[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on rapper Jay Doub's Blog. It has been edited for content and clarity, and it appears here with permission from the original site and author.]
No matter how you plan on releasing your music, an album launch party works wonders for getting fans, current or potential, excited about your new music.
The nuts and bolts of holding a CD launch party aren’t so different from planning a standard show; behind the scenes, a lot of the work is the same. It is what happens during the event that sets things apart.
Find Your Schtick
The coolest thing about a launch party is that you can have a lot of fun doing something completely unique at your show. What is going to make this night special? Give your fans something to talk about. Really, you’re limited only by your imagination (and the law and venue policies) here. Musicians have done everything, from give away baked goods to raffling off private concerts, for their launch parties. Maybe you want a signature drink, a costume contest, a dance-off, a trivia contest; anything that you think will be fun for you and your fans, go for it. It will draw people through the door and give the press something to write about, which will in turn help move some product!
Consider the Budget
Launch parties have the potential to take a bigger bite out of your bank account than other shows. Ideally, you won’t be charging at the door. Some people do, but your best bet is to treat this as a launch party rather than a traditional show. You don’t (hopefully?) charge your friends when you have a get-together at your place, so don’t charge your fans to come to your album party. Plus, it’s simply easier to get them through the door at a free event. You want to create an atmosphere where everyone is buzzing about your new music, and helping your fans have a good night on the cheap goes a long way to improving the mood. This does mean that you could be looking at some larger expenses.
The specifics depend on your circumstances, but you might have to pay a venue hire fee and/or bar minimum, plus advertising, any free merch you plan to give away, schtick expenses, etc. Start out with a realistic idea of what you can spend, keeping in mind that this party shouldn’t leave you unable to further promote your new release.
Find Your Dream Venue
Finding the right venue for your launch party is a matter of weighing up size, cost and accommodation. How many people do you think you can pull in, keeping in mind that free shows can bring in more people than paying shows? What venue will give you a decent hire fee/bar minimum that you think you can meet without going too out of pocket? Remember your schtick? Which venue can accommodate it? For instance, if your schtick involves grub, and the venue in question doubles as a restaurant, they may balk at your idea unless they’re the ones supplying it. If you’re hoping to pull off anything too out of the box during your party, be sure to consult the venue while you’re booking to make sure they don’t put the kibosh on your plans on the night of the show.
That said, a launch party is a great chance to fulfill those “You know, I’ve always wanted to have a gig at….” dreams, so don’t be afraid to step out of the box a little bit in terms of location. It’s fun for you and your fans, helps amp up the notion that this is more than a typical show, and increases the likelihood that your show is going to attract media attention.
If you have a large fanbase in an area you can’t conceivably get to for a launch party, consider hosting a listening party there. You will need strong local contacts who can help you pull off the event and act as your representatives, but you can work many of the elements of the launch into the listening party. This idea works best if you, say, work with a label in Chapel Hill but you’re based in San Francisco – you can hold the party at your home base while your label holds the listening party on their turf. If the parties are going on at the same time, you can even link them up via the web (another cool little angle to deliver to the press).
Put Together a Good Bill
Your launch party is definitely all about you and your new music, but putting together a bill that’s solid all night only makes the event better. It’s your special night, so you’re the headliner, but pick a few good acts in your area to draw in some people. Hopefully, some of their fans will come out for the free show and stick around to discover your sounds. Stick a DJ in between sets, and if you have time after your set before the venue closes, have them hang around for an after-party.
If you’re having a hard time nailing down a venue, putting your bill together before you start booking could help, especially if you don’t have a long track record of shows. A strong bill can give the venue confidence that there will be a good turnout.
Promote Your Heart Out
The basic actions of promoting your launch party are the same as promoting any other kind of show. But the trick is that you want to play up that fact that you’re launching a new release and use the special things you’ve got in store for the party as a press angle. In other words, your launch party, that also includes band name charades, a costume contest and a raffle to win a house concert with the band, gives the press a lot more to sink their teeth into than ye olde standard “we’re playing a show on Tuesday.” Also, extend invitations to the press. If you’re having a free show, the lure of the guest list is kind of null and void, but you can attract the press to your show with promises of a free drink.
Have your launch party as close to the actual release date of your music as possible (if you’re adhering to a strict release date). If you have to choose between having it, say, the week before or the week after, go for the week before. Consider it a special treat for your local fans and use it to build excitement and momentum in the time before the big day.