[Editors Note: This article was written by Rich Nardo.]
So you wrote and recorded your best work to date and you want to make sure you give it the best opportunity to reach as many new ears as possible. It sounds like it’s time to put a proper release plan together!
You just have one question. How do you do that?
The first decision you need to make is how you’re going to group the songs. Should you drop a full-length all at once or divide it into EPs to stagger throughout the year? Or, is releasing each song as an individual single the best route to go? This article will take a look at the different ways in which you can choose to release your music and the pros and cons of each method.
First let’s look at the contributing factors:
- What genre does your music best fit in? Different methods work better for different genres.
- Where are you in your career? The newer your project is, the more important it is to have a continuous string of new music to release regularly.
- What’s your goal? Is the biggest goal in releasing your new music to set up the foundation for who you are as an artist or convey a message? Or are you trying to garner as many streams as possible?
- Are You Touring? If you’re a new artist and about to hit the road, you’re going to want to have some music out there in the world for people to be familiar with. If you’re lucky enough to have landed an opening spot on a bigger tour, you want to make sure the new fans you’re winning over each night can easily come home and find their favorite song. That’s the best way to retain them as fans.
- Who Is Your Demographic? You need to understand the listening habits of the type of music fan you’re targeting before determining your release plan.
Okay, now that you’ve answered those questions, let’s look at the different options for how you can schedule your releases. For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume you have 12 songs that you are planning on releasing in 2019.
Series of Singles
If you’re a brand new artist, this is probably going to be your best bet. Putting out an album can be expensive and you’re going to want to have a fanbase waiting for an official release if you’re going to commit to one. You can always go back and include a few of these initial songs on an EP or full-length later on if you’re really proud of them and want them to a part of your official debut.
In addition to new artists, releasing singles as opposed to collections seems to work best for electronic and hip hop artists.
- Allows for maximum flexibility – If the song is really building you don’t have to rush to the next single. At the same time, if it’s not going as well as you’d hoped, you can quickly set up the next release and use that to bring attention back to the first release if it seems to be going better.
- Consistency of new content – For fanbase building these days, consistently releasing new music is key. By releasing a new song every month or so, you have a regular reason to remind people about your project.
- Doesn’t point towards long-term plan – When submitting for playlisting, bigger press looks, tours, radio, etc., you’re going to need to show that there is a long term plan to market and grow your music before most people will jump on board. If you’re just releasing singles, that might put you at a disadvantage. Still, if you’re a brand new artist and they like the song, they also might refrain from posting, but keep you on their radar to see how the project grows.
Sample Release Schedule: One single per month.
Series of 3 to 4 EPs
I’m a big fan of releasing a series of EPs over the course of the year, especially if your 12 songs can easily be grouped into a few cohesive sets. This allows you to present the songs in a more comprehensive fashion while still maintaining flexibility. You can even build your reasoning for why you grouped the songs the way you did into the marketing plan for the releases.
This plan seems to fit with most genres of rock, as well as, folk and indie pop releases.
- Hybrid of flexibility and structure – It gives you the structure of official releases and the flexibility of schedule that is attributed to individual single releases.
- Potential for physical release – This isn’t really a big deal for the most part, but if you’re going on tour, it’s nice to have some sort of physical release that fans can purchase at the merch table. You could do the same thing with a single, but the return on investment for releasing a single as a cassette isn’t necessarily as high as it would be for an EP or full-length.
- Marketing angle – If there is a distinct way in which you group the songs, you can implement it into the marketing plan or use it to display how diverse of an artist you are.
- Sort of a release purgatory – EPs are not as flexible as individual singles and they don’t command the sort of attention that a full length does. For instance, a lot of sites and publications won’t do album reviews on EPs.
Sample Release Schedule:
- Late January – EP1 1st Single Release.
- Mid February – Release of EP1.
- May – EP2 1st Single Release.
- June – Release of EP2 .
- September – EP3 1st Single Release.
- October Release of EP3.
A full-length release is a serious accomplishment that will represent a period of time in your career. Music historians often define chapter’s in an artist’s creative journey by album periods. If you have a following already or your 12 songs have some sort of underlying thread that holds them together, a full-length could be the way to go. If you’re a new artist, chances are you’re better off holding off on this.
Even if you are going to release a full-length, it’s best to extend the release cycle to maximize the content. Releasing full-lengths are good for any established artist or in the worlds of pop, country, rock and singer/songwriter.
- Implies structure – If you are putting out a full length, and can speak to your plan around it, there is an implication that you are poised for a bigger moment in your career. This could help gain press, radio and streaming attention.
- Bigger project branding opportunities – A full-length needs to be cohesive. Every aspect from artwork to video to merch are part of the release. In this scenario there are a lot of opportunities to be imaginative and take the project from a collection of songs to a multimedia art project. As mentioned earlier, this is a defining moment in your career, use it to brand who you are as an artist right now.
- Lack of flexibility – the scheduling around a full-length usually is a little more restrictive as you’re working towards a specific date.
- Expensive – If you’re going to give your full-length the respect it deserves, you’re going to have to spend some money. Is this something you are able to do? Also, what are the chances you’ll be able to make your money back upon release?
Sample Release Schedule:
- February -1st Long-lead single.
- April – 2nd Long-lead Single.
- May – 3rd Single, Album Announcement.
- Early June – 4th Single Release.
- Late June – Album Release.
In the end, there is no precise formula to determine what the right path or release is for your music. Each individual project is unique…thus is art! That being said, hopefully this article will give you a guideline in determining what your best approach is.
Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the VP of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.