How To Release Your First Album in 5 Weeks
A Step-By-Step Guide
by Olav Tabatabai
Preface: So you're reading this article you're probably in the studio right now or planning to recording and release new music in the near future.
As an audio engineer, I work with a lot of bands who create great music, but struggle with the business and marketing side of things. I wrote this guide to share my knowledge and help give you more tools to let your album succeed.
I understand you're excited to release the new album you've been working so hard on. "Why do I have to wait 5 weeks?" In this day and age, most people unfortunately have very short attention spans. You want to dole out small portions of your album at a time (in the form of singles) to get people stoked. If they love your song and keep listening to it, that's just going to make them more excited for the full album release.
Note: 5 weeks was chosen as a timeline for a band's first album release. The timeline can be modified with still using similar steps to release any new EP or LP for unsigned bands.
Week 0 (Prepromotion)
Let’s start with the time before you have the final masters ready for release.
If you don't have any official recordings available, quality live videos posted on youtube or facebook are a great thing to have.
Also, while you are recording it’s a good idea to start building some hype to let your friends and fans that music is on it’s way. Post pictures from the studio or short clips from band rehearsal on social media. This is a chance to give people a behind the scenes snippet of your band so have fun with it.
What do I need before I start the "official" marketing?
You can't release your music if you don't have files to release. Please don't release your demos or unmixed/unmastered files. You have one chance to make a first impression so make it count.
If possible you want to have this before you release your first song.
If you don't have any artwork yet, you can get in touch with a local photographer for some promo shots to use on your album.
For some killer original graphics, check out Mark Bell Illustrations
Make a post with your album art. Make a post on social media similar to “New album is coming! The first single drops on [enter day].
At the end of the week release your first single. At a minimum this should be on Bandcamp and Youtube (you can also post the video on FB).
Youtube: If you have a lyric video then this would be a good time to release it. At the very least try to have some sort of visualizer next to your album art that looks professional.
Bandcamp: You can add your full album up for preorder and make only first single available for download. Set the track as “pay what you want” so people can download it for free, but require them to input an email address. If they’re getting free music the least they can do is give you an email. Building an email list is great for marketing for this album as well as future releases.
Find more info on bandcamp here: https://bandcamp.com/help
Pricing for the album
If your a new band I would suggest keeping your whole album as "pay what you want" (again, in exchange for an email address) or set a reasonable sales price. As you are developing your fan base you want to put as little resistance between new fans and your music.
I get it, you just dropped $$ to recording, mix and master your album and want to make some of it back. People who download your music for free may become great new fans who attend your shows and buy your purchase to support the band.
Check out some more advice from bandcamp on what pricing performs best.
Run facebook/instagram ads. Start first with with the audience setting of people who like this page and their friends. Then try running ads outside your normal audience by choosing location and interests. If you don’t have a huge ad budget, don’t worry too much. If you have under 1k likes then even $10-15 per campaign can be helpful.
Check out this Quick Start Guide on getting facebook ads set up for your band page.
Press: Contact music blogs to try and get your music on their site. A good way to go about this is to find blogs that would fit your music, then reach out to the original authors who are covering bands in your genre.
You can set up preorders on bandcamp so that when people visit a private link, they can enter a special code to download the full album in advance. This is how you can get your album to bloggers to review in advance. It also doesn’t hurt to send a free download to superfans as a special treat.
Release a music video for the first single. Again, Boost on FB.
If you haven’t already, release preorders for CDs, CD/merch packs, and iTunes. If people are excited about the single you want to give them the availability to buy your album right then and there.
Release the 2nd single. Repeat similar steps for releasing first single. Keep pushing!
Album Release! Time to celebrate.
More facebook/instagram ads.
Send out an email blast announcing the release using the emails you collected through bandcamp and other sources.
Week 6 and on
Great! Now your album is released. Now it’s time to relax, right? Nope.
This is where I’ve seen bands drop the ball. You’ve already put a ton of work into writing, recording and promoting the album. Try to continue your online marketing campaign. Try doing promotional contests offering free swag to people who share your album.
Click here for resources on booking your own tours.