These days, the question should no longer be “why should we release singles” but “how to release singles in the most effective way possible.”
To answer that question in the best way possible, I figured that you and I could put our heads together and build a great resource.
I figured I’d get the ball rolling by listing all of the things I do. Then, open it up to you to see if there is anything we can tweak or add to the list. That way, we can really kick some ass every time we release a single.
But before we do all of that, lets take a few seconds to revisit why we should release singles (in case you are still on the fence or can’t remember why it is a good idea).
I’ve been launching singles on a monthly basis for the past year and it has been a very effective way for me to keep communication lines open with fans and sell more music.
Releasing singles also multiplies the amount of feedback I get to keep those creative juices flowing, increases the amount of opportunities for me to feel that rush of anticipation that you feel when you are about to release your art into the world and lets you wrap yourself in that warm blanket of satisfaction that comes from having fans tell you they love the song, know where you are coming from and how it made their day better more than just once per year.
Think about it, how does it feel when you are about to release a song? Do you want to have that feeling more often?
For those of you who need more factual, business-minded reasons to release singles, here is a great post on Music Think Tank that goes deep (and I mean deep), on why it makes business sense to release single songs instead of albums.
Now, on to the how to.
How to Release Singles
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been releasing singles as often as possible over the course of the past year (once per month on average). The following is a rough system I’ve developed which has worked pretty well in some areas but, I’m sure, could use some improvement.
I’ve divided the process into 3 parts; Preparations, Distribution and Amplification.
I usually create videos, credits, lyrics, album art, and a blog post up front and have them located in a single folder so when I get to start uploading and filling out album data. Nothing slows you down faster then having to stop everything to dig around for stuff.
Here’s a quick check list on what to have ready:
Album Art – I usually create it myself these days. But sometimes friends and fans have kicked in. I’ve also used Fiverr and had a cover made for $5 with mixed results. I usually have a few sizes ready to go like 1000 x 1000 px and 300 x 300 px to accommodate the various places I am going to use these.
Credits – who played on the song, who wrote it, where did you record it, who to thank, etc, etc.
Blog – Start a draft and include text, video, album art and the song. For text I tell the story behind the song (which also doubles as a script for a video), add the lyrics, links to merch, describe any deal I, might have encourage sharing and whatever else I can think of. Here’s an example of one of new release blogs.
I try to involve as many types of content as possible – in this case audio, video and text – since not everyone likes to read or watch video and involves both sight and sound.
Video – I create two. In video #1 I like to take a few minutes to talk about the song and explain what I am doing. It is pretty easy to do and I just think it adds a nice personal touch along with strengthening a relationship with the listeners. Video #2 is the actual music video. Even if it is just the album cover or lyric video I want the music available on the 2nd largest search engine.
Tip 1: Use redirects for links so you have the option to change links in the future. For instance maybe you want to send all traffic from the video to blog during the release but down the road you might change the redirect to send to an online store or a page built around that song.
Tip 2: In the video notes, even though I encourage they use Bandcamp to get the song free, I like to link to all the places they can get the song (Spotify, iTunes, etc). Not everyone wants to use Bandcamp – even if they have to pay elsewhere – and not everyone wants a download – I’ll take the stream. Here’s an example of how I set up my video notes.
Time to upload songs, videos and whatever else for distribution. This should be fairly painless if did your job in the preparation faze.
For my song files, I use Bandcamp as my main store where I try to send the bulk of my traffic on release day but I also use CDBaby for distribution to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, MOG, Google Play, etc. I just have been using them for awhile now, am comfortable with them and they do a nice job keeping track of where the money is coming from. There is also TuneCore and an even cheaper service that recently came out (sorry but the name is escaping at the moment – smoked a little to much hookah over the years I guess.. do you know what I’m talking about? If so, let us know in the comments).
Tip: You could hold off on the CDBaby/Tunecore distribution and/or publishing video #2 for a week or two. Why? I did this a few times and it would force people into downloading the song from the store of my choice (Bandcamp). Plus it would just give you another reasons to reach out a week or two later and create a little more buzz. Something like “My New Song” now on iTunes (or Spotify, Amazon, etc).
For videos, I currently just use YouTube. In the past I’ve added videos to other sites like Vimeo and have used use a video distribution service like OneLoad too. Just takes more time and I am only a one man operation. For now, I get enough bang for my buck on YouTube. Really depends on how much time you have and what sort of presence you will have on the other platforms.
There are also some genre specific video platforms popping up out there too so be on the look out for those.
Once everything is live on your distribution channels, complete and publish your blog post.
Now that everything is set up it is time to start telling your world via what I’m calling Amplification (could be a better term but it just sounds more musciany don’t you think? Anyway…).
Mailing List – I usually start by sending to my biggest fans: my mailing list (this is where all your hard work building that email list really pays off). I send out one email the day of the launch. Then, over the course of a week, I send out emails to those who didn’t open the previous email. I try to send at different times of the day. Some who may have missed the previous email because it came on a Monday morning might see it on Wednesday in the evening or when they are sipping coffee catching up on Saturday morning.
This makes a HUGE difference and can literally double and triple the amount of opens, clicks, plays and sales that you get. It is one of the reasons I use a premium email provider like Aweber. They cost a few extra bucks a month BUT they have very handy tools that make it easy to do this type of Ninja Rockstar marketing.
Bloggers, Writers and Radio – If you’ve been making media contacts, let them know whats up and cross your fingers that they will dig it, play it and write about it.
Social Media – Now I get out there and talk and share and whatever else: Bookmark it, Tweet it, share it on Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, etc.
Tip: to get a little more bang for my buck, I have what is called an “online release party” (real clever huh?) and then create a Facebook and/or Google Plus event with a short description and a link to my blog post to invite anyone I know that I think would like to hear about it.
Press Release – Some artists use press releases which can really ramp up the traffic but I personally have not used them because they can be costly and I don’t have the budget at the moment.
1. Podcasts - if you have your own podcast, you can let your listeners know about you new release on your show. You could also arrange to make appearances on other podcasts and inform their listeners about your single. It’s a great way to reach audiences you wouldn’t otherwise.
Note from Corey: Speaking of podcasts, after reading this I remembered hearing an interview somewhere with an artist that sent a podcast of his entire album – with commentary about each song – to podcasters and told them they could publish it on their feed.
Find a few podcaster with decent size, loyal listeners and you could reach hundred, maybe thousands. Sounded like it was pretty effective and I thought I would like to try it. I would make sure I mentioned my website link and the places they can find music or get on my newsletter throughout.
2. Press Releases - you did mention press releases already, but it really is an effective way to draw the attention of news sources and audiences that you wouldn’t reach otherwise (even at the cheapest option). There are free press release services as well. They may not be linked up with mainstream media, but will still deliver your release to various blogs and news channels.
3. Crowdfunding - not applicable to every situation. Crowdfunding can draw additional attention to a music release. The funds could be used for additional distribution and promotion rather than the production of the song.
4. Photos - you mentioned social media as a means of promoting your single, and when it comes to social media, photos are king. Releasing production photos (and video footage) is a great way to promote your upcoming release. Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest and other photo-centric platforms could be quite useful.
5. Radio - if you have existing relationships with radio stations, you could let them know about your new single. A College radio campaign could also be initiated, though it is usually reserved for full album releases.
I have a tune to release in the next week or two so I would love to add something to the mix to test out. So let me know what I missed in the comments below.
Or, am I going about this all wrong? Let us know that too so we can all learn and come up with a great plan.