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Hot Tips: The Stages of a Release Cycle

Katy Krassner

May 14, 2024

If you’re passionate about music, knowing the stages of a well-planned release cycle is essential! Now that you’ve created something you want to share, the idea of putting together a strategy to get it out there can be daunting. However, not taking the steps to make sure as many people get to experience your music as possible seems a lot worse. That’s where we come in with the “Hot Tips” – here are some of the steps you can take pre/during/post release to make sure you get your music heard and build an audience at the same time.

Pre-Release

Choosing a release date

This seems easy right? Not so fast. Whether you have hundreds of fans, or millions, it’s smart to check out what releases are scheduled in the time period you’ve been considering. Plus, lead time is so important. It gives you flexibility to change things if need be, and time to set things up just right. FYI, the first two months of the year are generally the best times for NEW artists to release music. BTW – Fall/Autumn is the most popular time to release – so if you want to get noticed, and not get lost in the swarms of bigger releases – timing is everything.

Make sure to remember metadata

There are a ton of things to remember in a release cycle, but make sure you register all of your songwriting splits with your country’s PRO, ideally before your release date. When you set up a distribution with a DSP it will generate an ISRC and UPC for you. ISRCs are important for tracking. If your an independent artist or label you will want to create a Catalog system to keep track of your releases with individual Catalog numbers (#).

Building your music team

If you are at the stage where things are really starting to grow, you will want to make sure you have a great team in place to support your release. Booking Agent, if you want to do some touring. Manager, to help guide your career and find new opportunities. Lawyer, to make sure you’re getting your fair share. Business Manager, to help you make sure you’re receiving all your revenue streams. You want a solid team you can trust, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you are indie and DIY for the moment, it’s good to keep these things in mind for the future.

Get your social channels ready

Lock and load them. Make sure you have an “@” name that is either the name of your band or best represents your music. Also, a long username is a no-no. Advice: you should be spending ½ your time making music and the other ½ building up your social media following so people are waiting for your release to come out. Try out every platform initially until you see which one your audience gravitates to. And make sure to have consistent content coming out so you don’t get lost in the shadows of the algorithm. The tips & tricks to stay ahead of it are constantly evolving, so do your research on the regular!

Set up radio promotion

How do you get your song on radio? Listen up, if you’re serious about your music, radio should be on the agenda. Radio offers an ‘ease of use’ for the listener compared to other formats (like streaming), in fact, a 2022 report by the Pew Research Center showed that roughly 82% of Americans ages 12 and older listen to terrestrial radio in a given week. Keep in mind, it’s not an inexpensive proposition, so you need to focus on stations that show interest in the type of music you play. College radio and independent radio are a new artist’s strongest allies; they’re open to independent artists and believe in fostering new talent. PS – Play MPE’s Caster is great music promotion tool to get your music into the ears of radio programmers and curators.

Pitch for playlists

Whether or not your music skews younger, you will want to do some playlisting. There are so many streaming services that feature new music, and more recently, social media. This is how younger generations find what’s hot in their favorite genre. Each streaming platform has a different approach to playlisting, so it’s worth working with someone who has experience in this area. You can pitch to Spotify editorial playlists directly via Spotify Artists for example. Which you would want to do at least a few weeks before your release goes live.

If you want to be considered for curated playlists, some radio stations have their own, as do media outlets (music magazines), influential curators, right down to enthusiastic fans who just want to share their great taste in music. Much like the mixtapes of the 90s. One thing you will always want to do with a new release is make your own playlist featuring other bands you like, along with artists that are similar to you, and pin it to your profile. Who knows some of those artists may find you in their Playlist adds, and add you to theirs in-kind.

During the release

Build more excitement

Tease your music by seeding snippets of different songs. If you have friends who are great with creative, talk them into making a cool visualizer for the first single to use as promotion. Create a listening party for your fans where they hear your album the night it comes out along with you.  Sit for an AMA (“ask me anything”) on one of your social channels. And simply keep adding clips of your music to posts throughout your release campaign. Tastefully, of course. You don’t want to oversaturate your fans’ feeds.

Keep your press kit updated

You may not be ready to hire a publicist at this juncture, but you can have the basic tools you need in a press kit: A bio on the band (or artist), a press release on the new music and a few photos (Hi res for print and Web res for digital). If you’re feeling very bold, you can pitch your own music to blogs, websites, magazines, and local media. And guess what?! Conveniently when you send your music to radio with Play MPE, their packaged lists include tons of music media contacts! You can also choose to add-on Bloggers to any package! If you don’t want to spend hours and hours trying to hunt down the information yourself only to send an awkward email that may end up in the inbox Junk pile – it is something to consider!

Make some merch

No one says you need to be an Etsy store, but hey, some merch is cool. A tee shirt, knit cap, a limited-edition vinyl, even signed photos are all items a person who is into your music might want to own. While you should work on your merch pre-release – logo, approved artwork/images, color scheme, etc. – make sure you promote it a lot during the release period. And of course have some available to purchase in person at shows! There are also may pay-to-print online stores if you don’t have it in the budget to manufacture the merch in bulk. Just do a little investigating, or ask bands you know who already have cool merch you like and enquire how they did it!

Post-release

Connect with other artists

Find other musicians who have the same type of fan base as you do and support each other with posts recommending their music while they recommend yours. Put their music on a playlist for your fans and ask that they do the same. Try and partner up for an online acoustic gig if possible! You can even find cool visual artists you like and hire them to do artwork for your singles, album or even merch. Share their artwork on socials and tag them. They may be inclined to return the favour sharing your work with their followers! Create a community of artists that bring each other up!

Participate in live streams or recorded performances

Do a live stream of a performance or record something from a show that you can post on your social channels. Fans love feeling like they’re part of something big, so having a front row seat to your career highs is an amazing way to build brand loyalty. You can also include an interview style component to the show. See if you can participate in an existing series – like this one in Play MPE’s home town of Vancouver, BC – Once More with Feeling – or create your own with a local venue or recording studio! The internet’s the limit!

Engage with fans

It’s probably more important to engage fans after your music is out then at any other time. They’ve invested in you, and you need to grow that investment and return the good vibes by liking posts, commenting, asking questions, while also keeping them engaged with fun content, candid and behind-the-scenes photos, and videos.

Keep track of analytics

Keep an eye on what platforms and DSPs are reacting best to your music and then be ready to adjust your strategy to capitalize on the gains you’re seeing. If you promoted your music with Play MPE, make sure to check Caster Reporting to see which curators are streaming or downloading your tracks. You can also subscribe to Top Charts to keep tabs in whether your latest release is getting top engagement. If you sent your music to radio, you should also keep track of your radio spins.

Follow up and build those relationships

Once you have looked over any and all of the release data you can get your hands on, make sure to follow up on it! Whether that be with bloggers, music media, playlisters, radio programmers, And of course don’t forget to use your resends if you promoted your music with Play MPE. Each campaign includes two free resends of your promotional email. This is where you can update curators on your latest radio adds, media buzz, tour dates – or simply to remind them of your release and drop that new music video.

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