13 Things to do for a Successful Album Release – In this modern hell-scape for the starving artist, it’s rough to tell who is friend and who is foe. Below, I will lay out my findings and hopefully they will help you. This isn’t a how to article, it’s a how in the hell do I do this article.
In late June / early July 2019 I released my first ever solo album, Get Your Shit Together! I recall it being a Tuesday morning and having a eureka moment; I was…. Done. My brain child was tweaked as much as necessary and ready to see the light of day. I had never been more excited. I hit publish on my album release with no plan, no marketing budget, no idea what in the fuck I was doing. There was a romanticised notion that by simply putting it out there the people would come. Shit, was I wrong.
Don’t get me wrong –
The idea of a ‘surprise drop’ is super fun and it gave a special thrill. I wouldn’t really change a thing in that regard. It did teach me a hell of a lot, though, and I’d be remiss to not share my experiences with my fellow tunesters. For as much appreciation as I had for the idea of a ‘surprise drop’, I will not be going about that approach again, unless magically I’ve made a name for myself. It’s perfect if you’re established of course, makes you trendy.
You’ve read this before. I’m not reinventing the wheel here.
For as many ‘Fans’ as you have, your release ensures your mom, 3rd cousin and Aunt Bess will be your only followers. Simply and bluntly put, no one cares about the hours you spent slaving, sweating and mixing. They hear 3-4 minutes of efforts, not hours. So, how the hell do I get people as excited as me about my release?
BE EXCITED! You just accomplished a bucket list item. Fucking celebrate! Use that energy to let the whole world know. How? Why, any Independent Musicians go-to – social media. Start stoking the flames early. Create some mystery. Get people curious and you’ll find more genuine listens and followers come your way.
Join your niches community on these platforms. We’re all in this together and you’d be surprised how supportive everyone can be. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it takes time and patience. You’ll want to quit. Hang in there and post regularly. If you stay engaged, again, the people will come. 2 and a half months post-release I’m still on this grind and do not see it ending anytime soon, if ever.
To try to be helpful here I’ll rattle off some common things worth your while across platforms. #synthfam on Twitter is a very welcoming group of folks. Definitely hit them up. R/WeAretheMusicMakers on Reddit is alright. Full disclosure, there are plenty of wanks there, but mostly those folks try to assist when not shit posting you. Give them a try. Surprisingly, Facebook is a damn treasure trove of groups chock full of people looking to do the same thing as you.
Don’t get scammed. Repeat – Don’t get impatient as this will only lead to a waste of money and disappointment. This is my primary reason for writing this article in the first place. We all get burned. I hope to do my part to sate this prevalent and confusing issue.
The fraudsters are good at what they do. It’s how they stay in business. It will seem legit. It will be too good to be true because it is. Spotify themselves ask you to not trust services promising plays or followers. A) It’s bullshit, which I’ll explain later, and B) You need to be wary of violating Spotify’s TOS, they will remove your Artist profile.
Any time I’ve gone against this grain of their advice it’s bitten me. I speak from experience. You’ll just have to trust me on this one..
Be sure to set aside a fair chunk of change to utilize Spotify Ad Studio. Their services do not come cheap (bringing me back to the point of making sure you establish a feasible and reasonable marketing budget) though. At a minimum, their services begin at $250. Pardon my memory, but I believe that amount of cash only nets you about a week of promo. So, is it expensive? Hell yeah it is. Now, is it worth it? Without a doubt in my mind. It’s been a little bit since I ran a campaign, but here’s a broad overview of what I recall –
Spotify Ad Studio is pretty cool if you set aside the price factor from your mind. On free listener accounts there are ads shown between tracks. Ad Studio utilizes this time to insert your ad into a listener’s Spotify experience where it’s ‘algorithm’ believes the listener will appreciate your work. You have complete control over the ad seen. You can insert your music in the background or have a professional voice over, written by you, read aloud by one of their vocal artists. You can get very granular as to who you target and below I share my future plans for Ad Studio, where that is explained much more in-depth – So, please keep reading –
Set aside some of your marketing budget in order to advertise on Instagram and Facebook. I’m yet to determine which is proving more fruitful but Facebook owns both companies so what’s it hurt to push your material in multiple locations? I’m
Notes – finish half assed explanation here
Use Community.spotify.com for landing yourself on some eclectic personally curated playlists. Still be wary of anyone promising playlist placement, or asking for payment on anything. However, this website is merely an old school forum. You post, or someone else does and the thread just goes from there. Stay active and up to date on trends seen there and you’ll find yourself in a surprising position, where people are actually seeking you out rather than vice versa.
It’s the 21st century. Get a website. Don’t cheap out here. Just pull the trigger. It’s way easier to find chuckw.com than search Spotify for Chuck W. where you’d need to actively be looking for me in particular to even find me.
Don’t know shit about web design? Neither do I! But, you’re reading this on my website, right? So, what to do and how did I get here?
There’s a boatload of services for building a website with no prior experience. Personally, I use WordPress. I’m not exactly their biggest fan and have tussled with switching companies but in the end it’s too much a pain in the ass.
That said, WordPress is easily outsourced to people who know what they’re doing. I utilize the extraordinary services of a Nigerian Gentleman who I cannot endorse enough. He’s on Fiverr at – https://www.fiverr.com/s2/0eabd00e4d
Simply put, get a website. If for no other reason then to provide another outlet for yourself. You cannot gain enough exposure… Ever. I cannot convey that strongly enough. Give people something easy and catchy to remember. Chuckw.com is way easier to remember than https://open.spotify.com/artist/31AbYEGiwvr8SoESMzdD6s?si=bk0iSepkR–dLHO9UQReMg
Have a Budget and a plan. Don’t go in blind! Follow this budget, even if this means waiting until release. It’s worth it.
For what it’s worth, I’m easily 4-6 months from release and already saving and planning. If it would be advantageous for anyone I will list my personal notes below to give a sense of how you may start planning – keep in mind, this is just my present game plan which is very subject to change and suits my profile. Your intended results may also differ from mine, but this is something I believe will work for me –
“Tally on costs ( max possibility is what’s reflected )
$1300 – eishhhhh
So, I need to do album art – go with an epk this time bc clearly the physical copy did not move – –
I have certain requirements which may prove to be a costly custom job… I want a unique cover, Unique art for each song OR a theme which may span the pages (hard I’d imagine w/o lyrics), a thank you page and outer facing back art – so however much that is … at least $300. Update – graphic artist on Fiverr I spoke with quoted me $50/page. I think this to be fair, but will definitely be going with an overarching visual theme instead of song by song for economical reasons.
Allot maybe 1-250$ on Instagram and Facebook ads … This gets tricky because both are great for promo but depending on the focus of your ad, choosing who to toss more cash at may make or break your entire plan and budget. My best recommendation? Run some very short – term, inexpensive ads on both platforms to see which nets you more engagement. Whichever delivers is the one you want to begin tossing more cash at but still pay attention because these results may change over time, requiring a quick brainstorm on which platform is most beneficial to you at that moment in time.
Spotify Ad studio – god fucking damn this is expensive … lets say 750 – 2 week campaign –
target your audience (pulling stats right from artists.spotify) –
New York, NY
Los Angeles, CA
^^^ these are your top five ^^^ Make sure to do DMA ‘designated metropolitan area’ <<<
age group > again from artists.spotify
I really only get traction from ranges 18-45, so that will optimize targeting
Do no additional targeting – it’s 5 cents more in your benefit per every ad served –
So, according to them, these choices result in $.012 per ads served > budget delivery likelihood is high > estimated ads served =62-63k > Estimated reach = 55-65k
I can do my own press release, web design, bandcamp shop”
This one is MOTHER FUCKING IMPERATIVE so pay attention. Set yourself up with enough time to submit to editorial lists and be patient. How? I see a lot of confusion among artists in this regard so let’s go piece by piece –
First, you need to release the track, right? So, this means you’ll need distribution. Personally, I use distrokid but have no real loyalties as to who is chosen. I like distrokid because they happen to have excellent customer service. No matter what you may choose, do yourself a favor and read the fine print. You MUST ensure that you retain the rights to your material. That is of paramount importance to anything. No one but you and your crew should be profiting from your efforts and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Fast forward a tad – You’ve picked your distro company and sent your track/single/album to the stores. IMPORTANT NOTE – the real reason you’re going through all this effort is to nail down some listings on Spotify’s editorial lists. This is your bread and butter. For this reason, you must give yourself 4-6 weeks before the tracks hit the general public because Spotify’s Editors are real people. Thus, they end up swamped. Giving yourself time is the only way to ensure your music reaches the Editors headphones at all.
For argument’s sake, let’s say this is your first Spotify foray. Since you did not previously have an artist profile, your distro company will create one for you. I find distrokid sets you up with your profile within about 3-5 business days.
From that point, you must go about ‘claiming’ your artist profile. You’re telling Spotify, yep, that’s me. It’s quite simple. Head on over to artists.spotify.com and there’s a large button which says ‘claim your profile’. You’ll be brought through some normal BS like contact info, email, address, etc. And, boom, there you have it. Your very own Spotify Artist profile!
Think you’re done? Hell no. You’re an unsigned artist. Henceforth, you will never be done.
So, continuing on!
To recap – pick your distro company, release your track, and claim your profile through Spotify. What else is there? Haven’t I done enough?? Do you want my social security number and blood type, while we’re at it???
No worries, we’re almost there. As your distro company gets you listed among the various platforms, you will be informed about progress. As soon as you login to your artist profile and see that your track is pending release SUBMIT, SUBMIT, SUBMIT!!!
Now you’re just in limbo, waiting to see if you gain approval. Do NOT be discouraged if you are not selected. It happens to everyone. Just keep trying.
Stay active on social media, especially right before your album release. Don’t ever slack there. It should become muscle memory for you. You wake up, check your stats. At lunch, watch some videos on Instagram and comment on them to build rapport within your niche. When you get home from work is when you should hit it hard, since that’s when most other people are around to engage with. It should be when you post most. It’s just logical that you will jump to the top of more feeds if you deliver your messaging during this more frequented time frame.
Follow the Golden Rule..
Be helpful within your social media communities. This is really a no brainer and I hope everyone’s doing this regardless, but one way to gain exposure is to just be a nice person. If you see someone struggling with some techie crap that you know a workaround for, drop them a line. It’s always a good feeling helping someone get a complicated issue solved and I bet that person won’t forget your name. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smarter decision in the long run to be someone viewed as nice and down to earth. There’s enough douchey musicians out there. Do you really want to be one of them?
Trust no one offering services or anyone approaching, promising playlist placement for your album release. It will be a scam. Dollars to donuts it’s bot driven at best. Unless Warner Brothers is waving a contract at you with a $4 million signing bonus, it’s all horse shit. A total crock. If you were that desired, you’d be approached by the curator, or easily slip into any list you wanted. So when you inevitably see an offer for 200k listens for $15 and your spidey sense gets a-fluttering, listen to it. Let’s assume a moment that this example scam was in fact legit. What good is a one – shot deal like that? Of course seeing a spike like that is enticing and curiosity will get the better of you no matter what I say. Consider this, though, it’s a one – time spike. Your ultimate aim isn’t plays or streams, it’s followers. You want fans, folks revisiting your material and tracking your career. That’s the difference here.
Okay, I get it. $15 for 200k listens does kind of sound odd now that I think about. Pass on that. I did, however, find this service that promises Playlist Pitching. Won’t that net me followers? Perhaps a few but the true answer is no, not really. I’ll explain.
Landing on a highly frequented playlist is somewhat like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. It can net you all sorts of benefits – listens, followers, dedicated fans, etc. And that’s awesome! I hope everyone reading this hits that playlist with 200k real listeners. Not to rain on your parade but Playlist Pitching is, you guessed it, bullshit. First, how do you think you’re being pitched? It’s not they are amazing networkers who just fell into this gig, they own the damn playlist!!! So? You may say. I don’t care. Incorrect my friend, you do care very much. By owning the playlist the numbers are easy to inflate. Maybe bots do the listening. Maybe it’s people in a call center with your tune on mute. Either way, it’s not legit. I speak from maybe week old experience with spotifly.us. Yes, I fell for it too. It was a hard pill for me to swallow but ultimately they showed their hand when I asked a simple question and fumbled to create a reply. To round out my argument, I’ll list some screenshots of real emails with the company that eventually triggered my own spidey sense –
I’d like to think I wrote a cogent and prudent question that should have had a simple answer. However, this is what I received –
What??? First, ummm any sort of answer even skimming my point would have sufficed. This guy clearly had no clue what he was doing. I was honestly trying to hand them more money and he talked himself out of it by being a tad rude and saying, fine, go. I can keep adding screenshots from this conversation, but really why? I think if these 2 1/2 lines of a reply were enough for me to get a whiff these guys might not be legit, don’t use them for something as important as an album release. That simple. Remember, in this circumstance you’re the customer. They try to puff out their chests to show their clout in the industry, ignoring customer service entirely. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you take away anything from this article, disregard all my advice and do it your way that’s entirely cool. I’m not exactly a MENSA member. But, do please have your guard up and read everything. If your gut gives you any cause to steer the other way do not overthink it. Instead, walk away.
Don’t underestimate an accompanying visual aspect for your album release. You’d be doing yourself a disservice by merely providing your audience aural stimulation. Essentially, you’re telling an entire human sense we’re lucky to possess, fuck off, I don’t care about you. That is ignorant thinking. Consider some of the best shows you’ve been to. What set them apart from the music? Lots and lots of things, certainly. I bet a few out there said, “Shit, well there was that time we saw INSERT BAND NAME and the lights were just stunning.”
How was MTV ever a thing? Because it was the first ‘official’ pairing of the senses. Why do artists still make music videos? Because it sets them apart to have a cool video accompanying their tune.
Lest we forget, YouTube is also an indispensable resource, so put some shit there. Only helps. Just another outlet for you to have in your back pocket, spreading your gospel. Again, exposure is freaking clutch.
Get interviewed about your album release here! It’s free and fun. Any exposure is good exposure (if you are yet to catch onto the point I’ve been trying to make throughout).
In a nutshell, you can work with me via a Google doc and we can make it happen. If interested, simply contact me in one of the four million ways I list on this site and we’ll get it figured out.
I truly, truly hope these 13 things help my fellow Tunesters in their numerous forays which lead them to a successful album release! That’s why I this, lol. Don’t make the same mistakes I did and keep in mind, this is merely my take on the modern landscape. If you have some clever ideas or tips I’d love to hear about them in the comments section, so please have at it. Contact me if interested in an interview about your album release and, as always, keep on rockin’ and rollin’!