Someone wishes for a unicorn. They open the front door. The unicorn steps inside.
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.
First, unicorns don’t exist (sorry for the spoiler).
Second, wishing is a terrible way to achieve something.
Same with releasing music.
Do you think music fans invent themselves?
They don’t — unless you’re Billie Eilish.
I’m getting ready to release a new album right now, and every time I do this I’m surprised all over again how many steps there are. How many different assets I need. How many different accounts I have to juggle. How many deadlines.
I mean, I just wanna put the music out and have it reach trillions of adoring listeners. Too much to ask?
Yep! Way too much. There’s a lot to do before I put out the music, and I can’t take a scattershot approach, because that’s a sure way for important things to get missed. And to some degree, all the steps need to be taken in the correct order if I want to do it right.
Releasing music IS an act of promotion
As the primary mode of music consumption shifts to streaming (including YouTube), the simple act of RELEASING music can be an act of promoting that music. This is because the popular streaming platforms enable you to reach your existing audience automatically through their recommendation engines, branding features, and promo tools.
Record stores didn’t do that. Press didn’t do that. Radio? You weren’t going to get national radio play as a DIY artist. In the context of the recorded music industry’s whole history, this is a very new thing. And it’s FREE promotion.
You’re now guaranteed to reach your existing listeners every time you put out new music, and the more they enjoy that music, the more you can extend your reach BEYOND that fanbase to brand new listeners.
BUT… only if you plan your release correctly.
Qualifying for opportunities like Spotify’s Release Radar, or running a smart follow or pre-save campaign ahead of your launch — those things are contingent upon you meeting certain deadlines in the leadup to your release date.
Once your music is out, you can’t get those opportunities back.
Tools for planning your music release
Planning a music release is exactly that: PLANNING!
We didn’t get into music because we enjoyed clerical work and spreadsheets. Most of us probably pursue music because we DON’T enjoy or naturally possess those kinds of organizational skills.
But all the dreams you might have for your new music — getting a million streams, playing sold-out shows, changing someone’s life, making enough money to turn music into your career — they all wait behind a wall of planning, deadlines, and work.
Actually, it’s not a wall. It’s a door. But unlike the door at the beginning of the article, this one is heavy and hangs on rusty hinges. You can open it, but only with effort.
To stay organized, I recommend using:
- A project management tool such as Asana or Trello
- Google Sheets and Google Docs that can be easily shared with your team via Drive
- If you’re in frequent communication with collaborators, publicists, promoters, or managers around your launch, you can streamline those conversations using Slack
What you’ll need to release your music the right way
Once you have your online system for planning setup (with Google Drive, Slack, Asana, etc.) it’s time to plug in actual assets, projects, and deadlines for the release.
The list of things you need to get ready is long:
- Mastered audio in 24bit WAVs, 16bit WAVs, and MP3 formats
- A private streaming link
- 3000x3000 pixel cover artwork
- Music distribution!
- Short and long versions of your bio or press release
- Eye-catching artist photos
- Verification on all your streaming profiles — Spotify for Artists, Apple Music for Artists, Amazon Music or Artists, an Official Artist Channel on YouTube, Deezer Backstage, Pandora AMP, etc.
- Spotify Canvas
- Good video content to run as an outreach ad
- A Spotify pre-save or follow campaign to run in advance of the release
- Your smartlink
- A website for your music
- An email management tool
- And MUCH more
To make sure you’re checking every item and deadline off the list, CD Baby created the Release Plan Generator, a free tool you can use to build a custom music release timeline.
All you have to do is plug in your target release date.
How do you choose a release date for your music?
A good rule of thumb is to give yourself AT LEAST five weeks ahead of your launch to sign up for distribution. Not because distribution itself takes that long, but because Spotify and other streaming platforms’ editorial teams prefer to have at least a month to consider the music being pitched to them.
If you’re not sure exactly how much time to give yourself, try the Release Plan Generator and change the release date (in the upper left) at any time. The tool will adjust all the deadlines accordingly.
The basic framework for a successful music release
- Set yourself up with an easy way to manage your work and track progress — Asana, Google Drive, Slack, etc.
- Then use CD Baby’s Release Plan Generator to get your free, customized release plan. You don’t have to sign up for distribution to use the tool.
- Take your customized release plan and plug those items and deadlines into Asana or Trello.
- Get to work!
Got questions about releasing music for success in 2021?
Be sure to attend Bandzoogle’s free webinar The best way to plan your music release for success where they’ll speak with CD Baby’s Chris Robley about the many steps that go into a smart music release.
They’ll be taking questions along the way, so you’ll have the chance to get advice on your next album or single launch.
Build a stunning band website and store in minutes
- Promote your music on your own unique website.
- Sell music & merch directly to your fans. Keep 100%.
- Grow your fan base with built-in marketing tools.
Free 30 day trial, no credit card needed.