Bands ask PR people all the time – “What should my release strategy look like? How do I maximize my impact on the scene?” Well I have an answer for you – we are going to look at some of my favorite bands for inspiration. So often bands want to go for the idea of releasing a single every month. The thing is – I have basically never seen that actually work out. People get distracted or busy or whatever and it just doesn’t work out. However, there is a way to balance between the two and stay on top of peoples minds. It’s the same as figuring out a tour strategy, by sometimes the best is to just start small but work in a way that is consistent that is going to keep you growing and in peoples faces regularly. If you can dive in and start to grow your release strategy with some of the ideas I outline you can feel certain you are doing much more than any ‘album every other year’ strategy could deliver.
One of the biggest metal bands in the world, Sodom, has had a release of some sort every year since 2012. Two of metals biggest up and comers, Full of Hell and Primitive Man drop multiple releases a year. How do they do this? By diversifying their release types, engaging in splits and realizing that the more they release on a broad set of labels the more likely they are to impact people. Any time you can tap into a new fanbase, be that with a new band, label or whatever then you are turning yourself onto the ears of another group of people. When you start to push with an aggressive release strategy, even if that strategy is not much more than ‘keep doing cool records with our friends.’ If you don’t have the contacts to do that yet, then you need to be engaging with your community at scale while you are recording and writing new material so the options for collaborations start to open themselves up.
The thing is, you want to have at least some sort of promo cycle every six months based around new material. The promo cycle for a new release is extremely different from a tour promo cycle and is much more likely to get you major placements. That’s why releasing new content like this is essential. The press need to have a reason to be paying attention. In an era where everyone is on tour constantly it’s hard to get attention around just playing shows. This is also why the straight single strategy doesn’t really work in my experience. A single on its own, especially from an independent artist doesn’t really have much clout. If you are lacking that clout the you are not going to be able to get the coverage you want. You can maybe get a premiere somewhere cool but that’s about it. And how much is a premier really worth these days anyway? I’m not against a single release strategy, but I think that it is better off when padded out with more content.
One of my favorite ideas for a band looking to put out their side of a split is to record a single, then get a good soundboard mix of a live track and record a quick and dirty cover song. For most bands this is fifteen or so minutes of material and it makes for a compelling piece of content. If your songs are shorter then add another live track. If your songs are longer then cut the live track out. These are the sorts of things that you can put out though that make sense and that don’t require a lot of effort on your end whilst simultaneously pushing the band to a whole new level. When you start to tackle your release strategy by taking advantage of the resources you already have and building around that then suddenly people start to pay a lot more attention. You are bringing something of value with regularity. This consistency is going to impress the bands and labels you want to work with. But you need to start by creating before you get anywhere.
If you are at a loss for bands to do splits with and labels to collaborate with then just start making lists. Scour Last FM and look through Discogs for recommendations. The thing is though, if you are dug into your community and talking to the people in that world people will have recommendations, don’t be afraid to ask around, that’s half the fun. In this way networking ends up becoming just as important apart of the release strategy as just about anything else in the entire creative process. Plotting around that and plotting how you are going to keep connecting with people is key. But again, if you don’t have the content to back it up, if the songs aren’t good and you aren’t working to put stuff out regularly then you are just going to lose interest. You will be viewed as someone who is in the scene but who doesn’t really make the moves to contribute.
The point being – releasing content in a smart way is really hard especially because of the pace you need to be doing it at. However if you do two or three EP’s or splits every year and counterbalance with a full length every two years or so then you are going to wind up in a good place. You want your discography page to be full of all sorts of obscura for fans to dig into. Don’t be afraid to pull from B sides and always record as much as you can. You never know when a song might get refined into something you want to share with the world. The more you are willing to explore and collaborate the more this sort of release strategy will be feasible. Make sure the press can always be chewing on something and you will get to that next level fast.