I am asked all the time why some of my projects do better than artists with more experience, or more talent, or more money invested. I’m not sure why, but here’s what we do for every release whether it’s a song, video, or whole project. Of course the things we choose to do change depending on the target market, type of music, budget, region, time of year, etc, but this gives you a general overview of how my clients drop music.
Before dropping a single, we do some set up for the release and we build the artists social media numbers, legitimately with real followers. We find a prominent blog or website to exclusively premiere the song (XXL, WorldStar, Hot New HipHop, etc). We usually do this a week or two ahead because once the song is released, we can not get a premiere. We determine in our negotiation with the site how far in advance of everyone else they get it—for example, it might be exclusive to them for an hour, it might be a day. We do this with music AND videos whenever we decide to release something.
We make certain the metadata and artwork are complete for clean and dirty versions (wav file and mp3). The metadata is super important for the DJs and the DSPs (Digital Service Providers, which are Spotify, Apple, Tidal, etc) so when someone searches for the song, anywhere (even on Google) it comes up fast and at the top of the search. We upload the song to the distributor as far in advance as possible, ideally 4-5 weeks or so (more about this later).
A publicist (or the artist if he or she has relationships with bloggers) sends the song to each writer and editor at blogs individually (no mass emails) to let them know the song or video is dropping. We usually have these prepared ahead of time and send them out after the “exclusive premiere” time has passed. Some blogs, where we have relationships, we will send the song ahead of time and tell them not to post before a certain day and time (after the exclusive premiere time has passed). This is based solely on trust and relationships. If someone jumps the premiere date/time it’s a HUGE problem, so we can’t give it to someone who might release it early. Hence, trust and relationships!
The audio version of the single gets uploaded to YouTube, SoundCloud, and all of the free mixtape platforms. A campaign is usually launched around the platforms consisting of count downs and front page banners and positioning. We often pay to keep the release on the front page for a few weeks to increase awareness of the new release.
For a video, we hire a video promo team about 2 weeks ahead to set up a premiere at BET. And then they service to all video outlets (Fuse, MTV Africa, Revolt, etc), all stores that show videos (FootLocker, Hot Topic, LA Fitness, etc) to play after the BET premiere date and time.
The blogs, DJs, streets, and clubs are serviced and the artist follows up with in-person visits to those DJs confirming they are a priority and the song is a priority. Everyone wants to feel special and appreciated by the artist and their team.
Usually, we roll out the single first to the DJs who were most supportive of the last single so they feel gratitude (or reciprocity) for them going hard the last time. Drops are usually serviced to them at this time so they don’t have to ask. In some cases, special versions of the song are made quoting the name of the DJ or the mixshow in the song, if the DJ has been super supportive.
The song is placed on any key mixtapes that still exist and key playlists. We usually ask the email blasters to blast out the single at the same time on the same day.
The goal is to do all of this as close to simultaneously as possible so no one feels left out (DJs can be very touchy about this) and so the launch feels bigger than life. The goal is to reach new people with the release as well as current fans. The planned and well-timed release makes it hit as many places at once, all at the same time. When people see/hear the repetitive message or consistency of the release, they associate the organized effort with “being larger than life.” The closer an indie artist can come to looking like he had a major label release, the bigger the artist appears to fans. This “larger than life” look often attracts fans who don’t support new/indie/unsigned artists and only pay attention to stars and big releases. The goal is to get as many eyes and ears on a new release as possible, as cheaply as possible. And it’s extra crucial when there’s no big budget behind a release so it spreads as fast as possible.
If there’s a big budget, we immediately flood the streets with flyers and posters so the song is inescapable. Sometimes it’s the big launch that sweeps the DJs in, even more than the music does. Sometimes if they assume there’s a big push behind a project they feel obligated to support it. You’ll often see Rappers trolling on social media or getting arrested for something stupid to bring more eyeballs to their movement. Some do events like pop up shops, charity events, listening parties, release parties, etc—whatever they can do to bring more attention to the release day/week.
And lastly, there’s almost always a digital campaign behind the release. Both an influencer campaign and some social media marketing (google, Facebook, and Instagram ads). We often run Twitter, SoundCloud, Facebook, and Instagram boosts, as well as ads, to bring new eyeballs to the excitement of a new release. We NEVER buy fake views, fake followers, or fake likes. Not ever. We want real people in the artist’s region to support the artist. Not bots from overseas.
The momentum of everything above is key. I can not stress timing enough. Ideally, we want this timed so everything hits at the same time. Once we submit the song or album to the distributor, it takes 4-5 weeks (to get it into their pitching system for playlists. My clients rarely have their music a month ahead, and the fastest we can ever get the song for sale is 3-5 days, but we always have the song available for sale and streaming before we drop the song/video to the public).
We almost always have the video shot and ready to release prior to dropping the song, so we can plan when to best release the video. We have the lyrics up on Genius and Apple Music before the song or video drops, and we usually have interviews at blogs set up for the week of release.
This doesn’t mean this is the only way to put out music, it just means this is why my clients’ projects tend to do better than most projects in the marketplace. Anyone can have success with one release, but can you do it repeatedly.
We stalk the data and dashboards (stats) to track the movement of the release to see how fans are reacting to it. We watch Pandora and Shazam, as well as SoundCloud, Apple Music, Spotify, and every social media platform. The distributor’s dashboard is often very helpful. This data often determines how much more money we invest into a project. If it’s growing legs, we feed it. If not, we regroup and drop another song. We let the fans tell us what’s hot and what’s not. And we make sure we are properly funded before starting. This is a very expensive industry. Dropping music without a marketing and promotional push is often useless and irresponsible.
I love what I do. After 26 years, staying relevant isn’t easy, but very necessary, since artists put their careers and livelihood in my hands. Things change very fast in this industry. So fast, in fact, that this article will be irrelevant in 6-9 months.
-by Wendy Day