When the tracking, mixing, and mastering is finally done, it can feel like you’ve just run a marathon. Your journey however, has just begun! Now, you’ve got design, printing, and distribution to consider. And of course an album release party.
Planning an album release party is an interesting adventure, because there are a lot of factors to balance.
You want to plan a night that will stick in people’s minds, create a beautiful atmosphere, and you’ll also want to invite and impress some industry people. At the same time, an album release is a great opportunity to make back some of the money you’ve spent on the album, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make money at your release show.
An album release party is easier to organize when you break it down, which is what I’m going to do here. Let’s start with the initial planning.
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Planning Your Release Party
Consider The Goals For Your Album Or Song Release
Exactly what do you want to accomplish with your album release? When I released my last EP, the band’s main consideration was throwing a great party, with the secondary goal of paying back some of the money we spent making the EP.
If these are your primary goals, then you will plan your venue, ticket price, sound, lights, etc. accordingly.
On the other hand, I know many musicians who have thrown release parties with the intention of bringing industry professionals (agents, publicists, labels etc.) out to the show as a sort of showcase. Album releases are good shows to do this with, because a) they are often some of the most well-attended shows, b) there is usually a great energy in the room, and c) you control every aspect of how the night goes and how you are presented.
Consider A Release Date
The key here is to leave yourself enough time. The more time the better! It’s often tempting to pick an earlier release date (I know you just want to put it out there!) but doing this is generally a bad idea.
From the time you finish your recordings and have a physical copy of the album in your hand, you should leave three to eight months until your release. Mind you, three months is cutting it pretty close.
There are a few reasons why I believe this is wise. For one thing, on a grander scale, a publicity or radio tracking campaign will take at minimum three months to plan and execute. Also, if you’re pitching to record labels or any other industry professional, you want to leave at least 4 months for things to develop. Unfortunately, after your release, labels in your home territory simply aren't going to be interested.
Practically speaking, leaving more time allows you to pick the perfect venue on the perfect day. You’ll also avoid embarrassing gaffes like not having your CDs at the release show, or not giving yourself any time to publicize the show locally.
Sometimes, it’s worth looking at releasing on an “off-day”. Not necessarily on a Monday or Sunday (those are typically really bad days for shows), but it could be worth looking at a Wednesday or a Thursday. Often, there’s less going on these days, and this can free up valuable audience members.
Consider Your Venue
Picking a venue is an important decision, and will go along with the goals you set for the release early in the planning stage.
If your main priority is creating a special night for your fans, perhaps you would consider a “destination venue”. Somewhere unique and interesting like an old church, outdoors, an abandoned warehouse or cool garage. Often, destination venues are free, or at least cheaper than, say, renting a theater or room for a night.
On the other hand, you may risk losing some audience (and thus some money) on people that won’t go out of their way to check out somewhere different. Industry people will also be less inclined to go somewhere they’ve never gone before, as they are busy and may have many shows to attend in a night.
My advice will always be to avoid putting on your release at a big name venue that you’ve never played before and doesn’t know you or your music. These venues are hard to nail down, and they’re often not helpful when it comes to promo. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, but a venue that you trust and have a good relationship with will be happy to have you and go above and hopefully beyond their normal promotional habits.
Put Together A Bill, Who Will Launch With You?
An important part of your big night will be putting together a great bill. Get artists you know and love to play your release, as this connection will be felt both on and off stage. Also consider artists that will help with draw, and artists you trust to help promote and sell tickets.
Consider getting someone “famous” to be a special guest. Most likely, this will be a local legend or veteran musician from your local scene. But shoot high! Ask some of your favorite musicians to play, the worst they can say is say “no”.
Secure Your On-Site Team
Well before the date itself, you should have your sound requirements, lighting, stage, and site decorations planned out and confirmed. I have never regretted going the extra mile and spending on sound and lighting. Remember, this is an important night; not just your average bar show.
Recruit your close friends and family to help run the event for free. I find it makes the night more intimate and less expensive to have friends and family working the door, selling merch and food, and otherwise keeping things running smoothly. People are usually happy to help out with this kind of thing, but make sure you give them a public “thank you” from stage, and maybe a little gift to sweeten the deal!
There are many options to sell your tickets in advance online, such as IndieTickets and Ticketfly. You should also be pushing your advance tickets in person. Selling tickets in advance is always a good practice, because people are simply more likely to come if they’ve already bought a ticket.
To promote your advance tickets, you should offer them at a slightly discounted price (e.g. $20 in advance and $25 at the door). I would also recommend giving away your CD with the purchase of the ticket. This way you can (and should) increase your ticket price twofold or more from your usual cover charge.
Send Out Invitations
As soon as all of the above is confirmed, make your Facebook event and start inviting people. Why wait? Everyone is busy and everyone appreciates knowing the date well in advance. I usually start promoting heavily four to six weeks before the show, but you can announce it three to six months in advance.
I’ve always liked the idea of sending physical invitations to key industry professionals you may want at your show. Of course, you should follow up your invitation via email, phone, or text, but there’s nothing like getting a real physical invitation; it makes a good impression.
Announce Show In Local Media
If you have left enough time (which you have… right?) you should be publicizing your show to local media.
Contact local arts & entertainment journalists and follow up often. Put your show in every event listing you can find. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but any publicity you can scrounge up will help build a buzz around the event.
Create A Buzz Among Your Fans
Think outside the box when it comes to creating a buzz around the show. Don’t just yell on Facebook about it – consider what will make this show worth coming to.
Create a contest around the show, release singles leading up to the show. Slowly release the album art and the merch that will be available at the show. Consider creating some live videos of the songs you’ll be performing. Have fun with it!
On The Night Of
Have Merchandise Easily Available
You can make big money on merch, so have the table well manned and everything nicely displayed. And this is key: be at the merch table.
This applies to any show. From stage, when I finish a set, I always say “thanks so much for coming, if you want to chat I’ll be at the merch table!”. And then I’m right there, ready to sell, sign, and chat.
Make People Feel Welcome
When I put on these events, I always take extra time to make everyone feel welcome. By this I mean specifically seeking out the people that took the time to come to your show, but don’t usually come to your shows.
I’m not saying ignore the friends/fans/family that come to every show, but focus your attention on creating new fans. This little personal touch means the world to people, and you can make it happen with a little extra effort.
After the show, thank people, especially any industry people you’ve invited, for attending. It’s best if you can do this in person. However, it’s always a good idea to send a follow up “thank you” email, call, or text. This is a great and easy way to network that really impresses people.
Ultimately, your release show should be a very special night for everyone involved. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.