Releasing music – made simple
Planning and releasing music is one of the most time-consuming activities in the business and is why labels should be doing promotional work, not artists. It requires music marketing, networking, music PR, sending emails, preparing music formats, and making numerous phone calls. The process could take anywhere between a few weeks to several months. It can be exhausting and easily wear you out, but if done right, the rewards will be worth it.
Fortunately, for you and all other independent labels out there, Labelcaster has built a complete checklist and release plan for you in the app. We have taken all of the information in his article and boiled it down to a comprehensive and manageable toolkit.
Bu we suggest you read up first, here’s what we cover in this article:
- TIMELINE – what to do and when to do it
- Start-up meeting
- Artwork – Album/Cover art
- Researching contact lists
- Creating press kits
- Spotify for Artists & Playlist pitching
- Pre release pitching
- Creating ad campaigns
- Release day activities
- Post release activities
Releasing music – the ultimate checklist – Labelcaster
What do do – and when
Every release is unique and it is impossible to create a perfect release template and timeline. But we have put together a foundation for you to get started.
Pre-release activities (week to release)
6w – Start-up meeting
5w – Artwork creation
5w – Content creation
4w – Distribute music
4w – Order Merch
4w – Research contact list
3w – Create listening links
3w – Create pre-release Press kit
2w – Spotify for artists – pitch to playlists
2w – Pre release pitch
2w – Start posting contnuously in social media
1w – Create release press kit
1w – Prepare ad campaigns
1w – Send merch
Release day activities
Share press kit to ALL
Share through Labelcaster channels
Update social media
Launch ad campaigns
Pitch to playlist curators
Launch event – Digital or in real life
Continuously post on social media channels
Keep interacting with fans
Follow up with contacts
2. Startup meeting
The objective of the start-up meeting is to get to know the artist and to set the communication of release and any requests and expectations. After the initial startup meeting the label (you!) should have enough information to create content for the release, a strong bio, press material, creatives, ads etc etc . A checklist will be shared with the artist, this list needs to be fully checked off prior to any release can be done.
IMPORTANT: The most common issue/blocker of any release is that the music isn’t finalised. The production needs to be final and mastered without any further adjustments. Not 90% done. Not 95% done. Not “We only need to add some background vocals”. Make sure the release is ready for distribution AT LEAST four weeks in advance.
Set a Release Date
Once the music has gone through the production and post-production process, there are several things to do before release. You need to take this into consideration while determining the release date to allow enough time to achieve the necessary pre-release activities. For a single release, we would recommend setting the release date 6 weeks away from the time you are writing up your release plan. Larger projects like albums, mixtapes or compilations typically need 3 months (12
Once you write down your release plan, do some research and find out what the cost implications of the activities are. This will save you a lot of time, money, and inconvenience.
3. Artwork – Album/Cover Art
Since the artwork accompanies the audio files quite often, the artwork needs to be prepared early enough. Depending on the kind of artwork your project requires, other activities may be required to compliment the artwork. For example, if you intend to use an artist image in the album art, you may require a photoshoot, which may need planning for. Say you are outsourcing the cover art design to a graphic designer. You need to find out how long they would normally take. Ensure to account for these activities when setting the timeline for your release. You could allow for one or two weeks to complete the artwork, especially if it involves other activities to get it done. Read more on developing your album art.
It is now simpler than ever to get your music to online music stores and streaming services around the world. You know why? Because Labelcaster distributes the music for you for free. We take a 10% cut of the streaming royalties, that’s it. Labelcaster claim NO rights or any other fees. Our business model s that if you succeed – we succeed.
IMPORTANT. Keep in mind that getting the music onto streaming services can take up to 14 days. Most take 48h but we strongly suggest distributing the music at least 4 weeks in advance to release. it’s pretty common that releases run into some issues such as faulty cover art, large .wav files and Spotify for artists. Issues that may take time to solve. Also, the artists shouldn’t need or want to change their mastered material the last four weeks, you can might as well distribute it!
If you intend to incorporate merchandise in the promotion of your project (and it is a good idea to do so), you will need to plan this ahead of the release date. Find out the cost implications of making your merchandise and how long it takes to have it ready. I would recommend preparing 2 to 3 weeks before the release date.
6. Research contact list
You will need to compile a mailing list of whom to send your EPK to. This could include contacts for radio, TV, music magazines and newspaper segments, music blogs, booking agents and event organisers… not forgetting your fans mailing list. DO NOT CUT CORNERS, the contact list is the foundation of your campaign. Pick 10-15 prioritised contacts that you spend more time and effort on. It is important to note that compiling your mailing list is a continuous process, and you never stop building your contact list!
7. Create pre-release and release press kits
It is essential to prepare and update the artist press kit for every project you release. We suggest you create two press kits. A pre-release one that is a shorter teaser that a release is pending and will be out in two weeks, remember to set up 30 second listening links for this one, you can do this on Soundcloud. The second press kit is the one you send on the release day including full material and bio.
A press kit generally accompanies your music to give more information about your artist brand and the release. Some of the items that go into a press kit include your artist bio, artist images, press release, artist rider and of course, your music. Remember to update your artist bio to include new developments in your career since your last release. Update your artist images to include current photos that best represent your brand. One convenient way of packaging your press kit is creating an electronic press kit (EPK).
8. Claim And Update Spotify for Artists – pitch to playlists
The name Spotify for Artists indicates that the platform solely is for artists – it’s not. Back in the days, only artists could claim their own profiles. Spotify have recently updated their Spotify for Artists platform so that teams can create profiles and use all the tools that are available on the platform.
As a label you can handle the entire artist presence on Spotify and make sure that it is up to date and in line with the marketing efforts you are doing. You can add as many team members you like to the platform, allowing everybody involved to have full insight in the progress of the artist.
Once you claim your artist profile through these platforms and your request is accepted, you can instantly update your artist profile on those streaming services. This falls in the pre-release activities only if you have distributed music to online streaming services before. If it is your first time, this would fall under post-release activities since stores do not normally create artist profiles until the artists’ music is distributed to them.
9. Pre release pitch and start posting in social media
Before the release date, you should let the fans know that a new release is on the way. Build the hype towards the new project. Send out your pre-release press kit to the recipients you have researched. You can start sharing the artwork, teaser videos, among other promotional content on social media. A good time to start this is 1 or 2 weeks before the release date, depending on the size of the project. You can also start preparing promotional content that you will use on and after the release day.
10. Prepare ad campaigns
If you are planning tot buy media on ie Facebook, Instagram and Google, make sure to have all the ads and target groups set up well in advance. When the release is out you can just activate the ads and sit back and relax.
RELEASE DAY ACTIVITIES
1. Releasing music – Share Share Share SHARE
On the release day, social media should be your best friend. This is the time to share the much-anticipated music (if you built the hype towards it) as widely as possible. Engage with the excited fans on your posts by liking, sharing, retweeting, and commenting. Send messages, emails, make phone calls, inform, and remind people in your mailing list about releasing music. Remember to update your social media profiles and information on your artist website.
2. Activate Ad Campaigns
Paid ad campaigns can work wonders for your promotional campaign. Running ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and can help get more sales and streams for your music. Google ads also helps you run ad campaigns on YouTube and other Google affiliates. If you feel this is overwhelming, do not be afraid to hire the services of a music promotion company. They could help promote your music in more ways than one. Remember to include this in your releasing music budget.
3. Pitch To Playlists
Now that your releasing music is live in stores and you haven’t already been able to pitch to playlists, pitch it to playlist curators that feature songs in your genre or a similar style. You will need to have done some research beforehand to have the contacts ready for release day.
4. Launch Event
A launch event or listening party for your project helps fans a unique experience and interaction with your new music. Now a days, as you know, events don’t have to be physical. You can have evemts
Many of the post-release activities are a continuation of the pre-release and release day activities. On the days and weeks following the release, you should keep sharing the music as widely as possible. Get creative on how you share on social media by utilising the promotional content you had prepared. Run different ad campaigns and find more playlists to pitch your music to.
Follow Up And Response
Once your music is out there, it is a good time to follow up on any contacts that you have sent your EPK to. Find out if they have heard your music and what they think of it. Do it in a way that does not come off as spamming or nagging. A follow up email after 2 weeks could be good enough timing. Respond to the media platforms that feature your music (as many as you can) to show your appreciation. A little could go a long way.