Most bands put a lot into making their records. They spend tons of late nights in the studio, arguing over things like whether the snare should be louder or softer; they fuss over the creation of artwork, the selection of the packaging, the creation of the liner notes. Often, the entire process takes months.
Despite limited resources, most bands do an okay job with that part. But the next part – the record’s release – is where a lot of independent bands fall short. They don’t take the time that is necessary to really promote their new record.
Just because you have 500 copies of your new record sitting in your apartment doesn’t mean you should start selling them at shows or online right away. If you just spent three, six, maybe even ten months creating a new album, the least you can do is spend at least three months (if not more!) promoting it. Here are a few steps that every young independent band should take to ensure the release of their record is as successful as possible:
Get on College/Internet Radio
Getting your songs on to college or internet radio is a great way to start a buzz. It is fairly easy to do – all it takes is a little research and remembering how to use snail mail. Think about the cities your band will be playing in. Have your band meet for a few afternoons each week and research radio stations in those cities. Send a record (with one-sheet attached) to each station.
When you put the package in the mail, send at least two e-mails to the station: one to the music director, letting them know a new CD is on the way, and one to every DJ whose show is likely to air it. It’s also a good idea, if you have some fans that live near the station, to get them to call in and request the record during the right shows.
Get the Album Reviewed
Press quotes are always a good thing, and securing them starts with research. This can seem like an overwhelming task, as there are hundreds of thousands of options out there, but it’s easy to pare things down. Focus on blogs that have reviewed bands similar to yours. Reach out to bands you have played with for their suggestions. Pay attention to how each press outlet likes to receive music. Some will want physical CDs, but most will want a link to a page where they can download your music, so be sure to create an attractive download page for the press. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, but it should be nicer than an anonymous Sendspace or Dropbox link.
Record Release Shows
This should be a huge show in every city you plan on having one in. Make them a big deal, because they are a big deal. Don’t play any other gigs for a couple months in the city that you are holding the release show in, so that you starve your fans, making sure they all come to your release show. If possible, set up the entire bill for each show yourself, and ask bands you admire (and that you know will promote) to play with you.
Distribute Yourself Locally
In every market your band plays in, research local record stores. Local stores tend to have loyal, passionate customers (as well as loyal, passionate owners) so getting your music in front of them is key.
Store owners will likely want to hear it first, so make sure to have that download page ready to go. They will also want to know that you’re relevant to their customers; it helps to let them know your band plays in their city every few months. More than likely, they will ask for just a few copies to sell, but this is actually to your advantage. It makes it easier for you to sell out of them.
Set Up Interviews / In Stores / On Air Performances
Now that you have reached out to press outlets to get the record reviewed, radio stations to spin it, and record stores to sell it, use that progress as a springboard to further promotion!
For example, if you get some local press on your record, contact those outlets again before your band plays a show in the area. See if they’ll interview you and run that interview the week of your show. If a nearby record store is selling the record, ask them if you can do an in-store performance during the day before your main show. Reach out to the radio station that is spinning your record, tell them about the show, and ask if your band can do a live on air performance or interview the day of your show.
This might all seem like a lot of work. But think of all the effort you put into making your album. It would be a shame if nobody heard it.