The complete guide to planning a great release and putting it into practice
Being able to tour your project around the world may be the end goal, but releasing music – with or without a record label – is one of the most effective ways of getting there.
Not only is your latest album a snapshot of where you’re at musically right now, it’s also a big chance to create some ‘noise’ around what you’re doing and to give promoters and the jazz press that extra nudge to check it out…
Getting press for your new release
If you’re like most jazz musicians, one of the main goals of releasing new music is to get press.
Not only does this help you connect with more potential fans around the world, it also means festival and club promoters get to hear about what you do.
And even if they don’t happen to read about your new release in a magazine or online, one or two killer press quotes give you great ammunition to use in your next pitching emails.
But whilst hiring a professional publicist can make big impact on the effect of your release, it doesn’t come cheap. So it’s good to be prepared (especially with your earlier releases) to take on some of this work yourself with a DIY PR campaign.
British music journalist Matthew Wright wrote a guide all about how you can pitch to journalists more effectively whilst American jazz writer Howard Mandel – president of the Jazz Journalists Association – put together a step-by-step guide on how to write a press release.
I’d recommend checking out the full pieces, but here are some key points:
How to pitch to music journalists
- Research your writer to make sure they like the sort of music you’re making
- Spend timing making your initial pitch stand out
- Consider what practical information needs to be included alongside the ‘punchy’ intro
- Make sure you have a well-written biography
- Does your press release include the 5 W’s and the big H?
(You can get more info on these points – and more – via the free downloadable cheat sheet)
If you liked their advice, there are a whole bunch of industry interviews you can dive into too, including this one with digital media expert & jazz blogger Philip Freeman…
Album or EP?
Jazz musicians seem to have a particularly strong affection for the album format.
I guess it’s because our education in jazz has been largely via seminal albums that we’ve listened to again and again (and again).
Sometimes you need the 40-50+ minutes an album allows to get a specific concept across. But, if that’s not the case, there are plenty of other reasons why you might want to consider releasing multiple, frequent EPs instead of a full-length album every 1-2 years…
You can find out the long answer to this in this article on albums vs EPs, but people today are digesting music very differently: think streaming, downloads & videos.
The big advantage of EPs & singles
Being able to release content frequently is going to give you an advantage in certain areas.
You’ll pop up more often in playlists & have more content to share with fans and potential fans, as well more reasons to get in touch with the festival & venue promoters that you really want to reach.
If you’re very much in the DIY zone when it comes to your project, multiple releases per year means multiple chances to get through to those gatekeepers.
So, EPs & singles instead of full-length albums?
Controversial? Possibly… More effective? Often… Worth considering? Sure!
Funding your next record
With many labels seemingly investing less and less in new music, musicians have had to look at alternative ways to finance their albums.
‘Crowdfunding’ may well bring to mind the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
These types of platforms can work really well as a way of setting out your album plans and then letting fans and supporters give money up front to make it possible. (It certainly did for US saxophonist Mike Casey!)
But if that’s not your thing, there are more subtle ways of raising money to consider too.
Pre-order your album
Making your new release available to preorder in advance from the usual online music stores is another great way to get money up front.
It also helps you create excitement, anticipation and extra publicity in the weeks leading up to the launch – especially if you can create a special, limited edition version as extra motivation.
Bandcamp is a great way of doing this.
Record labels, label services & distribution deals
There are also plenty of new models coming up – namely label services – which help blur the lines between self-releasing and signing over your rights in a traditional label deal.
You get to keep the rights to your music – along with a much larger % of the sales – whilst getting the professional infrastructure and expertise that a traditional label offers.
If you’re on this topic right now, you might like to check these articles:
- 21st Century Record Labels
- Your record label options (+ what to AVOID!!!)
- The Releasing / Gigging Cycle
- Just Released a New Jazz Album? Do these 10 things!
- 2 Things You HAVE to Do For Your Next Album Release
Jazz magazines, blogs, websites & more
Of course, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for pitching your music to the jazz press.
A magazine that’s perfect for one type of jazz wouldn’t dream of reviewing another. Or vice versa.
So when you’re working on promoting your newest release, it’s important to know what options are out there! For that reason, we’re regularly publishing guides and articles on some of the great jazz media outlets around the world.
Jazz on Spotify
Spotify can be a touchy subject in some quarters, with people focusing on the tiny payments per stream that the platform delivers.
But if you decide to put your music on there, it makes sense to optimise that.
And bear in mind a recent prediction from a record label boss we interviewed: over a 10 year period, income from streaming an album will most likely exceed that of physical sales.
Curious to learn a bit about this area?
Check out these articles:
- Making Spotify Work For YOU
- What is User-Centric Streaming (And Why Does It Matter For Jazz?)
- DistroKid, CD Baby & TuneCore: Which Digital Distributor Is Right For You?
Last minute release help?
I’ve seen plenty of occasions where so much effort goes into making the music as good as possible, that the actual release plan gets a little forgotten!
If that’s you right now: don’t panic.
You can still work your new release in the weeks after launch day to maximise the attention it creates and the amount of people it reaches.
Step one: check this list of 10 things you should do this week if you’ve just released a new jazz album..!
Step two: consider submitting a video and/or track for playlisting on this website via the links below.
Need some album release inspiration?
Check out this portfolio of album release campaigns we’ve done press outreach for. As you’ll see, they each achieved some great press as a result of us simply following our own advice:
- Researching the right journalists
- Sending personal mails
- Giving them concise but interesting information
- Following up at the right time in the right way
We even outlined in detail specific coverage along with specific pieces of advice for some of our recent campaigns:
If you’re short of time and ‘done-for-you’ is more what you’re looking for, you can find out about our press outreach offering here.
We also host a regularly updated area showcasing new releases:
Jazz Media Interviews
Many of our jazz industry interview guests have interesting things to say about releasing music and you can check out some of the most popular here:
- American Saxophone great Greg Osby
- Music journalist Charles Waring
- Music lawyer Robert Horsfall of Sound Advice
- Wulf Muller (Jazz A&R and marketing)
- Jazz journalist Bruce Lindsay
- Krzysztof Komorek (Donos Kulturalny)
- Cim Meyer (Jazz Special magazine)
- Jan Hocek (JazzPort)
- Peter Bacon (London Jazz News)
- Bas Grasmayer of (MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE)