Here is a “quick” checklist I’ve compiled for my releases that I hope will help you prepare for your next release.
- Mastered WAV file(s). Do you have both the highest quality version your studio can provide and the 16 bit, 44.1Khz, stereo WAV file(s) for the digital distributers?
- 320 kbps MP3 file(s) with the artwork attached. You can attach it and add any metadata in iTunes.
- Do you have the instrumental version(s) for publishing opportunities and/or video background tracks you may want in the future?
- Do you have the stems of your track(s) ready to go for remixes or live backing tracks?
Once you have the finished master in your hands, I find it super helpful to nail down a message to pair with your release before creating any more assets. I believe music is meant to provoke something in the listener. Whether you’re provoking an emotion or a thought, I think figuring out what, who, why, and how you’re provoking is the most effective way of strategizing around your release.
- What/who/why/how are you provoking with the song and what do you think the reaction will be?
- What/who/why/how are you provoking with the music video?
- Master video file. This is just in case you want to make any other promo videos in the future. It’s easier to work with a master file because you don’t want the exporter to render over a web version of the video. You’re essentially compressing something that’s already compressed.
- Optimized 1080p (or 4K, if you’re fancy) web version for social media uploads.
- Quick teaser video for the week leading up to the release.
- At least two announcement promo videos that are 60 seconds tops. 10–30 seconds is usually better.
- Song/EP/album cover art
- Video thumbnail
- ISRC code(s) created for the song(s)
- Registered with your PRO of choice (I use BMI)
- Budgeting for the release is fully documented
- Submitted to digital distributer
- Submitted to Soundscan (this allows you to be tracked for chart position). Some distributers do this, some don’t.
- Submitted to Pandora. This is just in case your digital distributer doesn’t do this.
- Uploaded to Bandcamp
- Uploaded to Soundcloud
BASIC PROMO PREP
- Branded shortlinks (or just regular shortlinks) created for linking to important content. I use my own WordPress website to do this with a plugin called “Redirection”, but a lot of people use services such as bit.ly. Getting trackable analytics on who is engaging with your content is crucial. It’s really nice to know who your true fans are.
- Official YouTube upload channel confirmed. Are you uploading this yourself, or through an exclusive release channel?
- Official Facebook release channel confirmed. Same question as above.
- Marketing email created to tell your followers about your new release. I love Mailchimp!
- YouTube ad targeting similar artists’ channels.
- YouTube ad retargeting current fans or people that have already engaged with your channel.
- Facebook ad retargeting current fans or people that have already engaged with your page.
- Facebook ad targeting fans who like similar artists.
- Instagram ad retargeting current fans or people that have already engaged with your profile. I personally don’t find IG ads very effective, but if you’ve figured out how, pleeeeease tell me!
- Instagram story ad targeting fans of artists who are similar to you.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of your releases are going to be successful, and it’s okay to fail. I have a VERY hard time swallowing this reality, but it’s crucial for the sustainability of your career and your mental health. If a song fails, don’t immediately blame it on your music. Here are just a handful of questions I ask myself when my release isn’t performing as planned:
- Are you targeting the right demographic? Gender?
- Is the recording high quality?
- Is the video high quality?
- Is the message concise and meaningful?
- Are your posts engaging?
- Did you find an exclusive release blog for the initial push? This is critical. If you don’t have a page that’s bigger than yours sharing your content, it’s going to be a lot harder to grow your fanbase (and a lot slower).
- Did you or your team spend enough time pitching to outlets for release coverage?
I have had some releases where I couldn’t think of any other reason why the release failed other than the music itself. It’s a really tough place to land, but it’s important to keep it as a learning experience and to self-reflect on why the music didn’t resonate with others.
Obviously, you are someone who makes music because you’re passionate about it and you can’t see yourself ever quitting; so why refuse to self-reflect and get feedback from others when you fail? The only real failure is making the same mistake twice.
I hope this was helpful, please message me or leave a comment if you think something is missing. Also, please feel free to check out some of my music in the YouTube playlist below!