In today’s music industry, it’s more important than ever to have a strategy in place before you release your music. You don’t want to just put out music without a plan; and this is even more important when it comes to full album or EP releases.
Many artists these days only ever release singles—and that’s okay. But even if you’re not building up to a full album or EP, singles can still fit into your big picture career growth plan.
So how can a release attract more fans to the platforms where you’d like to engage with them (i.e. your social channels, your email list, streaming platforms, live shows, etc.)? Well, it’s all about building a pathway of momentum that leads from each single to the full release, over time. And if that sounds complicated, you can use at least one if not all of these tips, to make it just a little bit easier.
1. Harness the power of streaming
There are tons of streaming platforms you can focus on, depending on what’s popular in your target community. I’m going to focus on Spotify here just as an example, but these strategies can be applied to other platforms as well.
The power of playlists
One important opportunity that releasing singles presents is that you can submit each single for Spotify’s editorial playlists. These playlists are highly competitive and curated by Spotify themselves, but if your song is chosen, it could mean hundreds of thousands of plays, likes, and follows.
I highly suggest you go through this submission process inside of your Spotify for Artists portal whenever you release a single. Each time you release something new, you are presented with more chances to get featured on an editorial playlist. But don’t leave your playlist fate entirely up to the whims of Spotify.
You should be seeking out independent curators too. There are a myriad of playlists in every genre imaginable curated by real people that you can connect with, so do your research. Find the curators online and reach out in a respectful way. Let them know how much you admire their taste and how you’d enthusiastically promote their playlist if you were included.
You can also use services like SubmitHub to find curators looking for new music to feature on their playlists as well. For a very small fee, you can get your music reviewed by outside curators. Depending on their following, you can amass a great deal of streams this way.
The power of the algorithm
Now let’s take it to the next level. It’s very important that when you do get streams, you also get your fans to “heart” your single, and follow you too. This seems simple, yet many artists don’t ever even ask for it. You can’t just expect your listeners to do it automatically, but it’s essential.
And let’s talk about why it’s essential. How will building up your likes, follows, and stream count on a single help you promote your upcoming major release? There are several ways.
The first way is by bringing new fans into your orbit. Getting your music on playlists, whether curated or editorial, will expose your music to new people. Some of them may come over to your Spotify page and listen to other music. They may follow you; but even if they don’t, Spotify will follow them.
In other words, the algorithm will pick up on their behavior, and then serve your music to other listeners who match their profiles. New listeners will start seeing your songs in their Discover Weekly playlist. This new exposure will make it more likely for them to listen to more of your music and possibly follow you on other platforms.
When you release new music, whether a single or your full project, you need to help the Spotify algorithm kick into overdrive. All followers, and potentially casual listeners as well, will then receive your new music in their Release Radar playlist. Spotify may even alert them with a notification or an email about your release.
It’s a compound effect. Each release builds on the previous one. Each release offers new opportunities to attract new listeners, turn them into fans, and kick that algorithm into high gear.
2. Go behind-the-song
I’m a huge fan of music documentaries and shows like Song Exploder because they take us inside the mind of the creator. And I’m not alone. Music fans of all kinds love to get a glimpse into the creative process, so use this to your advantage.
Share your process
As humans, we naturally look for how other people are similar so we can feel connected. By seeing into the writing process of artists, we can relive our own experiences and gain a camaraderie through empathy.
It’s especially cool and inspiring for any of your fans and listeners out there that have their own creative aspirations.
But even if your fans are not musicians, they will be intrigued by how songwriting is done. If you think about it, it is really quite amazing how we as musicians create a piece of art from scratch. Because we are in the thick of it, we may have forgotten how miraculous the process can be. If you share the inside scoop, fans will be mesmerized.
Be sure and talk about how the song fits into the overall theme of the upcoming album or EP and don’t forget to tease the release.
Stories connect people
People love a good story. Stories are powerful and will draw your fans into your world. Stories forge connections because they communicate experiences, culture, and values that your fans can relate to. Whether a story aims to educate, inspire or entertain, it can take your fans on a journey that they won’t soon forget.
Besides sharing details of your creative process, be sure to capitalize on the opportunity to interact with your fans about the stories you’re telling across your singles and the album at large.
Ask them questions. Encourage them to tell their stories that relate to the subject matter. Whether it’s on Facebook, YouTube or your website, leave space for engagement with fans below your video. If you email it to your fans, ask for them to reply with their comments so you can start a conversation.
A good story connects, and it also makes a long-lasting impression. Your fans may forget your song titles, your lyrics or where they saw you perform last, but they’ll always remember a good story. When your full project does come out, tell the story again to cement it in their minds. A good story can be told more than once.
3. Put on a virtual release party
Back when I was releasing albums, we always did an in-person release party. It was a more exciting event than a regular live show because it allowed for a deeper connection with fans and friends; in celebration of the new milestone. But, the pandemic notwithstanding, I definitely don’t recommend you hold an in-person release party for each and every single you release.
Thankfully, nowadays people are getting pretty used to events and celebrations being live streamed or broadcasted. Platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, Twitch and now Clubhouse, all offer the perfect venue for a virtual release party.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Create an event and promote it—make it casual, interactive and fun. But keep in mind, casual doesn’t mean unprepared. Make sure you’re practiced, you’ve tested your tech setup and you have a plan for performing a few songs. And most importantly...
Decide what your goal will be. What do you want your attendees to do as a result of the release party besides have a good time? What will your call-to-action be?
You may be tempted to try to encourage your fans to do too many things during the event: buy a ticket, leave a tip, stream the single, buy a t-shirt, etc. Pick one single call-to-action, and put all your eggs in that one basket. For those who want to take a more engaged action, you can offer passive directives, such as to follow you on social media; but first and foremost, try to direct all your energy into a single outcome.
My best suggestion for a worthwhile call-to-action would be to get them on your email list. This is because you want to be able to let your fans know when the full album will drop. Email is the most reliable and personal way to stay connected with fans. If you build a good-sized email list, you can even promote a pre-order campaign for your full release.
If people like your music, they will likely be happy to join your email list. Extra bonuses like discounts, giveaways, and other offers can provide an extra little nudge to push them over the fence and into your email list form.
Remember, it’s all about strategy!
I want to encourage you to never release a single without a goal and a plan in place.
Whether it’s to increase your streaming numbers and kick that algorithm into gear, create engagement with fans using stories, or to deepen the connection with fans by getting them to join your email list, you must know the goal so you can map out your “plan of attack” before the release day arrives.
Singles can be powerful promotional vehicles to turn listeners into fans. Each single release will lead them, like stepping stones, to your full content output. So pick at least one strategy from the three above, and... get to work.
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Bree Noble is a music marketing and business coach at The Profitable Musician, best-selling author of "The Musician's Profit Path", recognized speaker, and award-winning podcaster. As founder of both Women of Substance Radio and The Female Entrepreneur Musician, Bree is a champion and go-to resource for Indie artists in all genres. Her most popular offerings are her Female Musician Academy and her Rock Your Next Release program.
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