You’ve spent a lot of time songwriting, brainstorming production ideas and many hours in the studio recording your babies (aka your songs). You think the work is finally over, but you’re far from the finish line. The work has just begun, and now it’s time to prepare for your successful release. You’ve worked hard on the creative side of your music, but the only way to make music your career is to have a strategy and business plan in place. I’m going to give a few tips that will help with a successful release as an indie artist. These are all the things I’ve learned from mentors along my journey to releasing my EP.
We’ll start with promotion and the truth is…it begins months before a single hits the airwaves or internet. This is a long thought out process that goes past the isolation rooms and mixing boards.
Plan and Promote in Advance
We’ve all heard of “sneak peaks” and they can be an effective technique to intrigue and grow your audience. Your music is a product like anything else in the marketplace, so giving your audience a behind the scenes look will only incentivize them more to purchase when it’s released. Intriguing your audience throughout your entire writing and recording process will make them feel like they were on the creative journey with you. They will begin to feel just as invested in the project as you are.
Next step is how to create this buzz? Thanks to social media the options are endless.
Video is king– Facebook Live and Periscope your writing and recording process. The video will capture a behind the scenes experience to deliver to your fans. You can even reuse the video for paid ad promotion to reach a new fan base.
Teasers- Post 30 second teasers of your songs. This is very effective way to show the evolution of the song, and of course you will leave your audience wanting more. Short clips of your song prior to release will lead to increased purchases after your release!
Pre-order- If you already have a strong fan base then setting up a pre-order will create some buzz! Fans always love to be the first to hear your new music. You can set up a pre-order and promote with Facebook, Instagram and the brand-new Spotify ads. This way you can target fans on various social media channels. If you don’t have a large fan base yet, then a pre-order might not be as effective, because you must grow your audience first. The next point will cover how you can easily grow your fan base and discover how people are consuming your music.
First: Research, Second: Ad Promotion
Many artists don’t realize that there are tools to help you grow and better understand your audience, and how they consume your music. There are two options that help you determine music market research: Tunecore Fan Reviews and Reverbnation Crowd Review. These platforms allow you to upload your music and you receive unbiased reviews, demographics of listeners, what platform they prefer to use to consume your music on and more. This research is helpful, because it can be the data that shapes your entire marketing, digital and distribution strategy for your release.
Data is the bomb dot com. Every decision must be data driven and you should take the same approach when dealing with your music; I mean your music is a business too after all.
Data from your market research can be used to fuel a very successful social media advertising plan. We all consume social media in some capacity every day, and an artist must have a strong social media presence to be recognized by the entertainment industry today. A way to grow this presence is Facebook ads. With the data, you can customize who sees your ads and who you engage with. By targeting the right people based on interests and demographics, your campaigns will be a lot more successful. It’s always smart to do your research before kicking off an ad campaign, because if you don’t then you end up spending a lot of money with no return on investment. A well-researched campaign = more downloads or streams for your music, increased following and increased brand awareness. But wait you ask, I’m a person, I need a brand?? YES!!
An artist is a product. PERIOD. THE END. Think of every standout product in today’s marketplace. Coke, Nike, Apple, the list goes on. They all have a very defined and recognizable brand. You recognize the brand even without a tagline or verbiage. That’s how easy your artist brand and sound should be to identify. Before you can release music, you must lock down your brand, because the last thing you want is to confuse your (maybe brand new) fan base. Brand alignment doesn’t happen overnight (still working on mine), so be patient and experiment. The market research is a great tool for this too. Once you have a brand and look you believe in, then you must live that identity with every performance, appearance and even virtually on social media. Your brand is a new persona that you show the world! Also, do a lot of focus groups and listening parties with people who you respect, so you can constantly have different perspectives about your identity and sound. Bouncing ideas off people you trust helps you determine which brand will be the most authentic. What you put out into the world must be believable to be successful. So go find your tribe and get to work!
Get Your Metadata in Order
Before you get too excited and release your music to be heard, there is one last step that is the most important of them all. The answer to making music a prolific business and sustainable career is through the DATA! During your creative process, the last thing you want is to kill the vibe and shift from right to left brain. It’s so important to be business savvy during your creative process and take care of the administration before the creativity even starts flowing. Without capturing data about your music, you make no money and you run the chance of not receiving credit for your work! Not getting paid and getting your name dropped off the track isn’t a good situation to be in.
Capturing data starts when you pair up for a co-write. There are a few key things that you must have before you leave the room:
- Date of creation. The day that you wrote the song with your other co-writers. This is important when the song finds success. The date of creation is a must that music supervisors, publishers and record labels need before the song is released.
- Every writer, every song and every situation the splits of the song are handled differently. Let’s back up…I’ll explain a “song split.” A song split is the portion of ownership that a writer owns of the song that they helped create. The splits are very important, because when it comes to payment associated with the song, the split or percentage amount determines the dollar amount the writer or artist receives. There is usually conflict associated with split information, because creatives don’t decide the percentages at the point of creation. It’s vital to make an agreement on song splits before you and your co-writers leave the room. This is when you turn on your business side for a moment and turn off the creative. Splits are associated with your payment and your credit. I mean imagine, being a writer on Queen B’s Lemonade album and not getting credit or payment for your contribution?! Well real talk… it happened to a lot of writers because they didn’t focus on capturing the metadata at the point of creation.
- Writer information. This is every writers’ PRO (Performing Rights Organization), publishing information, and the writers’ ISWC (International Standard Work Code) and IPI (Interested Parties Information). These two codes are key and they are assigned to you by your PRO when you sign into your writer portal. The ISWC identifies the song and is how writers and publishers are paid for the song being played. The IPI is a songwriter’s identification number, also assigned by the PRO. If you are writing with an artist, it is very important to give these codes to the artist so you are paid for the plays. If you’re an artist, it’s your responsibility to get these codes from your writers, because they need to be compensated just like you.
- Recording information. This information comes after the writing process and it’s called the ISRC (International Standard Recording Code). The ISRC identifies the recording and is encoded into the song by the producer. This way every time the song is streamed or downloaded the code automatically identifies payments. As an indie artist, you can get your ISRC’s from a distributor like Tunecore.
As a creative data might not be the first topic of conversation when it comes to creating, but it is the most important aspect of your project. I’ve learned that it’s so important to make administration first priority in the creative process. Of course, we want a killer song at the end of the day, but if the data is broken then we won’t get money from that amazing song. Remember as artists we want to make music a career, so data is the answer.