Formerly SoundCloud’s Senior Artist Relations Manager, Jane Shin is a writer and connector in music who also runs a newsletter centered on music and self-care at tinyletter.com/janewave.
If you’re a new artist gearing up for your first online release, planning ahead is key. Many different elements go into setting up your release for success, so we turned to some of our favorite artists and managers to learn about their strategies when it comes to releasing music online.
Read on to receive tips and advice about staying organized, exercising patience and building a long-term, sustainable career.
1) Make a checklist
Getting organized is important to make sure your first release goes smoothly.
For Josh Bloom who manages R&B duo VanJess, singer-songwriter Sunni Colón and producer IAMNOBODI, tying a release strategy to your larger, long-term goals as an artist can help build your following and career over time.
“The main thing is really sticking to your deadlines and ensuring your collaborators are well-aware. Don’t assume because it’s your record that people are in the know of everything you’re working on,” Josh says.
Chris Cajoleas, founder of SWMMNG, a management company home to Pell and other artists, emphasizes patience. If you’re a new artist, he suggests, don’t fear experimentation. Progress can take time.
“Not every artist is going to be a critical darling plastered across every blog, some artists will work better releasing direct to fans. Be patient and be okay with experimenting until you find the best way for you. Also, don’t put too much pressure onto a premiere to ‘break’ your song because you will always be frustrated. Songs break because of what you do over the next six months, not the next six hours,” Chris says.
Ultimately, having a strategy from the start helps you make sense of for any scenarios that might arise.
“It’s important to be proactive in your preparation. Think through your release or tour by segment, month, week, day, hour, minute. Run through any issues that may arise. Think of every worst case scenario and prep for that,” says Thomas Fitzner of SWMMNG.
2) Know your fans and where they consume your music
Watch the video for “Her” by Madame Gandhi via YouTube
Your fanbase ultimately determines your career. Sustained growth stems from your audience. Maintain consistent communication with them and incorporate them into your release strategy.
When it comes to setting up your first release, understand which digital service providers and platforms your current base uses to discover and access your music.
For musician and activist Kiran Gandhi, professionally known as Madame Gandhi, removing barriers to discovery can make all the difference. She explains the concept well.
“When you’re emerging, you really want to be ubiquitous and you want to be available at every touch point to the user… If the user can’t get your stuff in the place they want, it’s a high switching cost so you’re probably going to lose the fan, whereas if you make it available to everybody, you reap the benefits of someone knowing you and listening to your music and maybe them being a converted fan and coming to a show so you can monetize them that way.”
Gandhi also points to small details, like track order, that have a big impact. Her experiences on SoundCloud and other DSPs suggest that the first song in a playlist or project release will likely accumulate the most listens. Simple but powerful, this behavioral pattern encourages artists and their teams to consider their leadoff song from a different perspective.
“In this world, it is important to consider having the first song something you’re super proud of and ok leading with.”
3) Presentation is important
Pell, an artist managed by SWMMNG, in the studio
Each digital platform has different features for displaying your release’s artwork. Images go a long way when trying to optimize your presence across platforms. They also help subtly build your story to engage fans.
Once something publishes online, it’s memorialized. From songs to Instagram posts, each piece you share contributes to your perceptual standing among listeners. According to Fitzner, remaining mindful of all details will help create a cohesive image that translates over time.
“Work like the world is watching. Even if you only have five fans, it’s important to operate as if you have five million. Because in today’s digital space, everyone can see everything–old and new–in the history of an artist. It’s important that artists take the time, especially with releases, to look at the entire scope of a release.
Question everything in regard to how it will play to your audience and your brand. Does the cover art fit your current branding, or is it something a homie threw together in 10 minutes just to get it done? Have you taken the time to create release assets for all digital platforms, including YouTube and musical.ly? Are you taking advantage of the boom of Facebook video? Every piece of the puzzle makes up the larger picture of the release, and it’s important that artists and managers are diligent enough to complete the image.”
4) Use data to review, reflect and plan for the future
Once you have successfully put out your first release, track your performance and reflect on what worked well and what didn’t to improve for your future releases.
Tracking your stats across the platforms will help you glean information on what tracks are organic singles compared to ones you had predicted, and will also give you valuable information about who your listeners are, where they’re from, and how they’re discovering you.
Beyond stats, it’s also important to pay attention to what conversations emerge from your music.
“It’s important to be dialed in. In many ways it’s the cultural influence because the cultural influence will more likely be driving stats in the long run. Always pay attention to the conversation that’s happening around the music. What is being said? Who’s talking? Pay attention to trends. What triggers what,” Bloom advises.
5) Set intentions and ensure they align with your overall goals
Ensure that any releases, collaborations or moves you make align with your larger, big picture goals for the next weeks, months and year.
Here’s what our contributors are choosing to focus on in 2017:
“I always talk about B+ versus A+. When you’re starting, you say yes to everything. [In the beginning] I felt like I was doing a lot of B+ activities, whether it was a B+ show because it was added last minute so we can make it happen, or a B+ talk. It’s a lot of done, but not great. This year I’m ready to be at next phase of artistry, which is A+. A+ is you say no to more stuff, but when you say yes to something you have ample amount of time to prepare for it and design something special for that experience and that’s how you grow as an artist and keep pushing yourself.”
“Right now I’m fortunate to work with such an insanely talented group, and I just can support them in the way they need to be supported to kill the game this year. That’s my role. The way I’m trained is along the coaching and partnership lines… it’s just about helping bring that out and supporting them.”
“To be more mindful of building impactful, substantial release strategies that connect with people across the globe. I find myself getting caught up in what’s happening in the industry too much. Fans sustain your career, not industry hype.”
Hear music from all the artists mentioned in this post on our Spotify playlist below.