Before you jump right into rolling out your new release, there are some important housekeeping tasks that we need to take care of first – like how to plan your music release.
Below we will outline everything you need to consider before you release anything.
Related Reading: How To Distribute Your Own Music: Music Distribution Checklist – 60 tips
Related Reading: What To Do After Your Music Release: Music Distribution Checklist – 31 Tips
Goals & Planning
1. Develop a list of “SMART” goals related to your release and what you intend to accomplish
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Timely. These goals allow you to get more strategic with your planning and use your resources more effectively. For more advice on creating SMART goals click here.
2. Identify your target audience
One important aspect of creating a successful release is identifying your target audience. You need to understand who is listening to your music, how they’re consuming your music, where they’re located, etc. You need to know who you’re selling to and how to reach them. For more information about how to identify your target audience click here.
3. Do you have a business or marketing plan?
It’s important to remember that even though you’re an artist, you’re also a business. Eventually, you’ll want to start making an income from your work. This is why It’s a good idea to start working on a business plan as this can help you create your vision for the future and keep you on track. It’s also handy when looking for funding from sources like grants and investors.
4. Start using a Calendar and get in the habit of using it daily
You can use any calendar that works for you like Google Calendar or any other calendar app on your phone. There are also tools like Trello, Asana, and Monday.com that can help with scheduling, project management, and delegating tasks between team members.
5. Determine exactly what you plan to release
Are you releasing an Album, EP, Single, Music Videos, or Multiple Releases?
We strongly recommend that you think into the future about the content you’ll have after this release is complete. If you can get ahead of the game and have a couple of projects in the vault, I strongly suggest you do so to help you maintain your momentum!
6. Determine what other assets you will require
Will you require Artwork, Promo Videos, Merchandise, etc?
7. Take into account who you have on your team
Do you have other band members that will be helping you with certain tasks? Do you have others on your team like friends and family that can help? Do you have an idea of who will be helping to produce artwork, videos, etc? Take inventory of what areas you have covered and where you need help so you can start filling in the gaps.
If building a team is not in the cards at the moment, you can turn to sites like Fiverr & Upwork to help you find people who can work on your projects.
8. Consider your budget for everything you plan to create and release
Having a budget allows you to plan ahead, be creative in how you will fund your projects and have an understanding of what it will cost to effectively release your music. We suggest you do your best to avoid the following situations as best you can which are:
- Allocating funds to cover the production of all your assets but neglecting to consider the marketing and promotional costs involved after the fact.
- Deciding to produce a bunch of content and later realizing you can’t afford it because you didn’t consider your budget. When you don’t have a budget you tend to overlook income shortages which makes it harder to acquire much needed resources after the fact. For example, 99% of grants have extensive review periods before decisions are made.
- Waiting till the last minute to research the funding bodies in your area. There are national, provincial, municipal and private grants throughout North America. Some offer rolling deadlines while others are fixed. Re-search the grants you would have access to and submit an application if you qualify. For more info about grants click here. For help with getting grants check out this guide from Soundfly.
There are a variety of tools that can help you with your music budgeting and finances such as Google Sheets, Wave Accounting, & Mint.
9. Set Specific Dates
With the above in mind, consider the approximate dates you plan to release all of your content.
You can use the filing system on your computer, an external hard drive or apps like Dropbox. Whatever you decide, make sure that everything from your masters, backing tracks, past setlists, photoshoots, music videos, promo videos, contracts, etc., are all together and filed appropriately.
10. Get organized and put assets where you and others on your team can find them later
Website & Branding
11. Get your branding in order
Do you have an aesthetic? Do you know what colors best represent your brand?
Your branding is usually the first thing people will see before they even hear a second of your music. How are you presenting yourself to the world? You need a foundation for your branding, as this fosters loyalty with your fans, and will make you more memorable in the eyes of your audience. If you need to tweak your branding before your release you can refer to our branding content below:
Related Reading: How To Build A Fanbase For Your Music Through Branding
Related Reading: Finding Your 1000 True Fans For Musicians – Build Your Tribe
Related Reading: Music Branding Tips: 4 Elements of a Strong Compelling Brand (Miley Cyrus Case Study)
Related Reading: The Importance of Branding Yourself as A Musician
12. Create or polish your Bio
Keep in mind that you will need both an in-depth bio and a shorter version as well. The shorter version of your bio is more of an elevator pitch focusing on the more important and current details.
Your bio should be on your website and should be readily accessible if anyone asks for it. Furthermore, do yourself a favor and update it periodically so you don’t have to scramble and do major overhauls of your bio every few years or so.
Below are some helpful tips on writing your artist bio:
13. Create or polish your Press Kit
Your press kit is very important and makes you look a hundred times more professional. Not to mention it allows you to present the best “you” to important people in the industry. Essentially this could be considered your music resume so do not take it lightly.
Electronic Press Kits can simply be a link on your website for media and industry use. This link would take you to a page that Includes your strongest songs, videos, downloadable press photos and bios as well as a technical rider. Check out Public Display PR & Music On A Mission for more tips on press kits.
14. Create or polish your website
If you don’t have a website you will need to get set up on a platform like Squarespace, Wix or WordPress. We highly recommend using these companies as they simplify a very technical process saving you a ton of time and all for a very reasonable price.
If you don’t have a site yet, get started with our tutorial here.
You need to start thinking about your website as your 24/7 salesman. Yes, social media is great but if you start leveraging your website and an email list you will thank me later.
15. Understand how to publish blog posts and what type of content to post on your website
For tips on producing content on your artist website check out this article from Hypebot
16. Integrate a service like Songkick & Bandsintown with your website
17. Have a section for people to contact you on your website
18. Consider search engine optimization (SEO) for your site
For tips on getting started with SEO for your site and setting up your Google Knowledge Graph click here.
If you’re selling anything (merch) off your website be sure to create a Google My Business account and link it to your website. For more information click here.
19. If you can, make your handles the same name across every social platform you are using. Bonus points if you can make your website domain name the same as well.
20. With your branding in place, make sure that the logos, colors and images are consistent across all platforms
21. Make a note of the type of etiquette you intend to have on your socials
How will you handle negative comments? How many times will you post? What will be considered ok to post? Learn more about the dos and don’ts of social media here.
22. Be aware of the analytics each platform provides and know how to access them
23. Be aware of how your target audience uses social media. Are they active on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Different genres will have a different social media focus due to the usage trends of their target audience.
24. Start considering your strategy for growing your following on these platforms
Having a solid social media plan and strategy will help to strengthen all of your other marketing efforts.
25. Determine what tools you plan to use to organize your content calendar
There are a lot of options out there ranging from free to paid. You could simply use Google Sheets to track everything or even a more efficient tool like Sendible or Buffer.
Distribution & PRO Setup
26. Get your Spotify Artist Page Verified and claim your Apple Music Artist Page
27. Create or polish all of your artist pages, keeping your branding in mind
Setup your Spotify and Apple Music pages first but then you may want to consider the likes of Beatport, Google Play, Tidal, Deezer, Shazam and Soundcloud.
28. Set up a Smart Link to consolidate where fans can easily find and share your music
For more info about Smart Links visit: Smart Links for Music Marketing : The Complete Guide
29. Determine which music distribution company you plan on using
There are a number of different options out there for you to choose from and if you need help determining which distributor to go with you can check out our in-depth comparison on all of the companies here.
30. Review and understand best practices for uploading artwork and metadata to the platform you have chosen
31. Register with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SOCAN, as well as MROC (if you’re in Canada).
32. Register With A Publishing Administrator Like Songtrust
33. Register for SoundExchange
SoundExchange is another form of PRO that collects performance royalties for artists. This service only collects digital performance royalties from platforms like Pandora and SirusXM. You can follow this link here to register.
34. Register all previous music for SoundScan
This is the service that the majority of people in the industry use to determine the royalties earned or due to artists. Here is a link to the online registration form.
35. Copyright all previous music
There are many ways to accomplish this but we have found Cosynd to be quite helpful with copyrighting your music. If you need help with this you can refer to our copyright content here.
36. Register for Pandora AMP
37. Know your options if you are trying to clear samples or making a cover song
Easy Song Licensing is very helpful when it comes to getting you the licenses you need to legally release your music.
38. Determine which email provider you plan to use
We personally use ActiveCampaign, but there are a number of great providers out there such as Constant Contact and MailChimp.
39. Understand how automation works and strategize how you will implement this to interact with fans
Here is a great article to get you started with email automation.
40. An advanced approach would be to think about ways you can segment your list and target specific types of fans on your email list (males, females, people aged 20 – 25, etc.)
Here is a great article to get you started with email segmentation.
41. Create your “Welcome Email” for the people who sign up to your email list
42. Begin to brainstorm ideas for the type of content you can send your email list
Here is a great article to help you form your ideas on what to send your fans.
43. Develop your strategy for collecting new emails and growing your list
You will need to be actively growing your email list and if you are not thinking about how you will do this, chances are you will miss out on a lot of opportunities to grow your list and ultimately your income.
You can start with a clipboard signup sheet at your shows but also consider what you’ll say from the stage to get emails. How will you gain email sign ups through your promotions on socials?
Remember, things like follows, likes, streams and views may all seem awesome and boost your ego but an email is the key that opens so many more doors. Don’t underestimate the value of an email because your list is where the real fortune lies.
Final Thoughts on how to plan your music release
Perfect, now that you have gotten your foundation ready we can start to prepare for the big day. Our next article walks you through the steps to take leading up to release day.
Kevin is the founder of Music With Flavor, which joined Whipped Cream Sounds in 2023. He is a seasoned musician turned industry expert. His passion for music goes beyond melodies; he delves deep into the intricate world of music marketing, striving to unearth the most effective strategies for indie musicians. However, Music With Flavor isn’t just about Kevin’s knowledge; it’s a network of industry experts handpicked to provide the most trusted advice. Kevin’s role is to pose the right questions, not just answer them, as he and his team tirelessly research trends, connect with artists, and gather valuable insights.