I’m sure I’m not the only one to have ever rushed an EP release. I recorded, released and even created a band name all in the same weekend. Although it’s my favourite release to date, it wasn’t the powerhouse it should have been. There are very simple reasons why it flopped, and I’m here to tell you how to release and market professionally.
[Have a look at our Understanding Album Cycles course if you’re still a bit unsure about album cycles]
What are you releasing?
This should be obvious. But it’s sometimes not so simple. A single can easily evolve into an EP, and an EP to an album. However, it’s vitally important to define what you’re going to record to ensure the marketing/promotional strategy is the right fit for this particular release. Make a tentative release date as well as it’s important to work towards target dates and timelines.
[Check out our Music Release course]
What do you want to achieve?
Sounds a bit silly, but you know what’s sillier? Paying $2000 to record and getting diddily squat. You need to be realistic and grounded, but still push for good plausible goals. Do you want to get played on triple J unearthed radio, or be featured on your favourite music blog? Set a few big, yet grounded goals and go for it. Keep in mind, hitting a triple platinum sales level with your first release is highly unlikely (though not unheard of), so consider this as mostly a marketing exercise.
How much coin do you have?
Do you want to record with Steve Albini, or have you already lined up a stellar producer and/or engineer who can record you for $50 in his basement? One thing a lot of upcoming musicians don’t realise is that you need to create a budget. Mainly so you don’t end up, for example, without album artwork because you can’t afford it. If you budget from the start of the planning process you can account for most things and minimise risk. Another thing to consider is applying for some grants (talk to The Australia Council or your state arts organisation for advice) or maybe you have enough of a fan base to try out crowd funding. The budget for the recording/release process can change the entire scope of release, so find out where you’re at with financials from the start.
[Check out our Music Funding course]
You already know who you’re recording with and you’ve budgeted a day, an hour, or perhaps a whole week based on the negotiated studio/producer/engineer fees. Now is the time to get the best recording you can that fully captures who you are. Shockingly enough, this is where the whole process can come undone, or be done. Make sure your songs are polished and shiny long before you go into record to minimize mistakes, save money and record the best representation of that track, EP or album. Having the best quality recording is vital. If the track sounds like you’re underwater, or in the windiest part of Mt Everest, most people won’t listen to it – not matter how good that sick outro riff is.
[Check out our Recording your Music course]
This is really part 1 of the marketing 3 step process; actual release marketing and post-release marketing will come later. If you’ve ever struggled to find someone’s website/Facebook/email/video clip then you’ll know why this section is so damn important. You’d better already have your name in every social network possible or so help you… Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud and a proper email address should be the absolute starting point. If you have a website (which you should if you’re hoping to really draw some crowds), make sure your URL is easy to get to and is linked on every one of your social media pages. Think cross-integration, because people should see one consistent brand – your band! Make sure your Logo, imagery and typefaces are consistent across the board too. No one wants to read your bio in Helvetica and then be slammed in the face with comic sans when reading your tour dates.
Google Your Brand
Do it, because you know everyone who wants to learn about you is going to do it too. See what they see. If your websites are all disjointed and don’t work together, fix it. If you struggle finding your band then fix it. If you find your MySpace page from 7 years ago that still has a horrible recording and emo selfies of you from high school, then get rid of it. You’re a professional now, so make sure you look like one.
How do you look to the Industry?
It’s always important to see how fans perceive your online presence. But you won’t have any fans without some good rep from the ‘industry’. These ‘industry’ people don’t like bad layouts, wrong or no contact information, no links to music or demos and no sense of professionalism.
[Check out our Marketing & PR course]
Music Videos, Artwork and Merchandise
You’ve been listening to the recordings for a while and you think you know the singles. You might even know what song needs a music video. Organise and plan your visual style. This should be evident in what sort of photos you’ve selected for your website or Facebook. Trying to be mysterious? Or do you prefer hula girls for your rockabilly act? A clear visual style will help with the creation of your artwork, t-shirt designs and music video. If you are creating a music video, it’s a great idea to include it as the first single in the lead-up to the main release of your EP or album. This can give fans an insight into your story/visual style and get them amped up for the main release. We’ll concentrate on understanding your audience shortly, however you should already have an idea of the sort of merchandise they may want. Black t-shirts, beanies, coffee mugs, cooking spoons and paddle-pop-sticks have all been sold well to the right audience – so get creative, but make sure it will sell!
Just one quick pointer though: It’s a good idea to consider holding off spending your money on an expensive video until you know for sure that the single is getting airplay and some traction. Once the signs are there, then get ready to jump, fast! You might want to have your storyline/production team on standby ahead of the single release, just in case…. Youtube is littered with the ghosts of songs that never went anywhere despite the insane $4000 video – 176 views mostly by bandmates and family.
[Check out our Music Design course]
You already have a release date, so you know how fast it’s coming up. Sit down and sort out if you want to sell it on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD, Vinyl, Tape, Phonograph, only sell it online, or only sell physical copies. If you’re jumping on the vinyl bandwagon (because you have a LOT of money) know that it takes MONTHS to organise, test press, press, pack and ship vinyl. CD’s are a lot easier, however it could be said that they’re becoming more defunct. There are a heap of options so choose wisely and plan ahead.
Promotion (Marketing Pt. 2)
Understanding your Audience.
Are you a fresh band, or do you already have a few hundred fans, or a few thousand? No matter how many fans/listeners or likes you have, knowing and understanding your audience is important. Here’s where you need to get a bit studious and write out a fan profile.
Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself: who are they? 40 year old dudes who love some old-school rock n roll, or 17-29 youngsters who like to drink and party.
Where do they get their information? Facebook? Twitter? Maybe they love YouTube?
And lastly, how do they like being interacted with? Do they like playful banter, or perhaps straightforward short bites of information?
Build up a profile so you can interact with them better.
What media route is best suited?
Your media strategy is going to much easier now that you know who you’re targeting. The DIY approach is getting much more popular considering the simplicity of the Internet. However, if you want a full scale advertising assault and have enough money in your budget for a professional, a promoter can work wonders in the lead-up to a release. If you do decide to go DIY, make sure you have an extensive media list, write professional emails, cover all bases, and DO NOT CC THE ENTIRE MEDIA LIST. BCC means blind carbon copy so the hundred people you emailed won’t see the other 100 email addresses – USE IT.
Finalise the promotional plan.
Write down the dates you’ll send or post your release details or media releases. Depending on where you’re sending your information, plan accordingly. Newspapers might go out weekly (and will forget about yours if you send it a month in advance), however a magazine might only print once a month, so timing is everything. If you’re using Facebook, get the timing right. People don’t tend to use Facebook on a Saturday night, or anytime after midnight. So don’t post up your big release at 1am when you’ve stayed up all night to do it.
You’ll need to start at least your online promotions 8 weeks in advance. It’s all about frequency. People remember things they see constantly. This doesn’t mean spam everyone, but make sure you’re posting up something every few days, whether it’s a picture, a small audio clip or the music video.
Congratulations. Hopefully everything has gone great and Radiohead didn’t surprise drop an album the same day.
Promote AGAIN (Marketing Pt. 3)
Keep pushing the release! Make sure to post up any reviews or share places that have featured your tracks. Even if it’s not going so well, it’s important to at least keep up appearances and push all the great feedback you’ve got so far. You might have noticed that your demographic or target platform has changed, so now is the time to adjust your marketing plan to best push your release post-launch.
A few months have passed and you’re back from a tour, or you’re thinking about starting the new release. You NEED to review your last release. Did the release meet your expectations? What did or didn’t work? And if things didn’t work, what can you improve on? Write some notes that you can keep for next release. Reviewing your past release can greatly better your next release cycle.
START AGAIN AND KEEP PUSHING
For more advice on marketing your music, check out our premium video content on Marketing and PR.