Last NAMM, I attended an inspiring talk by Kevin Breuner, the VP of marketing for CD Baby. He talked about successful release strategies in a streaming world for us independent musicians. That talk gave me the confidence I needed to finally implement a CD-release plan I had hatched up a few months before.
Kevin’s talk wasn’t so much about what you do to promote the album itself, but rather the content you can create around the release of the album.You see, creating extra content to use as the vehicle to promote your record matters more these days than ever before.
Hitting “Publish” on your CD Baby dashboard and telling people you’re on Spotify isn’t enough anymore. You can only nag your friends to “check out my album” so many times before your friends get sick of you. You need to re-frame the conversation with more reasons to talk about it. And having more content than just the album itself gives you more reasons to bring it up in conversations.
As musicians, we are immensely proud of the musical baby we just made, but just like with normal babies, not everyone thinks yours is cute. Constantly asking your friends to listen to your album is similar to a toddler continually pulling his mom’s pant leg for attention. It’s just exhausting.
So what do we musical creators do instead?
Our Plan? Create a Podcast Season Around the Album
When you listen to an album, there’s a lot that goes unsaid. You might not understand all the lyrics. You can’t discern all the instruments that are playing. You don’t know what the songs are about. And since we’re all just throwing our songs on Spotify these days, there’s not a lot of emphasis on the liner notes to tell those stories.
Even if the album is a work of creative musical expression, the story behind the creation of the album gets lost. Behind the Music documentary filmmakers aren’t interested in us independent musicians, so it’s up to us to create the additional content for our fans.
To me, I was in a great position because I had joined the Carnivaleros, a band that was finishing their sixth album. After six records – all of which were released through CD Baby – the band has a lot of history and there are stories left untold that don’t need to go unnoticed.
So we decided to launch a podcast season in parallel with the release of the album. That way, we could tell the stories behind the songs and the creative process behind the record. We could talk about the songwriting, the production process and any fun things that popped up during the sessions. Plus, we could give more credit to some of the session players on the album, and we could draw people’s attention to specific parts of the songs that stood out.
In a nutshell, the podcast gives us an opportunity to promote the album in a new way. Instead of having only an album to promote, we now have 12 new pieces of content to talk about every week. We’ve managed to rephrase and reposition the way we approach our promotional efforts.
Instead of constantly asking,
“Have you heard our new album?”
…we can ask,
“Have you heard the latest podcast episode about the tragic death of Danny Lee? Or the story behind the duet that was inspired by Hilary Swank’s character in The Homesman with Tommy Lee Jones?”
Those are more interesting questions, wouldn’t you agree? And in our lightning-paced society where attention spans are fleeting, capturing interest is king.
Your Simple Checklist to Create Your Own Music Podcast
If you want to do anything creative, I’ve found the best method to be the following:
Visualizing what it looks like as a finished product and then work backward from there.
Now, I’m not talking about visualization in a hippie Yogi kinda way. No, what I mean is that once you know where the finish line is, you can work your way back through all the tasks that are necessary to get there.
Planning is key to achieving your goals, and creating a new promotional vehicle for your album is no exception.
So if you want to create your own podcast, I’ve created a simple 14-step checklist for you in the form of the following questions. Make sure you have the answers to every single one before you start.
- Who is involved in the podcast?
- What questions are you asking during each episode?
- Who is the host that keeps things going during the recording?
- What is the structure of the podcast?
- When are you recording the episodes?
- What equipment are you using to record your podcast?
- Are you allowing enough time before the album comes out to get your podcast edited and ready to go?
- Where are you recording the podcast?
- Who is responsible for the editing?
- What website will the podcast live on?
- Where are you hosting the podcast episodes?
- Who knows how to publish it online to iTunes?
- What’s the promotional schedule for the podcast episodes themselves?
- Are you releasing everything at the same time or staggering them?
How We Structured the Podcast
I wrote the questions and led the podcast episodes most of the time. I structured the podcasts to tackle three main areas:
- Songwriting – How the song was written and the story behind the music.
- Arrangement – How it morphed from a simple song into a band arrangement, making sure to credit any and all musicians who appeared on each song.
- Production – How we recorded each song, what studio tricks we used and how the sounds got made. I also help home studio musicians make their music sound better at Audio Issues, so it was a great way to keep the podcast even more relevant to my audience, allowing me to cross-promote the podcast to my email list of 30,000 people.
At the end of each episode, after sharing the stories behind the songs, we then play the song so that the listener can gain a deeper relationship with the music.
Here’s How We Tackled the Technical Duties
For the rest of the duties needed to launch the podcast, we each had our responsibilities. The singer/accordionist and songwriter/bandleader, Gary, took on a lot of the website stuff, and Karl, the bass player and mixing/mastering engineer, took on the finalization of the episodes.
We used Gary’s studio, Homestead Studios to record all our episodes. We recorded all 13 episodes in only two days, so we managed to be very efficient with our time. Gary then took care of the editing and Karl mixed them.
It was a great delegation of duties and a real team effort, so I recommend you figure out how to divide the tasks between your team if you have one.
For hosting the episodes, we created a new Soundcloud account, Carnivaleros Podcast – Tales from the Homestead, where we uploaded all the episodes. There are multiple different ways of hosting an publishing podcast episodes, but we decided on Soundcloud due to its ease of use. It also gives you an RSS feed that you can submit to iTunes so our podcast could be found natively through the Podcast app and directly on iTunes.
Our promotional schedule was a hybrid mix of maximum exposure for the binge-listening crowd while still stretching the lifespan of the podcast. We released five episodes at the start to give people a glimpse into what they could expect, as well as some sneak previews of songs we hadn’t released yet. Then we decided to release one episode every week for the rest of the songs off the album, giving us a solid eight weeks of promotional materials for our music.
At the time of writing, we’re only on episode six, and we’ve got over 500 listens on Soundcloud alone. iTunes is a bit stingy on the data so we can’t accurately predict listens there, but the ratings and reviews we’ve received means that we have some followers there as well. We’ve already had positive support from the local fans at our shows, and some journalists have even mined the podcast episodes for additional information for their CD reviews.
Best of all, we’re only halfway through the season so we’ve still got plenty of songs to talk about and plenty of stories to tell!
How Will You Promote Your Next Album?
I realize that making your album was hard enough. You ripped open your chest and bled your music into the world. And now I’m telling you that you need to do all this extra work as well!
I understand it’s a lot of work but as an independent musician the marketing rests squarely on your shoulders. There’s nobody else to help you promote yourself. The marketing should be at least 50% of the effort you put into your art if you ever want anybody to notice it. That’s the definition of marketing right there: “making people notice.”
So even if you don’t want to make a whole podcast season, think about what other types of content you can steadily create to promote your music.
- Can you tell interesting stories about the album via blog posts?
- Can you share live videos from the studio?
- Can you write detailed articles about the meaning behind your lyrics?
Regardless of what you come up with, make sure that you spend as much time getting people to notice your music as you do creating it.
And if you need a break from the exhausting world of music marketing, I’ve got a podcast for you right here you can take a listen to.
I hope that helped!