When artists achieve a certain level of success, they no longer need to work as hard to build anticipation for their releases. Their fans are already hanging on to every social media post waiting for new material.
For the rest of us, life is a little harder.
It takes a long time and a lot of work to make an album. If you’ve done it before, you’ll know! If you’re in the middle of it, you’ll also know!
This guide is well-timed, as I just sent a new album off to be mixed, and am now focusing my efforts on building anticipation for the release of the record.
Why do this, and what does my planning process look like? Good question.
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You Need To Let People Know When To Expect New Material
I am not a fan of giving away much. Throughout the recording process, I am tight-lipped and don’t let many people hear what I’m doing. Personally, I have a specific vision for my music, and I don’t like people hearing it before my vision has been signed off on, by me.
But some artists approach this differently. You’ll notice that some artists are constantly posting clips of new music or other material they are working on. This approach can work well to build anticipation for a release without having to do much other than work on music.
Even so, releasing a new album, EP, single, video – whatever – is a big deal and you want the world to know.
I’ve made a full album and haven’t told almost anyone about it. A few photos here and there, a few snippets of instrumentals with no vocals, but that’s it.
So, having a pre-release plan is instrumental. I need to let people know what I’ve been up to, what the vibe of the next release will be, when they can expect it, etc.
If You Don’t Build Buzz, You Risk Flying Under The Radar
If you don't build anticipation, your release can fly under the radar. Most artists don’t put out new music more than once, maybe twice in a year, so you want to draw it out and make it count.
An artist can ride a well-planned release for literally years. By building anticipation through shows, posts, content, videos, and then capitalizing on that anticipation with more content, publicity, touring, radio, an artist can keep the momentum going.
You don’t want people to miss your release just because you threw it out into the world without any thought.
Build buzz, do it right, and then release your music knowing that you’ve done everything you can to get it out there.
How To Build A Pre-Release Plan
You should look at your pre-release plan as an extension of your art, not as a business-y prerequisite to releasing music. It’s more fun that way, and it’s also true.
Pre-release content is mostly just more art.
It’s pictures. It’s video. It’s posts and blogs. It’s shows.
Like anything worth doing, it’s a lot of work, but if you come at it with the right attitude, it can be fun.
So, with the right attitude in mind, here are the main components of an indie release strategy you should be looking at:
Video used to be king. Now I’m not so sure. Either way, video content is important. Video has the furthest reach on social media and people find it easy to connect with visual art.
Firstly, you need to think about your budget and what you want to make.
If you have a low budget, consider things like:
- Lyric videos.
- Live videos.
- Short animations.
- Creatively filmed DIY music videos.
I’ve written at length about different ways to make video content on a budget, so check out my other guides for more info on that.
If you have a good idea and a good group of people to work with, making budget video content is absolutely doable and quite fun.
If you have more money to play with, look at:
- Full production music videos.
- Or, smaller production videos, but more of them.
- Live videos in different settings.
All artists have visual aesthetics, whether they like it or not. It’s your job to figure out how to make that work for you and determine what kind of visual vibe you should be going for.
When you’re releasing something new, I would recommend completely redoing your visual look. This means:
- New promo photos, and a bunch of extra photos for extra content.
- Album art and any accompanying design work (posters, etc.).
- Website revamp.
- Logo revamp.
- Maybe even a wardrobe revamp.
Word Of Mouth
Beyond all the behind-the-scenes content generation, you need to start telling people about your album.
This is easy, fun, and way more important than you think.
Send your unreleased album to your best friends, family, and maybe even a few select fans. It will get people talking.
More importantly, send it to industry people. Let them know that this is your unreleased project. See if you can drum up any interest.
At the very least, it will get more people listening to your album and more people will know about it. At best, you can drum up some industry support for you project, before releasing anything.
Acquire Advance Publicity
As the release date gets closer, you’ll want to start pitching your album for reviews and publicity.
Start local. Get reviews from all the local arts magazines. Book an interview with morning television around the release of your album. Try to get some radio interviews as well.
Then start pitching your album widely.
Creating A Timeline
Once you have an idea of what kind of content you’re making, what kind of aesthetic you’re going for, the team you’ll be working with, and what kind of publicity you’ll target, you need to put together a timeline.
I would allow for six weeks to fully roll out your pre-release plan.
But you should also give yourself at least three months from the time the album is done to the release. If you can, give yourself 6 months.
You never know what kind of opportunities will arise. The best way to capitalize on opportunities is to be ready for them. Have patience. Make good content. And then release your music.
It will be great.