By, Wendy Day
Not only do you need to time your release date so that your marketing and promotions won’t get over shadowed by larger, popular, superstar artists (promoting against releases by Jay Z, Kanye, and Lil Wayne will most likely diminish your efforts), but you need to make certain all of your marketing lands around the same time for your artist’s promotions.
Imagine if I invite you to my house for dinner and I hand you a dinner roll. Then 20 minutes later, I hand you a slice of pie. An hour later I hand you a baked potato, followed 3 hours later by a steak, with a bowl of salad and a plate of half cooked green beans 15 minutes later. Not only would you clown me and never come to my house again for dinner, but the meal would be an epic failure! Well, releasing music is the same way. You need to make certain that your marketing and promotion is timed perfectly or you’ve just wasted tens of thousands of dollars–or hundreds of thousands wasted in some cases. You want the whole meal on the table at the same time, preferably at the time when you plan to eat it.
Yet that disaster of a dinner is what most of you artists do with your career efforts. You go get World Star Hip Hop. Nothing happens except family, friends, and guys you went to high school with, see you and reach out. So you buy an eblast or two. You get a few responses, but a few weeks later, you’re back to nothing happening. You start blasting out links to your songs and videos on Twitter and Facebook. Not only does nothing happen, but you get a negative reaction: you lose followers and friends, get reported for spam, and dissed in tweets and Facebook updates. You meet someone who can buy you DJ spins, but it’s for a few local clubs and the DJs only spin your record when you walk in the club. That gets expensive, tiring, and frustrating to hit the same clubs every night. After that, all of the scammers, con men, and bottom feeders seem to come out of the woodwork and chase you to spend money with them for this or that (buy radio spins, buy blog mentions, buy fake views on YouTube, buy thousands of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter, perform for a fee to open for Meek Mill, pay for a meeting with a label A&R that leads to nothing because you have no real buzz, etc). You have become a mark because you have money and no real idea of how or where to spend it for success.
Timing is the #1 area where most artists fail.
This is how it should happen correctly:
In a perfect world, you want a potential fan waking up to your single. He gets up, gets dressed and as he’s leaving his house, your wrapped vehicle drives by. He goes to his girl’s house to pick her up (your song plays on his car radio as he’s driving there). As he’s waiting for her to get ready, he picks up a copy of a rap magazine and begins reading an interview about you. As she walks into the room, your video plays on the TV in the background. Because you are a new artist, he doesn’t really notice you yet. He’s heard the song in the background, read about you, sort of seen the video, etc.
He goes to the chicken spot on the corner to grab some food with his girl, and your poster is on the wall and your postcard or flyer sits on the counter by the cash register. His girl decides to go to the Mall afterwards, while you go to the barbershop to get edged up. At the barber shop, the video plays and the guys in the shop begin talking about you in a positive way. Now the fan is paying attention to who you are. All the work you’ve done kicks in and he kinda knows who you are, but what seals the deal is that people whose opinions he respects are speaking favorably about your music.
He goes to the Mall to meet up with his girl, and when he enters the hip hop gear shop, your flyers and posters are everywhere. He googles you on his phone and reads about you on Twitter. He likes how you carry yourself. He listened to a few different songs on YouTube and decides that he wants to purchase your music. He downloads your single but he heads to the shop that sells CDs and buys it so he can listen to it in his car. He pops the CD into his car stereo where it will remain on repeat for weeks. That night when he goes to the club, he sees you perform and sees the crowd’s massive reaction to your song. Everything that occurred today reconfirmed to your fan that you are worthy of his respect and support.
I realize this is a dream scenario. It’s impossible to get everything to hit on the exact same day. But your goal as an artist and marketer is to get people talking about you. Word of mouth is your BEST promotion. But to build people talking about you (in a positive way, not in a you-just-beat-Rihanna’s-ass way), you need to reach them through promotion in places where they are living, relaxing, and hanging out (clubs, school, barbershop, mall, car, work, etc). AND you need to appear larger than life–certainly as big as Jay Z, Lil Wayne, or Nicky Minaj.
The TYPE of music you make dictates where you focus your promotional efforts heaviest. For example, Young Jeezy would focus on the hood, the streets, and the more street oriented clubs. Big Krit would focus on colleges, the Internet, urban and satellite radio, and big community events. Nicky Minaj would focus on pop radio, high schools, dance clubs, and Malls. Artists spend money to promote where their fans and potential fans are–where they hang out, where they live, where they relax.
The timing is the thing most artists mess up. They do this for a variety of reasons:
1) they don’t have the necessary financing and instead of waiting til they can afford to do it properly, they do it in pieces
2) they don’t know any better and have no experienced professionals on the team to advise them properly
3) the song takes longer than expected to catch on, or it blows up faster than expected (a wonderful problem to have)
4) they don’t know who to hire and end up giving money to the wrong promotion people who don’t deliver what they promise, which throws off the whole project
The way I set up a project is by choosing a release date and counting everything backwards from that date. I try not to choose a date that has a superstar dropping anywhere near it. I usually drop on a Tuesday so as not to frustrate retail or distributors. It’s an arbitrary thing today, but is steeped in history– artists have been dropping on Tuesdays for decades. If I’m only dropping on iTunes, I vary my date to stand out, but if we have a distributor (which we almost always do), I keep it industry standard. Tuesday.
So, let’s say my artist’s release date is the first Tuesday in August. Club play takes about 4 to 6 months to get the right single hot in the clubs, so I’m going to start our street and club promotions in late January or February. It takes 12 to 16 weeks to get bumping at radio, so I have the radio promoter start working radio between April 1 to May 1, depending on feedback from DJs as to how hot the single is in the clubs. I don’t chase radio until the song is hot enough on the streets. I treat the Internet like it’s another market. I’d never solely promote online; to do so would be leaving money on the table by missing a large portion of the marketplace: the streets.
Publicity needs a 3 month lead time for printed publications like magazines, 2-3 months for TV appearances, two weeks for newspapers and a couple weeks for blogs and websites. So the publicist needs to not only be on board in time to start pitching media and press, but early enough to help shape the tools needed to pitch the artist: EPK, bio, photos, press releases, etc. I usually keep publicists on board for the life of the project (6-9 months) because I treat everything we do as events. We update press and media weekly with news and movement on our project whether releasing a new single, a UStream concert, or some behind the scenes footage. In this example, I’d bring the experienced publicist with a strong track record of placements on board in January and keep him or her working through September, unless the project was resonating well and very profitable, in which case I’d keep them on board for the life of the record (depending on how many singles deep we go in the project).
Video takes eight weeks to get really circulating, so I’d hire the video promoter mid-May. I don’t buy any video placements on websites, if they pick up the video it happens because the single is hot. I don’t believe fans check for the videos that pay to get added. Ditto for the blogs.
I always put the artists I consult on a promo tour. Don’t under estimate the importance of meeting people and shaking hands to build and increase the fan base personally. Touring the region, promoting, backing up radio spins with shows, and performing are key. Meeting potential fans, DJs, press and media, and the hot artists in each area directly helps the artist’s career. I prefer a wrapped vehicle for new artists so they roll around in a moving billboard. For established artists, only the street team roll around in the wrapped vehicle so the artist doesn’t become a target for any drama.
As I mentioned before, I treat the Internet like another important market. I focus on social media, collecting email addresses for the monthly (or quarterly) newsletter, YouTube (which we monetize), and new content to add to the website constantly. All Internet efforts are to drive the fans to the website which sells the music and the merchandise, and offers tour info, news, and artist information. We sell merchandise and music on tour, too.
Marketing and promoting an artist is like a pie or a jigsaw puzzle. All of the pieces come together to make a whole pie (or a completed puzzle). You can’t make a whole pie with just half of the slices. You can’t complete a jigsaw puzzle with just half or a quarter of the pieces. Yet this is what most artists do continually. They then wonder why they failed and lost a lot of money. You can’t win with a partially promoted project. That never works. Just buying radio? Save your money. Just buying banner ads or placements on websites and blogs? Save your money.
If you don’t have the necessary financing, wait until you can afford to do it properly. Find an investor to properly fund your project. How much will all of this cost? Break out a piece of paper or spreadsheet, list everything you want to do to market and promote your project (including singles, mixed tapes, and full length releases). Price everything out, add it all up, and THAT is the budget you need to do this properly.
If you don’t know how this industry works: Learn! There’s a ton of info available out here. In fact, SlavesNoMore.com will be available this summer to affordably learn how to make money with your music.
If you have no experienced professionals on your team to advise you properly, hire someone with a PROVEN and verifiable track record. An experienced consultant will help you succeed and won’t allow you to give money to the wrong promotion people. All of your hired team will be able to deliver what they promise, which will lead you to success with a profitable project!
If the song takes longer than expected to catch on, keep working the single and push the release date back for the full length CD and download. If it blows up faster than expected, move the release date up as far as possible without hurting the project’s promotional efforts.
You could do this half-assed and damage your career, but why? You might as well just open the window and throw your money away. You can not stand out from all of the other music and the many distractions in the marketplace without a healthy budget. This is the music BUSINESS. Treat it like a business. There’s enough money out here for everyone.