CONGRATS ON YOUR UPCOMING RELEASE!
This is one of my favorite times in my musical process, but it can also be the most time consuming and daunting. Rest assured that if you just start early and take baby steps all will be well.
My advice would be to get as much as you can done before you even announce your release date.
Nothing is more stressful than feeling rushed during this time. This should be a time of excitement and success and it totally can be if you methodically plan it out.
This is what I follow in my own career so I figured I’d put it online with the hopes that it would help someone else out there who is about to go through this exciting process as well.
1. Properly Set Up Your MP3’s with ID3 Tags
I feel this is an important first step because you’ll be using your MP3’s a TON moving forward, so best to have them set up properly!
In case you’re not aware, ID3 tags allow information such as your song title, artist name, album name, album art, lyrics, genre, track number, and other information about your song to be stored in the mp3 file itself. How cool is that?!
Not only is it cool, it serves a very vital purpose.
Having a properly setup MP3 ensures that:
- Your songs are not rejected when submitting to radio stations or sound libraries. Many DJ’s and Libraries will not accept music that is not properly tagged as it creates extra work on their end to properly file your song.
- All your songs will remain together in a users library
- If a user who is not yet an avid fan downloads your music, they’ll know exactly who you are, your lyrics, the album the song is from and more.
- If someone were to do a genre search, your music can come up in the proper search
- Your album art and information appears when your song is played on various devices and online radio stations
Along with setting up your MP3 properly, you’ll want to ensure that your MP3 has a proper link name.
Example: mysongtitle.mp3 vs songFINALv2-edit.mp3
2. Copyright Your Songs
This step is pretty straightforward. Go here https://www.copyright.gov/registration/ and do it :)
Whether you do 5 songs or 1 it’s the same price, so I recommend waiting until you have a batch to copyright all at once.
3. Choose a distribution company
Outlets like iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio and more don’t allow artists to submit music to them directly. They require you to go through a distribution company. There are quite a few out there, but my personal recommendation is CD Baby.
They take you through a step by step launch process that turns a daunting release plan into a cake walk. With a guided step by step launch wizard and a plethora of videos and supportive text along the way, you can rest easy knowing that no step will be missed, no royalty uncollected and no platform left out when it comes to launching your music to the masses.
4. Write Down Your UPC and ISRC codes
In the previous step, CD Baby will take you through the process of getting a UPC code and ISRC codes for your music. I’ll explain the two below, but to save yourself a lot of clicking around down the road, WRITE THESE DOWN. You’ll be asked for them over and over again in the following steps.
For singles, if you are only releasing the single DIGITALLY then you only need an ISRC code for the song. If you plan to release the single as a physical CD then you also need a UPC code.
UPC code: Just like barcodes you find on virtually every product you buy these days, a CD barcode does exactly the same job. It identifies a music product with a unique code.
Unlike an ISRC number which is used to identify an individual recording a UPC number is used to identify a group of recordings or a physical product.
ISRC code: The International Standard Recording Codes system (ISRC) is used to identify the individual components that make up your product. So, if your album contains 10 tracks, then you’ll need 10 ISRC codes or if you’re only releasing one single, then you’ll only need 1 ISRC code. These codes are used for tracking sales so you can be paid accordingly.
Companies like Nielsen SoundScan use UPC and ISRC barcodes to aggregate sales data into meaningful statistics (ie: music charts).
So if you intend to chart on say, Billboard, get yourself these codes ;)
5. Register your songs with a PRO
A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) is an agency that ensures songwriters and publishers are paid for the use of their music by collecting royalties on behalf of the rights owner.
When a song is played in public, in a venue, or TV shows and commercials, it is required that the establishment pay for the use. The PRO collects those payments, and distributes them to the rights holders.
I personally went with BMI because they were free (plus Mariah Carey is a member, hello?!).
In all seriousness though, I did a TON of research on all the different PRO’s and couldn’t find a compelling reason to choose one over the other. BMI happened to be free so I went for that one.
A few others are ASCAP, SESAC AND SOCAN. A quick google search will get you info on them all.
6. Register your songs with SoundExchange
I had $200 of unclaimed money sitting in my account by the time I realized I should have signed up with SoundExchange so you definitely don’t want to wait on this one! They hold your earnings for up to 3 years though which is nice.
Basically SoundExchange collects your STREAMING royalties from services that offer non-interactive streaming like Pandora, Sirius and online radio stations.
7. Updated Graphics
You want to make sure all your social graphics and web graphics are ready for launch day. This includes, but is not limited to:
- New header graphics for all social profiles announcing your release
- New profile pictures (from your album/single photoshoot or high quality video still) for all social profiles
- Several announcement photos
- countdown graphics leading to release
- release day graphics
- graphics for the days after release – Releasing the same photos over and over can cause people to overlook or become bored. Come up with fun ways to keep talking about your release. Behind the scenes photos for example.
8. Mailing List
If you have a mailing list, have your announcement mail written and ready to go. If you don’t have a mailing list now is a good time to start ;)
You can offer early access to your release or exclusive content surrounding your release to encourage users to sign up.
There are a plethora of mail services out there but I simply ADORE MailChimp. They are super easy to use and FREE for up to 2k subscribers, woop woop!
9. Marketing and Promotion for Independent Artists
I like to find creative ways to keep talking about a release to keep users engaged. As I mentioned above, if you keep sharing the same album cover over and over, people can become jaded. Here are some fun ways to keep your release alive:
- Album/Song Journey: This is one of my favorite marketing techniques. I learned it via the Indepreneur Training program which I highly recommend. The gist is that you create a multi-week journey leading up to the release of your project. I did mine every Saturday for a month, you could do yours every day for a week or on 3 specific days. I had an EP so a longer build up made sense. If you’re releasing a single, a few days lead time would be sufficient.
- Here is what my landing page looked like: audreymusic.com/all-aboard-the-holiday-express/
- And this is what my Itinerary looked like. Users saw this after they signed up via my landing page: audreymusic.com/all-aboard-the-holiday-express/itinerary/
- Smule/TikTok Duets: This is a fun option to sing your songs with fans/friends/family. You can upload your original songs to Smule or TikTok and do duets
I always make sure I have at least one friend join me before I announced I have a new single up for a duet. Mob mentality and all :p
- Facebook Live: Consider doing a Facebook live unboxing, CD singing + signing or some sort of release event on Facebook live in addition to any in-person event you may have.
- Message Marketing: Chances are you wrote your music because you or someone close to you went through something that inspired a certain message to be written. And chances are there are thousands of others who have gone through or are going through the exact thing your songs talks about. Find them, reach out to them, share their stories. Start a movement around the important topics and human emotions your music covers.
Example: Join the IDYTD movement!
- Merch Marketing: Don’t forget about your merch! A fun way to market your merch and song at the same time is to put together a little video showcasing the two. You can always find a willing person on Fivver to do this for you.
Example: Merch Marketing with Song
I use Printful for all my merch creation. They offer on-demand printing, which means you don’t have to buy a pile of tshirts and hope they sell. Printful handles all of your orders and printing for you. When someone makes an order on your site, Printful makes the shirt and sends it off with your branding on the package. It’s pretty amazing.
- Social Media Marketing: Take some time to really narrow down who your target audience is and start small campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, etc. to test out the market that you’ve pieced together.
Facebook in particular has one of the most robust targeting systems I’ve ever seen. You can hyper focus your efforts on an audience tailor-made to your music. You can even narrow it down to people who have been known to follow links to purhcase from a website, or users known to watch videos online, etc.Even with just $5 and the right target audience, I’ve seen some pretty outstanding results.
- Automation Tools: There are also some really great automation tools out there, that when used right, can help you to grow your tribe exponentially.
Followers Chief is one I enjoy. I don’t recommend using it for it’s follow/unfollow capabilities as that doesn’t create a legitimate and long-lasting tribe. The method is not genuine and so you will not receive genuine results.If however you use their features in a more genuine way, I’ve made connections via that tool that have turned into friends and fans for life.One example of using it in a genuine way is:
Hashtag liking: You can set the bot to like hashtags that your target audience would use. For example, I like to talk about personal development and knowledge of self, so I might set the bot to like hashtags like “#knowthyself, #lovethyself #spiritualawakening, etc.”. When a user sees my like come in, they are likely to check out my profile and reach out if they like what they see. This strategy helps to put you on the radar of your ideal listener and open up the communication pathways that would have taken you quite some time to achieve manually.
A tool I recommend in the YouTube world is TubeBuddy. The free version will help you immensely with your channel. From setting description and hashtag defaults to being able to explore popular hashtags, copy hashtags from videos, etc. It’s amazing.
10. Update Your Youtube
If you have a Youtube channel, change all of your descriptions in your videos to feature your album/song release purchase links.
Also update your default upload settings to feature your links so you don’t have to keep retyping your descriptions with new uploads.
Also, if you get your Fivver lyric videos up on YouTube and put your lyrics in the description as well, this is great for discoverability. YouTube is a search engine, people type in search terms all day. If these terms are found in a title OR a description of your video then YouTube is more likely to serve it up as a result to the persons inquiry.
In general, having a fully fleshed out video title, description and tags helps you get found in search more.
11. Social Bios and URL’s
Change your bios across your social platforms to mention your new release. Also on all your social platforms where it asks for a URL, change this to link to your album.
12. Generate Publicity
Consider setting up interviews. Online stations are great for this. The more you’re seen talking about your release the better. I’ve also gotten some really great soundbites from interviews that I later use in promo.
- Interview Snippet with Social Informant 01
- Interview Snippet with Social Informant 02
- Interview Snippet with Weekdays With Murph
13. Creat an EPK/Press Page
I recommend creating a press page: https://audreymusic.com/epk/
When reaching out for features on radio, print, digital, etc., you get asked for the same things over and over. This saves you and the interviewer a ton of time.
14. Submit Your Songs to Pandora
CD Baby automatically sends your release to Pandora Plus which is their paid platform, but it doesn’t guarantee placement on Pandora’s original free streaming platform. That submission process is still manual.
Make a private or public SoundCloud playlist of your music. You’ll get asked to hear your music a lot when submitting for opportunities. This way is much easier than sending MP3’s and many opportunities you’ll be submitting for do not accept MP3 submissions. It’s more of a hassle for the user to download and listen then to just click and listen.
16. Create Quick links for your Release
I like to make bit links out of all my promo links so I can track how well my campaigns are going (https://bitly.com/).
You’re also going to be linking to your release a TON. Nothing slows you down more than a long ass URL you gotta track down.
I always create something super memorable so I can quickly link it to people without having to hunt.
17. Create a landing link for your Instagram and various Bios
(made specifically to be viewed on a mobile phone)
A key to getting your brand out there is releasing consistent content. By now I’m sure you’ve run into the dilemma where you make an Instagram post and say “link in bio” and you then have to go change your link to your latest release or offering.
Then you continue this process and by the time someone sees a post of yours 3 days back, that “link in bio” is no longer accurate as you’ve updated it to match your most recent post offering.
Also, you don’t want to have to switch out your money earning links (like a way to purchase your album), with your latest video release link. Ideally all should be available at all times.
To solve this dilemma, I highly recommend making a link for your bio that has all of your most relevant offerings and info and includes ways to buy or stream your shiny new release.
For example, I release videos nearly every Monday, so one of my links is “Most Recent Music Video”. I also have an album for sale so one of the links is “Purchase my album”.
There are services like Linktree that offer to create a landing page of links for you but they have their branding on it unless you pay for it. And even at the paid level their style options are limited.
Also, when you use Linktree your link will be “Linktree.com/mypage” which isn’t the most professional approach.
I recommend creating this yourself or you can hire someone on Fivver to do this for you for very cheap.