The album is the star work for any artist; the culmination of of an artist’s creativity and identity. However, in this article, I’m going to explain to you why, this format can be a false-friend of the musical promotion. Indeed, in terms of promotion strategy, the album is much more difficult to exploit than the single. Today, we also have the choice of EP, mixtape, freestyle or even covers to get known before proposing an album. If you are a young artist and you are about to release a musical project, it is very important that you ask yourself the question now.
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Album, EP, single, mixtape? Here are some tips to help you in this reflection and establish the best release strategy for your music.
The album format: long, expensive, disappointing (but attractive)
Let’s start with a disclaimer, though. I’m a rather old-school listener: vinyl, CD, iTunes library. And the album format is and will remain my favorite for the simple reason that it’s the best way to dive into an artist’s universe, listening from track 1 to track 15 without pause or skip. From Quincy Jones’ The Dude to Eminem’s Marshall Mathers to Air’s Moon Safari, these are albums that leave a lasting impression. That’s not what I’m questioning and in my eyes, any artist worthy of the name must aim for this kind of posterity.
But when you enter the music business, you have to be pragmatic. Your final goal is to get to the album, but there are a certain number of intermediate goals to respect so that this work is listened to on the scale it deserves. That is to say: by many, many people.
Why is the album not a good strategy for musical promotion at the beginning of a career?
My first answer would be: artists are rarely ready. Indeed, an album is the best of you. To enter the game and say, right away: “I’m at the top of my music”… is maybe a little bit pretentious. Be careful though: there is no general truth. Some artists have worked in the shadows for 10 years, without ever releasing anything or saying they are artists, and manage to build an excellent album. And, without ever having released a single. On the other hand, not only is this rare, but it’s also 10 years spent not promoting their music to prepare the album.
The second answer – and this should be enough to convince you – is that an album is hard work in every way. You have to prepare at least 7 to 15, even 20 tracks. You have to put your soul into it; pay for the studio, or the mix and the masters. Organize the tracklist in a coherent way and select 2 or 3 singles, clip them and promote them. These are supposed to carry the whole track. You have to keep up with the demands that the public attaches to the term album.
Your hard work for this album will bring your own success requirements up. If you have managed to make a great album and only the people around you know your music, you are somehow preventing your work from living the life it deserves. But it is the artists who are at the service of their work and not the other way around.
So stay a while, because the alternatives are yet to come.
Mixtape, EP, singles, covers: so many ways to promote your music before the album
These words are usually synonymous with lesser requirements.
Certainly, on an EP, we expect the artist to develop their own identity. But we also know that it is a passage for the artist, like a test. In addition, there are fewer tracks than on an album, so it will be faster and less expensive to create. Ateyaba, for example, became known thanks to a succession of EPs in the early 2010s.
| Read also: What is an EP and why is it the best choice for emerging artists?
If you’re in rap, the mixtape is still a great way to get known as an artist. It’s less popular than before, but it allows you to release less accomplished sounds and to do a lot of featurings. Through this exercise, you’ll get to level up, expand your network and benefit from a community exchange with the guests. Hayce Lemsi and the XV Barbare collective, of which Cheu-B is a part, started with mixtapes on which they were sometimes close to 10 to pose on a track!
Covers whether on YouTube in full or on TikTok, have proven time and time again to be effective in growing a community.
Example: Phelto has been churning out covers on YouTube since 2015, experienced a buzz in 2019, and is just about to release a 2nd EP in 2021.
Finally, the single. A track that stands out for its effectiveness. Its replay-value is maximum, its chances of entering playlists too and communication about it is facilitated. Zuukou Mayzie, member of the collective of rappers 667, has released a large number of singles for a year, before releasing an album in which we find them. Thus, the artist is constantly talking about them on social networks and when the album is released, it already has some visibility, especially through placements in Spotify playlist.
Interesting, no? This is also the strategy adopted by Jwles, who multiplies short and effective singles and punctuates their career with a few EPs not exceeding 3 tracks. At each release, the public is satisfied. And, each single makes a good number of streams because it is played again. On the contrary, on an album, the streams are scattered, and the last track tends to be the least streamed…
Splitting your EP into singles: the best music promotion strategy?
Music, like all arts, is sacred. But you understood it: here we are talking about music marketing. So we’re talking to artists who are willing to take a step back and build their success.
In my opinion, the most efficient strategy is to make a compromise between the quality of the musical proposal (developing an identity, like on an album) and the quantity of releases (being constantly promoted). For that, you can release your 4 tracks EP… in 4 ways! With a single every month (or 6 weeks), you will be able to promote your EP during 4 months, reminding your community that your music is available.
Maximize your community’s engagement with this music promotion strategy
With each release, your audience will have only one track to listen to and it will therefore count an optimal number of streams. Indeed, rather than sending your community to 10 tracks at once, taking the risk of losing them from the 2nd track, your audience will be able to concentrate on one single listen. This way, you can be sure that if they like the track, they will add it to their usual playlists and therefore, listen to it again! Even better: the time they spend listening to your song is less than the time they would have spent on an album. At a time when the famous “available brain time” is at its lowest, this is precious. It will encourage them to stream your song from the first to the last second: a statistic that Spotify and other platforms’ algorithms will remember and value!
Facilitate the media coverage of your musical project
That’s for your already established community. But with the media and playlist curators, promoting regular and frequent singles will also improve your chances of getting picked up! With each release, you will be able to approach the media and playlists to offer them to relay your work. For that, you can of course use Groover!
Journalists will gradually remember your name and listen to each of your releases until maybe one of the singles catches their ear. My experience as a media on Groover confirms that this is a good strategy.
When I’m sent an interesting single but it doesn’t make me fall in love with it, I wait to see what comes next. If the artist contacts me again, in a relatively short time, I have often decided on a relay because I end up getting the type of single I was looking for! The more the artist solicits me, the more I notice their determination and remember their name. It’s not everything, but it helps! On their side, they get my feedback and understands my selection criteria, which allows them to optimize their campaigns! On the other hand, when I discover an artist with an album, if the first 3 tracks do not contain a favorite, they are in a bad position to get a relay. While the favorite is perhaps at the 6th track!
This strategy will also force you to release effective tracks and keep the deeper or slower tracks aside for an album. This way, with each single, you will have all your chances to enter good playlists since the curators will consider that your track has a strong added value!
A beneficial strategy for your growth on the networks
Finally, this musical promotion strategy will allow you to enlarge your community. Indeed, on your networks, you will have very frequently a new single release to announce. This will encourage you to post often. The algorithms will remember you as an active user and will put you in front of new users. Since your singles are catchy, as we said before, you will be able to convince them easily. You got it: that means new subscribers.
More than a music promotion strategy: a work!
The best thing about this release strategy is that in the end, you’ll have a coherent 4-track project. It’s not just a bunch of unrelated singles, it’s a real calling card for the latest arrivals to discover a complete universe. And this is how you create new listeners, while turning them into long-term listeners! Now it’s up to you to adapt this strategy to your own ambitions!
I am Theodore, founder of the media and agency NewTone, through which I accompany artists in their development in addition to scrupulously analyzing the beginnings of musical careers. The reason I decided to write about this subject is because I have seen many artists make the mistake of thinking that an album is the best musical promotion strategy to get into the game. By now you’ve figured it out: it’s not true.
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