The Business of Making a Record (Part III)

[Editors NoteThis is the final installment in a three-part series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to catch up. In this final piece, he guides first-time music makers as they navigate the world of defining their promotion and release strategy, as well as defining what success means to them. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

 

Ok. The champagne’s been popped. You’ve listened to your album on repeat since receiving the master, ordered your physical packages, and now you’re ready; ready to share your masterpiece with the world. Before we get to the grit of “Now what?”, let me start by talking about the last part of the previous sentence.

A large part of your success as an artist rests in the tenacity of your belief – the belief you are creating something of worth. When I say “masterpiece, I mean masterpiece. You have, in whatever large or small way, created something that is uniquely you.

Remember that at every turn.

When you’ve spent hours sending your record to hundreds of blogs for review, and one blogger bites – remember that. When the “likes” on the debut of your “sneak peek” for the first single don’t stack up to “industry standards” – remember that.

We don’t create for praise. We create because we know no other way. It is the life of an artist. In this self-assured approach, do not mistake arrogance for quiet confidence; this is never a good look and will only lead to complications. Now, let’s get to the meat.

There are as many ways to market an album as there are to record a song. Some grand and proven, others outside-of-the-box and risky. The only way you “fail” in this pursuit is by not truly planning out your approach. Throwing something in the air and praying a stranger knows to look up is foolish.

In the same respect, a scattered, unplanned marketing strategy will only lead to an annoyed audience and wasted opportunity.

What is within my reach?

Start here. Don’t compare your album rollout to anyone else’s. New duo Levv is probably not going to have the same access or promotional reach as say Macklemore or Sia. Creativity is key.

With so many avenues of approach at our fingertips, it can be daunting for a new artist to decide the path that best suites her or him. This process is extremely important to your success. A well-thought out plan of attack is almost as important as the product you have created. Here are a few ideas that may help jumpstart your upcoming album release.

Find the “comeback”.

When people suggest social media is the best way to begin promoting your release, don’t assume you already know this little gem of information because you’ve posted a Soundcloud link of a song to your Facebook wall. The world of social media is a much more complicated arena than the occasional “Get ready for our latest single!” status/tweet, or a picture post from the studio. You have to create the “comeback.”

What about your music brings people back to your page – pulls their finger to the “like” button – and what has them waiting for what’s next? People enjoy having something to look forward to. This can come in the form of revealing different pieces of your artwork, teasing songs from the album through video or audio posts, playing one song from the record live in the weeks leading up to the release, doing a pre-release on iTunes or Bandcamp, making a new song available each week as the release date approaches – the possibilities are limitless. It just takes some imagination and hard work.

Press: The ask.

For an independent artist this may be the most difficult part of the equation. If I’ve learned anything from my time in the industry, it’s this: the ask will get you further than the fear. If your goal is blog supremacy, then roll up your sleeves, and get to work. This is not for the easily winded.

Step 1: Compile a list of your favorite music blogs and publications. Begin following the sites and make a habit of regular visits. Be invested in the platforms you hope invest in you.

Step 2: Pick your most commercially viable or best song (TIP: send out an email to friends and family with a private playlist of the album, and have them vote on their favorites) and formulate a personal email to EACH of these outlets. Yes, personal – yes each. No blogger or music content editor with any clout is going to waste time reading, or listening for that matter, to a mass email talking about a song /record from an unproven, unknown artist when their inbox is full of known acts looking for the same spot (and usually sent from a reputable publicist).

This is work, my friends. You can’t decide one day that all you need to do is send out an email to 200 of your favorite online outlets and expect the rest to just fall in to place. Start this process early – long before your rollout is to begin.

The day after…

You’ve come to a crucial point that few talk about, but everyone experiences. I call it “the day after.” The album has been released, and you’ve spent an ungodly amount of time promoting and planning only to find yourself a month in and feeling as though all your hard work is already forgotten. Stop right there.

I am a firm believer in defining your OWN idea of success. Those in the arts, or most human beings for that matter, get caught up in numbers. Societal bars that dictate whether or not we are successes or failures. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The easiest way to avoid following the lemmings to this destructive cliff is two-fold.

Redefine what success looks like within your reality, and never assume quality work doesn’t require hard work when it’s finally time to release it.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you refused to carry the weight of living up to expectations that were never yours to begin with. All you’re in control of is the quality of your work and how much time you’re willing to put into making it a success. Before one album or song is sold or streamed, decide what your goals for the record are according to where you are in the journey. Build your brand and career with the knowledge that it may take some time before the work reflects the prize.

This business is a killer. It’s sleepless nights and dive bars – working two jobs mixed with moments of creation.  Remain true to what you feel makes you great – different from the pack. When you discover your unique point of view, create with intent. Be the best at what you do, work hard, and people will take notice.

For all the advice and careful planning one can give or receive, there is no perfect guidebook to the world of creative arts. It is a place for the dreamer; a road of self-discovery that will lead to triumph and loss – failures and success. Resolve to create because you must, and the rest will fall into place.

Thank you for allowing me to talk a little about my thoughts on making a record through the lens of my personal experience. These are challenging times for artists, but remember, we are the pulse of each generation. Without art, music, or words, we are left to brave the world in silence. So play loud my friends, because whether or not they know it, they need us.