Too many artists don’t have any strategy when they go to release music. They simply think if they put it online (Spotifry maybe) that it is enough; that everyone will recognize their amazingness and next week they will be stars. Having been in this business for 30+ years I know this is not remotely true. It has never been this way for anyone (even Billie Eyelash who was in Development for years).
In my day (old man voice) a band made their own posters to let fans, old and new, know that The Tryptic SpongeHedz were playing next Friday, or that there was a new cassette in the Indie stores. There was no assumption that “everyone” would know. You had to tell the masses. Or more to the point, tell the few who were interested in going to see new bands playing new music in really horrid smelly rooms (and that’s before we talk about the loos).
Bands would find a friend who could draw and have that person make a flyer or poster. They then found another friend who had access to a copier of some kind and could print off copies. More people were then drafted to stick those flyers to cork boards in Indie Record Stores, walls around venues, and anywhere else the kinds of people who were interested in going to see new bands playing new music were. I know, because I hung out with bands then did exactly the same things myself for my own music. Most early-Friday nights were devoted to touring the local Indie venues checking, and topping up, my flyers.
On a good evening, someone from another band would say, “Cool flyer dude”. On a great evening, some random (usually in a black t-shirt) would slide up and say, “Oh are you like that guy?”, pointing at the flyer. “Yes, that’s me”. They would say how cool they thought my tape was and how they sent a copy to another band they tape-traded with in L.A.
This is how it was done. All grass-roots. One person at a time.
Digital changed that expectation but not the reality. People think you can just make a Rockin’ tune and that is enough. It never was. You have to do the supporting work or it doesn’t feel complete – like a real record from <insert band name>.
A digital release still has to have the basics covered or potential fans can’t feel that it is finished or serious. They may play it but they won’t buy into it. You need people who want to buy into your band. The best outcome is when they buy your songs and start telling their friends about you. To make that work, you need the assets that make you look like a real band, especially when they share your YouTube videos or Bandcamp page.
- Build a release Strategy & Plan – this must include Time targets. Without this, you have no idea what you need to do and no way to check what you have and haven’t done. A plan without goals is just a fantasy. Make it real & realistic so it can happen.
- Assign Tasks if you can – be sure the people are reliable and be very sure that you pay them. People help for their reasons, not yours. Your backline people are your first step to success. Never burn them. (I never share records I Mixed for people who were rude).
- Check that work is getting done – if not re-assign. Your Strategy Plan should have allowed time for things to go wrong. Deal with issues early as there is nothing worse than having an official launch party with nothing to launch! Been to a few of those. Those bands don’t last, no matter how lovely the guitarist’s hair.
- Get all the parts in place – it doesn’t matter how great the cover art is if you don’t get the posters on the walls or the cover on the record.
- Talk to people – best to do the big-talking after you have the record in your hand, or on YouTube, not before. People are always more impressed when you can wave your song under their nose than big-talk about this song that no one can hear. Don’t SPAM. Never SPAM.
While anyone can get a copy of Inkscape and start knocking up the artwork for music promo, it is like assuming that all people can draw cool dragons to promote their Metal band. That dragon’s not gonna fly dude. You either need friends who can (and actually will) deliver these things for you (when you need them), or you hire in.
You will need:
- Band Name Artwork – this can range from a full logo to simple text. It is important that this be the same everywhere for this release. It doesn’t necessarily have to match older releases but needs to be consistent for this release.
- Cover Art – a record without a proper cover is not a record, it is at best, some random song with a picture. This is not the message you want to send. The cover needs to be a real cover that sets your song/album as special. Band Name & Song Titles are vital.
- Banner Art – you will need artwork for Banners in every place that you intend to have a presence. At least have banners for YouTube & Bandcamp as they are the most used places by people looking for new music. Often these banners have specific requirements that ‘jamming up an existing image’ won’t cover well. This brings me to…
- YouTube Video – MTV might be like so totally ‘80s dude but YouTube is the most commonly used search engine for music. People who actually care about music use YouTube to not only find music they already love (who doesn’t love to watch Nick Rhodes’s shoulders waggle) but to find new music they can love. You need to be there or you are nowhere. Being on Spotifry is nowhere near equal – if not a really bad idea overall for unknown bands. Lack of any video presence is like choosing to fail. While some services say they will auto-create a video from your upload, these are not real videos and have no real way of helping you.
- YouTube Video Thumb – should be included in any well-made video. Make sure you use it. You don’t have the luxury of enough fame to rely on the blurry face of your guitarist chewing gum to excite the loins of fans. You need a clear thumbnail image that makes your video present tidily on Facebook or in Forums when you post it.
Once you have all the assets and have put them in the places they belong, step back. Look again tomorrow, not with your eyes, but with the eyes of someone who just arrived. If you aren’t great at detail, ask the person who always notices mistakes in things to have a looksee, eg..:
- You like Pink Floyd, could you like this band?
- Is everything where it belongs?
- Is it as tidy as if you go to Pink Floyd’s pages?
- Is there stuff that isn’t finished like maybe a missing Avatar image?
- Or the About didn’t get filled in because writing about yourself feels odd?
- Did you remember to Credit the Mix Engineer and Backing Singers?
- Did you spell the Drummer’s name right? Don’t ask him, he wouldn’t know, ask his Mum, she might be able to spell lol.
Included in Song Release Pack
- Band Logo Avatar – either supply an existing logo in high-quality format or I will build tasteful Text of the Band Name based on the nature of the release (nothing fancy as this is NOT a full logo making service). 4000 x 4000 pixels
- Album/Song Cover Art (Front) – either from existing supplied high-quality art/photos or simple tasteful computer art based on the nature of the release (nothing fancy as this is NOT an artist service). 4000 x 4000 pixels
- YouTube Banner Art – either from existing supplied high-quality art/photos or simple tasteful computer art based on the nature of the release (nothing fancy as this is NOT an artist service). 2560 x 1152 pixels, 1235 x 338 pixels Safe Usable Area
- Album/Song Cover (Back) – either from existing supplied high-quality art/photos or simple tasteful computer art based on the nature of the release (nothing fancy as this is NOT an artist service). 4000 x 4000 pixels. A file will also be supplied with the two faces aligned so it can be printed and folded for the front of a Jewel Case or wallet. This is not intended for a printing press but the art can be adapted by any capable printer.
- Lyric Video – built by hand from: the song file, up to 15 images supplied, and a sheet noting which slide goes with which lyrics. Videos can become quite complex so be sure we talk first and I can see expectations, as if you assume you’ll get Star Wars for $$ it can’t go well. What I do promise is that if you are letting me understand the spirit of the song, I will present that well for a low budget. This is the really important thing as fans really want to emotionally connect with your song. A video is a huge helper there. This includes a YouTube Video Thumbnail.
- Bandcamp Banner Art – Bandcamp is a great place to be for a real Indie act. They aren’t much more than a digital store full of indie music, but this is exactly why Indie Music Fans spend time & money there. Be there or be nowhere. If you have another platform like Beatport that is more relevant, I can also create banner assets so long as you show me the exact requirements (don’t expect me to know or find them for you please).
- Bio or About Text – what/how you write about your band is important. Benedict writing about how great and talented Benedict is, well that’s plain creepy. “I” and “we” are perfectly acceptable. Writing about yourself is an art. If it is uncomfortable, let me ask you questions to get the info I need to present you as your fans want to see you. If you think no one reads, even drummers read because they wear t-shirts with words like Tama, Pearl, and Ludwig on them. What that means, who knows, but drum people seem to like reading that. Let interested people read about you. The longer they read, the more chance you have of converting them to your army.
Advice for Sending Files & Info
What I get from you and how it comes to me has a huge impact on what I can do for you. Here is the best way to get my best work.
I get that this can feel uncreative but the rigidity of this form helps me to focus my creativity better. I have been in this game for 30 years because I learned about good discipline early on. Before that, I almost gave up.
- All material must be in one (1) Zip File – if you send me bits & pieces all over the place I can miss things. The best way to be sure that can’t happen (or be your fault if it does) is to send everything at the start in one Zip File. Use Dropbox or similar if necessary. If you think you sent it already, send it again. I get ~10 random files a day, they are thrown away every day lest I go insane.
- Naming is Necessary – Every file must have a name that is clear for what it is about. If your files are called, “Export 45587” I have no idea what they are. “Logo Option 1” or “Green Logo” makes sense.
- Size is Scientific – everything in the digital art realm is based on size. I make big images so if you send tiny images, I can’t make them look lovely. If you want the full Apple iTunes size of 4000×4000 pixels your images need to be huge. If you are not going to iTunes (and i don’t blame you) the 1400×1400 is still pretty big so if your image is 250×250 it will look tiny. If you have no better option, send what you have and I will find a solution – even if it means using text instead of your tiny tot logo that would just make you look bad. Video is 1920×1080 and a bit more flexible but large images are always nicer to use than tiny ones.
- Tidy is Terrific – throwing everything in one folder may be easy for you bit it is a killer for me. Use Folders inside the main Zip to put things that belong together in one place. Eg Logo Images is a Folder with images related to your logo slide.
- Focus is Fabulous– if you send me a million things, I will struggle to process them to understand your core message. If you do find yourself in a dilemma over too many slides vying for the available slots, make a new folder in that folder called Extras and put the #2 choice in there. You can note that in the info you send. E.g. I couldn’t be sure if the purple onion or the newspaper taxi image was better for the lyric “I am the walrus, boop boop be doop”.
If having a Lyric Video made there are a few more things to send and do. I have a formula that makes it easy to get this done right for you. Please follow it: All files as per above.
- Naming – Images, video snippets etc must be named exactly “Slide 01”, “Slide 02”, “Slide 03” etc. This ensures that they go into my video editor in order and I don’t have to guess which one you mean.
- Lyrics – I will need a DOC, RTF or PDF file with all the lyrics as you want them. I will copy & paste from this so please check for accuracy.
- Slide Assignment – Each Slide must be clearly noted for each lyric (or section) as per:
He’s a real nowhere man (Slide 01)
Running on empty, running on (Slide 02)
He’s a real nowhere man (Slide 01)
Running on empty, running on
Rock now, rock the night (Slide 02)
Rock the casbah
If you choose to ignore any of this, I will require you to resubmit the whole Zip File again as wading through disorganized work wastes a huge amount of time and the hour of my life you paid for becomes three which makes Benedict angry. An angry Benedit is not interested in your success 😉