Analyzing Different Release Strategies
In the age of social media and music streaming, there are a ton of ways to get your music out there.
Some artists prefer to release a bunch of songs, others prefer to tease us by barely releasing new music (Hi, we’re looking at you Rihanna).
Overall, what works for some won’t work for others.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely gearing up to release some new music and you’re looking for the best way to go about it.
To give you some inspiration and get you thinking, we’re going to break down the many ways artists have approached releasing music and let you be the best judge of what will work for you.
The ‘Flood the market’ approach
If you’ve ever heard of Russ and watched any of his interviews, then you know that he released a huge amount of music before people really started catching on (about 11 projects over the span of a few years). But when people did start to catch on, they became hardcore fans because they had so much of his music to dive into.
Instead of picking a few singles and making a big fuss over them, Russ released an overload of “singles” and let the fans choose their favorite (which he was able to keep track of by checking out what songs people were streaming the most via his analytics).
In a world where 40 thousand songs are uploaded to Spotify every day (yes, you heard that right), I can understand why it may be beneficial to flood the market to the point that people are bound to come across your music one way or another (if you’re actively trying to get it out there).
But remember, Russ produced, recorded, and mixed all of his own music which made it much easier for him to create so much music. He didn’t have to worry about finding production or paying for beats, or paying a boatload of money for studio time. You might not be in this same situation and that’s okay.
But if you are able to create a ton of quality music in a short period of time, go for it. Even if you don’t flood the market with it, it’s always great to have the ammo. Michael Jackson supposedly recorded 125 songs for each album. We’ve come across indie artists that have 200+ songs waiting in the chamber and that’s never a bad thing.
The ‘surprise’ approach
You probably already know what we’re going to refer to when it comes to the surprise approach - Beyonce of course. She dropped her self-titled album in the middle of the night and surprised her fans so when they discovered it, her streaming numbers skyrocketed and her album went viral. The internet was in a frenzy.
The thing is, only artists with massive followings can pull this off. Drake can pull it off, Jay-Z can pull it off and obviously Rihanna can pull it off (we’re practically begging for Rihanna to do it at this point). But should you take this approach? Probably not until you reach Beyonce-level of fame.
The ‘tease me until I can’t take it anymore’ approach
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or in the studio) the last year or so, we’re pretty sure you’ve heard of Tierra Whack. If you haven’t, check her out as her music is fire and she’s really paving her own lane in the industry.
But if you are familiar with her, you most likely fit into one of the following categories: you just heard of her in the last year; you’ve known about her for a few years (once she decided to use her actual name, Tierra Whack); or you’ve been around for 5-7 years and you remember when she went by Dizzle Dizz (in this case you’re probably from Philly).
If you’re in the last two categories then you understand how much it meant when you woke up the morning of May 30th, 2018, logged on to Instagram and realized that Tierra Whack dropped 15 videos and her project Whack World out of nowhere and with music videos so creative that you couldn’t have imagined them in your wildest dreams. And to top it off, you probably went on Spotify or Apple Music only to discover that the videos weren’t just snippets, but that the songs were only one minute long (with the album only being 15 minutes in total) and then you got blue (music) balls all over again.
By giving her fans limited music and building lots of commotion around the release, Tierra was able to gain the attention of Boogie, Gary Vee, Solange Knowles, and more around the industry. She had not released music too frequently before Whack World, so when she released the 15 songs at once, her fans were practically drooling for her new music.
So I guess you can say this approach was also combined with the ‘surprise’ approach we went over previously as well as an honorary mention which is the “do something no one has ever done and do it right” approach. The only downside to this approach is that if you tease your audience too much and not release anything for a long time, they may become disinterested with your music. If you do run with this method, make sure you are still releasing content but use the time to build anticipation.
The ‘Big Co-sign’ Approach
Did you know who BlocBoy JB was before he dropped “Look Alive” with Drake? Were you paying attention to Lil Baby before he dropped Yes Indeed with Drake? We highly doubt it.
While it definitely takes much more than a co-sign to sustain a music career, having one definitely helps (especially if it’s from Drake). But this doesn’t mean you should chase a co-sign and hope to magically blow up.
While we don’t know a whole lot about Lil Baby or BlocBoy JB, we’re not going to sit here and act like they didn’t work their a**es off to get to where they are now (and to even get that Drake feature in the first place).
So don’t go chasing after big co-signs as although it may seem like a quick and easy come up from the outside looking in, we know artists who have lost loads of money paying for features that didn’t see the light of day, couldn’t get cleared by the label, and so on. If anything, you want that co-sign to come to you in due time. Good things come to artists who build their leverage.
The ‘Big Budget’ Approach
If you have a big budget to play with, you have the capability to pay for the best PR firm to get you the biggest press looks, spend big bucks on getting your music played on radio, land partnerships and sponsorship deals with big brands, and put thousands of dollars into advertising and features.
With that type of machine behind you, there’s a much greater chance that you can get your music heard by a lot of people in a pretty quick amount of time.
You’ll only be able to take this approach if you’ve built up enough buzz to ink a major label deal and they make you a priority, or if you are able to solidify a lot of monetary backing independently, like Chance the Rapper did. Although everyone likes to paint the Chance is Independent picture, we must understand that he had a nice chunk of change to help out. Not all independent artists are able to secure investments without giving away huge percentages so that leads us to the last method…
The ‘gradual climb’ approach
For the artist who doesn’t necessarily have a fan base anticipating their every release (or may not have a fan base at all), the gradual climb approach seems to be the most effective.
This approach involves releasing consistent music and content, while doing shows over a few years to build momentum, while also building strong personal relationships with their fan base.
There are many artists who have taken this approach (and are still taking this approach to this day) and are seeing amazing results.
Artists like Dizzy Wright and Mir Fontane have been able to build a very engaged cult following this way and if you’re going to choose any one of these strategies to model your plan after, this would be the one we recommend.
If you’re wondering about the details of how to apply this release strategy to yourself, check out our mock project release timeline where we break it all down. Also, be sure to check out all of our guides and mini courses to ensure you are doing everything in your power to grow your audience organically and independently.
Have you heard of any other ways to go about this? Do you have any other ideas to add? If so, hop in our Facebook group and tell us all about it!