If you’re an independent artist who is looking to grow their following, there are plenty of effective ways to do so. Dropping a full length album out of the blue is not one of them. (Unless you have a 6-figure marketing budget and you’re Taylor Swift, then maybe). Rolling out great content consistently is essential to snowballing a fanbase, and staying top-of-mind with those familiar with your music will help maintain the following you’ve worked so hard to grow.
1) Consistently-released music turns cold listeners into warm fans.
It’s important to first understand that a casual listener and a fan are two very different things. Listeners are anyone who likes your music and will probably stream it for free, but isn’t that interested in who you are as an artist or person. Fans are committed listeners who not only love your music, but also follow you on social media and are fans of your persona or your project’s persona.
At the surface level, it’s easy to see why releasing and promoting a single each month would be beneficial to gaining new listeners. However, this consistent stream of content is much more important for nurturing listeners into fans. A fan is at least 100x more valuable than a listener, and that’s an underestimate.
In todays world of algorithms, content that is more interacted with gets driven to the top of the feed. Every platform wants their users to stay on that platform, so they spend an incredible amount of effort making sure each user sees content that is as relevant to them as possible. Listeners might like your posts, but fans comment. Fans want to interact with you.
Fans interact positively with your songs on Spotify. They pre-save, they don’t skip you song, they save it to their library, and maybe even add it to a personal playlist. All these little interactions lead Spotify to recommend your song to other users through Algorithmic Playlists because they think it will keep them on the app longer. All this without even mentioning that a single merch-purchase from a fan could be the profit equivalent of anywhere from 2,000-10,000 streams.
2) You can only pitch 1 song at a time for playlisting through Spotify for Artists.
Even though getting onto playlists is not always the end-all-be-all that some people make it out to be, it’s important to at least give your music a shot of getting a spot on an editorial. If you drop an album, you’ll only be able to pitch one song to Spotify and the rest won’t have the opportunity. Releasing those songs one at a time will give you many more opportunities overall, including Discover Weekly and Release Radar.
3) Monthly releases make it much easier to effectively manage a budget.
There are SO many reasons monthly releases make sense financially. The budget for an album can be overwhelming for the independent artist, and if you cheap out on things like production and mixing your music will suffer. Not only this but a lot of artists have to spend so much to front the cost for an album that they don’t have any budget left for marketing or PR. Based on your income, you can calculate how much you’re willing to spend on music each month and plan accordingly. You also give yourself the opportunity to adapt and learn from each release. Tweak your budget based on what works and what doesn’t.
4) You can have the best of both worlds.
Obviously there are plenty of perks to releasing an album that aren’t the same with singles.
- You can sell CD’s and vinyl,
- You can do more consistent branding,
- Album specific merch
- And the list goes on
The hack for this that many artists are creating a compilation album.
Here’s what you do:
Release a song per month, for anywhere from 3-10 months. After that period is up and you have one song left, release a compilation album with all of those songs on it, plus one additional unreleased song or a “bonus track.” Could be a completely new song, or a special version of one of the other singles. (Think acoustic version/live version/demo/etc.). This is important so you’re giving your audience something new to listen to with the release, and so you have a song to pitch to Spotify Editorials.
When uploading the album to your distributor, make sure to use the same track titles, audio files, and ISRC codes as the singles. When the album goes live, your songs will retain their stream counts but will show up as both a single and a part of an album.
5) Giving yourself a deadline every month will keep you productive.
It’s usually better if you don’t give yourself an opportunity to second-guess yourself. SO much music goes unreleased because the artist didn’t think it was good enough, or kept changing their mind about production or lyrics. Now I’m not saying you should let the quality of your work suffer in order to hit a deadline, but staying proactive and ahead of schedule will put you in a better position to make good decisions with your music and release. There are very few instances where it’s actually better to hold back a song. Most of the time it’s best to just release, move forward, and use what you’ve learned to continue to create better and better music.
Jonathan Korzelius is a mix engineer from Nashville, TN.
@echo.mixing on Facebook and Instagra