There’s a little bit of magic that goes into every release day. I’ve been a publicist for the last 8 years and I can tell you that it never gets old seeing everything come together on the day of your release. The excitement from the fans, the energy (and relief!) from the artists to finally have their work out there, the response from the press - it’s a kind of energy that is held for that very special moment and time.
However, I’ve also seen release days go wrong. Days when the artist just drops the song with no warning, only to wonder why no one is excited. The times with no lead up, and as a consequence, no press, influencers, or fans to really celebrate the release with them. Or the times there’s no strategy and so, no real follow through with the release. It comes out, maybe there’s some excitement, and then within days it’s already waned.
The hardest part of those moments is that this is great music from kind people, and the lack of response can feel so personal. Really though, it’s not about the music being bad (because it isn’t), it’s just about the fact that there’s no strategy behind the release. And for an up and coming band that is still building their fanbase, no strategy means a much smaller response than one might hope.
So let me stress again that if you’ve ever been there, excited to release something that the world wasn’t as excited to receive, it’s not a measure of your talent and it doesn’t speak to you as a person. It almost certainly just means you lacked a strategy and therefore, lacked a way to get your music out there.
So, let’s talk about that! Of course, if it’s within your budget or you simply don’t have the time to do this all by yourself, hiring a publicist to help with your release day is a huge advantage. We work with artists all the time that come to us after years of struggling to build their fanbase and get the attention of the industry, and we help them to do that. But this is also something you can DIY if you have the time and desire — and the best part is that it gets to be really fun because this is your passion you’re promoting, and that is pretty cool.
First: create a strategy
I know, this is sort of boring sounding (unless you’re a nerd for this stuff like me!) but it’s the meat and potatoes of what you’re about to do so you’ve got to buckle down and make it happen.
Here’s what you do — super simple. With our clients we create a lengthy press plan full of outlets we plan to hit, angles we’ll pitch, and a timeline for when all of that is happening. I want you to do something similar but less in depth. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can just type this up in a Google Doc.
Start with the timeline because this will tell you when things need to happen. For instance, if you plan to release a song in May, then you know you need to start looking for press coverage in April. This allows you to create deadlines and plan accordingly.
Then, think about the themes around the song and how you can uniquely pitch yourself. Is it tied to a bigger cause like animal rights or environmental wellness? Was it recorded in a special location or with a well known team? Did something very specific in your life inspire this? Find the relatability and work with it.
Then, start to scope out who you want to send your music to. Be realistic — if you’re just starting out, Pitchfork probably isn’t a realistic pitch. But you can still put together a list of new or smaller blogs, podcasts, and influencers to target.
Then on release day you can…
1. Partner with other creators for a release day bombshell
Why not make a bit of a splash on release day? Let me give you an example.
One of our clients, Cassie Fireman, just released a new single/video called “Chase” that is all about her fear of marriage and losing her identity. By her own account this was a deeply personal song about how she saw marriage as living her whole world in black and white, and it terrified her. After getting married though, she felt like she was seeing color for the first time. It completely shook up her world in the best way.
So for release day, instead of doing what everyone else does — Reels or endless stories, which did not fit Cassie’s strengths of connection and off-the-cuff humor — she decided to go live on release day instead. She went live with friends who commented on their feelings around marriage and their own (often unspoken) fears, and she even went live as a guest on someone else’s Instagram (therefore reaching a wider audience) with her husband to talk about the same thing. It caused a lot of interest because she was letting people into this really private moment and discussion and that sparked a lot of interest.
The takeaway: She played to her strengths, made her own rules, and partnered with other creators to share truths that, although highly relatable, were almost never spoken about. And it worked: she got a ton of engagement from fans new and old through the partnerships and vulnerability, and through it, she got to tell her story and really touch people’s lives.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to cater this to you, your brand, and the song. Don’t just follow a formula someone else did, think about what you enjoy, what your audience receives well, and how to tie it all in.
2. Run an online exclusive giveaway
Nothing is more fun than giving away a few goodies on release day! This can be a really fun way to get your fans to celebrate with you and share in spreading the message about your release, by making every share + tag an entry, or using something like KingSumo to encourage shares and gather emails for your email list.
Again, keep this related to your brand. Maybe it’s band merch, maybe it’s a VIP hang with you and the band pre-show, maybe it’s tickets to the release show, or maybe it’s something totally different and that only your fans would get. I once worked with a singer-songwriter that partnered with a small guitar company to give away a guitar at her release show. You had to sign up at the show by giving your email and then she drew the names from there. It was a huge incentive to come to the show and a great way to get emails for her list, while giving back to her fans. The point of this is to celebrate your fans on this day as much as they’re celebrating you.
3. Get Gimmicky
One of the coolest experiences I ever got to be a part of was when Tokyo Police Club came to Toronto and spent 12 hours playing their song PCH over and over and over again. It was a (very) hot summer day, and I remember I sat there for hours — hours!! — watching them perform this same song hundreds of times. They mixed it up by having audience members come in and sing, doing the song in different genres (making what was an indie-rock song into a rap, or a metal song) and they’d even have local musicians drop in to accompany them.
The whole audience got involved with dancing, singing, and cheering. They had a counter at the base of their instruments keeping track of how many times they’d played the song. It was such a fun environment and took me from a super casual fan of theirs (as in, I wouldn’t change the radio when they came on but I never sought out their music or went to a show) to an active fan that has since bought merch, seen them live, and supported them however I can.
Now this was to film a music video, not to celebrate a release, but I think it provides great inspiration for a release day gimmick as well. How can you do something different and connect with your community and new fans at the same time?
Note: this is a really great way to garner some easy press for yourself as well!
4. Throw a release day party — with a theme!
Too many release parties are boring (I’m sorry, I had to say it). They feel formulaic, and almost the same as a regular show. There’s no pizazz! If you want to stand out and have a little fun with your release show, create a theme around it. You can do something easy like a Halloween party around an October release, but you can also get super creative with the theme.
Here are a few examples:
- I once went to a release day show that was inside a small art gallery and had free appetizers and drinks for the guests. It was limited to about 25 people; 5 or so were members of the press and the rest were fans that had won a spot or bought in through crowdfunding to be there. It was highly intimate and interactive and truly special. I still think of it as one of the best shows despite it being over 7 years ago.
- Another was a Halloween party where everyone dressed up, including the bands. Each band had a different theme (one Clockwork Orange, one Alice in Wonderland, and so on) and anyone in the audience who dressed up got a discount. They even had a fog machine to make the whole thing super memorable.
- I remember going to a show for a newer indie band that had a synth-pop, almost tropical vibe to their music and they had neon trees set up throughout the venue and gave everyone that entered a postcard with the band’s photo and socials (just like if you were on vacation and sending a postcard home). I still have that postcard.
5. Keep promoting after the release
Perhaps the most important point is this one. Don’t stop promoting after your release is out. While it’s ideal to make sure you have lots of buzz and excitement around release day, a lot of the coverage and listens will come in the weeks after, so keep it up!
Keep following up with different opportunities, keep posting behind the scenes content, and keep striving to bring in those fans. It might seem silly but I promise, we see SO many results in the weeks after a release, so this time is just as important as the day-of!
What creative release strategies have you tried from this list?
Angela Tyler is the founder of MP Co. (formerly Muddy Paw PR) a marketing, PR, and management services company for musicians. She has secured placements on Forbes, Business Insider, American Songwriter, Lead Singer Syndrome, & more, and her artists go on to sign to labels and play major festivals. She loves dessert, her rescue dog Sawyer, and new ideas.
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