You spend years studying the greats and learning how to play jazz and then months pulling all this together into a record.
Not to mention the financial cost.
But, despite all this, what happens in the weeks AFTER releasing your jazz album can be just as important in determining how much progress you make in your career as a musician.
An album (or even an EP) is a great way to take a step up in terms of profile, fanbase and how many gigs you can get. Whilst your music may be developing all the time, a new release is a good point to (re)draw peoples attention to what you are doing.
I’ve heard a successful album release described as a “noisy moment.”
It’s a great way of thinking about it: do as much as possible to grab the attention of jazz fans and industry and, once you have that, win them over with the music.
Of course, there is much to be said for arranging good PR and marketing to support your album release and reach a wider audience. But in this article, I just wanted to list 10 things you can do yourself – right now – to squeeze more attention out of your new album.
1. Stream ONE Track
It’s good to focus all your efforts around this time on one track and/or video, so that people are getting the same info wherever they are discovering you.
If you are posting too much variety, the message is more diluted. Think of it like a 90s pop album: push one track (single) over and over again to get into peoples heads and draw them into the full album that way.
Pick the track and make it available for streaming – in its entirety – via Soundcloud or Bandcamp. The reason for using one of these 2 is that they can be easily embedded into social media and websites. Whenever you are talking about the new album, direct people to this.
Whilst you want to sell albums, the focus in this period really has to be AWARENESS. Get people interested now and the money part will come later, via more gig bookings and the physical CDs you can sell on these.
Playlists – especially when themed – are a great way to package up a set of music into an attention-grabbing format.
Obviously the goal here is to promote your music, so make sure that at least one song from your new record is included and, if possible, make the theme somehow relevant.
The other benefit of a playlist is that it can be offered to a news site as content.
I’d suggest putting together a list of 10 songs on Spotify under a relevant theme, writing a short paragraph about the concept and the songs included and then pitching it to the online/social media person at relevant magazines or news sites. Couple of examples here:
3. Customise Your Social Media Covers
Social media pages are often the first point of contact with fans and, more and more, jazz promoters too.
Imagine it a bit like a funnel: you grab the casual listener by spreading a range of interesting content. Once you’ve got their attention, you focus it on one or two key things – ideally some music or a video.
From here, the goal is to move them to first ‘like’ your page (giving you permission to keep in touch) and then, over time, to become a real fan who is going to buy your music and come to your gigs. Or, in the case of the promoter, to book you for their club or jazz festival.
When it comes to maximising the chances of this taking place, it’s worth considering that your cover photo on both Facebook and Twitter are prime advertising space. Use these to make it super clear that there is a new album and what it’s about:
- Album Artwork: Try including an image of the album in the cover photo, or at least incorporating the style and image from the album into this. If you want to do this yourself, I’d highly recommend checking out the free tools over at Canva. I recorded a short demo from my computer screen which you can check out here.
- Download Links In Description (Facebook only): When someone clicks on your profile picture or cover art, the image pops out and you’ll see a space next to it for text. Put shortlinks for streaming, downloading & buying your album here so that there is a simple ‘next step’ for someone who ends up there.
- Text on Image: Although it’s good not to have too much text on your cover art, try adding something along the lines of “new jazz album xxx out now” to really convey the message. Be careful to check how this looks on mobile AND desktop once you’ve done it, to avoid important bits being missed on one or the other.
4. Email Your Fans
Prepare a short email announcing the new record and directing readers to ONE place to check it out. It’s important not to give too many options and links in this email as it complicates things and waters down the effect. And remember, the main call-to-action is not to buy, but check it out.
Well, for someone who doesn’t know your project really well, a yes/no question of “will you buy this now” will probably result in a no.
However, “I’m really excited to share this new track/video I just released” has a much higher chance of action and, from there, it’s up to the music to win them over and persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash.
For the people who are already warmed up and itching to buy the new music, include a “PS” at the end of your email along the lines of “if you want to download or order the album, you can do so here [link to your website music page]”
5. Mailout To Industry Contacts
Fans and ‘industry’ (agents, promoters, labels…) need to be contacted in different ways because they have different motivations.
Fans are curious to discover your music and find out the latest news.
Promoters, on the other hand, usually need to be persuaded to check what you are offering and excited about the idea of working with you.
So, I’d suggest sending a shorter, more fact-based email to the ‘industry’ list with the news that the album is out and a link to listen to the whole thing. Include one press quote from a well-known source if possible and name check any attention-grabbers like the record label or notable sidemen. Don’t send MP3s or downloads; a single link which takes them to a private Soundcloud or Bandcamp is much more likely to get used.
6. Ask Another Site To Stream A Track
A lot of the work you can do yourself to promote a new music involves reaching out to people you are already in contact with.
The real goal – in order to move up to the next level – is to reach a wider audience than you currently have and, for that, you need other people to do some work for you.
Jazz magazines present a great opportunity here because they are directly connected with a large group of people who have shown an interest in jazz.
If you can persuade one of these magazines to ‘premiere’ a track – which essentially means giving them the embed code to your Soundcloud/Bandcamp track and letting them post it first – you are tapping into this audience.
It’s free high quality content for them too, so everyone’s a winner.
If you don’t have any luck with the jazz magazines, look at other options such as local venues or even just musicians/tastemakers with higher profile connections than yours.
The goal – which everyone should be able to make happen: another person or organisation with a connection to jazz shares some of your content. That’s it.
7. Advertise on Facebook
Whilst random advertising on Facebook can be a bottomless pit of spending with very limited results, there are some specific methods which can be very useful, especially around the time of a new release.
The two important things are:
1. The advert
The image and text in your ad needs to really make people want to click!
Use a stylish image – preferably in keeping with the album artwork – and a very simple call-to-action in the text. As we already talked about with mailouts, this should NOT be “buy now” but, instead, a call to learn more about the new record.
The other good option for the advert content is to use a music video of a new track, if you have one. The best way to do this is to ‘boost’ an existing post where you clearly mention the new record and show the video.
2. The audience
The first target should be just for people who already like your page.
As you may have noticed, Facebook has changed it’s algorithms and only a fraction of people who ‘like’ your page seem to be actually seeing the content in their newsfeed organically. The reason is obviously to get people to spend on advertising and, when there is a new album to shout about, it does help to put a little money behind it.
This can quite feasibly be a profitable exercise because you are only showing your ad to people who have actively expressed an interest in your project.
For example, if you end up paying €0.50 per click – which is certainly realistic – you’d probably only need 1 in 25 people to go on and buy the record – ever – to break even.
And that’s aside from the less tangible ‘wins’ that come from people getting reacquainted with you (other music downloads, video views, tour dates, etc) and possibly sharing your music with other people who you wouldn’t otherwise reach.
If you have a budget to try extra, target a group of people who like a similar artist and, rather than advertising to buy the album, advertise a streaming link or video to get them engaged.
This is the key to Facebook advertising: being clever and specific in your target audiences so that as little as possible of the people clicking on it are a waste.
8. Release a video on Facebook AND Youtube
As I have already written about at length, a great video can make a massive difference in the number of people who really engage with your new music. And, aside from fans, it can also convince promoters to book you.
Presuming (hoping!) you have produced a video before the album release, it’s time to squeeze as much as possible out of it now the album has dropped.
Upload it to Youtube AND Facebook
You of course need Youtube links to be able to send and share with industry people, but Facebook gives preference to videos hosted directly there, so make sure you use that as well. Don’t worry about missing out on the numbers on your Youtube views; the most important thing right now is that as many people as possible see and hear it.
Optimise it for SEO (search engines) & sales
On both Facebook and Youtube, you can add ‘tags’ to your videos to help it show up in searches. More importantly, there is also a ‘description’ section where you should clearly put the call-to-action of “listen/download/buy here” with shortlinks. Once people have watched your video, you don’t want them getting sidetracked by Lady Gaga or dancing cats; you want them moving onto the next thing from you!
Super Pro Bonus
Instead of directing people to Youtube to watch your video, consider embedding it (from Youtube) onto a ‘videos page’ on your website. This way, there are none of the usual Youtube distractions and you can use your sidebar to advertise other content: social media, buy now button, mailing list.
I host my artists’ Youtube videos on my agency page for this very reason, as per this example: www.mattfripp.com/artists/get-the-blessing
9. Pin a New Tweet & Facebook Post
If someone stops by your Facebook or Twitter page for just 10 seconds, the only things they are sure to see are the profile picture, the cover photo and the latest status/tweet.
Make sure these casual visitors are immediately presented with the new record – in the form of audio streaming or video – by posting and then pinning some media into that top spot.
Whilst we’re on the subject of tweets, I’d also suggest scheduling (either manually or via the free service from Hootsuite) a tweet plugging the new album TWO TIMES EVERY DAY for the whole month. You should change the wording but the message should be the same: “I have a new album and you can watch/listen to something here.”
It may sound like overkill, but when you realise how few people actually see a tweet, it makes complete sense. Twitter is much more transient that Facebook so there is much less danger of annoying people. You can also reduce the risk further by mixing it in with other tweets, retweets and content that aren’t overtly pushing the album.
10. New Jazz Album?? Ask 25 Musician Friends To Share The News
It’s difficult to widen your reach if everything is coming directly from you.
Pitching for press is a great way to expand this reach but a much simpler method is often forgotten…
Contact around 25 close jazz friends via phone, email or Facebook. Explain that the new album is out and that you’d be really grateful if they’d consider sharing it online. You can even give them a simple link to click which automatically prepares a Facebook post for them using the free Share Link Generator tool.
Just make sure that what you are asking them to share ties into what you are pushing yourself; you want people seeing the same content from multiple sources.
UPDATE (June 2017)
British music writer Matthew Wright recently put together an article for Jazzfuel about how to get your album or gig reviewed by a jazz journalist. If you are still in the preparation stage of your new album, it’s ESSENTIAL reading! There’s even a free downloadable infographic.
If you have a release coming up in the next 3-6 months and would like some extra 1-to-1 help in squeezing as much as possible out of it, you can find out more about the Skype sessions I offer.