Over the past few years, there have been major changes to the music industry impacting the way we consume music, create music and sell music; therefore, the release strategy for all musicians has had to change drastically to adapt with this.
Music promotion is no longer based on getting a physical album onto the shelves and securing sales and music creating is no longer about making a full album, so people get their ‘money’s worth’, so what is it about? What is the best way to release your music in this digital era?
In this blog post, we’re going to teach you the best release strategy to guarantee you can take advantage of digital streaming platforms, build your fanbase and exploit each release to secure the best results possible.
How Is Music Consumed?
The way that music is consumed has become one of the most drastic changes to the music industry over the past 10 years. Music consumption has changed, so your release strategy will need to adapt with it, but for you to know how to adapt, you need to fully understand where music is being consumed and why it is consumed in this manner, so you can create a strategy fitting for this.
Studies show that in 2018 45% of people were discovering new music video streaming services alone, with further trends showing that Spotify is on track to take over radio in terms of listenership and popularity. These statistics prove that digital streaming is the main platform for people to listen to music, with only 15 years ago, streaming platforms hardly being looked into. The new nature of the industry shows how people are less likely to pay for physical music or even per track but would much rather pay a monthly subscription for unlimited music. Therefore, musicians need to follow these consumer statistics and create a release strategy that works with these trends to take full advantage of them.
Although many artists are distraught that music is no longer selling like it used to, this doesn’t mean revenue has dropped. As a matter of fact, revenue has actually risen, with the 2018 IFPI Global Report showing that music sales rose for the third straight year as streaming has become the biggest revenue source. Instead of looking at streaming as a negative, treat is a major bonus as
- You can upload to them easily
- Anyone can upload to them
- They work as a free marketing tool with algorithms putting your music in front of the right audience
- You have your music out to the world, which is better than no-one buying it and therefore never hearing it
- You don’t need to be signed to get your music distributed
How Does This Affect My Release Strategy?
Now you know where music is consumed, you need to understand how this will affect your release strategy. So, we know that streaming platforms are where most people are consuming their music, but how does this impact you?
Firstly, it shows where your music should be, streaming platforms. Make sure you use a distributor to get your track onto every streaming platform out there, whether that’s SoundCloud, Apple Music or Spotify. Don’t be worried that you’re not collecting all your streams in one place because you shouldn’t be focusing on the numbers, but instead on the legitimate fans. If most your fans listen on Spotify but there are still some that listen via SoundCloud, you don’t want the SoundCloud users to stop listening, so upload to every platform and you’ll have a higher chance of being discovered and streamed.
As well as placing your music in the correct place, you need to think about why people are using these streaming platforms. For one, people no longer want to spend money on physical music, when they can get unlimited music for a much cheaper price on a subscription model, proving that again you need to be uploading to all platforms. Secondly, people want more choice, therefore the more content you have on these streaming platforms, the more likely people are to stay listening to you rather than explore. Finally, the most important and impactful reasons is the attention span that listeners have in this era. According to a study by Jampp, the average human attention span decreases by a whopping 88 percent every year and Microsoft found that humans now have an attention span on eight seconds! The truth may be scary, but musicians need to take this into consideration.
If people’s attention spans are dropping drastically, music is becoming this transient experience, meaning people listen to it as they are performing other tasks. You probably do it yourself; try to think of the last time you actually just sat down and only listened to music without doing anything else and you’ll be surprised! Now that people struggle to pay attention to long form content, you need to make sure your release strategy reflects this as you want to keep your audience’s attention for as long as possible.
Now for the geeky stuff! Spotify has an extremely intelligent algorithm, which works hugely in the favour of emerging artists. How it works is it will take your single, test it by putting it out to a few hundred people via personal playlists and if it gets picked up well (streaming for over 30 seconds, not skipped, saved or added to a playlist), then they will add it to more people’s personal playlists and perhaps even an Official Spotify playlist. This algorithm is fantastic for emerging artists as it puts your music in front of the right people and if it’s good quality music, you’ll get the response you deserve, which will eventually translate into fans.
This algorithm works in the favour of singles, as Spotify have designed the algorithm to take the track and test it with an audience and go from there. However, if you release an EP, you’ll find that one track performs a lot better than the others, which is due to the algorithmic nature of the platform.
How Should I Be Releasing Music Then?
With streaming platforms being the most favoured listening experience, attention spans dropping and the streaming platform algorithms working to the advantage of single releases, it’s pretty clear that singles are the best release strategy to go down.
In this technology era, content is in demand and as a musician, your music is your content, so you need to be creating as much of it as possible. So that you don’t run out of content, plus you’re keeping your audience engaged, single releases mean you can give your audience content monthly and not waste your material by dropping all 12 tracks at once.
Being an emerging artist, your fanbase isn’t going to be huge, so if you release a 12-track album, you’ll find that you’ve actually wasted that material as only one track will be pushed out by Spotify’s algorithm, meaning the others are lost on a platform with over 40 million other songs. Plus, people don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to an hour of music from a band they don’t know, therefore your release strategy needs to be drip feeding this album content through singles.
The best strategy to use is to get the full product, whether that is an album or EP, and drip feed it to your already existing audience and potential audience with singles every month or every other month. You can release 40-60% of the full product via singles and then once you’ve captured an audience’s attention, you can release the full thing. With each release, you’re building an audience, having a marketing campaign for each, so you’re securing more fans, more engagement, more streams and more content. Many distributors will also allow you to pass the streams over from the singles, to the full product, so the tracks you released as singles will move over to the EP/Album with all the streams already there (AWAL are fantastic for this).
Often people say “my album tells a story and it won’t make sense on its own” but that’s where you’re wrong. No one is devaluing the fact that your Album/EP is a piece of art, that takes the consumer on a journey, however people aren’t consuming music in that format anymore, so you just need to tell that story in a new and updated way. By using visual content alongside the single releases, you can tell that story over time, rather than all in one go. Try using videos to explain each single and the message behind it because that gives your audience not only more content but a personal touch to every release.
What Should I Release Alongside My Music?
As an emerging artist, when you create a fantastic track, spending all of your time, effort and money on the creation of it, by the time you come to release it, you expect everyone to want to listen. However, as an unheard-of artist, by making someone listen to your music, you’re actually taking from them. You’re taking 3-4 minutes of their time out of their day, which in this technology era is long as people are in an addictive routine of consuming short form content. Therefore, you need to give the consumer a reason to listen to your music, allowing them to engage with you on a personal level and this can be done through social media content.
Social media allows artists to connect with their audience in a way that was never before possible, so to truly take advantage of this, you need to put a content strategy into place that works alongside your release strategy. To do this, you need to sit back and reflect on what your skill set is, so you know what sort of content you can provide. If you have a strong character and happy to be in front of the camera, then perhaps you can do a vlog for YouTube taking your fans on the release journey with you, which can then be edited down into shorter videos for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, with subtitles and an engaging caption. However, you may not be comfortable talking to the camera and that’s completely fine, instead you could look at writing a blog, featured on your music website or Medium, telling your audience your story from beginning to end. Every artist has a different personality, different skills and different aims, so make sure you know what you want to achieve through your content and start creating it for all platforms.
This social media strategy will also allow you to tell the full story of your Album/EP over time, so you don’t have to worry about confusing your audience or not doing the full product justice. You can tell the story over 6 months to a year, using visual content to explain each release. This strategy will mean your audience feel appreciated as you’re giving constant content to them, so by the time you actually want to sell something to them (e.g. tickets, merch), they will trust you and want to give back to you.