Imagine this. You have finally created your latest song. In fact, you think it might be your best so far. So you’re ready to release it.
But…You’re a little worried.
What if you release it and the reaction to it is ridiculously underwhelming?
A lot of musicians share your fear, and it’s not tough to guess why.
From first-hand experience to other musicians’ stories floating around, your fear that your best release will fall flat is certainly not unwarranted and can make you feel incredibly uncertain of whether or not you should even release the song.
This uncertainty, though, can be avoided.
Working on a solid music release strategy is what you need to do away with your fears, as well as potential negative outcomes.
How to create a great music release strategy
Although a lot of my tips are Spotify-centric, you will find that the essence of each piece of advice holds true for any platform you choose to release your music to. The only thing that will be different is the intricacy of the steps involved.
Here are the top 10 things I recommend you should be doing to create an effective music release strategy.
Get yourself a distributor
Even before the age of digital music, musicians needed to find good music distributors to work with. Today, the need for a distributor is even bigger than before.
Distributors are the people who bridge the gap between your unreleased track and your (potential) audience. A distributor can help you put your music on the platforms where you are most likely to find your audience.
At the moment, the biggest channel for musicians to be on is Spotify – and everyone wants to be on it. With 299 million active users in 2020, Spotify has the biggest audience, making it the preferred choice for musicians releasing their songs. Spotify does not directly deal with artists, so you’re going to have to approach a distributor.
As an independent artist or a label, you can benefit greatly by working with one of Spotify’s own preferred distributor list, because these distributors are most likely to know the ins and outs of releasing your music to Spotify.
You can stay up-to-date with who Spotify’s preferred distributors are, here: https://artists.spotify.com/directory/distribution.
Other popular channels, on which you can have your music distributed, are:
▪️ Google Play
▪️ Apple Music
…And many, many more – from international channels to country-specific ones.
Some of the most popular distributors that can help you release your music across these platforms are:
▪️ CD Baby
Use the Pre-Save feature on Spotify
Spotify’s Pre-Save feature has been instrumental in boosting the success of new releases. How this works is simple. You share a link with your audience prior to the release of your song, and they click on the ‘pre-save’ button. On the day of your song’s release, the song automatically gets saved to people’s libraries.
To Spotify’s algorithm, what this means is that people are immediately saving your music on the day of the release; which, to the algorithm, conveys that users like your song. This will further enhance the likelihood of other people finding your music, because the algorithm will then recommend your music to other users.
If you are registered with DistroKid, you can use HyperFollow, which is a free tool available to all DistroKid members. You simply go to: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow and get the pre-save link to your upcoming release.
If you’re using another service, like CD Baby or EMUBands, you can contact your aggregator for the Spotify URI to your track.
Then, you need to sign up for SmartURL, and once you have the Spotify URI, you can go onto your SmartURL account, select pre-save, and enter the URI into the Spotify Product ID section.
You also have the option to customize how your pre-save page will look to your audience.
Upon hitting ‘Save SmartURL’, you will be taken to a page, where you can find your shareable link.
Including this pre-save link in your marketing campaign can help you target listeners even before you release your song, which guarantees that your song will automatically be saved to the libraries of a considerable chunk of your audience.
Get access to your “Spotify for Artists” page
Spotify for Artists is a fantastic platform for you and anyone on your team to view important insights and promote your music. Along with the ability to track which of your releases are performing the best, you will also be able to learn about how your fans discover and listen to your music.
The access to such detailed insights are a boon, for they can help you improve and optimize your promotional campaigns, and plan your future releases.
How to get access to your Spotify for Artists page:
If you already have music on Spotify
Additionally, you can also become a verified Spotify artist, giving you the prestigious ‘blue tick’ on your profile that has become synonymous with credibility in the digital world.
If you’ve released your music on Spotify before, it is really easy for you to claim your Spotify for Artists profile. Go to https://artists.spotify.com/claim and paste the link to your release in the box.
As an individual artist, you will be required to share some personal information, after which the Spotify team will review your application and get back to you with your verified profile.
If your label is taking care of this part for you, just skip ahead.
Once you have access to your artist page, go ahead and customize your profile page.
A quick note here is that if you’re releasing music through Spotify’s preferred distributors, you can instantly get access to your Spotify for Artists profile.
If you’re releasing your music to Spotify for the first time
If you are yet to release your music, you can claim your artist profile by getting in touch with your label or distributor and requesting them for your personal Spotify URI link. You can enter this in the ‘Find Yourself’ box when you follow the steps to claim your profile, after which your application will be processed.
Once Spotify has given your artist profile the green light, you can work on customizing your artist profile page to prepare for the release!
Customizing your profile
Write a bio that tells your fans who you are and add professional photos. You can also add ‘Artist’s pick’ songs, and create featured playlists. These customizations to your Spotify for Artists profile are generally a welcome source of audience engagement.
Update your social media
This is a tip you’ve definitely heard and read of, before: Use social media!
In 2020, most people already know that using social media is huge. It’s also a great place for artists to strike conversation with fans, track and monitor campaigns, and create memorable personal brands.
Social media campaigns and content centred around your new releases are a great way to keep your fans excited.
Updating your social media with information about your new releases can be different levels of complex, depending on the resources you have.
If you’re looking to do something minimalistic but effective, activities like updating your Facebook cover image with the release date or including the pre-save link in your Instagram bio can go a long way.
If you’ve got time on hand and are looking at spicing things up a little, it can help to have a brainstorming session to come up with innovative campaign ideas.
For instance, recently, JP Saxe announced a giveaway on Twitter, where a limited number of printed hoodies for his latest single “Hey Stupid, I Love You” were up for grabs. Fans were told to enter their personal details and participate in activities that gave them ‘points’. The activities included listening to 30 seconds of the track, amongst others. The idea was that the more the points that someone gathered, the higher their chances were of winning the hoodie.
The key to creating high-complexity campaigns of this sort is planning them way ahead in advance. If it’s your first time releasing your music, make sure you have the time and resources at hand before you plunge into a creative campaign!
The idea really is to have your social media reflect when your next release is. So whether you choose to go forth with simply updating your banners/links or delve into a more complex campaign, the goal here is to let your audience know that something is coming their way, and when they should expect it.
A frequently-used phrase you’ll have heard of is ‘content marketing’ – which can help boost the efficacy of your release campaigns. With regular content, generally in the form of photos and videos (and sometimes, text), you can generate interest in your art amongst people.
As a musician, the main thing you need to use your social media for, is to establish a connect with your fans and other audience members. Here are some popular content ideas that musicians use in their content marketing strategies:
▪️ Performance photos
▪️ Performance videos
▪️ Snippets of music videos
▪️ Live performances
▪️ Behind-the-scenes photos and videos
▪️ Anecdotes from their lives
▪️ Causes they believe in and stand for
A regular content strategy that keeps your social media up to date is likely to give you optimized results when you post content related to upcoming releases. This is because the more active you are, the more likely it is that people will interact with your content. The more the people that interact with your content, the more visible your posts will be.
Announce the release of your song
By extension to the previous tip, you now understand the importance of announcing the release of your song. To announce the release of your song, you can create one or several different types of content to distribute on your social media channels.
Here are some ideas:
▪️ Share your album cover.
▪️ Share a snippet of your music video, if you have one.
▪️ Share a snippet of your track, placed on an image of your album art (in case you don’t have a music video).
▪️ An image of you at work.
▪️ A video of you playing a snippet of the song.
▪️ A video of you, announcing the release of your song.
Although you’ve already told your audience prior to your release that they can expect a new release soon, telling them once your song is out can remind them to go check it out. Sometimes, people may have forgotten to pre-save your song. Or they may have forgotten the exact date of the release, even if they pre-saved it.
‘Out Now’ social media posts in any format are a welcome way for your audience to know that the day they’ve been waiting for has arrived; especially if they’d forgotten about it.
Set a goal
While creating music, you often set goals. You decide what you want to achieve with the song you’ve written and accordingly, you can chart out what your input should be for the required outcome.
Similarly, when planning for a release, goal-setting is vital for you to identify what you need to do to work towards it. Depending on the point at which you are in your musical career, your goals could be one or multiple of a diverse set of choices. Some goals you can consider for your new releases are:
▪️ A minimum number of streams
▪️ A minimum number of song-saves
▪️ A minimum number of YouTube views
▪️ An increase in social media followers
The bottom-line here is that whatever your goal is, try to dive deeper into it to make it as specific and measurable as possible. The more specific your goal is, the easier it becomes for you to measure the success of your release and to plan future releases.
Set a timeline for your goals
An added dimension of goal-setting is the timeline.
When you are planning your release, it can be easy to get caught up in a variety of different tasks, some of which show up unannounced. These tasks, as rewarding as they are, can also feel like a never-ending vortex. Defining your goals and a timeline for these goals is a useful way to outline by when you wish to achieve your goals. This, in turn, helps you bring your goals from the future into the now – thus putting you in the driver’s seat of achieving your desired outcome.
Update images and artwork
Using the same images over and over again can bore your audience. Nobody wants to see the same images or artwork over and over again – not your audience, and least of all, you.
Your releases will need artwork that represents your style, the ‘feel’ of your music, and your overall personal brand. Creating your artwork might seem like a daunting task but does not have to be.
If you are looking for illustrative art and don’t know how to do it yourself, you can find some brilliant freelancing designers on Fiverr, Upwork, and even on social media. This, however, will most likely need you to plunge into your financial resources. The cost will heavily depend on the level of skill of the artist and the complexity of what you want.
You can also opt for photo-based artwork. If you are hiring a photographer for the job, that will probably cost you, too. But you may also choose to use your existing photographs or make the most of online libraries where you can find thousands of stock images. For free-to-use stunning photos, Unsplash and Pexels are great choices. Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Envato Elements also offer tons of stunning photographs that you can download, but these libraries require you to pay for them.
If you’re creating your own album art and don’t know what software to turn to, Canva, Adobe Spark, PlaceIt and GIMP are some free tools you can use.
If you already have access to Adobe PhotoShop and know how to use it, you can find graphic templates for album artwork online that will make artwork-creation a breeze!
Along with your artwork for your releases, you should also get someone to do a creative photoshoot for you, every now and then. Don’t forget – people LOVE to see photos of people; especially artists whose work they enjoy. From performance photographs to candid ones, having a regularly updated library of your own photos keeps your social media and artist profile pages fresh, and gives your audience a glimpse into what you’ve been up to.
Get blog features
One of the trickier ones on this list, you will need to approach music bloggers to feature your music. This process is trickier, primarily because the well-established blogs that can guarantee a high amount of traction on your music, receive scores of submissions.
To give yourself a fair chance, you should definitely start doing this well ahead of your release date, so that these music blogs actually have a chance to find your submission and review it. By giving them enough time to look through your application and gauging whether they would like to cover it, you allow yourself some breathing room; otherwise, you’d end up in quite a frenzy if you realized much too late that these blogs require more time than you accounted for.
Along with approaching bigger blogs, you must also approach smaller blogs. These blogs are more likely to receive your music and give you a shoutout on their blog, since they are looking to grow their own following.
Especially if you’re at the early stages of your musical career, the owners of small blogs are likely to understand your aspirations (since they have similar ones) and publish your music on their blog.
The benefits of approaching small blogs don’t end there, though! With a diverse set of music-enthusiasts talking about your music, your online presence is likely to see a boost; even if it’s smaller music blogs doing the talking. You will find it far easier to develop a personal connect with the talent behind these music blogs, which opens up the door for in-depth interviews. This gives your audience insights into your life and your personality, engaging them more than ever!
So how do you pick blogs that you should approach? Whether you’re contacting a small music blog or a big one, the tasks you’ll have to carry out are identical.
▪️ Do your research and find both, genre-specific and genre-agnostic blogs. If it’s a genre-agnostic blog, identify the writer(s) who write within your genre and contact them.
▪️ Check each website for submission guidelines. Following these guidelines can up your chances of getting featured.
▪️ Consider sharing exclusive content with them to excite their audience with something that they’ve not seen before.
▪️ When you contact them, be as precise as possible. Include all relevant links (music, social media, website, etc.)
▪️ Professionalism matters. Grammar is important, spelling is important, and your tone of communication is SUPER important. Having a fresh pair of eyes proof your email before you send it out can be a blessing, helping you avoid errors you hadn’t noticed.
Book a Radio Interview
This one’s perhaps the most difficult one on the list. Booking a radio interview is both, difficult and rewarding.
Although the popularity of radio has diminished, the goal should be to make your presence felt on every single platform possible, to reach a larger audience and cause a buzz before your release – especially if you are an emerging artist.
The thing with radio is that it caters to a broad audience, which includes people who you may have never thought would enjoy your music.
Although it is inarguably difficult to reach out to and have your music played by radio stations, you should try to book an interview with one. Smaller, local radio stations are naturally easier to get in touch with; maybe you can even check if you know someone who knows someone working at a radio station near you!
If you get an interview, they will definitely play your song at least once, while you’re there!
I hope that these tips have you feeling a lot less nervous about releasing your music than before, and I am confident that consistent efforts into building a great strategy, will take you a long way!