Last year, I wrote a fun little article titled “10 Ways To Distribute Your EP: From Bland To Brilliant.” In that piece, I weighed the pros and cons of different music distribution strategies, and it is still quite a hit to this day. So, I’ve decided to write a matching, BFF article taking a look at promotional strategies and ideas for the release itself, especially for emerging artists with their first launches and shoestring budgets.
So, buckle your rhinestone-studded seat belts, and let’s go for a ride! These are ten ways to promote the release itself, in a loose order from adequate to amazing.
Adequate – Message All Your Contacts
Pros: An upgrade from simply posting the announcement, reaching out to your entire network person-by-person is one way to make sure they see it.
Cons: If you do not have a newsletter already in place, individually messaging everyone you know can be very time consuming. Distant acquaintances might be irritated if your message is clearly copy-and-pasted, and you haven’t spoken to them since 2013.
Pro Tip: Start building your email list before the EP release. If you do not have a newsletter provider already set up, don’t mass email everyone in one go – your email provider will flag you as spam and penalize you by limiting inbox features going forward.
Average – Sign Physical Copies
Pros: An classic strategy, signing copies of your EP for fans turns them into collectors’ items.
Cons: You can come across as a real preening peacock if you’re not careful.
Pro Tip: Ask fans how to spell their name before signing. A CD is far more valuable than a Starbucks coffee.
A-Okay – Boost A Facebook Post
Pros: Facebook is by far the cheapest, most targeted way to reach potential fans out there.
Cons: Pretty much every band releasing new music boosts a Facebook announcement post, so unless you are very flashy about it, it probably will get lost in the newsfeed noise.
Pro Tip: Really take time to zero-in on who your target fans are. Think beyond their music tastes – what else do they do for fun? where do they buy their clothes? which causes do they rally behind?
Acute – Get Into Digital PR
Pros: With the rise of blogs, podcasts, Youtube shows, and the like, a small artist doesn’t necessarily need to book a full publicity campaign to reach media outlets of their size or slightly larger. With a little research, it is very possible to land an interview or review on the internet, and use that momentum to get placements in outlets with more and more clout.
Cons: There are certain rules of etiquette when it comes to pitching media, which can be unfamiliar territory if you have not done it before.
Authentic – Start a Vlog Series
Pros: Fans may connect with your music, but they’ll connect with you if you can take them behind the scenes and given exclusive access.
Cons: Starting a video series is a huge time commitment (trust me, I know). Not every personality is comfortable putting their life on display.
Pro Tip: Live streams are being rewarded in social media algorithms right now (think: IGTV and Facebook Live). Alternatively, Instagram stories are a great way to dip your toes in the water, with short form content that only stays up for 24 hours.
Audacious – Land A Sponsorship Deal.
Pros: Partnering with a brand makes you look larger than you are. The brand gets more social media content and cred with your crowd. You may also get money, free stuff or anything in-between.
Cons: Brand partnerships are not for every act. Corporations have an image too, and they don’t want to deal with a negative PR storm on Twitter, so they tend to choose safe, clean-cut acts over edgier ones.
Pro Tip: Think outside the box by pitching to non-music companies too. You’re not the first guitar player to want to be sponsored by a guitar string manufacturer, and you will be competing against many other (more established) guitarists for a deal with them. On the other hand, you may be the only musician (and thereby stand out) offering to collaborate with a local car dealership, emerging fashion designer, or trendy lifestyle brand.
Awesome – Host A Ticket Giveaway
Pros: Are you planning a release party? Why not use the power of social media algorithms to advertise it? Simply post on your official Facebook page that all your fans have to do to enter a ticket giveaway is tag the friend they would go with. This generates engagement and broadens your reach in the newsfeed of people scrolling. Plus, you might get a bunch of actual sales from your increased visibility.
Cons: Free tickets eat into your profit margins, meaning you won’t make as much money from the event. Be careful when deciding how many you can afford to give as gifts.
Pro Tip: Remember that most people don’t like going out to events alone. Tickets should be bundled in pairs.
Adventurous – Land On A Local Business’ Playlist
Pros: Are there any locally owned and operated businesses in your area? From cafés and restaurants, to general stores and souvenir shops, is there anyone you can talk into selling your physical disks on consignment, and maybe even adding your music to their in-house playlist? Getting new people to listen to your music is easy if someone else is playing it.
Cons: Potential rejection. If selling on consignment, the other business’ cut will eat into your profit margins.
Pro Tip: Do your research. Make sure your music would fit the style of the place. It helps if you already frequent that location and are on friendly terms with the owner.
Adorable – Stage A Literal “Launch”
Pros: You’re launching a music release, right? Why not take that term literally? Strap a digital download card to a toy rocket, head to your local open area, get your buddy take a video, and light the wick! 5…4…3…2…1… BLAST OFF! A gentler alternative is attaching your CD to a bunch of helium balloons and letting that baby fly. Aren’t you quirky and have cool video content to promote your new music with?
Cons: It’s silly, and not for everyone.
Pro Tip: Don’t smack anyone on the head with your awesome flying rocket. The download card means they’ll know who you are and where to find you online to complain.
Amazing – Give Your Release Party A Theme
Pros: Living in a city means there are multiple shows going on every night of the week. Make yours the talk of the town by turning it into a full-blown theme party. Have games, themed merch, decor, make this an EVENT!
Cons: More planning is required to pull this off than the average bar gig. However, I firmly believe it’s worth it for a release party.
Pro Tip: Is your latest release inspired by vintage sounds? Get your audience to dress up in the most iconic fashion looks of the era! Are you pulling lots of inspiration from your cultural heritage? Serve traditional finger foods (with written cards to explain their ingredients over the sound of the band)! Do you sing about politics? Get people to register to vote at your merch booth! Heck, is your album titled “Piano Songs?” Encourage everyone to wear black and white! The possibilities are endless…