Updated: Dec 14, 2019
#AskAmanda – “So I was wondering… if I’m working on an album project, is it a good idea to release a single first to see what kind of response it gets? I was thinking of releasing a single in October and then an album in March. Also, would it be a good idea to have a video produced for the single, or maybe I should wait for the album release. Not quite sure what the best plan of attach is…” - Timmy Seay
The question of best practices when releasing music in the new music business is always a hot topic for independents.
Fortunately, there are a lot more resources available for independent artists than there used to be, and more and more independents are making it into the mainstream charts.
As music artists in the modern age, there isn’t just one way to do things, and not just one correct way to release music into the marketplace.
To properly answer Timmy’s question, we’ll break the answer into four parts:
Strategy versus Tactics
Album versus Singles
Audience & Brand Factors
Timing of Releases
Strategy versus Tactics
Even before we get into the difference between strategy and tactics, it’s important to mention goals first.
Knowing your goal is the best way to start developing your strategy and tactics for your music release.
Is your goal to increase awareness, or is it to make money?
Whether or not you should record an album is also largely a matter of artistic preference, budget, and consideration of the target market.
For example, most people agree that it’s usually a good idea to put out a video along with a song release. But if your target demographic aren’t big Internet users, then it may not make sense to invest too much money in videos.
In that case, it would probably make sense to focus your efforts on recording a high quality album, and pressing physical units to sell, such as CDs or even vinyl records, or other types of physical merchandise.
As you’re thinking about your goals, and deciding on which strategies and tactics to use in your release, check out this recent blog post by expert Internet marketing guru and philosopher, Seth Godin:
As he explains, your strategy is your overall approach to achieving your goal, and your tactics are specific ways you will try to achieve it. The example Godin gives is of a real estate broker who decides her goal is to get more listings. Her strategy is to become the most trusted name in town, and she could have dozens of tactics that will help her express this strategy.
The tactics will come and go, and you can drop the ones that don’t work. But strategy is more long term.
Think about your music release in terms of goals and strategy instead of tactics. What works for one person might not be the best for someone else.
Album versus Singles
When deciding whether to record an album project, or a collection of singles, it’s best to consider your goals again, and also your target demographic.
If you’re a pop or hip-hop singer, you’re most likely wasting your time recording full album projects.
But if you’re doing a brand-centered project, or regularly perform for live audiences, you’ll want to have some kind of physical product to sell.
Albums are also essential pieces of some brands, and help to fully tell your brand story when you’re putting yourself out as a musical artist.
When you put out an album on most digital formats, you automatically have singles. So a single can simply refer to specific songs on your album project that will be highlighted or featured through promotion or additional content.
This is part of the strategy you will develop depending on your goals, and also depending on your target audience. Which brings us to our next point for consideration:
Audience and Brand Factors
One of the most important things to consider when developing an artist release is audience: who is it, and where are they going to be found?
When you know your audience, a lot of other factors become a whole lot easier.
Knowing your target audience demographic helps you to pin point where and when to get your messages out, so that you can help your ideal audience find and connect with you.
Your brand is the impression that you leave on your audience. Being remarkable, and unique is the way to leave a strong brand impression.
Brands include your logos, your message, your purpose, and represent a lifestyle that you represent through your artistry and example.
More and more, artists and record companies are turning to brand building to enable them to make a living in the new millennium of music business.
The money available in streaming is far less than the industry was used to earning on physical formats, and that has left people scrambling to pair brands and products with musical audiences to give artists some way to make a living.
The bigger artists including Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, U2, Alan Jackson and others know very well the power of a strong brand and its impact on the market place and pocket book.
Your brand and target audience will help you decide whether to invest time and resources into an album versus a singles project, and will also help determine when and where to release the music.
Are your fans older, and therefore not streaming as much? Make an album. Are they all millennials? If so, you’ll be more inclined to stream to reach them.
Would it pay off to invest in a terrestrial radio advertisement, or independent promotion campaign? These are some of the questions that can be answered when you know your brand and your target audience.
Timing of Releases
The timing of releases is largely also a matter of brand and target audience consideration.
But there are a few general rules of thumb that can help you decide when to release your album and singles.
The traditional wisdom is that it’s best to allow at least six weeks for proper promotion prior to a release. That gives you time to send review copies to any press, or bloggers, and allows you to submit your release to the distributors and set your release date in the future.
Releasing your music with plenty of lead time, and doing proper radio, press, and PR promotions is a good way to increase your changes of being featured in playlists and in spotlight opportunities.
Another guideline for timing releases is that superstars tend to release albums in the fall leading up to the Christmas buying season.
For that reason, traditional promoters will discourage emerging artists from releasing albums or singles in the fall, because that’s the toughest competition.
The majors have large budgets and lots of ad dollars in the marketplace in the fall of the year, and as an indie artist, good luck competing for attention with your limited resources, and single artist roster.
Another important consideration in terms of scheduling releases is to time your singles with international days or “awareness raising” months or weeks related to your target demographic.
This will help you to piggy-back on campaigns focused on what’s happening with your audience group, and can make it easier to target them in advertising and awareness building campaigns.
This #AskAmanda couldn’t have come at a better time. We are wrapping up recording vocals on Timmy’s album project.
He chose an album format to present a fully rounded story of his journey through addiction to sobriety, and as a certified addiction counselor, his album will be a credible example of his creative self-expression, and entrepreneurial focus that can definitely benefit others.
As Timmy considers the various opportunities available for his awareness building campaign, he has realized that building his artistic brand is the key to allowing his music to overcome the traditional boundaries and constraints of the Top 40 marketplace.
You can connect with Timmy on his website here, and sign up for his Sober Guy newsletter to be the first to hear his latest acoustic album.
So as you can see, there is not just one correct way to release music in the new millennium of music business. It takes careful consideration of your brand message, your target audience, and your goals to properly plan your optimal release strategy.
We wish you all the best with your next project! Connect with us in the comments and let us know how it goes, and what works well for you.
Are you trying to build your authentic brand, and figure out your best strategies for success? Join the Songpreneurs online and work with like-minded peers and professionals to reach your goals.
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