If you’re an independent music artist then you will at some point have had to/will have to plan an event to launch your music at and it is common knowledge that creative people, particularly musicians, are not great at being organised. I am no exception to this rule so when I went about planning my recent EP Launch, to say it was a difficult task would be a bit of an understatement. However, I somehow managed to get it together and it was an amazing and fairly successful night, if I do so say myself. I learned a lot during this process so I thought I’d share my newfound knowledge with you, in the hopes that it will help some of you out there. So here goes.
1. Fail to plan, plan to fail etc.
Some of you may be thinking that to put on a show all you need to do is book a venue, send out a Facebook invite, show up on the night and play a set. And if you have done that and it worked well for you, then I will hire you on the spot as my marketing/PR representative because that’s AMAZING! But if, like me, you live in the real world, then there is a lot more involved. When you’re starting the process of putting on a launch event, sit down and make a plan. Pick your date and then schedule in everything that needs to happen before then (we’ll go through these things in the next points). Make your schedule for at least 2 months so that you know exactly when you need to do what and so that you’ll have enough time to complete all the necessary tasks.
2. Location, Location, Location!
Getting your venue sorted for your event is the first priority. I had a really stressful time trying to get my venue sorted because I (rather naively, in hindsight) had decided on a venue, checked that the date I wanted was free in their calendar and thought I’d be fine to just book it, easy as that! However, when I went to book it – about 2 and a half months before the launch – they informed me that they were closed for renovations. So I went about trying to find another place, but what I quickly learned is that good venues are usually booked 2-3 months in advance. So I was pretty stuck and was having an incredibly stressful time trying to lock down a venue until I finally found one that was available. Moral of the story – lock in your venue 3 months in advance to be safe!
3. Facebook is not enough!
Now you’ve got your venue, you’ve sent out your Facebook invites and you’re feeling pretty good about everything. But don’t be fooled, now is not the time to slack off! If you want people to come – and I mean more than say, 10 people – you need to put a good promotion plan into action. Unfortunately in this day and age, people don’t really need to leave the house to be entertained, thanks to the myriad of online streaming services – movies, music, TV shows – all from the comfort of your couch. Which does make it tricky for undiscovered artists such as you and I who are trying to make a living from live performance. So how are you going to get people there? Online promotion is your new best friend. Once you’ve let people know that you’re having an event, you need to show them why they should come. Make sure you’re active in all of the main social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook – and remember to update them with interesting and relevant content so people stay interested and excited about your event.
4. Single release
If people have never heard your music before and have no idea what style you do, they’re less likely to come along to hear it, so the best way to show them is to do a single release. Choose the best track from your EP/album, release it online and PLUG PLUG PLUG!! A Facebook ad for the single can be a very cost-effective way to get people listening – just make sure that you choose your target audience carefully so that you can reach the right people – people in your area, people interested in the style of music you do and people in countries that have a thriving music scene for your style of music.
I’d also recommend announcing the single release a few days prior and building up a little anticipation for it using Instagram or Facebook updates – just be careful not to take it too far! You don’t want to be one of those people saying ‘Two days, six hours and four and a half minutes until I release my single!!!!’ It’s a fine line, my friends.
5. Make friends with the media
In the months before your launch event I’m sure you’ll be plugging it to everyone you know and making sure they’re all coming. But to have a well-attended gig, you may need to extend your reach a little. Now you can either go out and make a few thousand more friends, or you can make just a few – because a few friends with good connections is all you need to get heard. A great way to get people listening to you is to contact local radio stations – particularly ones with a local music segment. Email them some info about you and what you’re launching, as well as a sample of your music – send them a download link to your single (Dropbox is great for this) as MP3s can be too big to send over email. Their contact details can usually be found on the radio station’s website.
It’s also not a bad idea to get in touch with any bloggers or music reporters you may know and ask if they wouldn’t mind having a listen and either reviewing your music or just giving you a mention to their audience. Gig guides are also a great resource – most of them are just online sites where you can submit your info and it’ll go straight into their calendar for people to see.
6. Paint the town…with your posters.
Posters may seem a little old school in this digital age we live in, but they’re surprisingly effective still. The venue I worked with asked me to supply them with posters, and after they put them up I got quite a few people I know messaging me saying they’d seen my posters around and how excited they were for the gig, which was really cool! Because of that, I also put some up at my church, my work place and my uni and had a similar response. Apparently a well-designed and well-distributed poster campaign still works! And if you’re looking for someone to design said posters or album artwork, chat to Caity at www.thesoulcrusade.com, she’s amazing and so great to work with!
Speaking of album artwork, get it sorted sooner rather than later. Check out other albums for inspiration (Pinterest is great for this, as usual) and decide whether you want photography, an art piece or something else entirely. Once you have an idea of what you want, it’ll be so much easier to get it done, and then as soon as you have your master back you can send it all off to the printers and it’ll be ready to go in plenty of time. Save yourself the stress and do this one pretty early in the process, just in case there’s an issue with the printing.
If you’re located in Perth, I’d recommend ProCopy – they’re fairly inexpensive and the results are awesome.
8. Get a website
Again, websites are a little overlooked these days because who needs a website when you’ve Instagram, right? Wrong. Don’t underestimate the power of a good website – when people are checking your music out online, they don’t want to have to track down your username on 5 different social media sites just to get a feel for your music. Having a central hub on the internet where people can go to hear your music, easily access all your show dates, ticket information and social links is a huge advantage. I’d recommend using Wix.com – this is not sponsored or anything, I just think they’re great. It’s free to make a website, it’s SO user friendly and looks so professional. I ended up paying for the premium option, which is a little pricey but definitely cheaper than paying a web designer, and have not regretted it since. The resources available are amazing and they’ve recently brought out Wix Music which allows you to distribute your music to all the major online stores and streaming platforms, at no extra cost. Which is always nice, and leads me into my next point.
9. Online Distribution
So now you’ve sent off you album to the printers, you’ve got a website, you’re getting super pumped for the gig. But what if people can’t make it to your gig or live overseas and therefore can’t get their hands on your CD? This is why you need to distribute it online to iTunes, Spotify, Apple music and all the other streaming services that are popping up. Now if you’re thinking you can just email your songs to iTunes and they’ll chuck them up for sale for you, you would be wrong. You need to go through a third party distribution service. As I mentioned before, Wix.com is the one I went with as I’d already paid for the service and it was included. But if you’re not going with Wix, you’ll need to shop around for a distribution service that has reasonable rates and great service, so make sure you read reviews from people about their experiences with different companies. The best ones I found were CDBaby – I’ve used them before and they are inexpensive and have great customer service – and Symphonic Distribution, which my brother used and found to be fairly cheap and very good quality. But do your own research as well to make sure you find the one that works best for you.
10. Book your rehearsals in advance.
If you’re lucky enough to have a band of great musicians who are constantly available to your every rehearsal whim, then that’s great – you won’t need to book in rehearsal time. However if your band is made up of incredible working musicians – you need to schedule in some time to rehearse and give them plenty of warning. I’ve found the best way to do this is to use a tool like WhenIsGood.com – basically, you put in times and dates for possible rehearsal times, people select the times they can make and it shows you which ones are good for everyone. Once you’ve got your times locked in, make sure you have a rehearsal space available to you. Whether it’s your living room or a rented rehearsal studio, make sure it’s available and suitable to your needs so that you’re not wasting anybody’s time trying to set up and make it work. It’s also good to have a plan for the time so that you know exactly what you need to run through and when, so that you can use your limited time effectively.
Thanks for reading everyone - those were my tips for planning an EP/album launch, I really hope you found them useful and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about the process! Happy planning and good luck with your launch!