Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
When you're ready to release new music, it can be a lot of work. There are so many details that need to come together in order for everything to be perfect. Music videos and cover art are not enough; you really have to map out every touchpoint of your release. Lack of planning will cause sloppy and rushed releases — you will end up rushing important things like taking the time to write thoughtful playlist pitches (the one thing that might actually land you on editorial playlists).
Create a Roadmap for Your Release
Map out each step of the process and set a timeline for each task. Identify the resources you will need to complete each task, including money and people.
Start with the date you need to submit to distribution and go backward. You need to give distribution at least 30 days from the date you submit to have the best possible chance of landing on editorial playlists, in my experience. Your distribution date is the date you should focus on as the deadline when it comes to finalizing most of the things needed for your release.
Get consensus on the production terms with the producers and songwriters involved, once everyone is on the same page get the agreement drafted. Expect to pay an advance for the beat; however, don't be afraid to negotiate terms that feel most comfortable for you. Since my label, Genre 22, is new, we advise producers upfront of what our production budget is so we limit issues in the future when we get ready to release the music. I think it's important to find producers and musicians who are willing to grow with new artists, and then as the artist grows, so can the budget.
Mix and Master
I recommend setting your deadline for the mix to be 10 days before the date of distribution; this will give you and the mixing engineer a buffer to make any changes that are necessary. Listen to the track on different speakers and in the car to notice any small things you might want to adjust. Depending on the song, mixing can make a huge difference and I don't suggest you choose just anyone. I had to go through several mixing engineers to find someone who could mix my artist's vocals in a way that made the track really pop. Don't just go by someone's credentials (although they are important) — I found luck working with someone who regularly works with other artists in the same genre.
This includes the cover art and a visualizer video (a clip of the full music video or a short video used in place of a music video). It's not mandatory you have a music video, although I highly recommend it in today's visual content-driven world. If you're a new artist just starting out, it's not necessary to spend a lot on videos. When I launched my first artist, we kept our video budget to a minimum by finding a videographer who believed in our vision and was willing to work with us as we grew. I bet you can't tell the difference between the video we spent thousands on and the video that was only a few hundred dollars.
Your playlist is incredibly important so your pitch should adequately describe your music in an entertaining and convincing way. In my experience, this can be a huge factor in whether or not your song will get placed on coveted editorial playlists, like those on Spotify. None of the tracks we were putting out were getting picked up on editorial lists until we took a more intentional approach with the pitch, and then the last track landed on four Spotify editorial playlists. Here is the exact pitch we used:
"In collaboration with [Record Label] artist [Name], secrecy evokes that kind of breathless claustrophobia you experience when holding in a secret. In addition to the music video with a cast of over 25 and film quality camera crew, we'll also be promoting with YouTube reaction videos, TikTok influencer campaigns, paid social media ads, and a full media outreach campaign."
Your press release is where you can give more context about your release, the inspiration behind the music and the people who helped make it happen. Include information about yourself, who you are as an artist, your past work and what people can expect in the future from you. Here is an example of the press release we sent out for the track that ended up on editorial playlists. There are several music blogs and publications that could potentially publish your press release if you submit it to its editorial department. However, it's important to note that individual reporters typically don't appreciate being sent a press release without a custom pitch, so be sure not to confuse submitting a press release with pitching a reporter.
I think it's important to keep everyone who could be influential and instrumental to your career updated on your journey. You can't assume they will see your updates on social. Take the time to build a list of A&Rs, music executives, producers, managers and any other people influential to the music space. Every time you hit a new milestone or release another track or album, send them an update. Be sure to include metrics and any other notable stats that quickly paint a picture.
When I launched my first artist, we made sure to craft personalized pitches to everyone in the industry announcing she was dropping her first track. After her fourth release, we were already getting attention from the major labels. The A&Rs and other label executives got to see her progress firsthand: We told them what we planned on doing and how we planned on executing before we did it so they could see us hit our goals in real time. They not only believed in her talent but were convinced of her ability to maintain consistency with future releases.
Prepare accordingly and release your music.
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