Creating an Album Release Checklist

[Editors Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]

 

If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve either just released a new album, or have plans to in the coming weeks or months to do so. So first off, congratulations! Getting to a place where you’re ready to bring your latest project into the world is something to celebrate!

But if you’re feeling a little lost in how to prepare for the exciting day, we’ve got your back. Below we’ve compiled a list of steps to prepare you for your album release—what materials you’ll need, how early you’ll want to start planning and pitching, and how to use social media to market that release.

Give yourself plenty of time

When you hire a publicist for a PR campaign around an album, they’ll need an eight-week lead time to promote the album and set up a few single premieres in those months leading up to the release. So if you’re looking at hiring someone be sure to get in touch at least three months prior to your release, and if you’re going the DIY route, make sure you allow yourself at least those same eight-weeks to properly work promotion on the album.

This is a crucial time in which you’ll be sending the album to prospective reviewers and interviewers so make sure you give it the time it deserves. Each artist will be different, but I’d set aside at least 5-10 hours per week to work on planning and promotion.

Once the album is out it will be significantly more difficult to gain any press traction around it, so using this time wisely is a definite must-have for a successful album release.

Make sure your EPK is up to date

No skimping with old photos, outdated bio, or photos with previous members in them. Your EPK should be up to date and easy to dive into. Make sure you include at least three hi-res band photos (preferably done by a professional who can guide you in what looks good and what doesn’t, and get some personality into those shots), and a professionally written bio.

If your EPK is electronic (such as on your website) you can also include links to your social media and a stream of your most recent release.

Ramp up your social media strategy

Most artists hate the idea that social media plays an important role in becoming an established career musician, but the reality is that it does, so if you want to be noticed you must have an active and engaging social media presence.

Make sure you’re using this as an opportunity to connect with fans and build your brand, rather than making it one really long sales pitch. If you get stuck, check out the 70-20-10 rule. It’s a lifesaver for your social media.

Get prepared to pitch

If you’re hiring a publicist, this next part won’t apply to you, but if you’re DIY-ing it, you’ll need to begin to prepare to pitch your album for reviews, interviews, and other features. This means compiling a list of target blogs (and remembering to keep it realistic—small blogs can be your best asset), working on your pitch (keep it short and to the point, including links to your music, socials, and EPK), not being afraid to follow up, and then, when you do land a feature, being extremely responsive and remembering to share the article when it goes live and tag the outlet that featured it. That last one is extremely important!

Plan your release show—and make it special

Odds are you’re already planning a release show to celebrate the big day, but are you making it distinctive enough from all your other shows? Your album is a special occasion, so the show should feel like something out of the ordinary, something fans are going to remember, something to treat them. Meaning, it shouldn’t just be you playing some new songs in the same old set.

Think about ways that you can help it to stand out. Can you offer fans an exclusive set of merch as part of the ticket price? If the release is around a holiday or carries a significant theme throughout, can you make it a themed show? Get creative and think outside the box, and you’ll create an experience your fans won’t soon forget.

Make sure you have a strategy moving forward

So far, we’ve talked primarily about the lead up to the release, which is an incredibly important time in the life of an album. But once the album drops, that’s no time to stop the promotion. While your window of opportunity for press might decrease at that point, there’s still a lot of opportunity to connect with fans through social media.

Think about how you can continue to keep the momentum going months after the album has dropped. For instance, if you’re thinking of releasing a music video, dropping it after the album is out is a great way to drum up new interest on an aging product (for both fans and press alike).

Or consider making a series of graphics with your lyrics on them that can be shared around on socials and remind fans of why they love a certain song so much (bonus: this is highly shareable, which will really increase your engagement). Or do monthly live online concerts taking cover requests from fans and sneaking in a few of the new songs.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a plan in place, because once the album is out, the work isn’t over. There’s still so much that can be done, and so many ways to leave your mark.


Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.

Facebook Live and Tips For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]

 

Ever notice how the energy of a conversation – particularly about music – spikes up as soon as the word “live” comes up? Seeing an artist live is almost like saying you went to a party and bumped into them.

You actually saw them…in real life.

People like to get as close as they can to whatever it is that they’re interested in – they want to learn more about it, and of course learn as much as they can about it now. Facebook has done a pretty good job at providing a platform that allows people to engage in this way by creating Facebook Live.

As a matter of fact, according to Facebook, users watch Facebook live videos three-times longer than videos that aren’t live. This means that users are more interested in things happening now. Now let’s go over some of the basics starting with what Facebook Live is for those who aren’t familiar.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is a live video streaming feature that allows people, public figures and pages share live video with their friends and followers.

Facebook Live Features

  • Pin live comments to highlight great comments for your viewers
  • Add permalinks to your videos. (A permalink is a link to an individual page.)
  • Crosspost after your live session has ended. You can publish the video to multiple pages at once.

Where is Facebook Live Published?

It is published to the page or profile and can be removed at any time. They are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when the videos are live. Fans and friends will be able to view it at anytime.

What is the maximum duration?

Live broadcasts can last up to 90 minutes.

What are the technical requirements?

You need a strong signal before going live. Use WiFi. If you can’t find a nearby network, you’ll want a 4G connection. To check your internet speed ahead of time, download the Speedtest app from the App Store or Google Play.

Different Ways to Use Facebook Live

Q&A with Fans

By doing a Q&A you are communicating that you are open and interested in your audience. The more you share about yourself, the more they’ll grow to appreciate your art.

It is through sharing that your individuality and personality surfaces, and audiences always want to know what goes on behind your performances, (such as your lifestyle, habits, current projects, life experiences and more).

Song Requests

During your live session, accept as many song requests as you’d like. Song requests are always fun and it demonstrates a playful form of engagement with your audience. This kind of attention to your audience will go a long way. It will create a more meaningful and intimate dynamic between you and your fans.

Rehearsals

Firstly, you’re already killing two birds with one stone: you’re practicing and you’re recording it for your viewers. People love the element of exclusivity and deeper look by getting a “behind-the-scenes” view.

Announcements

This is a great way to make an announcement as it brings a more serious and urgent tone to your message. There’s a huge difference in impact between making announcements live, versus posting a social media update or graphic.

By making yourself this directly available to your audience, you are attributing a more urgent and exciting tone to your message. At the end of the session, you could even give your live viewers a special discount. Let them know you appreciate them and they’ll naturally keep wanting to engage.

Facebook Live broadcasts can even be seen in a similar light to the Facetime tool on the iPhone. It is a closer, more intimate form of interaction. You are no longer interacting with a screen full of words or still-images. The subject of interest is engaging directly and attentively with you, the fan…and how awesome is that?

Doing a Facebook Live session may seem a little daunting and risky at first – and it can be. There is no time to edit, or re-enact or enact anything.

But it makes the interaction that much more real and meaningful – something that will go a long way for you as a developing artist.

5 Reasons Why An Email Newsletter Is Still a Good Idea

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]

 

UPDATE: Read the second installment of this series here.

For many years, newsletters were the best way to reach a large group of people, as social media hadn’t exploded and taken over the planet yet. That is no longer the case, as now everybody seems to spend incredible amounts of time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms every single day. Because of this, I’ve seen many artists give up on their newsletters, and many new acts don’t even bother creating one in the first place.

I understand the thinking when it comes to this decision, but I have to disagree with it. There are plenty of reasons to either keep an email newsletter going or to start one from scratch—hear me out!

1. Give Your Diehards Everything!

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to continue to distribute a newsletter is because there are probably still people who want it. That might sound a bit silly, but if your fans want something, and you can give it to them relatively easily, you should do it. Your more casual listeners might not be intrigued when you enter their inbox, but those who love you and what you do want to hear from you!

They want to know what’s going on, what’s coming up, and they don’t mind receiving your marketing materials, so why would you miss out on an opportunity to speak to them in a way that can only benefit you?

2. Make Sure Your News Is Seen

As a musician, you’re sure to have a lot of news you want to spread around. Between new singles and albums, merchandise lines being released, and, of course, concerts all the time in every city around the world (maybe one day!), there’s a lot you need to communicate to your fans. But sadly, they’re going to miss many of those announcements. Social media channels become more and more clogged every day, and like it or not, your missives about your new video and when you take the stage will likely get pushed down in favor of bigger names.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t continue to make social media a priority, but at the same time, don’t rely on it only. Any bit of news should be shared across all social platforms, posted on your website, and included in a newsletter.

3. Lengthy Content Lives Here

As I just stated, social media is where you’re going to focus most of your energy when it comes to news and announcements, as well as promoting pretty much anything. That makes sense, since everybody is on at least one social platform, and if you are smart and you have a strategy in place for all of them, you’re going to find at least some success.

Having said that, social media wasn’t made for long-form writing, and it really doesn’t do well on Twitter, Facebook, and certainly not Instagram. You may have a blog or a spot on your website where you can post lengthier messages—letters to fans, details about purchasing tickets or merch, etc.—but even those who love you the most might miss those placements.

Newsletters can be fantastic if you have something you need to share that’s longer than any social channel allows. Such instances might not come around often, but you’ll be happy you kept your email messages going when they do.

4. Older Fans Love You, Too!

When it comes to music, everybody seems to only be concerned with younger listeners. Sure, they may be the tastemakers and the ones typically attending concerts and festivals, but they’re not the only people out there, and they aren’t always the ones with the most disposable income. To ignore those slightly older fans, or potential fans, is to shut out potential revenue streams, and no artist should ever do that!

Those audiences may be interested in listening to your tunes, buying your album, and maybe even coming to a concert, but they may not be present on social media. Reaching these listeners is imperative, so you need to go where they are. You probably don’t want to invest in advertising via traditional methods (TV, radio, and so on), so why don’t you email them?

5. Put Everything In One Place…Or, Several Places

The message with this point is simple: the more places you put your news, the better. Copy and pasting news across social platforms and on your website is great, but why not also add your newsletter into the mix? You can use your website as a place to house literally everything people could ever want to know about you and everything you’ve ever released, and your newsletter can act in much the same way, only in a smaller, more up-to-date capacity.

Your newsletter can serve as a roundup of the news you’ve been announcing on social media outlets over several days or weeks, and and once all that news is gone, keep it archived on your site. Also, feel free to include sales, links to merch, music, and buying tickets…but it should focus on everything current. The same things can be on your actual website, and then some.


Hugh McIntyre writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.

5 Reasons Small Blogs Can Launch Your Career

[Editors Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]

 

Everyone wants to get the major blog placements. The review on Pitchfork, the news post on Alternative Press, the feature on Stereogum. And while all of those are incredible placements to land, many artists seem to be missing a vital key in what can help build their career: small blogs.

When you think of a band breaking out, odds are you think of something like a licensing placement or a feature on a huge blog or radio station that got them out to the masses and instantly transformed them overnight. But as we know, there’s no such thing as the overnight sensation. Most of the artists landing those larger blog placements or getting radio play are there because they’ve set the foundation and worked hard to secure a steady stream of buzz and press over the years. And guess where a lot of that press, new fans, support, and engagement came from? Yup, small blogs.

So next time you’re getting ready to start outreach for your new single or album, keep in mind these five reasons that small blogs should be at the top of your list.

1. You’re more likely to get in touch with them

The first advantage to a smaller outlet is that you have a better shot at getting in touch with them. While it’s true that even the smallest blogs get hundreds of press releases and pitches per day, odds are they’re checking their email a little more often and more likely to actually read yours and possibly even respond.

Make sure to tailor your pitch to them (IE: use the writer’s name, comment on something they’ve written that you like, etc) and you’re that much more likely to get a response.

2. They have an extremely loyal audience

Most blogs tend to have a distinct voice that makes it their own. It could be in the writing and/or in the features themselves, but it’s this uniqueness that attracts readers to them, and it’s that same uniqueness that gets them to stay, making small blogs a nesting ground of loyal fans hanging on the blog’s every recommendation.

If you get their seal of approval, that recommendation goes a long way in their readers willingness to check you out.

3. They’ll actually share the article

For whatever reason, large blogs just don’t seem to share content in the same way that small blogs do, particularly in relation to their articles on indie artists.

Yet, when you secure a feature on an up and coming blog, they will almost always share that to their fans (multiple times on multiple platforms) which means you’re not just getting in front of the readers who happen to be on the site that day, but you’re getting in front of their entire social media audience, and drastically increasing your visibility.

4. Their features will be more in-depth

One thing I’ve noticed over the last 4 years of being a publicist is that while the big blog placements are great for visibility and bragging rights, their features just don’t seem to pack the same punch that a review or a feature on a smaller outlet does.Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part I’ve found it’s the smaller blogs that take the time to really dive into the artist’s world through detailed descriptions of their music, thought-provoking interview questions, and lengthy, comprehensive articles.

Why is this valuable? For a few reasons. The first being that as an indie artist you want an article that showcases who you are and what your music is all about, so that if people don’t already know who you are, by the end of the article they want to. The second is that having these highly quotable pieces of content to share in your press kit and on social media is simply invaluable.

5. There’s opportunity for long-term growth

Most writers have more than one gig. They may run their own blog on the side while also freelancing for a larger outlet, or they may get their feet wet writing for a small blog, and in a few year’s time gain enough experience to go on to the larger ones. My point being, when you align yourself with a growing blog, it’s a natural fit that allows the two of you to grow together.

It’s unreasonable to think that an emerging band who is just getting their footing should grab the attention of a major player in the blogging world, but to align with a blog who is also just getting started, build that relationship, and perhaps in a few year’s time both be in a position to secure a larger feature—well now that’s just smart networking.


Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.

4 Merch Items You’re Not Offering At Your Show (That You Should)

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]

 

Making money as a musician has always been tough, but it’s harder than ever these days, so you need to put in the extra effort to sell what you can, when you can. Since physical record sales are down, most artists tour more often to make up for the lack of people owning albums. Ticket sales and guarantees are great, but most acts can also make a few extra bucks selling merch, especially if they have a growing fan base and some awesome offerings.

There are plenty of items that will obviously be featured in your “store,” such as t-shirts and albums (both in CD and vinyl form, if you can make it work), but don’t stop there! There are many other things you should be selling, and below are a handful of products you might never have even considered, but which should be a part of your moving pop-up shop (otherwise known as the rather unglamorous merch table).

1. Download Cards

Selling music has taken a backseat to streaming, and it has become incredibly difficult to convince people to hand over their hard-earned cash for a copy of your tunes…especially when they can access them on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms. Having said that, after seeing a stellar live showing, some fans want nothing more than to own the music they just heard, and you should move quickly to make sure you capture those customers, and that you have something that works for every kind of listener.

Download cards come with a specific, unique code, and once listeners get online, they can go to a specific website and download your music.

You can have download cards made for your singles, your albums, and any other collection you’ve released. The prices for these products vary from just over $100 to well over $250 for 1,000, depending on which company you go for (a quick Google search turns up many different options), and while you’d think you could just suggest to someone that they go on iTunes when they get home…chances are by then, they’ll have moved on. Sure, it will cost you a few bucks upfront, but it’s better to be prepared and to sell when the selling is good than to lose out on all those potential customers.

2. Special CDs

Your shows will be perhaps the best opportunity to sell your new album, but that doesn’t mean you should expect to move tons of product while trekking across the country. In addition to offering your latest record (which you’re probably touring to promote) and your older material, why not have a CD pressed that can only be purchased at your shows?

Once you have a sizable enough fan base (it doesn’t need to be huge, but this idea probably won’t work if you’re only playing to people who are discovering you for the first time), you can entertain the idea of having a special CD made specifically to sell while on tour. This disc can be filled with many different kinds of music, and what will work for you depends on what kind of artist you are and what your fans are most interested in. I wouldn’t suggest creating a full album of completely original material to sell exclusively at your concerts, because the time and effort that will go into that might be too much to expend for a small return.

Instead, use your tour as an opportunity to sell your most ardent fans an acoustic EP, a remix collection, or perhaps even a live album, which could mimic what they just fell in love with on stage. Make sure you not only tell people in the audience that the record will only be purchasable at your merch table, but let them know before the concert as well. That might convince a few people to also turn up and see the show!

3. Buttons and Stickers

Buttons and stickers are typically the cheapest items sold at merch tables, and they don’t bring in much cash. They’re not costly to make, but you also can’t get away with pricing them very high, so don’t start thinking that you’re going to pad your wallet by offering stickers…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still sell them!

Offering these small-ticket items allows you to have something on your merch table that everyone can afford, and that can be very important to your younger or less financially well-off fans. Not everyone has the money to buy your album or a t-shirt, but providing an option that allows your supporters to feel like they are a part of your success, if even a tiny part, is a great way to keep them invested in you and your career.

Also, once they own these items, they’ll either wear them or place them somewhere that others will see, and that’s not just advertising—it’s advertising someone else paid for! Sure, selling pins to young fans wont turn you into a superstar, but it also doesn’t hurt to have something people can attach to their clothing that others might ask about. Keep this in mind as you create your designs as well.

4. Pens

Selling people your music is great, but selling people an item they will use or wear for weeks or months that features your logo or name is even better, at least in some regards. You’d love to sell them t-shirts or hoodies, but not everybody is looking to spend that much money, and while pins and stickers (which we just discussed above) are great options, they won’t appeal to everyone.

It might sound silly, but pens that feature your band’s name or logo are a small, cheap item that is actually functional, and that might be enough to convince those difficult shoppers to go home with something from your merch table. Keep the price low and make sure those who don’t seem enthused by everything else being offered see them and you might be able to make a sale. Again, it won’t net you much cash, but once you’ve sold something to them, they’ll remember you, and they’ll see your name every time they use that pen, which could subconsciously turn them into bigger fans and keep you top of mind. If all goes well, they’ll stream your tunes more often, and maybe even come see you the next time you’re in town.

Pens are, of course, not the only product you can have customized relatively cheaply, but I wanted to put the idea out there with something that would be very easy to have made. Don’t go overboard, but if you can insert yourself into a fan’s every day in any way, it could wind up being a big win for you.


Hugh McIntyre writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.