Strategizing Your Release Plan for Optimal Coverage

Strategizing Your Release Plan for Optimal Coverage
Kari Zalik

With Bad Parade PR’s Kari Zalik

 By Manus Hopkins

 You may have noticed up-and-coming artists opting to release singles these days instead of albums or EPs. It can be more cost effective to save on studio time, but there’s also a particular strategy involved in giving each individual song its own time to be featured, rather than lumping a bunch together and hoping they all get listened to. So, if you’re releasing a single, how can you make a release strategy to get it the marketing and coverage it deserves? When and how do you follow up the single? Should you promote it before it’s out, or wait until after it’s released? Really, these things all depend on how much of an audience you already have, but there are some things all musicians releasing music should keep in mind. Kari Zalik, a music publicist and founder of Bad Parade, the music publicity company, is here to shed some light on all these questions.

Give Your Release as Much Lead Time as Possible

 Zalik: The number one thing I'll say, and this will kind of be a common theme across this entire discussion, is you want to give it as much time as possible. So, if you have a single ready today and you want media attention, you don't want to release it tomorrow. You want to plan a strategy that will give you as much time as possible. You also want to make sure that for any upcoming singles, you don't release them too close. So, the number one factor you want to consider once your music is ready is the timing of it. When you look at release dates, which are typically Fridays, think, is that Friday tacked onto a long weekend? Is there a holiday? Is it December? Is it a summer Friday? Those aren't always the best days to release. I would say because you want to do so much planning, you want to release the song at least eight weeks from when it's ready, if not longer. Eight to twelve weeks.

 What To Do During Those Eight to 12 Weeks

 Zalik: On the artist end, they're going to want to submit for distribution to whoever their distributor is. Then they're going to want to take stock of media. First of all, where is the artist located? If you're located in London, ON or Calgary, AB, you're already expert in your local media; you know who the key players are. Who’s reading the newspaper and what the major news shows are. Use your local sort of media circuit and start making a list of those people. And ask around. If you're a musician, it's likely you have friends in the industry. If you know someone who is covered in a paper, ask them how they got that. Crowd sourcing is a huge help in sharing information and getting attention. You’re going to want to start with your local media and make an Excel spreadsheet or a Google doc or whatever, and then go from there. Look at where your favorite artists are being covered. And if that's Rolling Stone, then start reaching out to or looking into the email addresses for music writers at Rolling Stone. If you have a favorite blog in the UK or music TV show in Texas, get everything together. Don't start sending emails right away but get everything together. That’s on the media front.

On the asset side, you're going to have to deliver a ton of relevant assets to these people in the media so that it will be easy to cover you. You want to make it as easy as possible for the media to cover you. The less interaction you have, to be honest, the better. If you have to come back to me and say, ‘Hey Kari can I get photos of your artist?’ or ‘Hy Kari, can I get the new song?’ we’re just having too much interaction and it could lead to confusion, missed emails, whatever. Hopefully when you see emails from Bad Parade, you know that everything you need is going to be in there. Look, we're all human and from time to time, I'll have an oversight for sure, but you're going to want to get those assets together so that when you're ready to press send, you have everything that they need. You want to eliminate the guesswork and the interaction if you can.

 What Assets to Have Prepared

 Zalik: The first thing is the music. You want to have the music in both formats, WAV and MP3. There are some radio stations that will only accept a WAV file and some outlets that will only take an MP3. If you can send those in and have both of them there and eliminate that back and forth, that would be ideal. If there's any profanity, you definitely want to note that, because, if you don't make it clear and they play the song and then they find out there's the F-word or whatever, they might not want to work with you again. If you have a clean version in there, just make sure to identify whether or not it is radio friendly. And that's also for TV. So that is number one. Music comes first.

The next is artwork: cover art for the single or the album. If someone's going to print that or upload it to their playlist or whatever it is, you want to make sure that that's available to them. You want to include some of the credits. The musicians on the song, who wrote it, where it was recorded, who produced it, who mixed and mastered it—that stuff is really important as well. You want to make sure that you have photos of the band or artist. I will always say a landscape orientation photo goes a lot further than portrait orientation. If you're reaching out to a blog or a newspaper, it depends on the format. But. we see that our landscape photos are used a lot more often, though it’s great to have a mixture of both. Typically when we're working with artists, they'll send us five to ten photos from the same photoshoot, but then we can send those out to the media and you can pick what you like best and what you think will resonate with your readership or listenership. We always send out photos, and social media links—your Spotify, your Facebook, etc. When you open an email about an artist, you read it and then you want to check them out a little bit more. Check out their Facebook to see if they're updating, if they have any announcements, if they use it, if they have followers. The reason I say to include all social media links is because everyone has a favorite platform. You want to make sure as an artist that you're updating all of those social platforms. You don't have to be constant; you just have to be consistent. So, whatever is going up on Facebook needs to go up on Instagram, needs to go up on Twitter (or X), needs to go up on wherever you have a social account because people do want to look into you a little bit further. People do want to research you.

And then your biography. You’re sending out this music, but who are you? You're going to want to include either a link to your bio or the bio itself. You're talking about this great song that you're releasing, you're talking about the things that you're going to be doing, and you're so excited about this one piece of music, but people do want to get to know you a little bit better and understand your career to date. So, having your bio included is also really important. And those are the main things that you're looking for. Obviously, if you have a video, you want to include the link to the video or mention that it's upcoming. But those are the core things you want to have in an email that goes out to the media.

 When to Start Promoting Your Release

 Zalik: If you know you're going to be releasing your song in eight weeks or 12 weeks, you might not want to start that early. But I would say four or so weeks in advance of a single on social media to start saying you’ve got new music on the way. You can release teasers. You can release silent teasers. Maybe it's a clip of the video. You can release images that are thematically relevant to the song. You do want to tease it, and you also want to show that you're, ah, active across platforms. It doesn't have to be an everyday thing. It can be twice a week but try to be active. If someone comments, if people are asking questions, make sure you're engaged. One fan at a time is what builds a career. And you might reach a point where you get 10,000 fans at a time or 100,000 fans at a time. But for an independent artist, it's one fan at a time. So, engage back with anyone who writes you, as long as it's not spam. I would start rolling out four-ish weeks in advance. Don't worry about bothering your audience. I hear this all the time where people are like, ‘They're sick of it. They're sick of what I'm saying.’ You poured your blood, sweat and tears into this song. Run with it as long as possible. Run with it until it to you, it sounds like you can't hear it anymore. Try and give it as much lead time as possible. Let people know that it's going to be coming out when it comes to socials. And then once it's out, obviously, post on release day, but go crazy after. Post about the song, post about the video, post clips, post the lyrics. If you get media attention, the number one thing to do if you are covered by the media, whether it's television, print, radio, podcast, you name it, is to give them love on the socials. So, if you're in Canadian Musician magazine, post the cover or clip a snippet of it and pop that on your socials and you say thank you. Whatever it is, you want to have a celebration anytime the media is giving you attention. The best way to marry traditional media and social media is to use them in tandem.

 When to Follow Up Your Release

 Zalik: You want to run with the single that you just released for six to eight weeks. If you're doing it on your own, the more time the better. You're going all in, guns blazing on socials. You're promoting to as much media as possible. You're posting every media piece that comes through for you on your socials because that's the best way to get full attention for it. I would say six to eight weeks, and during that time you want to start getting that other single ready on the back end. So publicly you're in a big celebration for this song A but privately you're working on the media for song B. If you're pitching a song that's been released and you're gearing up to release another song, at some point, you're going to have to stop that media campaign and move into the new one. And what I would do is as you're winding down that first song, I would say you’ll be releasing this next single. I call it dropping an anchor just so that the media knows something else is on its way. You might run into a situation where Canadian Musician says, ‘We love this song, but we're busy this month, so is anything else coming out from the artist?’ You want to be able to capture as much of that as possible because the media is so inundated and overwhelmed. Start mentioning a few weeks after release that you have a new single on the way and start that process again. Once you're pitching the new single, you fully stop with the last one because you don't want to confuse the media. Like, wait, I got two songs here. When you're announcing a brand-new single, the other one is going to sleep, lying dormant for a while. It's still obviously on Spotify and you still have media coverage to share, but you're moving onto the next thing.

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Manus Hopkins is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

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