The pinnacle achievement of many musicians is to hold in your hands your own masterpiece of music history – your first full album. While the recording process can be a minefield of pitfalls and expensive mistakes, we’re going to talk today about how to avoid the most explosive mine in the field – how to release an album correctly. This is a guide intended for the new and unsigned musicians/bands, though the fundamentals are true for any band – but to be fair, mostly you will work this stuff out once you’ve been down the garden path – for better or worse.
Release with planning, or going out blind.
Planning doesn’t just mean organizing the piss-up at the launch party, it means sitting down way before you even enter the studio and sorting out a schedule for events to happen, then sticking to the plan as closely as possible. While its cool to deviate a little along the way, you should not alter the end goal without sitting down again to establish a new plan. You need a plan, or you’re blind.
Ok, lets get into it.
First thing: The media – your new best friend.
Before you even plug a mic into the mixing desk, you need to understand the different types of media outlets there is out there, and more importantly how to find them. ‘Media‘ pretty much covers any person or business willing to report about you. There are three basic forms of media you should know about in New Zealand – Traditional, New Media and Social Media.
Traditional media means the age old school form of communication – before the wonders of the internet came along. We’re talking newspapers, TV and radio. The big problem with traditional media is they pretty much have no time for you unless you’re already someone important. If you’re nobody, you’ll need to either spend some cash (bad move) or network with the right people (great idea). Very generally speaking, traditional media tend to lead towards eye-catching articles, paparazzi style reporting and the likes. They would much prefer a photo of you falling off the stage then performing on in – thats just their mindset, to report the breaking news, so to speak.
New Media covers anything from the internet, pretty much. Blog sites, pod-casters, review sites and online music magazines like Music Nation. These outlets rely on high traffic flow to their sites to make money, and the content can change very quickly – often overnight. They look for quick, easily deliverable high interest content. New Media sites will run pretty much anything given to them, with more focus on articles promising higher traffic links.
Finally, Social Media. Social Media is you, your friends and people who want to be your friends. Your presence on the web. Its as simple as email, but also covers Facebook, ReverbNation, BandCamp, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter…there’s many, and more popping up all the time. These sites work on word of mouth networking and self-propagating ranking (‘likes’ for instance).
All three you will need to have a good understanding of who power players are, who are the contacts and their contact details. Knowing this section is extremely important, I would say it accounts for 95% of your albums marketing – and guess what – it shouldn’t cost you a cent if you do you homework.
You should start promoting your album before you start recording it. Make a buzz, get fans involved. Announcing the band is ‘ready to record‘ is a great way to start the ball rolling. Post photos of the band writing material, even from the studio tracking songs – there’s nothing better then a photo of the band hard at work over a mixing desk. When you do this, believe it or not, you’re selling albums. People watch the process, comment and get involved – you’re creating a buzz, people feel connected with the recording and will want to buy the finished product.
Share share SHARE! Photos, demos, rough mixes….anything. Vlogs (video blogs) are amazing promo. Get a camcorder or just your cell phone and do some ad hoc behind the scenes progress reports and interviews, upload them to YouTube – start generating interest there (YouTube even pays you after a while too). Fans love that stuff.
Why not get your fans to help choose lyrics or mix variations? Brilliant way to give them a sense of involvement. Post variation on a mix or lyric arrangement and get fans to vote on the best.
Get a street team! It might sound pretentious, but ask your fans to arrange a street team for you. Give them exclusive access to the studio, interviews and merch. Get them out on the street with posters and flyers, spreading the word about the band. Word of mouth is incredibly important – and no one is more strident then band fan club members.
Before you’ve even mastered the album you should have a real buzz online with eager fans hanging out for their copy.
Part 2 coming soon…