Professional musician, artist, best-selling author, and host of the New Music Business podcast, Ari Herstand has teamed up with Fender to create the “Fender Artist Playbook,” helping up-and-coming artists navigate the changing music landscape. As part of a shared mission to support artists on their musical journey, Fender and Herstand, the Fender Artist Playbook (download it here) provides a step-by-step guide for emerging artists to tackle the new frontier of music, effectively release their music and build their career on their own terms. From cracking the TikTok algorithm to leveraging alternative revenue streams, digital marketing tips, NFTs, and more, it’s a comprehensive resource for “making it” in the music business in 2021.
In the Fender Artist Playbook that was just released (download it here) I put together a checklist for the 15 things you should do before you release a song or album.
There are some really crucial things that you do need to do before your release gets out into the world to make sure everyone who should get paid, actually gets paid. But almost equally important, if you want this piece of work to reach an audience of more than just your friends and family, there are some things you can do to help find a larger audience and get some traction on the streaming services. Some of them cost money. Some of them cost time. All of them are worth thinking about.
Your marketing and promotional strategies heavily depend on where you are at with your career, your goals and your target audience.
No matter what, though, you should implement the 50/50 rule:
50% of your time should be spent on the music and 50% of your time should be spent on the business. Now, this is not an every day ratio. You don’t need to set an alarm that goes off at 2pm and signals you to switch to business. It’s just a healthy ratio that should equal out over the course of your career. Of course, when you’re working on an album and you’re in the writing and producing stage, 85%+ of your time will be spent on the music and 15% may be spent on answering emails, keeping up with your social media and other minor business requirements.
But then when it’s time to release that album, that ratio flips and the vast majority of your time will be spent on the marketing and promotion of that album.
The 50/50 rule doesn’t just have to do with time, it also has to do with money:
50% of your money should be spent on the creation of your art (song, album) and 50% of your money should be spent on the promotion of that art.
Now I know most of you just read this, and when you budget for your next album, you won’t follow it. It’s not that I don’t believe in you, it’s just that I’ve seen this happen far too often to the best of us.
If your album is going to cost $15,000 to create it, you don’t need to come up with $15,000, you need to come up with $30,000!
What’s the point in spending all that money on creating a brilliant piece of work if no one hears it?
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Too many artists put all their money into making the music and then have nothing left over for marketing and PR and wonder why no one cares about it.
There are over 60,000 songs uploaded to Spotify every day. And the vast majority of them don’t crack 1,000 streams - ever. If you want some traction on your music, listen up. Top 5 Marketing Strategies in 2021 for your Next Release (As featured in the Fender Artist Playbook):
1. New Visuals and Story
A new release demands a new look and feel for your project. To signal to your audience that this release is worth paying attention to, you need a full aesthetic overhaul. You don’t need to change who you are at your core or redo your entire wardrobe, but you should at least get all new visuals. A new photoshoot (with a professional photographer) is a must. Video visualizers (for Spotify Canvas or longer forms for YouTube and IG are also important). And you’re going to need to put together stories and descriptions of what this release is all about. If you end up working with a publicist (which, isn’t mandatory these days), they’ll need this for a press release. But you can roll these stories out on social media and to your email/text lists to help people connect with your work.
Drax Project by Devan Narsai
Alex Hall by Robert Chavers
2. Engage Your Core Audience
Which brings us to our next point. The community that is going to give this release its initial lift will be your core audience. Whether you have a fanbase of 10 or 10,000, you need to engage them. Once you have your new visuals, start rolling them out 2 weeks before the release with a countdown to release date (to prime the pump). And on release day - along with every few days following it for at least 3 weeks - you’re going to want to map out your posting schedule. Not just for social media (Instagram primarily at this point, but possibly TikTok, YouTube and Facebook depending on where your target demographic exists) - but also with your email and text message list. At this stage in the game, Mailchimp is the gold standard for email management and Community is the gold standard for text message marketing.
Noreh by Luis Mario Arias
Fiokee by Amazing Klef
3. Submit to Spotify Playlist Editors
If you have any hope of getting onto official Spotify editorial playlists, you have to submit your music to the editors - early! They recommend at least 4 weeks in advance of the release so they have time to review it. So, plan ahead. A few days after you distribute the release it will show up in your Spotify for Artists (artists.spotify.com) backend where you will be stepped through how to distribute it. Spotify is obviously the most prominent streaming platform at the moment which can drive streams and listeners quickly if you get included in Spotify editorial playlists. This is far from guaranteed - but this is what you need to do to give it a shot.
Once the release comes out, you can also submit to user generated playlist editors. I teach you how to do this step by step (sharing my screen) in How To Get on Spotify Playlists (for Free) Ari’s Take Academy mini course.
Ritt Momney by Adam Alonzo
4. Run an Influencer Marketing Campaign
What continues to drive the cultural conversation - and the most amount of streams for new songs from new artists in 2021 is TikTok. Now, like I discovered when I had Ricky Montgomery on the New Music Business podcast, you don’t actually need to be active on TikTok for your song to catch on TikTok. He had two of his songs go viral on the platform before ever creating an account. You can help this process along by either hiring an influencer agency to run a campaign for you - like Flighthouse (listen to our interview all about how to go viral on TikTok) if you have a bit of budget (like $15K+) or if you don’t have that kind of budget - you can work these campaigns independently. Which takes a lot of time, and very little money. We discussed all about how to do that in our interview.
Ambar Lucid by Evangelia Litsa Sursock
Blu De Tiger by Sophie Hur
5. Run a Digital Marketing Campaign
Finally, still, one of the most effective things you can do is run ads on social media. For a while Instagram story ads were the biggest driver of traffic from a cold audience to Spotify and Apple Music, but now that Apple and Facebook are in an all out war, Facebook and Instagram ads have gotten much more costly. But every label, hands-on distributor, marketing agency and indie artist with some smarts knows that social media advertising is key to jump start any release. This is how the independent hip hop artist Lucidious got over 100 million Spotify streams without getting on any official editorial playlists.
CAIN by Jonathan Chu
Stand Atlantic by Brandon Lung
These 5 tactics are just a starting point to make sure your release is a success. I highly recommend checking out the 2021 Artist Playbook that I put together with Fender for more in-depth guidance on how to work a successful music career in 2021.
Ari Herstand is the author of the best-selling book How To Make It in the New Music Business, the CEO and founder of the music business education company Ari’s Take, the host of the New Music Business podcast, the creator of the 1970s immersive funk/soul concert experience Brassroots District and a Los Angeles based musician.