Songwriters – Promoting & Releasing Your Songs
Found in: The Music Business
Written by: Katie Knipp
So, you’ve just spent hundreds of “man hours” writing, recording, mixing, mastering, and stressing! Now what? Now, my friends, the real work begins.
There is a certain order to releasing a song, and having released 5 CDs myself, there are lots of things I’ve learned along the way. Protect yourself first and foremost by making sure you copyright and publish your work. If you are going to have the song pressed onto a CD, make sure to go through a reputable company that can also provide a barcode. If you like to play live, I recommend not even booking your CD release party date until the physical, shiny, shrink-wrapped CDs are actually in your hands. Too many bands make the mistake of setting the big date and paying for a tonne of publicity, only to tell their audience at the show it’s not ready yet.
Before calling all of your friends, family, newspaper, Facebooking, etc, there are many steps to take. First, make your song digitally available for sale on the main mediums such as iTunes, Spotify, amazon, Google, and any others you come across that pay. In order to make things less overwhelming, there are great places that can be a “one stop shop” for distributing through all the digital mediums. I like to use CD Baby, as they do both physical and digital distribution without me having to sign up with each individual website. Whatever company you choose, just make sure you are getting paid a fair percentage. Once you can actually see your music is for sale on iTunes, upload sound clips of your song onto your website. You should have an actual website of your own to use as an attractive online storefront. There are lots of easy web hosts out there that make managing a website easy and affordable. I personally like to use Hostbaby.
Now that your music is officially released online, this is your time to pounce!
Ask yourself what your goals are for this release. Make a marketing plan/to-do list based on your goals, then break it down into a timeline. Although we are in the digital age, don’t forget to pound the pavement as well! Are there record stores still in your town? Most of them are happy to consign local artists therefore giving you an opportunity to promote their business on your website (“support your local record store! CDs can be found at Joe’s, Moe’s, and Curly’s shops downtown!”). Submit your music to internet radio stations. Simply googling “how to submit to ___” will give you plenty of easy to follow directions. Submit to any kind of songwriting competitions you find appealing. Along with internet radio, television and movies are very much the new platform for artists to get major attention. Music supervisors are the key players in this area. Although they can be as hard to contact as record labels (happy to report you don’t need a record label these days!), they are the people to contact with a professional one-sheet (described in the next paragraph), and unwrapped (don’t make them work hard to listen) CD.
A one-sheet is a simple press release. It is essential because it is what you will use to accompany your mailed CD or song to radio stations, music business associates, music supervisors, newspapers, magazines, and whomever else you are soliciting. It should include the barcode of your CD, a picture of you and/or the CD cover, some press quotes and clear descriptions of your style that emphasize why the consumer should want to buy your product. Yes, I said product, but I’m assuming you’re reading this because you would like people to purchase your song, correct? Marketing hats on then!
Let the world know about your product right away using your fan email list, Facebook, and by soliciting press individually. I can guarantee you a lot more success getting press by personally emailing each journalist separately. Take a few minutes to research exactly who you are requesting a review from. Is it the local newspaper? A magazine? A blog? Find out what you can about that publication and authors by reading a recent copy and/or visiting their website. Avoid a mass email blast addressed to no one in particular. It is amazing what you can get when you ask nicely, and take an interest in them with a personalized request/message. Before you even have your barcoded CD in hand, be a collector of contacts along the way. Include these in your marketing plan.
Post videos to Youtube live videos of your song from a either live performance, a fancy video (if you have the budget), or, my current favorite medium, cartoons! Yes, I just made a cartoon video and had a blast. Renderforest is very user-friendly and it took me a few hours to do something creative with my song. When posting your video to Youtube, it is vital to tag it correctly. Use tag words similar to your style. In the description, write your website information on where they can click to purchase the song. The bottom line here is you want to make it as easy as possible for people to buy your music without having to jump through any hoops.
Finally, don’t give up if you aren’t getting mass attention immediately. Give it a few weeks or months and try new tactics. Ask artists you admire what they are doing. Try giving first. For example, you could do a “buy one get one free”, or a discount for the first 100 likes to your Facebook page (you need a page for your music, not just the personal profile). My personal favorite is donating a percentage of sales to charities you care about.
This is all based on my own experience, and I hope you’ve found it valuable. Happy music distributing!
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