This article has been fully updated for 2016! Click here.
Chris Hacker here, I create Marketing Plans for artists at Cyber PR® and really enjoy working with my many clients. I’ve noticed a huge problem though. Artists call the Cyber PR® offices all the time looking for us to promote their new album, totally fine of course, but the problem lies in that many of these artists call us when their albums are coming out the next week!! It completely baffles me that an artist or band will work so hard on an album, spending hours and hours writing songs and practicing these songs and then spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, to only rush the release with no plan in place! Not planning enough lead time for a press campaign isn’t the only issue, but many people we talk to try to release their album when some of the basic music promotion elements aren’t even in place, for example a website where you can sell the music!
In a three part series I will discuss some basic components of a marketing plan to help properly market you and a new release. This first blog post in the series can eloquently be called the “getting your sh*t together” phase. Here I’ve laid out 5 areas that need to be addressed before any official announcements should be made about a new album coming out.
1. Digital Distribution
Figure out how you’re going to digitally distribute the album, and a physical CD only release or selling the CD and mp3’s strictly on your website is not the way to go. You need to make your music available everywhere digital music can be streamed and bought, such as on iTunes and Spotify, and the best way to do that is work with a digital distribution company like CD Baby or Tunecore. With that said, I talk to people all the time who then take this one step too far and sign up with multiple distribution companies because they think they are covering all their bases this way. Which they are not. All that does is put multiple copies of the same album on iTunes and the like, which looks silly and can cause unnecessary confusion. And if you plan on working with a PR company to promote the release don’t set the release date until AFTER you have talked with them first.
2. Online presence
Make sure your online presence is complete, effective and contains all the necessary promotional tools. There are lots of places online that artists can have a presence, here I talk about three of the most important sites: Official Website, Facebook and YouTube.
Official Website – Your website should have a place where people can easily listen to and buy your music (but not a player that plays automatically when a person enters the site, can’t stress that enough), a homepage that has a news section where people can read the latest happenings with your career, and a newsletter sign up form, one that offers an incentive for signing up such as free music or discounts on merch. Plus it always surprises when I go to an artist website and can’t find any contact information or links to their social media networks.
Facebook – Just as important as your website is your Facebook Fan Page. On the new timeline there are three tabs that are on display; one tab should be a band profile that at a minimum contains a music player, tour dates and press quotes. Next is a newsletter sign up form, and again, this should offer an incentive for signing up. And the last visible tab should be a Store.
YouTube – Another important piece of your online presence is YouTube. I’m always curious how people listen and discover new music and time and time again the response I hear back is YouTube. It’s critical to have videos up on YouTube for every song of the new release by the release date or soon after. Not saying these have to be well produced music videos, but just the songs themselves. To do this some artists just put up an image of their cover and leave it at that, but people are much more inclined to listen to your music if there are scrolling lyrics they can read as they listen or if there is a slideshow to watch. Taking free archival footage and editing together to make a music video is another relatively easy and inexpensive way to create a video for your songs, and can be a lot of fun too.
This is real simple. Have one. And contact your mailing list once a month with news. Don’t cut corners on this either, a newsletter is where you’ll see the greatest impact on sales. All the tweets and facebook posts about a new album out for sale won’t equal the results of a well crafted newsletter, so spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be.
Ideally you’ll have a tour booked immediately following the release, which greatly helps a PR campaign. A local blog or local newspaper will be much more inclined to cover a new album for an artist if a show is booked in town. And not saying this has to be a month long tour, just a few regional dates will help with your press efforts. Now timing can be tricky here, just like setting a release date too soon, you don’t want to book a tour and then not have the album ready or press plan in place. So wait until you have a better idea of what that will look like and then start booking a tour, and if the tour doesn’t happen until a month or so after the release that is quite alright.
Pretty much everything in regards to your music career takes longer than expected, from making the album to creating the artwork to booking shows, and this definitely applies to any merchandise you want to have available to sell with the new album. And merch isn’t limited to T-Shirts and tote bags, handmade items can make for great unique offerings. Here’s a tip, at your merch booth bundle your music with these items cheaply and easily through download stickers from MerchMusic.com, where 120 codes will cost you just $10. Even though people aren’t buying CDs much anymore, they are still interested in supporting artists they love so give them lots of different ways to support you and purchase your music instead of just having a CD and leaving it at that.
So remember, plan early so you can have these items when you’re ready to release a new album, which I will be getting in to in more detail in the next blog post where I will discuss some basic principles for an effective pre-sale and album launch.