distribution, you need to create a separate release for an early single. The song can appear in distribution (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.) in multiple forms, that's fine.
3 Months In Advance
Soundcloud - Get shareable private version of album on Soundcloud. It's easy, free and often expected.
Shareable Folders - Create shareable private reviewer folders in Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. You'll link to these in your EPK. Have everything a reviewer needs (song files, bio, press releases, videos) in one place. Have them in everybody's "one place". Don't give anybody any chance to not download you.
Check Your Digital Footprint - Scrub the web for what's already up for you and your music on sites like ReverbNation, Broadjam, MySpace. Make sure there's not outdated content that you don't want on you out there.
Inner Circle - I love this idea that came from my friend Marvin Glover. Plan a small inner sanctum listening party for 2 months ahead. First of all, you can watch some people hear your record, a rarity. Gather quotes from them, these are great testimonials. But this also might form the core of your volunteer street team. This party could be the foundation of any help you're going to help. At the very least, it'll be a fun pizza night.
Send It Out - Compose inquiry emails carefully. Then send out to those radio and press lists. Take special note of this: Make this three months in advance of your release. Reviews don't happen within two weeks. Give yourself a chance to follow up with them. Don't put these people under a tough deadline for a favor they barely want to do for you. We've also noticed that lots of bloggers and reviewers really like being on the inside. It's kind of a boost and badge of honor for fledgling journalists to have an exclusive. Help them help you.
Email Tracking - Start tracking mails were opened, by whom etc. We strongly recommend services like Mailchimp or Drip to send out your emails. First of all, they will pass recipients' spam checks better. And you'll also be able to see who opened them, which email addresses bounced back, etc. The free version of Mailchimp will let you send to thousands, which is more than adequate for your reviewers/radio list.
Preparing CDs - On these promotional copies of your CD, remove the shrinkwrap. Don't give anybody an excuse to not listen. You'd be amazed how this cellophane can kill you. When it comes to promo copies, also add a label of your contact info - and perhaps recommended singles, your genre and a quick tag line. Do it.
Paid Reviews? - Second time we've said these but if you're short of professional reviewers, don't be afraid to get some reviews (paid, cheap) on Fiverr. It doesn't have to be a name music critic to give you credibility
Website Update - Don't wait for release date to have something on your webpage about the album. Whet their appetite.
Email Signature - Email signature in all correspondences account should nicely plug the album.
2 Months In Advance
LinkedIn Campaign - Want to find some music influencers that you have no previous relationship with? Search LinkedIn for "rock radio producer" or "jazz journalist". Reach out to these people with a short message. They're read rando LinkedIn messages more than a rando email. Don't pretend to be a star, that's lame. Tell them what an indie you are and what your album is like and that you're looking to be pointed in the right direction.
Show Your Lyrics - Put your lyrics or album credits on your public site early. More anticipatory content and it does nothing to spoil or steal the thunder from your release.
Free Download? - Figure out any possible free download for mailing list signup, etc. Maybe an out-take or alternate version of a song from the album is a nice enticement. Or it's at least a nice gift for your mailing list.
Mailing List - Speaking of your mailing list, be sending album teaser content once a month til the release. The people who are already interested in you are always your best audience and your best advocates.
Plan A Party - Plan the real CD Release party around release time. That party is to promote - so to get some journalists, musicians and local radio there, it better be a novel idea - or bribe them with free drinks and food. Reporters love a free lunch more than the next man. The other purpose of this release party is to get your people excited and let you celebrate with your friends. If you release party is a BBQ in your backyard, then great! It's better than an expensive night renting a club where no journalists show up.
Pandora - Go to the Pandora site and go through their process. Your normal digital distribution services do NOT automatically get it to Pandora. We had a surprise barrage of Pandora plays on a deep album track of ours once. A total bonus.
Ads - Buy audio ads on podcasts, video ads on YouTube. You can do this for pretty cheap. Line up your ads in advance - but do NOT have them run until the songs are available for purchase somewhere.
Covenient Links - You are going to have a lot of links for people to see (various music services, social media handles, etc.) So create a LinkTree URL to list in email signature and social profiles - one link that will take them everywhere they need to go.
Social Media - Start getting that album related content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
Music Video - If you've got the money, make a music video. Personally, we've spent big money for a great video that didn't have much of a tangible return. But if you can get a cheap video maker on Fiverr or Upwork or something, you might have a killer video for $100. Or feel free to put something together yourself. Have a video!
One Month Ahead
Sell It Online - Set up album in merch store / Shopify. Be selling it SOMEWHERE digitally.
More Mailing List - Keep that excitement going. Even if they don't eventually buy the record, it reminds people that you're taking your music life seriously.
Promote Your Video - Submit video to video sites. It's all new eyeballs. And if your video is great, you've got a chance of it going viral. Who knows?
Songwriting - Register Works - Mentioned earlier in this article. But double check that all album songs in ASCAP/BMI are there, enter ISRC codes.
Followers - Go on Twitter and Instagram rampage to gain followers. And make sure you're back in the habit of posting regular content.
More Ads - Place Facebook or Google ads. I recommend Facebook ads. The Facebook crowd is more of a record-BUYING demographic than Google people who tend to be more Spotify people, aka expect to be able to listen for free.
Lyrics Sites - Submit lyrics online to lyrics sites. It's another audience. Don't pass up any audience.
Yes, There’s A Part 3
We were almost done, but since this giant article is over 4200 words, we wanted to break it up into three parts. We get more bang for our blogging buck this way.
The time-of-release and post-release stuff is will run here begnning October 11, 2022.