How to Grease the Wheels for Your Album's Success
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her; confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
My band Swearwords has been playing together for a while now -- we've put out two well-received EPs and have filled some of the crucial rooms in Chicago. This year, we'll be releasing our first full-length and touring the Midwest and both coasts. Any advice for keeping the momentum going and priming the pump before the next push?
Neil, This is a great question to be considering a few months in advance of your album release. Too often, bands only think about doing things after the record is out, overlooking crucial setup. It is worth getting a head start, rather than scrambling once the thing is out. For the most part, it sounds like you are on track -- doing a lap around the country for good measure, working on getting decent local shows. That is some of the harder work involved.
Start working on promotion around town -- even if your album isn't due out until September. While you don't want to preempt all the press you want to get around the album's release, now is a good time to get on people's radar. Start inviting writers that cover local music, DJs who have local music shows and Chicago-area bloggers out to shows and working on introducing them to your band's work. Drop them a few-sentence e-mail and let them know where you are in the process of making the album. For some journalists/writers, that is a part of the process they like to cover. Maybe you get a news item out of you being in the studio.
Let them know when you are anticipating releasing the record -- even if it is six months from now. Maybe someone will want to have you in to talk about the making of new album on their show/podcast before it is out, debut some tracks. The thing you are working on is getting a trickle of attention going and gaining useful contacts.
You want to be consistent, not pushy. A simple two-line email inviting them to any bigger show you are playing about a week before the show is ideal. You do not need to invite them to every show. Things that can help develop a rapport: tell them if there is another awesome band on the bill, or that you agreed/disagreed (respectfully) with their review of a new record, respond to one of their tweets -- just something that isn't like MY BAND MY BAND OMG PLEASE LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY BAND, all desperation-robot style. You are paving the way in advance so that you have a direct route to them once it is time to drop the album.
If you would like to hire a publicist/radio/marketing for your album promotion, three to six months out is the time to start shopping for them. Ask bands you know, bookers, folks at small labels for recommendations, find out whom they usually hire (or if they do). If the new album is a departure from your existing material, having demos of two or three songs will be useful in this process, if you do not have the entire album already in the bag.