#WWAPD (What Would A Publicist Do): How to release an album
So you’re an indie musician, you’re releasing your album solo. What do you do? You’re not Beyoncé; you can’t just drop an album & achieve overnight success. What do you even need before you release an album? We’ve got a new blog series just for you: #WWAPD. Listen up, guys.
TIMING IS KEY
Does your album have a summer or fall vibe? If neither, just don’t release it too close to the holidays – unless it’s a Christmas album of course. If you hire a publicist or choose to do it on your own, don’t set a release date until you create a game plan. If you’re buzzing locally, you may be able to swing a one-month campaign, but that’s pushin’ it. Three to six months is ideal. Think about your goals. Are they achievable in this timeframe you’ve set for yourself? Will you be able to crunch out a photo shoot, studio time, tour booking, finding a venue for your release party, construct a press release or EPK, etc. in time?
Plan ahead & don’t rush things! Musicians tend to be eager to get their material out ASAP, but without the right game plan, you might as well release your music for free on SoundCloud without a peep from even the local media. In our minds, that’s a waste of five to 12 tracks. When we receive emails from bands who want us to help them release an album in a matter of weeks, we literally just tell them no. We can help you with the next one, buddy! What’s the rush anyways? PR peeps have planned campaign schedules, often months in advance, so you need to be flexible if you hire someone too.
According to About.com’s “4 Things You Need to Do Before You Release an Album,” musicians often have an urge to release their music as soon as they record it. It’s a good read, actually, providing creatives with key advice: “instead of rushing it out, look at it this way - you've worked hard on your music, & it deserves to be shown off in the best light possible.”
Pitching writers may take some time (even if a PR guru is doing it for you) & you also need to be aware of their writings habits. Keep in mind that different publications work on different deadlines & writers often have day jobs and other obligations, not to mention thousands of unread emails daily. Some of them have to submit their story ideas months ahead; others can turn in a story within a week. Therefore, know the publications you are targeting and their editorial timelines in order to communicate with them efficiently & effectively.
PREMIERES ARE GOLDEN
Have you even thought about a premiere? If not, you’re losing an opportunity to get another person talking about your album. Do you have a music video? If not, you’re losing a second opportunity. You or your PR rep should give writers options and use their relationships to leverage the best premieres for your brand of music. Are you Pitchfork material or is a niche blog a better fit for you?
Another thing to consider is the narrative that will help you secure press interest in your story. Look for newsworthy elements that will make you stand out. Did critics like your last single? If you don’t have any past press, what makes you as a musician unique? Did you grow up in a strict religious household before you created edgy house music? Mention it in the press release; don’t be afraid to share interesting tidbits about your life. Be selective about what you share and make sure it’s notable enough to mention.
VISUAL ELEMENTS ARE KING
Tidy up your web presence before you pitch the media. They will be searching for you online & an unprofessional web presence may turn them off. Make sure you have all of the important info on your website, social media & SoundCloud to make yourself easy to find.
Don’t use old images to promote your album. If it’s been seen before, it’s old news. Consider contacting a local artist to create a visually cool concert poster, cover art or new merch. Make sure you have images of you and/or your band to send along with your new music. If you don’t send them images, they will search for them online & who knows what they’ll find! It’s better to control the message & take care of this yourself.
Make sure you have your artwork done before starting on your campaign. Also, if you are planning shooting a music video, you should plan on it earlier on, don’t stress out about it the last minute before the album release. You don’t want to look disorganized if things aren’t ready when you said they would be. Come up with creative visuals that fit you but at the same time something that will be consistent with your brand & keep it coherent throughout the campaign. Are you a laid-back Southern rock band? Cool. Take a band photo on your colorful 70s couch together.
BEAT IS EVERYTHING
Research, research, research. This is literally the most important element of an effective campaign. Don’t waste your time pitching people who write only about hip-hop if you’re an emerging folk rock artist. You’ll not only waste your time, but you’ll also look a little clueless as well. Try your best to come off as knowledgeable about the publication and who you’re reaching out to. Research writers’ “beats” – aka what topics they tend to cover on a regular basis before you reach out.
Good practice is to start reading the local & national publications you want to be featured in. This will help you craft your pitch & understand what their audience is looking for.
PRESS RELEASES ARE HARD
No, really. Press releases take us hours upon hours to write. A good press release tells your story and has all of the pertinent info included, but it also intrigues. Remember the 5 W’s from grade school? We may be biased, but we wouldn’t recommend writing your own press release. Why? Because you’re not an expert (unless you’re a PR-maven-turned-badass-musician).
Look at local PR reps in town & if you don’t have the budget for a full press campaign, ask them if they can write you just the release. What do you never ask a publicist for? Their contacts. That’s something you have to pay for.
Whether it’s a DIY release, or you scrounge up enough dollar bills to hire a publicist to do the job, you need to plan far ahead for any album release. Your music has value & you need to give it same attention releasing it as you did when you were slaving over the guitar in the studio.
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