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2018 ULTIMATE RELEASE GUIDE 1

2018 ULTIMATE
RELEASE GUIDE
2018 ULTIMATE RELEASE GUIDE 2

Times have changed for independent artists.

Today, success isn’t just about making great music,


it’s about understanding the fundamentals of
marketing and release planning to get your music
out there and find the right audiences. That said, we
still see artists making the same mistake – devoting
all their time and energy into creating music (that’s
the fun part), only to rush through their release.

That’s why we created the Ultimate Release Guide for 2018.


INTRODUCTION 3

This best-practice guide will keep you organized, help you To really get the best results from this guide, you need to start
focus on what matters most, and give you industry tips from planning early. Running out of time is one of the most common
our artist marketing team with years of experience releasing mistakes we see artists make. So, start planning at least two
music. We’ve also included some real case studies from months before Release Day to make sure you’re covered.
AWAL artists on how they approach the release process.

The guide breaks down the release process into three stages:

Pre-Release
Release Day
Post-Release
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 4

PRE-RELEASE
PLANNING
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 1 TIMELINE 5

1
Make a Release As we said at the start of this journey — organization is key.
There are a million things for you to keep track of, so before

Timeline you start anything, begin with making a clean, easy-to-follow


timeline. This will be your guide during your entire release
process, highlighting all major milestones and important
dates. Organize your timeline in three major buckets:

Pre-release
Release day
Post-release

PRO TIP

Keep in mind that your personal


timeline might include some, all,
or a completely different set of
milestones. Customize your plans
to your release.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 1 TIMELINE 6

Then, break those three into specific events you can use to
not only earmark as goals to work towards (or backwards
from) but also use in all of your planning and strategizing.

These might include:

Single and/or album release date


Live show dates and release parties
Video premieres or teaser releases
Streaming sessions
Press release servicing date
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 2 BUDGET 7

2
Set a Budget Before you make any major decisions about your release
plans, make sure you have the budget to cover all of your
expenses — including a cushion for any unforeseen charges
or last-minute opportunities. Depending on your particular
strategy, and what responsibilities your team has, you may
need to pay for:

Social media promotion


Digital advertising
Publicity (including hiring a publicist)
Show/release party
Promotional materials

PRO TIP

Always be realistic with how much you can do yourself. Even if you’re currently handling all
of your marketing and promotion yourself, will you feasibly be able to maintain social media
while prepping and promoting your release? Though hiring someone to help out might require
spending a bit of money, the benefit of being able to properly spread the word about your music
while focusing on big-picture release execution might be worth it.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 3 VIDEOS 8

3
Plan to Create A stream or MP3 is great, but obviously not the only way to
share your music. Depending on what works best for your

Music Videos, brand and budget, you could consider releasing a music
video, lyric video, or even a live video of you playing the

Lyric Videos,
song in a venue as a post-release strategy.

and More
The reason why we’re mentioning this in your pre-release
plan is because the time to think about creating any kind of
visual content is well before your music ever comes out. In
some cases, more elaborate videos may take a few weeks or
months to finish, so get any plans in this arena rolling well
before your release happens.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 4 CREATIVE ASSETS 9

4
Organize Your Visuals are everything. You need to make sure you’ve got
visuals that are compelling and really grab an onlooker’s

Creative Assets attention. So, make sure you’re planning and preparing your
photo and video content well beyond your release date. It
can be extremely useful to create a downloadable folder
to make it easy for industry contacts, your publicist, and/or
team to help lock in any premieres, shows, or partnerships.

Here are just a few of the digital assets you’ll want to have
on hand for your release:

Artist bio
Any album liner notes
Hi-res press photos
Track or album artwork
Audio/visual teasers
Music or lyric videos
Animated GIFs
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 5 MARKETING / PROMOTION STRATEGY 10

5
Create a Depending on your budget, build out some ideas of
marketing and promotion that might be effective for your

Marketing new release. Would local radio be a logical vehicle for your
music? What about an interview or premiere on a small,

and
niche blog? Pretend social media doesn’t exist for a hot
second (difficult, we know), and think about how you’d

Promotion
spread the word in the before-times.

Social media, however, does exist, as we all know, so

Strategy don’t neglect it when you’re thinking about marketing and


promotion. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
YouTube, Tumblr, and more are your direct channels to
engage and communicate with your fans to share music and
build loyalty. Even if you’re deep in the throes of promoting
your latest release, make sure to keep 80% of your posts
“personal” and 20% (or less, ideally) “salesy” pushes for
your music.

When digitally advertising or sponsoring posts on social


media, make sure to check in with native analytics tools
(like Facebook and Twitter Insights) that can help you better
target whatever ads you decide to run. Also, use trackable
PRO TIP
links from Linkfire or SmartURL to point to your music on
Don’t forget about social media — DSPs (i.e., Apple Music, Spotify, etc.). You can use these
keep yourself on track and organized
by creating a comprehensive social links not only on social media, but also for tracking clicks to
media calendar to plan your posts your music, mailing list, and more.
across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,
and other platforms.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 6 YOUR WEBSITE 11

6
Create or As we’ve mentioned before, your website is your central
hub for any big news. It’s where many of your existing and

Update Your prospective fans will be looking to for any new releases. So,
it’s important to plan ahead with that in mind.

Website Before a new release, you want to make sure your website is
looking its best or create one if you don’t already have one.
Make it easy for people to learn more about you, and ensure
your fans can get the key info in one place, including:

Tour dates
Store
Contacts
Bio
Socials
Listening links
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 6 YOUR WEBSITE 12

More importantly, make sure news about your upcoming release. Updating hero visuals across your digital channels
release is front and center, with pre-order call to actions with the artwork and information about your arriving music
taking precedence. Beyond that, think about matching is definitely a good idea.
the aesthetics of your website to that of your upcoming

See how AWAL artist


Tom Misch updated
the aesthetics of his
website to highlight
his upcoming album
release and tour.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 7 SOCIAL MEDIA 13

7
Update Your Your website isn’t the only digital real
estate you want to update in advance
Additionally, finesse your biography and
contact information to work in the date

Social Media of your release. Consider updating


your social media headers and profile
of your release. If you have a Wikipedia
page, make sure that’s current also.

Pages
images with release information. This is
something you may want to plan having
both pre- and post-launch.

Tom Misch also updated


the heroe images of all
his social pages to help
promote the news of
Geography’s arrival.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 7 SOCIAL MEDIA 14

Maintenance is only half the battle. Think about creating a


content plan and teaser campaigns. It’s a great way to build
hype around a release. Release images from the studio, promo
shots, video clips, tracklists, GIFs, etc. throughout your release
cycle. Tag partners and the people involved on social media.
As your release campaign rolls out, you’ll be able to see which
channels are growing faster than others; this can really help
you decide where to spend that marketing budget.

AWAL artist Emma McGann gets


extra social engagement by
tagging all those involved in
her release.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 8 MAILING LIST 15

8
Work on Your First, put some effort into your mailing list. You want to make
it as easy as possible to sign up. Consider putting email

Mailing List captures on all your digital real estate like your website and
social pages. You can even have a physical mailing list at
shows for people to sign up. It’s also a good idea to include
some kind of incentive, like sending a free MP3 or a ticket
giveaway in exchange for email addresses.

VÉRITÉ added a subscribe


option on her website so
she can start capturing
fans’ email addresses to
stay in contact with them.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 8 MAILING LIST 16

Second, for your upcoming release, build out a flow of


comms to send to your list that will keep them in the
know about any important details. Email is a bit more
invasive as a means of communication, so be cautious
about the frequency that you contact your fanbase.
You want to keep people engaged, but you don’t want
to be annoying. There’s a balance to maintain.

As anyone will tell you, owning your audience is


extremely important. It’s not only beneficial to “own
your audience” for comms around your release, but
it’s just a best practice, overall.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 9 INFLUENCES 17

9
Think Social Influencer marketing is a huge aspect to start thinking about before
your release. Think about the key people to involve ahead of time who

Influencers might share your music or your news. Consider press, industry contacts,
or even just peers, fans, and/or any partners. Ideally, you want to shoot
for individuals and/or organizations who have a substantial following.
It’s best to approach them in advance and onboard them within your
timeline; that way, you can benefit from their following.

PRO TIP

Consider partnering
with music companies
that not only distribute
your music but promote
its success to their
followers as well!
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 10 LOCAL RADIO 18

10
Hit Up Local If you decide that radio will be part of your release strategy,
start approaching stations, hosts, or shows with your release

Radio Shows before its street date. Common collabs with radio include
pre- or post-release interviews and airplay, day-of premieres,
or even live, in-studio acoustic performances. Regardless
of what your ideal radio situation looks like, it’s another
element that requires thought and planning as far out as
possible to maximize time to make it happen.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 11 MUSIC DISTRIBUTORS 19

11
Partner with How are you getting your music to major services? There
are tons of music distributors that will take that burden off

a Music your shoulders and can really maximize your exposure. For
example, AWAL distributes to different stores and services

Distributor
covering 190 territories across the world such as Spotify,
Apple Music, Amazon, and YouTube Red. Due to its curated
roster, AWAL has formed strong relationships with DSPs,
getting artists on more popular playlists more frequently.

PRO TIP
Newly welcomed
Need help finding the best digital music distribution singer/songwriter
service for you and your music? Here are the major Rupert Stroud knew
considerations to evaluate before coming to a final it was time to find a
decision, including the right time to start looking for partner in preparation
one and the qualifications that really matter. of a big 2018 release.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 12 DIGITAL SERVICES 20

12
Prep with Just like with your websites and social pages, your streaming
profiles should reflect and champion your upcoming music

Digital as well. Two of the biggest you absolutely want to prepare


are your Spotify and Apple Music profiles. Make sure all your

Services
hero and profile images are updated to reflect your song art,
your bio with release info is updated, and that you’re posting
content on your Apple Music Connect profile about the news
with teaser content.

PRO TIP

If you’re looking for some tips to get the most out of


your Spotify or Apple Music profile in preparation of
your release, we’ve got you covered with everything
you need to know to update your profiles and get
yourself noticed on these crucial platforms.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 13 MUSIC DISTRIBUTORS 21

13
Create Custom Selling merch is a great way to
generate some extra buzz around
You not only need to contemplate
inventory, but it’s also important

Merch your release. Think hats, shirts,


backpacks — whatever seems
reasonable within your budget.
for you to plan out how you’re
going to sell everything. An easy
solution is to use a platform like
Regardless of what you end up Music Glue. They’re a specialist
going with, just make sure it e-commerce platform specifically
accentuates the aesthetic of your for artists, where you can create
new release. a free website and store to sell
merchandise, experiences, tickets,
music, and more direct to fans
in one simple transaction. If your
budget is limited, their print-on-
demand T-shirt feature is an easy
way to stock your store for free;
it’s money in your pocket when
you make a sale.

AWAL artists Sea Girls know how to


showcase and sell their customized
merch from their website!
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 14 DIGITAL SERVICES 22

14
Use Live Part promotional strategy, part rallying cry for your new
music, live shows are a great way to not only premiere

Shows to new tracks but also generate buzz around upcoming


releases. Get creative with these shows, whether that

Create Buzz
means playing the entire album start to finish (while
bookending with songs your fans love to sing along to,
of course), creating a custom takeaway item for every
person in the audience or even giving them a free
download when your music is officially unleashed.
PRE-RELEASE PLANNING 15 RELEASE DAY 23

15
Plan Something Think of release day like your birthday. If you want it to be
a success, you’ve got to do it big. There are tons of fun

Special for and creative ways for you to capture as much attention as
possible around your release during the big day.

Release Day
RELEASE DAY 24

RELEASE DAY
RELEASE DAY 1 SOCIAL MEDIA CONTEST 25

1
Throw a Contests are a great way to drive organic engagement and
draw attention to your new release. They can be as simple or

Social Media as elaborate as you want; you know your fanbase better than
anyone, so make sure you tailor your strategy specifically to

Contest
what you think they’d interact with.

Starting early in the day, post across every channel


encouraging fans to share their favorite tracks from your new
release with a specific hashtag and to tag you in their posts.
Your custom hashtag should relate directly back to your new
album or single; try keeping it simple by transforming your
release title into an easy-to-remember tag. Alternatively, create
your own promotional post and encourage followers to share it
on their own profiles along with your custom hashtag.
RELEASE DAY 1 SOCIAL MEDIA CONTEST 26

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when


brainstorming contest ideas. For example,
if your band has a rocking, guitar-heavy
sound, invite fans to record and share videos
of themselves jamming out air-guitar style.
Anything fun and engaging will capture your
fans’ imaginations and get them excited about
participating — and about your new record.

Like the contest concepts themselves, prizes


really run the gamut. Something as simple as a
retweet, follow, or direct message from you is
probably enough to motivate some fans to share,
but giving away signed CDs, concert tickets,
or merch isn’t a bad idea either. Whatever you
do, make sure to clearly indicate the stakes
at the beginning of the contest so there’s no
disagreement about who won later on.

PRO TIP

Wondering which social media platform is right AWAL artist Grabbitz


for your release-day contest? Here are some promoted the release
important factors to consider in general when of his single “Things
choosing where to spend your time and place Changed” by launching an
importance when it comes to your socials. Use official hashtag and social
this evaluation to help determine where fans contest to complement
will most likely flock to your contest. his release day.
RELEASE DAY 2 REAL-TIME NOTIFICATIONS 27

2
Set Up As you brainstorm your release-day marketing tactics, which
may very well center on social media, make sure you’re

Real-Time also thinking of ways to make sure people actually see


your posts and promotions. Consider methods that come

Notifications
with a notification for friends and followers in real time, like
livestreaming on Facebook and Instagram. Otherwise, create

for Your Fans


a specific budget to promote your posts and ensure they’ll
escape algorithmic traps, which plague artists at every level
from DIY to mega-superstar.
RELEASE DAY 3 SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS 28

3
Ask for Chances are, you’ve got friends in similar-sounding bands or
within your particular genre and scene. You might even share

Support pockets of fans with these artists. Give your fellow musicians
a heads up that your release day is approaching, and ask if

From Friends
they’d be willing to share a link and/or a track with their fans
and followers via social media. (Bonus: Offer to do the same
for them when they release new music.) Sometimes it’s
really that easy. You just have to ask!

On release day, shoot them a DM with the link to your album


or lead track. You can even draft a line or two of “suggested
text” for a post; make sure to switch it up a bit for each
person you’re tweeting so their fans aren’t seeing the exact
same post from multiple bands. Think about asking your
friend to tag you in their posts so you can share or retweet.

Likewise, you’re probably a member of at least one or


two genre-related groups on Facebook or via forums,
independent mailing lists, etc. Make sure to share a link
with these folks on release day and encourage them to
pass it along to their listeners and followers. Just be sure
the group applies to your music; if a metal artist pops into a
folk-music group and posts a link to his or her new screamo
EP, it probably won’t gain any traction (and will probably
be deleted). A group catering to metalheads, however, will
probably run with it and help increase your exposure.
RELEASE DAY 4 MEDIA EXPOSURE 29

4
Maximize If you’re working with a publicist, you may already have a
press strategy in place for your release, but if not, try to

Exposure secure an exclusive premiere with a music blog on release


day by contacting them directly. Not only will a public

From Blog and


premiere help attract that blog’s readers to your tunes, but
it’ll also give your release a bit of media cred; after all, you’ll

Media Outlets
be kind of a big deal if your lead single warrants a write-up
and earns the respect of a hip blog.

If you manage to wrangle a premiere, make sure you parcel


out your other promotional efforts so that outlet has a true
exclusive for a set amount of time. Also, remember to share
your write-up multiple times across your various channels
including via your website. Not only will it remind your
followers you’ve got a new release and maximize your reach
(i.e., if someone missed your first post, they’ll see it the
second time you share it), but any extra promotion will also
ingratiate you with the publication.
RELEASE DAY 4 MEDIA EXPOSURE 30

PRO TIP
AWAL artists Now, Now
When reaching out to press for any reason, make sure received great publicity
to include everything they might need for a review from NPR Music around their
or feature, including a current bio, one-sheet, hi-res latest release “Yours” and
photos, and streaming links and/or downloadable made sure to pin it to the
tracks. Try sending everything together via a virtual top of their social channels
EPK or even a Dropbox folder. for maximum exposure.
RELEASE DAY 5 RELEASE PARTY 31

5
Plan a Special It’s your release day, so that’s reason enough to celebrate,
right? Consider giving your music some love by planning a

Release Show special release show or other event to promote your new
music. Many artists opt to throw a release bash complete with

or Party
a live set at a venue they’ve frequented in the past (such as
one that served as their “home base” in the early days) or
jump on a bill with friends and keep the party rolling all night.

If you’re playing live, especially if you’re performing with


other acts, it’s a great opportunity to earn new listeners and
move some copies. Chances are, you’re going to be pretty
stoked anyway (who wouldn’t be?), so be sure to shake some
hands between sets, let everyone there know it’s your big
release day, and personally invite them to hear your new
release. Take selfies, and ask fans to post photos with your
release’s custom hashtag. Even better: Consider sending
attendees home with free, custom merchandise promoting
your album. Attempt to theme your merch to the title of your
album or single to jog their memories later.

AWAL artists Glassio


threw an epic release
party to celebrate the
release of their summer
hit Papaya.
RELEASE DAY 6 LIVESTREAM A SET 32

6
Livestream a What if the bulk of your fanbase
is elsewhere (for example, if you
Also consider simply going live
on your Facebook, Instagram,

Release Party just moved from Los Angeles to


New York City and aren’t able to
Twitter (via Periscope), or
YouTube channel.

or Live Set
travel back for your release day)
or the type of music you make If anyone purchases your album
isn’t exactly conducive to playing during the party (which you may or
live? Hold a virtual release party may not be able to see depending
via one of these platforms: on which platforms you’re using
for distribution), make sure to
Google Hangouts thank them. For an added bonus,
you can even think about telling
Concert Window anyone who buys a song or full
album you’ll make up a tune using
Stageit their name live during the party.
Get fun and get creative! Any
DaCast incentive to engage your audience
SharkStream will help you achieve your ultimate
release-day goals.
IBM Cloud Video
(formerly Ustream)
Livestream
Gigee (currently in the
process of re-launching)
RELEASE DAY 7 Q&A 33

7
Hold a Even if you’re also planning a show in
real life, invite your hardcore listeners,
forge a relationship with it the very first
time they hear it. Even in a virtual arena,

Real-Time
friends, family, and fellow artists to join having a direct conversation with fans
you from the comfort of their own living about what your music means and the

Q&A
rooms earlier in the day via Facebook intention behind it adds gravitas to your
Live or a Twitter chat. Shake up the efforts and makes it resonate.
traditional release-party format and
consider holding a Q&A session where Okay, you’ve successfully put out your
you can share some of the stories behind album and had a killer release day.
the songs on your album. Congrats! The hard work is over now,
right? Not quite.
Believe it or not, they might be a little
intimidated, but by showing your goofy Once you’ve put something out there
side, you’ll put them at ease. If they’re into the world, you want it to remain
still radio-silent, go with it and shift relevant and fresh for as long as
into concert mode by playing acoustic possible. It’d be a tragedy to share
versions of your tunes. something you’ve worked so hard on to
only have it be forgotten over the course
By bringing people who love your music of a week. That’s why an artist’s work is
into your world in such an intimate way, never really done, and it’s important to
as opposed to a straight-up concert keep engagement with your listeners
experience, you’re deepening the already alive well past your actual release day.
PRO TIP existing bond there and breaking down Here are some of the best ways to do
If you’re feeling ambitious or want to walls. You’re also creating a connection just that.
turn your release day into an online between your listeners and your new
marathon, consider combining a full live
set with a Q&A session for the ultimate material; they’re getting to know the
virtual bash! heart and soul behind your album and
POST-RELEASE DAY 34

POST-RELEASE DAY
POST-RELEASE DAY 1 AD CONTENT 35

1
Change In the previous section, we mentioned the importance of
having paid ads. This is a surefire way to make sure your

Up Your Ad fans realize when you’ll be releasing a new track or album.


Of course, there’s a chance they’ve seen your ad, but

Content
forgotten to actually stream your music. Changing up your
paid advertisements to share different content surrounding
the release is a gentle way to remind your fans to listen to
your music. For example, you could throw some advertising
dollars behind a link to some great press like a review to
make sure your share gets noticed. Having a post-release
day timeline and content plan is just as important as having
a pre-release plan.

PRO TIP

Ensure that you’re not wasting your advertising dollars


by creating ads that speak to the people who matter
most (and who are most likely to engage with your
ads)! Follow these tips for ads that connect with fans
on Facebook and Instagram.
POST-RELEASE DAY 1 AD CONTENT 36

AWAL members
Coasts did a fantastic
job putting a little
promotional backing
behind the release of
their summer album
This Life to grab some
extra listeners.
POST-RELEASE DAY 2 POSTING VIDEO CONTENT 37

2
Post and Promote If you planned for these elements in your pre-release
strategy, now’s the time to unveil them to the world.

Your Video Content Videos are a great way to essentially reintroduce your
music to the world after it’s already been released. It
gives music you may have released two weeks ago a
fresh, new feel. You could also try sharing other people
playing your track, whether as a cover or as played by a
DJ at a club. Covers and remixes are another great way
to resurface music which has already been released.

AWAL member Madison


Beer released the audio
to her newest release
on Nov. 2 but dropped
the official music video
two weeks later on Nov.
15, keeping the track
“fresh” longer.
POST-RELEASE DAY 3 FAN COVERS / REMIXES 38

3
Encourage Fans Just as we recommended you to do a social media contest
encouraging users to share feedback on your song or

to Share Their release via a custom hashtag, you could also encourage
your followers to share their own personal covers, edits, or

Own Covers or
remixes of your song in exchange for retweets and support
on your end. It’s a way to garner support for both you and

Remixes
lesser known artists.
POST-RELEASE DAY 4 THANK THE PRESS 39

4
Say “Thanks” We can’t say enough how important it is to thank everyone
who supports you every step along the way. Shoutout all

for the Press the publications, writers, photographers, die-hard fans,


and anyone else who you feel is seriously backing you up
throughout your career. This shows humility and gratitude,
and the fans will notice. It also works as an excuse to bring
good news to the surface again.

AWAL artists Aly and AJ


did a spectacular job
thanking Nylon magazine
for the press coverage on
the release of their latest
EP, Ten Years.
POST-RELEASE DAY 5 BOOKING SHOWS 40

5
Use Your Now that you have a new release and are (hopefully) getting
tons of attention, the time is right to pitch yourself to talent

Spotlight to bookers, promoters, agents, other bands, and more to


showcase your talent in a live space. It doesn’t matter if you’re

Book Shows
playing music at a large venue, coffee shop, art show, music
festival, or in your local subway station — you’re still getting
noticed and have a reason to be there, which is to promote
your newest release. As we’ve said before, performing live
shows is a great way to bring music which you have already
released back to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Your release plan doesn’t have to stop there; your new


release is now an important part of your catalogue and story.
For the foreseeable future, you’ll still be promoting it as your
latest music, so keep brainstorming new and exciting ways to
promote it using the above tips and techniques.
P.S. FROM AWAL 41

P.S. FROM AWAL


P.S. FROM AWAL 42

If you’re releasing new music in the next few months, use Apply to AWAL today see how we
this comprehensive plan to start preparing now! With some
of these action items, lead time is key (especially for things can help you to better release
like press and booking a release show at a venue), so don’t
delay in at least making a timeline of what you need to have your music in the new year!
accomplished when. Then, your best bet is staying as far
ahead of that timeline as you possibly can.

Above all, have fun! This is a super exciting time, and you
should make the time to simply enjoy sharing your music APPLY NOW
with the world. You’ve not only recorded (what we’re sure
is) great, new music, but if you follow the steps in this guide
you’ll also be ready to thoroughly plan your campaigns
leading up to release, conquer the actual big day, and keep
the momentum moving long afterwards!