We all want to wake up the day after releasing out first single with a million hits on spotify, but a self-release strategy takes work. A lot of work. Still, self-releasing without the help of a record label is a real possibility now, if you know what you're doing. I’ve been to all kinds of music-industry events and read all the articles out there, and one piece of advice sticks out if you’re thinking of releasing an EP or album. That is: take your time. Annoyingly, once you’ve recorded an album, it can take a few months or even a year to get enough buzz to make it worth it when you finally do release it. Here’s how to do it.
1) Plan a good marketing strategy, and literally map out a timeline of when you release everything so it will have the most impact. It’s best to release several singles and plan each of those releases, before you knock everyone out with the full album release.
2) Back up your release strategy with social media (whatever platform works best for you). Try and get lots of nice pictures, graphics and videos ready. Build some excitement over your release with teasers, so that when you do drop it people are already wanting to listen to it.
3) Get blogs interested in your music. Here's a great list of good blogs to get in touch with, but it’s best to be genre specific, so it's worth researching blogs which would be most interested in your music. Email them all with a clear pitch, and try to make it personalised to the specific blog - who have they covered before who you might sound like, and why do you like their blog? Also, it's great if you can to get a single or a video exclusively released on a respected music blog like Line of Best Fit or Crack.
4) Get on the radio. BBC introducing is a great platform, and if they like you they may play you on other BBC shows. Also approach local radio shows and genre specific internet radio shows. They might not have a huge audience but it’s more likely the audience will like the music you make.
5) The secret to exposure nowadays is playlists. This is especially true on spotify, although it’s relevant on youtube. Something I didn’t know before I released my album is that only labels or digital distributers can pitch to spotify curated playlists - you can't do it yourself. Therefore it’s worth getting one who will actually work to pitch it, so although it’s tempting to just go on distrokid or something and pay £30 to get it up there, if you’re serious I would suggest investing in a better package. The thing to bare in mind is that these are real people pitching your music to other real people, so you’ve got to be sure they will actually work for you. Try and talk to them and see if you trust them. And then give them all of your money.
6) Youtube playlists can also be very influential. Go genre specific and email all the youtube channels you can. If you have your own channel it's a good idea to put up an acoustic or live version of your single.
7) Make a music video. It can be pretty budget, especially if you can do something yourself, but just try and make it relevant to the song and eye-catching and original to bring people to your music. You can share it on facebook, youtube and instragram, and look super pro.
8) Bandcamp can be a good platform to sell your music online, especially if you don't have an artist website that you can sell it from. You don't have to pay to use it, but they'll take 10-15% commission.
9) Physical merch can be really useful, especially to sell live at shows. CDs, tapes and vinyl count as merch these days, and can be a way to make some actual money from your music. Generally, the vinyl market is where you want to be at, but it’s only worth it if you can shift a few hundred units. You can get about 300-500 printed for £2,000-£2,500 (it’s not worth getting less than that really). Just remember it’ll probably take about 8 weeks to turn around and you’ll need to get your music remastered for vinyl, so bare in mind production times if that’s part of your release strategy.
10) Try and tour and do lots of live shows to promote what you’re releasing. Plan an amazing single or album launch and invite all your friends, relatives, and maybe even some A&R so you will have someone else to release your music for you in the future. I’m working on an article on how to plan your own DIY tour so stay tuned.
Good luck with the release!