Let’s Get Started!
Whether you’re a total beginner at releasing your own music or a seasoned veteran, you’ve come to the right place. Our goal is simple: Get your new music to as many new (and old!) fans as possible. We’re going to give you step by step instructions on how to debut your music in a way that maximizes your chance for a successful release.
While we’re going to be very specific on how to do this, think of it as a “big picture” guide; we’re going to avoid drilling down unnecessarily deep so that you can implement these strategies without getting too terribly bogged down in the details. Why are we choosing to be so laser-focused?
It all comes down to something you may have heard of called the 80-20 Rule (also known as the Pareto principle). The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. We’re aiming to give you the most important information – that 20% – to get you the results you’re looking for (you guessed it, the 80%).
Of course there’ll be a time for fine tuning and nitpicking, but for right now let’s hit the main points that are going to get your music out there today. Let’s dive in!
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Way back in the days before the streaming revolution, getting your music into record stores as an independent artist was virtually impossible. You needed the money, connections, and cultural power of a traditional record label to push your music to as many potential fans as possible. Fortunately, that has changed.
It’s now easier than ever to get your music on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon, Deezer and tons of other similar services; the barrier to entry that was gatekept by the traditional record industry has virtually disappeared. The first thing you need to do is choose a distributor, and that choice is going to come down to four key qualifiers:
Reputation and reliability –
When looking for a distributor, one vital factor to consider is their reputation. You’re not looking for some fly-by-night, here today gone tomorrow distributor that could leave you high and dry in the middle of an album launch. Look for a distributor with a proven track record, preferably one that’s been in the business for a long time. Some of the bigger names in the space include Cdbaby, Tunecore, Reverbnation, Onerpm, and Distrokid.
Price is a major factor when deciding which distributor you want to go with. You need to find a distributor whose pricing lines up with your music launch plans. For example: How much do they charge? Do they charge a flat fee, or do they take a percentage cut of your profits? If you’re planning on releasing a lot of singles, then a distributor that charges per release wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
Different distributors will also have different key features. Some distributors offer publishing administration and licensing services to help maximize your royalties, while others offer things like physical music distribution.
Customer Service and Support –
This is a critical piece of the puzzle that far too many independent artists ignore when shopping for a distributor. Here’s a fact: Things go wrong. When they do, you’re going to want to have a distributor known for their customer service and customer support. Generally speaking, the larger, easier to use distributors are offering their services at the cost of worse support (looking at you here, Distrokid) while smaller “boutique” services are more likely to work with you one on one and in a timely manner to get problems resolved.
Keep these things in mind when you’re trying to decide on a distributor, but if worse comes to worst and you decide you want to switch, that’s entirely possible with one important caveat: Make sure that you upload your music to your new distributor and that they submit it to all major streaming platforms BEFORE you cancel your service with your previous distributor. Failure to do so might get your music pulled from streaming platforms at a critical juncture, so just be sure to get that handled.
Singles or Albums
One question many artists face is whether to focus on releasing singles or an entire album. While the answer is nuanced, and no two artists are going to be in the exact same position, there is, generally speaking, a winner in terms of revenue: Albums.
Of course, here comes the ever-present caveat: Releasing albums is more profitable under the correct conditions. If you want to reap the full benefit of a successful album launch, there are a few prerequisites you should meet. Let’s drill down into them with something we call the KFS Factor. Know, Fan, Superfan – KFS.
This is exactly what it sounds like; somebody that just knows you. Maybe they’re not a fan but they do know that you exist. It’s the first step, and it’s an important one. These are people who’ve probably been exposed to your music on Spotify or YouTube. Or maybe, one of their friends sent them one of your videos or the almighty algorithm pushed your song to them.
This is exactly what it sounds like. This is one of your fans! They’ve been exposed to your music, they listen to your music on Spotify and hopefully they also share your music with their friends. They’re great, but they’re not guaranteed to buy your album.
The “S” in “KFS” that makes the whole thing work. Your superfans are the most important piece of the puzzle; these are the people who absolutely WILL buy your new album. These are the types of fans we need to make the whole thing work.
So what you need to do is take a good, hard look at your current fanbase. Are most of them just fans, or are they superfans? If you feel like you have a solid base of superfans, then planning an album launch instead of a bunch of single launches becomes a no-brainer.
But maybe you’re not there quite yet – let’s say for example that you get tons of streams, tons of social media engagement, but your merch isn’t moving at all and your album sales are flat. That’s actually fine, but it’s not what we’re looking for long-term. Our aim is to move the people who “know” you into the “fan” column, and eventually from the “fan” column to the “superfan” column. In this scenario, releasing singles makes much more sense.
So the short version is this: If you have few (or even zero!) fans, your first priority will be to use single releases to reach new listeners. Once they become fans, some of these fans will get more into your music and become superfans. This is where you switch your focus to album releases; and where you’re going to be able to generate income from record sales.
Single Release Strategy
If you’re in a position where it makes more sense to be releasing singles, i.e. you don’t currently have an existing fanbase, you’ve come to the right place. There are tons of small tips and tricks to getting the perfect single release, but let’s focus on one of the most important: Getting on Spotify’s algorithmically generated playlists.
The idea behind releasing lots of singles is simple; the more you release, the more likely Spotify’s algorithm is to notice your music and push it to new listeners. You want to be very active and consistent in your release schedule to aid this process.
I’m sure you’re familiar with how Spotify works, but to put it simply: If Spotify’s algorithm believes that your music would be a good fit for a particular listener, it will recommend it to that listener. Before it can do that however, you need to get more listeners in the first place. This is because Spotify has built up a “taste profile” for each individual listener, which you can influence.
Here’s how to make Spotify’s algorithmic playlists way more likely to pick up on your music: Ask your fans to follow you on Spotify. Anywhere you’re connecting with your fans, whether that’s at live shows or over social media, make sure to ask them to follow you on Spotify. It’s that simple.
Your new music will be featured in your fans’ Release Radar, getting you more listeners and making you more attractive to Spotify’s algorithm. It’s an extremely easy way to get on to these playlists, and it only requires you asking your fans to follow you on Spotify. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I guarantee most of them are perfectly willing to do it.
There are several different kinds of algorithmic playlists on Spotify. First, there’s Discover Weekly, which is a playlist which pushes music to listeners that already fits their taste profile but with a little bit of new stuff thrown into the mix. Odds are, if you use Spotify, you’ve listened to Discover Weekly – it’s a great place for your music to be!
Another playlist to be aware of is Release Radar. Release Radar is unique in that it only shares music that has come out in the past four weeks. Using this playlist is key to gaining new listeners. Release Radar pushes music based on the listener’s taste profile, but it also pushes it even harder to people who already follow you on Spotify. You did ask them to do that, right?
This makes it ideal to release new tracks every four weeks. For example: If you have 12 tracks that you’re considering releasing as an album, you might want to consider breaking them up into single releases. The idea here is that these singles are more likely to get pushed than your entire album, growing your fanbase, getting more people to know you, and hopefully turning more of them into fans.
When you’re planning promotions for your release, you’ll have a pre-release period and a post-release period. You’ll promote the upcoming release and continue to promote it once it’s live and available to stream. Ideally, if you’re releasing a single every four weeks, this will work out to you promoting your new release for two weeks before it’s out and two weeks afterwards.
Uploading your music through a distributor is super easy to do.
All you have to do is decide on a distributor. Remember you can change distributors later, so this isn’t a life-or-death decision. But I’ve already shared some tips above for choosing the right distributor for you.
Once you’ve chosen your distributor, they will walk you through the process of uploading new music. It’s usually a pretty simple and straight-forward process.
One vitally important tip for uploading your music: Upload your music six weeks before its release. There are a couple of reasons for doing this: First, you’ll actually have time to run promotions for it and try to get engagement around it. Second, you’ll need some time to submit your new release to playlist curators so you can get it added to playlists as soon as it’s released.
Spotify’s Editor Curated Playlists
One way to get added to a Spotify playlist is by actually submitting your music to Spotify’s editorial staff itself. It costs you absolutely nothing to submit a song – and it could be huge for your track.
Basically, you should do this every single time you release new music. Here’s how:
First things first, you’ll need to set up your Artist Profile on Spotify. Head over to artists.spotify.com and follow the instructions there to get your profile started.
Now, any time you have a new release scheduled, it’ll appear on your Spotify for Artists dashboard. So when you see your upcoming song on your dashboard, you’ll also see a button that says “Pitch a Song”. They’ll ask for a little more info, like what genre your song is, and you’ll be able to submit it for review. Spotify staff will then review it and see if it’s a good fit for one of their official playlists.
User Curated Playlists
There are several different ways to get your new release on user curated playlists. Let’s take a look at a few of the common services available:
One great website is Submithub. It’s also completely free to sign up for but there is, as always, also a paid option available. Once you create your account, you’ll see another list of curators, but you’ll also see options for influencers of several different kinds including YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and even radio stations.
Focusing on Spotify curators for the moment, the process is pretty similar to what we’ve done so far. Select your genre (or as close as you can come to it), check out some curators, and submit your song to them from there.
The difference here is that you need Submithub “premium credits” to do this, and this is where the paid option comes in. You get credits for free over time; not a lot, but you do get them. This is where the question of whether you’re more willing to spend time or money comes into play.
Not to worry though, as we have another way to get some free Submithub credits. You’ll see an option near the top of the screen called “Hot or Not”. Basically, this is a program that rewards you with credits just for listening to other artists’ music and then leaving them some feedback. While you’re doing this, they’re doing the same for you. It’s a great – and 100% free – way to earn those premium credits.
Playlist Push is a great option for getting your music added to a ton of different user curated playlists and rack up streams, but it comes at a price. The minimum for any campaign is going to be at least $300-400 USD, and it goes up from there.
You can get 7.5% off your first Playlist Push Submission with promo code EYR5F9Y
Contacting Curators Directly
Good news: We’ve done the work of finding curators for you! Head on over to https://www.jammob.com/playlist-curators/ and take a look at the group of curators we’ve already found for you to contact. This list is being updated all the time, and if you have a general idea of what genre your music fits into, we may have a lead for you.
Once you select your genre, you’ll find a list of Spotify playlists to choose from. Once you choose one, you’ll see a contact email for that curator and a link to that playlist. One thing: These playlists change frequently, so if the one you’re searching for is gone (or renamed), take a look around and see if that curator has other playlists that might make a solid fit for your song.
Now I can’t emphasize this enough: When you reach out to a playlist curator, be professional. This isn’t an Instagram dm; represent yourself and your style clearly, like someone who actually wants to work with this person in a business capacity. If you want a few tips and tricks on how to do that, check out this video:
So now that we’ve discussed getting added to Spotify playlists, let’s move on to some other areas. There are two different ways people stream your music on Spotify. They are Passive Streaming and Active Streaming.
Active Streaming is when a person goes directly to your song or artists’ profile to hit the play button on your music specifically. Passive Streaming is when Spotify automatically plays your music for the listener based on their taste profile, whether that’s on Release Radar or a similar artist’s radio station, etc.
While both types of streaming are great, Active Streaming is definitely going to take a lead in terms of listener engagement. People who are listening to your music “passively” often have their attention focused on other things, be that eating, driving, working, studying, etc. That tends to lead to less follows on Spotify and less engagement with your track.
A great way to increase your Active Streams is with Active Promotion. Using Facebook and Instagram ads is the perfect way to do this. We have an in-depth guide on Facebook and Instagram ads in our members-only program, Music Promotion Insiders. You can check that out here: Get Lifetime Access to Music Promotion Insiders for 80% OFF the standard price – Deal Expires September 26, 2021
Additional Promotion Tips
Let’s discuss some additional ways to actively promote your new release. One way that seems like a no-brainer is simply promoting it on social media. Post about it on your twitter/facebook/instagram accounts, talk about it in the comments, and engage your followers with a call to action to “presave your track on Spotify” before it launches.
Another great way to do this is to post behind-the-scenes content. People go absolutely nuts for BTS content, especially your more diehard fans. This could really be pretty much anything, but pictures and videos of the recording process are especially engaging. Share pictures and videos which heavily feature your contributors, especially if you’re in the studio doing collabs (and make sure to tag them, too!). You can also upload videos of your music playing in its DAW, or a live version of the song out at a venue, the list goes on and on.
You also want to send out an email blast to all of your email list subscribers in the weeks leading up to your release. You can send multiple emails, but beware of sending emails that are too similar; for example, have one email with the link to the presave page, one with a link to the YouTube video, maybe one with the inspiration for the lyrics, etc. Just avoid repeatedly sending the same email so your fans don’t feel like they’re getting spammed.
You can learn all about presave pages and building your email list of fans as a Music Promotion Insider. Get Lifetime Access to Music Promotion Insiders for 80% OFF the standard price – Deal Expires September 26, 2021
You could also send out a press release using a service like Story Amp. This is more for artists with a large existing fanbase, so keep that in mind. If you’re still building, or your new release doesn’t have a collab with a famous artist or something similar, it’s probably best to skip this one.
Post Release Promotion
Earlier, we discussed releasing your music on a 4-6 week schedule. This is perfect for allowing some time for promotion, and it’s also how long your release will be on Release Radar. You’ll promote it for 2-3 weeks before it’s live, and then roughly 2 weeks after that.
For that 2 week post-release promotion period, a lot of the promotion methods you employ are going to be the same. You can still submit to playlist curators, you can still post about it on social media, and you can still run Facebook and Instagram ads.
The big difference is that you’re no longer promoting a pre-save page, but a link to stream the release right away. If you’re using Distrokid, this will actually be done for you. Send out emails, engage with fans on social media, do whatever you can to get people to not only stream your new track, but also follow you on Spotify.
All of this will combine to show Spotify’s algorithm that people want to listen to this track, which in turn will make it push your music to more and more listeners. These steps, taken together, all contribute to blowing up your track and making it hit as hard as it possibly can. See the process through for a few weeks, and then get ready to start the entire process over again for your next one.
Up until now we’ve focused on releasing singles, but what if you’re in a place where it makes sense to release a full album? Fortunately, a lot of what we’ve already discussed synergizes well with a full album release. The singles that you’ve released can be used to build up hype for your actual album drop, a practice which the record industry has used since, well… Forever.
It’s a best practice to release around 2-3 singles before you release your album, and also for the last single to be dropped when the album launches.
Keep in mind that when you pitch your whole record to Spotify to be featured on a playlist, you’re only going to be able to select one track from it for the editors to actually listen to. Make sure the track you pick is the right one, the one that best represents you as an artist.
If you have a pretty strong existing fanbase (and since you’re releasing an album, you do, right?) then you may want to take a look at using Spotify ads to promote your new album. Spotify ads can be a great way to reach your existing fanbase and get them to your new release, especially because they’re already on Spotify.
I just have to reiterate that if you don’t currently have a solid fan base, Spotify Ads and album releases really aren’t the way to go. Refer back to the material above for single releases, and do some building that way first.
We’ve talked about how to get listeners to stream your new release, but that’s not where you’re going to be able to make much money. The real money to be made lies in selling deluxe and extended versions of the album to your Superfans (Remember: KFS, Know, Fan, Superfan). Your Superfans are the ones who are going to buy all your merch, come out to see you at live shows, and buy the physical pressings of your albums.
Just be aware that if you’re not in the position to make money this way, you still need to put in the time to build up your existing fanbase. I know I keep repeating that, but it’s very important and it’ll keep you from wasting your money on promotions that don’t fit your situation.
That’s the end of our Music Release Plan! We covered –
- How to choose a Distributor
- Singles versus Albums
- The KFS Factor
- Strategies for releasing your single
- How to upload your music
- Playlist submission
- Active promotion
- Album releases
I really hope you found this post helpful, and that you can come away from it with some new knowledge. Be honest in your assessment of yourself and where you are in your career, apply these principles and you’ll be on your way to releasing your new music in the best way possible in no time.
And if you found the information here helpful, you can learn more when you join Music Promotion Insiders. Get instant access to more detailed video tutorials covering these topics and much, much more.