When you’re working on a record, it’s easy to get lost in the millions things you have to do. You may be too focused on making the best music you can (which is not wrong in itself), and suddenly comes the release date, and you realize you’re missing some artwork for your Facebook banner or some other details. Those kind of details can be time consuming and generate unnecessary stress when you’re approaching the finish line, a time where you should just be focused on promoting your art and celebrating what you’ve achieved.

I wish this could be an exhaustive list, but I am probably forgetting something. If you ever think of something crucial for a release, let us know and we’ll update the article. We will update it, too, if we think of something else.

For now, here is what I think is essential to any music release:

  • music (duh)
  • band name
  • biography. Actually, biographies. Depending on where you’ll be, you may need a long, a short, or a super short version.
  • email address. A good ol’ gmail address will do the job. If you want to get fancy, you can get one on your one domain name (more on that in a future article).
  • tracklist. You’ll need the song names as well as the order.
  • release name (album or EP name).
  • define a single. Most time, you’ll release one or even several singles before the release date. You need to carefully pick the one song that you think is awesome and describes well your record.
  • social profiles. Facebook, Instagram… start building a following before the release date so your fans can’t escape your news the day your record is available.
  • artwork.
    • logo for your band
    • album cover
    • group photo
    • Facebook / Twitter / Youtube banner. Every platform has different format, you can try to use the same image for all, or you can adapt to make sure it looks good everywhere.
    • profile picture for social medias
    • Bandcamp graphics for the background
    • and any kind of graphics necessary for the merch you’re planning to get: t-shirts,
  • youtube stream: be it a playlist or a single video
  • release ready to hit the streaming platform. It can take a few days to a few weeks for your record to be available depending on the platforms. Make sure to have it set up and published on your favorite digital distribution service. You can specify a future release date, so your record will be everywhere on the D day.
  • merch. Be ready and have stock of your merch, and a working platform for orders.
  • Pre-orders: once you have everything listed above, set up a pre-order for your music as well as the merch. Typically this is available at the time the first single is out.

Always be ready

Have a document always accessible with all the info about your album. Tracklist, links to stream / download, artwork, EPK… Opportunities will present themselves with no warning, so you can’t afford to spend 10 minutes gathering what you need every time. Have everything ready in Dropbox or something easily accessible. This works for everything, even your music master, you should have a folder with all the tracks in .wav and .mp3 format. Every minute you’ll spend looking for the right version of your master because you don’t know if you should send cryptic-banana.final.v3.zip or cryptic-banana.master.08-14-17.zip is a minute where I’ll be laughing at you.

The nice to have

Here are a few things I think can be nice but are not mandatory:

  • Website. We’ll see in a future article why a website is still relevant and very useful.
  • Next Big Sound. It will help you track all sorts of stats and data about your social media followers.
  • If you have an mailing list, prepare the email you’ll send on the release date. This means making your template on MailChimp or whatever you’re using. Write the text, put the graphics, just make sure on the D date you’ll only have to press “send”.

Prepare everything in advance as much as possible

You may be weeks away from your release, but you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to do nothing. If you already have all your artwork but not your music mastered, you should use any free time to prepare things like video stream. Even more, use that time to really polish it and make it look nice. If you don’t, you’ll end up doing some static cover on iMovie. Doing this in advance gives you the opportunity to go the extra mile. So make the video, have the session ready, and the day you have the master, just put the music in it and hit “render”.

And even if you can’t do anything, plan it. Make a list, write down what you’ll do, it will help you be more effective when the time comes. If you want to make a teaser video for example, brainstorm ideas, and write them down. Specifically detail everything you’ll need, what it will look like, how you’ll do it. Then when you’ll be ready, you will be able to work on it directly, instead of wasting time, and half-ass it if you’re in a hurry.

Set deadlines

Everybody hates project managers (except project managers I guess) setting up deadlines. But you should do it to your own projects. This will give you a clear vision of when things need to be ready, and when you need to start working on something. 5 people making music and no deadlines are a great combo for something that takes forever to make. And don’t feel too confident and think you’ll smash everything quickly and be done way longer before the deadline. Remember Parkinson’s law, you’ll see that it applies pretty much always.

Think ahead

You’ve released your album, sent the emails, posted on social media, and people are streaming and buying it online. Feels good to be done and relax a bit right? Wrooong.

You should have tons of stuff prepared to keep promoting your release after it’s out. Playthrough videos, merch, tour, all of this will take time to set up. This is why you should start planning and making all this before even the release. The release date is not an expiration date where everything stops and you can go back to playing video games. Promoting your work after it’s released is 50% of the work, but this is a story for another article.

Romain Berger
Guitarist for over a decade, I’ve founded and played in several bands (Suicidal Massacre, Brain Collapse, …) and released multiple EPs and albums with these bands and as a solo act. Software engineer in parisian startups by day, I play guitar in Undisclosed Dimensions, write for Band Sculptor and run Solipsism Studio by night.