A band’s basic guide on how to release your music.
So you have finished your band’s recording. That’s great! As you can imagine, being a producer/engineer, I get asked a lot about what to do next. And I find most bands don’t have a clue, or just throw it up on Bandcamp or Spotify and hope for the best. Unfortunately in today’s market, it takes a lot more than that.
In Oct 2022, Variety and Billboard stated that over 100,000 new songs were being released and uploaded to online platforms every day (https://variety.com/2022/music/news/new-songs-100000-being-released-every-day-dsps-1235395788/). Then from my experience being Loud Rock Director KTEK in Socorro, NM (College Radio), I got about 30-50 CD’s a week! Of just metal, punk, alternative, and hard rock; in a tiny no-where town in NM. It was staggering. Point is: You gotta have a plan and how the hell do you stand out!?
Well I can’t help you with how to stand out, if every band knew that, we would all be famous. So let’s start with the basic plan.
First though some disclaimers and my point of view:
- BE PATIENT! I know everyone is excited. You got your recordings, I hope you love them. Don’t rush this. You need a plan, you need a strategy. Things need to be ready. Labels and professional artists take months to release after recording is complete. Some even up to over a YEAR. So chill out. Read this.
- There is no guarantee. Even if you do all this doesn’t mean guaranteed success. And who knows why!? This stuff I consider the bare minimum.
- These are just things even I took a while to learn over my years of being in small time bands and running a tiny record label that operates more like a charity (Entelodon Records).
- The resources I will list I have worked with or know people who have, however time is hard on everyone. I have no idea if they are too busy, or not good anymore, or better than ever. Everyone in the arts is overworked, stressed, and fighting for every dollar and ounce of inspiration. So be cool, be specific, and try to remember we are all in this together. If someone really does suck or rips you off, please let me know but don’t blame me!
Ok.. so here we go! You finished recording, I sent you your masters. What’s next!?
You gotta have a plan. There are probably millions of ways to do this. But the worst plan is getting your masters on Wednesday and dropping it on Friday. The reality is that after a week of release, maybe less, it is spoiled milk. No publication will write about it, and it is old news. Sales drop dramatically and very few people are listening or buying. Remember the next day is another 100,000 songs being released.
Really the generally accepted move is to build as much hype as possible before the release with pre-orders and/or singles to finally drop that masterpiece of an album/EP. You can just do this continually with singles if you want to, that is more common in Pop. My only advice for that is every single must be a banger! Which makes more sense in the Pop world and EDM. But I feel for rock/metal we are album people.
So here is the basic plan (with recommendations and resources farther down):
- Keep in mind you are building a brand. You are essentially selling joy. Music is a luxury, its not food, or water. It brings joy when someone listens to your music or buys your merch. Thinking about that or googling how to do that will help you a lot.
- Think about 3 months out and have a plan for every week, even if it is just posting and hyping on social media.
- Consider paying for ads on Facebook/Instagram and maybe YouTube. These will reach people outside of your social circles and the algorithm will buy any type of self-promotion. Set a budget for this.
- These ideas are the very basics. There are lots of more esoteric and targeted marketing approaches and gimmicks out there. Some work, some may not. Anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking.
- USE A CALENDAR to layout all the tasks and release. Digital or analog calendars work, but this is project management 101. And this is a whole project. Set deadlines and be a damn adult.
- Get your shit together: This means a logo, band photos (with photographer credit), album art, social media graphics, and a bio.
- There is some business backend if you want to get into that (I won’t here). But some start an LLC or make a sole proprietorship. Get business licenses and stuff. Honestly it is usually so little money people don’t care. But the write-offs can be significant. This is real legal shit though, so consult the Small Business Association or an accountant.
- Setup Performance Rights Organization (PRO) which is ASCAP/BMI. They collect royalties on your behalf. Usually it is pennies, but you can include shows and such and can add up to real money. Some artist make a significant portion of their income from PROs.
- Build a press kit: This puts everything into one place that is easy to share and references. In the old days this was like a literal book you would mail around. These days a google drive folder or dropbox link is fine. It should have the music in MP3 form, album art, band photographs, a long bio, and a short bio.
- Get your socials going if you haven’t already: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, etc.
- Consider shopping to labels. This is an optional step and a whole book on its own. But since in theory the recording is done, you would be looking for pressing and distribution most likely at this stage. They will handle the rest of the steps if you are picked up. But you still have to do a ton of work, a label doesn’t mean you stop promoting. Expect this to take months.
- Get all your media orders in. Vinyl is 3-6 months, tapes 2-3 months, CDs 1-2 weeks.
- Plan on at least 1 single. I’d say 1-4 singles if you can afford it. Interaction drops with each single, so keep it kind of tight.
- Get videos for each single. If you can’t afford real music videos, there are stock footage artists, lyric videos, and basic visualizers. These can take weeks to months to create and schedule, so plan accordingly.
- Shoot any play-throughs for the singles so they are ready for LATER. Don’t release them right away.
- Shoot and prep any Tiktok/short-form content so they are ready for LATER.
- Bundles of merch and media make money, so setup some bundles of merch and make graphics for them to share on social media. (eg. Shirt, Sticker, Vinyl is a bundle or 2 Shirts, Pants, matchbook, patch, and cassette as a bundle).
- Pick a release date, living safely, set this 3ish months after the vinyl has arrived on your doorstep. Living dangerously, probably plan for a 1-2 weeks after the pressing plant has giving you delivery confirmation. There are almost always delays with this, so plan accordingly.
- Shop for a Public Relations (PR) company and plan a 1-3 month release schedule. Remember PR firms will require a bit of lead time to get everything going. And the press will require time to write their articles/reviews, decide on premieres, etc. The goal is to build hype and have all these reviews and interviews and all that happen at once.
- Get out the calendar and every week have an action that needs to be done.
- First weeks, show studio photos and “big things coming soon.”
- Setup your digital aggregator (Distrokid, OneRPM, Tunecore, CDBaby, etc.) for releasing each single and he the album on Spotfiy/Tidal/etc. You will need separate cover art for each single, but they can by slight variations on the album cover. These can take a couple weeks so plan ahead.
- Release the first single w/ a video.
- At the same time setup bandcamp and announce the first single with a pre-order of the album and merch for sale. Bundles and all.
- The PR company should be E-mailing a press release with the first single right about the same time.
- Don’t forget to include any local papers as well (in SF, The Reporter, ABQ Journal, The New Mexican).
- Release the associated playthrough video and short form content the week after or even days after. Share them everywhere.
- Be sure to include the releases on your PRO so you can collect those royalties also!
- Few weeks later, release the second single and repeat.
- Mail out media pre-orders and merch bundles 1-week to a few days in advance so people get them near the release date.
- Release date comes and open up the flood gates! Recommend dropping a video with the release and press releases should have gone out before and day of. And maybe days after.
- Congrats and hopefully, profit! Only 27 steps…
From here we go into resources and links to people I know of.
MERCH – CD/Vinyl/Cassette/Shirts/Stickers/ThingsThatMakeYouMoney
Here’s the reality, no band makes money off their music directly. Streaming pays .0002 cents per play, playing shows for a cut of the door is going to be pitiful at best. You make real money off selling merch. The music is just a catalyst to get people to do that. Ok grandpa cover band, you can disagree with me saying you make $100/man playing at the local cash only bar run by an angry greek. But just imagine if you had a merch table selling T-shirts, stickers, lighters, and I dunno; custom condoms and cougar bats, you could literally triple that.
On tour I have played shows where we made $35 off the door and make $350 in merch. Here’s the reality, if a person is still dedicated enough to buy a vinyl record or CD, they are only going to buy one. A set of cool T-shirts, they may buy them all. I had a big dude in shock we had 5XL shirts and bought all 5 of our designs. I have had a dude buy a shirt for him, his kid, his gf, and stickers, and patches, and one of our large shirts as pajamas.
So what to sell is a whole world in itself. These I consider the basics and of course vary from genre to genre.
NOTE: Every printer, presser, merch site has different requirements for the artwork to fit their templates. So pick the vendor first then talk to the artists to make it fit.
While I just talked a bunch of shit about people only buying one CD vs. 5 shirts, here’s the thing, you do still have to have them. Personally I wouldn’t go crazy anymore unless you want to. And as a label, this is how we make our money usually. And people do buy them. We will get into pre-orders and basic marketing and stuff later. Also hang tight, will talk about artwork as well.
CD – There are two types. CD-R’s or burned CD’s and Pressed CD’s. Generally they cost $1.50-$3.50 per unit and you can sell them for $5-$15, maybe $20, so great markup. So they are cheap and fast to make. Always worth having them.
Pressed CD’s are the ones you bought at the now nearly extinct music stores of major bands. So more professional and will last 100 years or something. They are made from a glass master which costs $500+ to make. So you need to press around 500-1000 to make it worth it and the price per unit after that drops dramatically. Honestly, don’t do this. If you are reading this for advice and need this information, you WILL NOT sell this many, ever. They will live in your living room till you die and your next of kin throw them out.
CD-R’s are basically the ones you can buy at the local grocery store and you can burn yourself in most computers that are ancient enough to still have a CD Burner. But purchased from a professional factory, they won’t be written on with sharpie; they will be professionally printed. These have a stigma that big stores won’t carry them (how many of those are left?) and they don’t play in all players. These days, no one cares. Go this route and really do the math on how many you will sell. Personally, don’t get more than 100. They take about 2 weeks to make, so you can easily get more if you need them. Expect to pay around $200ish for 100.
There are tons out there, but here is a short list:
- Kunaki (https://www.kunaki.com/): 24 hour order fulfillment on-demand from 1-1000. Limited packaging options. But great for a first release. Sometimes the prints get wonky but they are good about replacing them.
- Atomic Disc (https://www.atomicdisc.com/): Cool economic packaging options, 50 minimum order.
- Blank Media Printing (https://www.blankmediaprinting.com/): Very a-la-cart ordering, so make sure you read and include everything. Good pricing though.
- Disk Makers: Expensive, good product, good customer service and can scale if needed.
- Nationwide Disc: Less expensive, good product, decent customer service. I used to be a broker for them, but they closed down that program making the pricing too expensive. Maybe I am still bitter about it.
- Copy Cats: Local to Minneapolis, MN. Great customer service, small business, USA made, but kinda pricey.
Vinyl – The current craze? Maybe. Depending on your genre, some believe the world won’t take you seriously without vinyl. It is expensive, so if you have the budget, great! If not, I’d go shirts before Vinyl I think. Again, there are two main types, lathe cut and pressed vinyl.
Lathe Cut are cut one at a time in real time by a skilled person. So as you can imagine, this isn’t cheap but great for 1-50. Really you want your cost per unit to be under $10 so you can sell them for $15-$30. For real distro if you are at that level wants it at like $8/unit. But I digress. Lathe cuts cost like $30-$50/unit to make and they don’t sound as good. So they really are a novelty and you are going to break even or people are really going to want them.
Pressed Vinyl are made by stamping the PVC out from plates. So guess what, you have to find a vinyl mastering house to lathe cut a master, then have stampers made. This isn’t cheap but the right way to do it. I am not going to get into DSD vs. actual lathe cuts, only .01% of people that are audiophiles care. If you care, do the homework. But minimum for these is 100 and it runs around $1500ish after shipping/taxes/etc. Expect this to take 3-6 months. Still way over the $8-10/unit we all want, but this is the minimum to really enter the vinyl game.
Here are some places:
- Mobineko (https://www.mobineko.com/) – Taiwan based, pressed records, and among the best all inclusive price and turnaround times I have found.
- Pirates Press (https://www.piratespress.com/) – CZ based, pressed records, and very popular among indie bands.
- Kunaki (https://www.kunaki.com/) – Lathe cut, 24 hours, good price, but so far test pressings sound like shit.
- Little Elephant (https://www.littleelephantcustomvinyl.com/) – Lathe cut, prices aren’t terrible for lathe cut, probably the best sound since one of the few in stereo.
- Precarian Cuts (http://www.precariancuts.com/) – Late cut, in MONO, prices about the same as Little Elephant for mono cuts. Very popular in the indy scene.
- A scheme to cut vinyl cheaper is to farm out all the pieces and assemble yourself. Masters and Plates from a place like Aardvark (https://www.aardvarkmastering.com/), then have the records cut from wherever, print the jackets and labels somewhere, buy the plastic sleeves, and assemble. Maybe I will write this up as another post.
Cassette – Another big craze in the indy and heavy genres. Relatively cheap to make and takes about 2-3 months. Only you can know if this makes sense for your market or not. But relatively small investment to find out. Thankfully there is only one type really these days and it is shitty Type I film, normal stuff. Chrome and Metal are low on stock and horrible for the environment .01% of the audiophiles in the world care. I hear some new stuff is made, but who knows if it is any good. Expect to pay $250-$350 or so for 100 these days.
Here are some places:
- National Audio (https://www.nationalaudiocompany.com/) – Springfield, MO. Now makes their own actual tape. Very cool company, used them many times. They do runs in big spools and assemble the tapes.
- Duplication.CA (https://www.duplication.ca/) – Canada. They seem to duplicate from completed tapes. They might build their own, but you have a few more options for like premium tape types.
SHIRTS – The Gold
I would argue that shirts are the bread and butter for any band out there. But they do need to look cool, have designs for many tastes, have sizes and present them in a professional way. See how your favorite band does it that you thought was cool, copy that! I have seen some portable setups to print shirts at the venues, that looks cool. But one way or another, shirts make you money. So don’t overlook this.
I’d say there are 3 real types, screen printed, discharge printed (related), and direct to garment. Don’t do iron ons or spray paint or puff paint or weird home stuff. Screen printing isn’t that hard to learn and there are often community screen printing places in most cities. That being said, I actually don’t know how to screen print.
My recommendations will be specific to Santa Fe, NM. Of course there are hundreds of places online and probably dozens of places local to you. Ask other bands, word of mouth is huge. And if you can learn and find a community space or make your own; even better!
Screen Printed: This is your classic ink on a shirt, usually 1-3 colors, but you can do more. You will pay per color + per location + the cost of the shirt. Typically there is a setup fee to make the screen and price breaks in batches of 24 or so. A tip here is to find the person printing shirts out of their house for other bands. Less overhead=less cost usually. Some you can even provide the shirts and they just charge you for the print. There is plastisol and water based, where plastisol has more vibrant colors and water based has a “softer hand” which is almost like it was dyed. Rates vary based on the size of the order. So ask for price breaks and shop around for pricing.
Discharge Printed: This is very similar but uses a chemical to sort of bleach out the color to leave behind another color. My understanding is that it is very similar to screen printing but stinkier and harder on the screens. Also tell people to wash before they wear these; mixed with sweat, the smell can kinda linger. But I like these for big one color prints as the shirt still breathes, doesn’t crack, and wears better. Also costs more.
Direct to Garment: This is like an ink-jet printer for T-shirts. Often used for one-offs or on-demand printing. You will often see these at malls or swap meets. Like anything one-off, these will be expensive per unit. But there are also fulfillment sites where they will print the shirts on demand, so no up-front costs. However they are expensive, pretty much starting at $20ish at cost meaning having to sell them at $25-$30 for profit. This gets into the price of pro band merch verses screen printing is usually well under $10 or even $5 a shirt.
For the shirts themselves there is heavyweight cotton, which is your boxy T like the Glidan 500 that every band uses. It is cheap, as in $4 a shirt in black. The other common style is ringspun cotton which tends to be fitted and much more soft. Next level, Bella Canvas, Gildan Ringpsun are common brands. Ringspun costs more, but is often more preferred. Some people care, some don’t. I like having both.
In metal or heavier genres consider long sleeves, hoodies, shorts, pants, etc. A whole book can be written on this but going overkill can be too much. In my experience, panties and other intimates that everyone wants to make doesn’t do that well in person but does better online where some privacy helps.
- https://www.wholesaleteeshirtstore.com/ – Where I like to get blank shirts, good prices, and many states warehouses. In NM I can get them 1-2 days with no additional shipping cost.
- https://www.acmeprints.com/ – AZ company, but they just get it done and are close-ish for less brutal shipping. Other bigger local business that advertise I have had issues with their print size limitations or lack of resolution. Or they are just geared for sports teams and campaign shirts, nothing as detailed as band shirts.
- Karl Deuble <askforemail> – ABQ based home screen printer. Plays in the sickest band Distances.
- Chris Mares – https://www.copyshack-nm.com/ – Santa Fe, NM based and does a lot of print work too. You have to be specific with him about size and placement.
- Rebel Prints – https://www.facebook.com/kingofscreens1/
- Metal the Brand – https://metalthebrand.com/
- Screen Kings – https://screenkings.com/
- https://customoneoffs.com/ – Direct to garment, never worked with them or know pricing, but met them at an event and they seemed cool.
- https://threadless.com – Popular site that is also Direct to Garment and fulfillment. So you can setup shop with designs, they print and ship per order. Downside is they are expensive.
- I am sure there are tons of others, again ask around. In general I want a place that can do at a minimum 11×17 prints. Make sure you are specific about size and placement with anyone. And shop for rates.
Stickers – The Giveaways
Bands must have stickers, it is the law. Look for Vinyl, UV resistant, outdoor rated. You want these to last forever. Don’t mess with paper labels or anything like that. The norm is sort of 2-3 color ones like a shirt and a static shape (square, rectangle, circle). But you can do full color or die cut (cut to a specific shape). I also don’t know of any local places that can produce the same quality vs. price compared to the online places. But always worth looking around.
- Sticker Guy: https://stickerguy.com/
- Sticker Giant: https://www.stickergiant.com/
- 123 Stickers: https://www.123stickers.com/
- Print Runner: https://www.printrunner.com/
Patches – Yeah They’re Back on Backs
Mostly a trend in the metal world. But let’s be real, 80% of the bands I work with are metal.
There are different types: woven, screen printed, embroidered. I am not a connoisseur of patches but it is worth knowing there are differences and a few searches will get you there. They all have different looks and price points depending on what you want. And ask around, ask other bands. I go through a buddy for woven patches, but they didn’t want to be listed, word of mouth only. So those dudes are out there.
- Google will set you free!
Shipping – Don’t Suffer in Lines
Shipping is expensive. International shipping is VERY expensive. I don’t have a solution yet for international customers but I will be hopefully figuring out some kind of distribution in the near future. But in the meantime here are some tips:
- Vinyl Records qualify as media mail, which is way cheaper but it can only be the record.
- Get Vinyl Record boxes that protect the corners. The cheap ones that don’t will end up with bent corners. Like these: https://whiplash-lpmailer.com/
- Get a $30-$40 shipping scale on Amazon and hopefully you have a printer or have access to one. Bonus points for half page shipping labels.
- Sign up for https://www.pirateship.com/. They get you major discounts on shipping and there is no monthly fee or minimum usage required.
- USPS will actually pick up packages for free from your house if they First Class or higher. But you can also just drop them off without waiting in line or talking to anyone. You just have to schedule it for a regular mail pickup day. https://tools.usps.com/schedule-pickup-steps.htm
Art, Photographers, Designers, Video, etc. – The Art to Represent Your Art
Art is so subjective and everyone’s tastes are different. Here is my main suggestion, go with a pro. Don’t mess around with the, “my buddy’s a good drawer.” If I have to lift another logo off a crappy cell phone photo of some hand drawn shit on a beer box, I may just give you a font of shame. By pro I mean one that actually has experience doing layouts and working with templates properly. I can’t tell you how many of these I have had to fix and save.
So pick someone with a good track record that is used to taking feedback as well. No one gets what’s in your head right the first time. There is always something you want to change. It takes a mindset to be able to handle that.
As stated earlier, every company has a different template that needs to be followed, so make sure you have that ready for the artist/graphic designer.
Also it should be stated, you don’t ask Monet to paint like Van Gogh. Also graphic design and illustration/art generation are two different skills. Type setting and layout are skills all their own. Same with Photography. There are those that can do it all or more than one. But be prepared to hire multiple people to get your project done.
Look at portfolios, scan around instagram. Look at your favorite bands and see who did their covers. Reality is, all artists are struggling, so they may be more approachable than you think.
**** This list is ever growing. If you want to be added, contact me.
Please get someone good with pictures you like with a portfolio you can see. Do NOT just let someone’s girlfriend/boyfriend use their phone or got their first DSLR/Mirrorless digital camera take your pictures. Spend the money!
Good photographers know how to use lighting, composition, and poses to make you look great. You want to look engaging and catch people’s attention. If it is just the band lined up looking boring in a random field or against the wall of your rehearsal space, no one is going to care.
Some NM based resources to check out:
You know my motto, look around, ask around, look at portfolios.
I tend to work with multi-disciplined people here. But if you have an artist you love, start there and these people can help do the layout. Locality matters less for this thanks to the internet.
There are of course millions out there. Again ask around and look at portfolios.
Video is a different beast and budget requirements for these can vary wildly depending on the person doing them. Check Fiverr and other work for hire sites. Reality is a lot of these are cheaper overseas. I’m sticking to the more budget options where you probably want to hire it out unless you know what you are doing.
- Visualizer – A graphic playing to music. Think like a waveform dancing around or the album moving around while he music is playing.
- Lyric Video – We’ve all seen these, I view them as an affordable way to sort of have a music video.
- Stock Footage Composite – Stock footage, if you don’t know, is footage other people have shot have it for sale on the internet. There are sites where you can pay a subscription and get access to TONS of footage. Some videographers make a living selling stock footage. Anyway these are videos pieced together with this kind of footage. Some are awesome, some are terrible.
- Live Band shots + (optional) Story: These are your typical mix of the band or you playing your instruments and some kind of story/acting element. This can be down with a mix of stock footage too. But you need a local camera person and director, lighting, a location, and a concept. This is probably what most people think of as a “music video.”
- Short Film: Many videos now don’t even show the band, but are an entire standalone piece that has the bands music playing. Of course made for the music, but I’m seeing this trend more and more. This could be live footage, or animation, or even AI generated.
And yet again check portfolios and work with someone with a track record with a style you like. On the cheap you may have to take a chance on someone.
On the flipside, everyone has a phone in their pocket with a solid video camera on it. You can get creative or shoot something yourselves and hire an external editor. So many options at many different price points.
NOTE – Play-Through Videos: I don’t really list play-through videos as something you may want to hire out. I have done some more professionally shot ones and I feel they loose the authenticity or connection with the artist. There is a connection I feel with people where they know the artist did it themselves with just like a phone or something. So I’d say for these just use your phone or a GoPro. Maybe get a couple phones and a couple GoPros for multi angle. But keep it raw, keep it DIY, people like that.
ME https://www.augustineortiz.com/video/ – Yeah I do video shoots and am pretty honest about what I can handle and can’t. I am not really a visualizer/lyric video guy, but things needing real cameras or stock footage, I got you.
Then, I have found some good people on Fiverr. As always check portfolios and prices.
Digital Distribution/Spotify/Bandcamp – How People Actually Listen and You Make Pennies
I called out Spotify directly because literally every band asks how to get on Spotify. Before that it was iTunes. Digital Distribution is the generic term. And to do that you have to sign up with a digital aggregator. These will distribute them to multiple places all at once.
https://bandcamp.com/ – Bandcamp I include here as well, even though they don’t distribute. They are a great platform to sell merch and digital downloads. You can setup pre-orders all for free with them taking a percentage. Definitely a standard for labels, bands, and musicians.
https://onerpm.com/ – Distributes to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, all the major platforms for a 7% cut of the profits. They can be a bit slow to actually get the music to the platforms so plan 2+ weeks again.
https://distrokid.com/ – The most popular option, $20/yr per artist and they handle cover licensing. You get 100% of the profits. Their turnaround is super fast too, often getting your song on some platforms the NEXT day! But $20/yr can add up if you aren’t releasing regularly. After the first burst, most bands listen rate falls off significantly. Some artists I will start with Distrokid for the first year and then move them to OneRPM. If you would like to get 7% and make me $10, here is a link (https://distrokid.com/vip/seven/595228).
https://cdbaby.com/ – One of the earliest ones that used to be quite expensive. They also used to distribute CD’s and handle PRO registration for you. But now it looks like they have revamped and are doing distribution for $9.99 (at the time of writing).
PR Companies and Advertising – Getting the Word Out!
Here’s the reality, posting on your social media or telling your friends is only going to get you so far. Even playing shows, it is likely mostly your friends coming to start. Your maximum reach on your own will only be our social circle. Reaching a bigger audience is much much harder.
Public Relations (PR) companies aren’t a guarantee by any means. But they will at least send E-mail blasts, maybe message some people they know to try and you get you some press coverage. Sure you can do this yourself by finding EVERY magazine, review site, blogger, youtube reviewer, etc. But it takes a lot of work, and some of these claim to have many thousands of contacts. So it just increases your chances. After that, you hope they listen and hope they like it and hope they write about it.
Advertising of course is how you hear about literally anything else. But with music word of mouth is still king. We don’t know who the tastemakers are anymore. Is it Spotify playlists, internet radio, YouTube recommendations? No one really knows and it is a game of pay-to-play which sucks.
A lot are a scam or at least seem like it. If they are too cheap, they are likely a scam. If they are too expensive, you are unlikely to get our monies worth. Many PR companies also can help you with the plan of release which is nice and resources to get your press kit and media together. The reality is they can send the stuff, but really the music and image still has to grab the listeners to inspire them to write about it.
Again ask other bands, look up your favorite bands and who they used. The PR companies do vet who they decide to promote and it may not be the quality of music but just how big your band already is. So as a first time out or lacking connections, it could be a struggle and you may have to start small.
NOTE: You must hire them BEFORE the album is released! If it is after, many won’t even touch it.
Cost wise, expect to spend about $200-$1500 based on my experience.
Of course these are METAL oriented. For other genres I can add them as time goes on.
Earsplit – I’d say one of the bigger and most popular ones of the metal underground. They seem to have a higher success rate getting premieres and articles in some of the more popular metal websites (Metal Sucks, Decibel, Metal Underground), etc. I have had bands on my label able to work with them. But honestly every time I contact them for a band to help with, they literally never get back to me.
Desert Bloom PR – ABQ based and an arm of Desert Records. Desert/Stoner Rock focused. Awesome people and they help with the strategy.
Metal Devastation PR – Have done one small campaign with them, their prices are good, almost too good. But they do seem to just factory spit out the release and do the blast with an automated system. However they communicative and have many different levels for different budgets and goals.
The Metalist PR – Have done one small campaign with them, being in the EU their stuff is more focused there and can get a bit expensive with the conversion rate. Were really communicative and did what they said.
There are some that I feel were kinda rip offs from hearing from other bands, but it is hard to tell for sure. Maybe they didn’t like music or the bands felt ripped off because they didn’t really get any results. So I am not going to bad mouth any here unless they actually ripped me off. However, I am also not going to list them without direct experience or pretty clear positive experience from multiple sources.
So really the next step of reaching outside of your social circle is advertising. Keep in mind most companies spend 20-70% on advertising. Thankfully these days you can really target using social media and Google based services (YouTube, Google Ads, etc). People say they sell your data, well this is how. The data they collect helps advertisers target their products which saves them money and makes it more appealing to use their platform vs. traditional media.
Traditional media (Radio, print, TV, etc.) is very spray and pray. You are spending a LOT of money to reach a large audience. And that might work for pop, but for your didgeridoo industrial broomstick fart project, that is a pretty niche audience. So your targeting has to be pretty precise, or you are just wasting money.
Facebook/Instagram/Meta: This is easy to setup with pretty precise targeting. Lots are leaving the platform though. They will absolutely bury anything that even hints of promotion. So you have to pull ads/boost posts to even get your own friends to see it. They make it pretty easy though, often just clicking “boost post” setting a target and budget, and going for it.
YouTube Ads: You will need a video for this and I have had mixed performance. I’ll get a lot of views, but not a lot that translates into sales or ticket sales for shows either. But it can help boost your views on your videos, so I think it is worth a shot. It takes a few days to get your account all setup and verified, so be prepared for that.
Google Ads: I haven’t had much luck with these unless I am selling products or promoting a website. So your YMMV. Again these can be a pain to setup and get verified, so give it some time to get going.
Print Ads: These are VERY expensive. And keep in mind that if you get a review in said magazine, there is a lot of pressure to pull an ad and they often will give you a discounted rate. Honestly I haven’t these translate into sales personally. So unless we land a review, I usually don’t bother.
Radio Ads: I have only promoted shows with these, never actual band releases. But they are pretty expensive and they may not even take them unless it is release show or something. I would hear people hearing about it, but I am not sure it translated to more ticket sales. I avoid it these days and the numbers seem to be about the same.
TikTok: This was the new hotness many years ago and I missed the wagon, so would be late for me. Social media in general is content content content and you have to work that. I have never pulled ads on TikTok so I have no frame of reference there.
Play Shows – Go to Shows
Here’s the reality, for most bands and rock related genre’s, the live experience still means something to fans and musicians. These were built to be played live. So play shows. But that also means GOING to shows. Reality is, even on a national/global scale, it is a community. This whole business isn’t about who you are but WHO YOU KNOW! And the only way to know people is to connect at shows, play shows together, and build up a system of support and connections.
Then touring is the next step after that to really have any chance. Take your favorite bands, I guarantee they have toured their damn asses off. And that is a whole other huge topic of many different facets. All I can say is, like anything in life, a tour just doesn’t get offered to you. You don’t just magically get to tour. And even if you did, actually doing the tour and preparing is a whole other world. Most people don’t even know where to begin. But if you want it, you have to do the work and earn it! A surprising amount of people are willing to help, but it still takes a lot of work to get there.
This is a whole other topic or even 10 for another day.
Yeah… this is long AF. Thank you for making it this far and I hope it helps. Be patient, make a plan, stick to it, keep rocking and keep creating!