Album Release Checklist
So you got your album mixed, and mastered. Awesome. The odds are, if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking to release it now, right? Lucky for you, we have put together an awesome, definitive and ultimate album release checklist for you to work through!
Remember, it is important to plan all of this in advance, so give yourself enough time to run through all of this.
Album release checklist part one – the fun stuff
Releasing an album is fun. It is exciting. You have spent a lot of your time creating your masterpiece, from recording it down to getting it mixed and mastered.
The fun does not stop there—there’s a lot more to do!
1. Capture awesome photos
Besides having high-quality music, having high-quality photos could also be the deciding factor between having your music heard, or being completely ignored by the press, or even by your own audience.
Musicians and bands are competing for the same limited attention by the press. Journalists have limited time and space for the many press releases they get sent. The first that thing they will probably see is your press photo. Remember, people see you before they hear you, and if your photo is not cutting it—your music stands less chance of being heard.
Now, what makes good photography?
Here’s a checklist within a checklist (nice!):
- Choose a photographer that suits your style well. Take a look at their portfolio—have they shot similar bands/artists? Let them understand your vision and ensure you are all on the same page.
- Style, style, style! If you are a group, make sure your fashion and style is co-ordinated—we don’t anybody sticking out like a sore thumb. If you’re a folk singer-songwriter, don’t be wearing your AC/DC shirt. Consult with a stylist if you are not sure on how to present yourself.
- Location is important. Make sure you scout out some viable locations. Maybe you’d want to hire out a professional photography studio. Make it interesting, maybe there’s some cool backdrops you can consider, but standing in front of a brick wall? Boring! Like nobody has ever done that before. Try something new.
Take time to invest in your photography, and it could pay dividends. It is key to note that whenever you do release new material to ensure that you have a brand new set of photos, and not to recycle the same ones over and over again. It kind of goes without saying, but people like to see a refreshed look whenever you release something new.
This is definitely something that you should not be considering as an afterthought, no matter how important or necessary you feel your band/artist image is. Consult with us, and we will be arrange advice or work on your music marketing needs.
2. Create your album artwork
Artwork and music goes hand-in-hand. It serves as an idea of what the listener can expect to hear from your music. Like your photos, it is an opportunity for you to make the right impression your audience.
Unless you are indeed a graphic designer, or if you have never touched Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, we’d recommend that you stay well away and clear from creating the album artwork yourself.
Similarly with photography, you should find an artist who can envisage your idea and suits your style. If you have multiple releases, you may want to consider keeping your artwork consistent throughout—check out Iron Maiden’s artwork.
Requirements for album artwork:
- Minimum 3000 x 3000 pixels and square (digital aggregators will require this)
- Minimum 72 DPI for digital, 300 DPI for physical
- Do not include URLs, hashtags or social media handles (it’d look tacky, and would not be approved)
- Do not include references to brands
- If releasing in a physical format, follow the guidelines and templates from your manufacturer
3. Shoot a stunning music video
A music video adds to the art and brings depth to the song. We definitely recommend filming one if you are serious about your release.
If you are looking to shoot a video with a concept, choose a director who can help turn your project into reality and portray your music and art in the right way. Like choosing a photographer, or an artist for your artwork, it is important to identify whether their style will suit yours.
If you have a lower budget for a music video, you can also consider shooting a video that solely focuses on your performance, or even a lyric video.
You should also think about whether you’d want to release your music video via Vevo, or on your YouTube channel. In another article, we have also covered whether it is beneficial for artists to be on Vevo or not—it’s worth checking out if you are on the fence.
4. Plan an album release party or book a tour
One of the most fun and exciting things about releasing an album is getting to play it live in front of a real audience. Hire out a venue if you feel confident that you can promote it yourself, or work with a good promoter.
Once your music video is out, make sure you are selling your concert tickets on YouTube. Don’t forget to also list the event on Facebook, Songkick, BandsInTown, Last.fm, and of course, your own website.
5. Get your website professionally designed
Having a website is like having an online business card. It establishes your professional presence and your brand.
When creating your website, you will also need to make sure that it is mobile-responsive, ensuring that those who browse on smaller devices will be able to access your content, as well as improve your rankings on search engines, and increase the amount of time visitors stay on your website.
During the album release campaign, you ought to keep your website updated with content relating with the launch, with it clearly established on the homepage, as well as up-to-date blogging content to keep your visitors informed.
6. Plan your release date
We recommend planning way ahead in advance, so you will have enough time to get the publicity your music deserves, and also to organize all your other creative assets.
Never rush into an album release. You have spent hours, days and months, or maybe even years to create your masterpiece—why simply release it in a rush and hope for the best? Take your time and make sure you allow it enough time for it to flourish in its promotion.
7. Engage with a music public relations company
As above, plan in advance! Start engaging with a music public relations company a couple of months before you decide to release your album.
PR firms will need at least six weeks in advance to prepare your press release, EPK, and start pitching your music to outlets. Since most reputable outlets and radio DJs will require a lot of time in advance to prepare their journalism pieces, interviews, reviews and radio shows, it’s key to ensure that you give your PR agent enough time allocated to sort things out for you.
8. Start a mailing list
If you haven’t got a mailing list, we’d definitely recommend setting one up. Emails are not likely to die anytime soon, even with the evolution of social media. People still use emails—I am sure you do! It is a great way of making your fans and audience feel like they are in an exclusive club, and a more intimate way for you to connect with them.
If you are new to this, we would recommend setting up MailChimp or MailerLite. You can start getting all fancy by introducing email automations to those who sign up, saving time and making processes efficient.
9. Write or update your band/artist biography
An obvious one that sometimes gets neglected. Keep your biography up-to-date! When you have an album release this year, make sure your biography is not still referring to a single release a couple of years ago.
As well as mentioning your album release, make sure to highlight your current musical career achievements—such as where your music has been featured in. Ensure your members are kept up-to-date—maybe you have a new drummer.
Just keep it updated.
10. Set up your online store or crowdfunding campaign
Music is sadly a rich man’s game. All of the above things cost money. Photography, music videos, artwork, public relations—they all attribute towards a large budget that needs to be set aside for your album release to be a success.
However, while it is an optional part of this checklist, we do recommend having your album release crowdfunded. Not only is it a great way for artists to receive funding for their work to be produced, but it is an excellent way to connect with your fanbase.
Album release checklist part two – the boring stuff
Well done! You are halfway through this checklist. Next, we have got to work through the boring stuff on this album release checklist.
It is a useful list of all things that can help with your general administration, the collection of royalties, as well as improving your digital PR and search presence.
1. Register the songs with a performing rights organization (PRO)
If you are in the UK, you’d want to register with the Performing Rights Society (PRS). If you are in the US, go for ASCAP or BMI.
Registering with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) will help you collect performance royalties, so you will get revenue whenever your song is played on radio, or at a venue. Pretty neat, huh?
Feeling lazy? The other option is to find a publishing administration deal. We recommend using Sentric Music or CD Baby. These companies will take the hassle away from registering songs and chasing royalties for you.
2. Work with a digital distribution company or aggregator
Okay, so this one’s an obvious one for the checklist. If you didn’t know this, then you definitely need to know now before you release your album.
If your music is ready for the world wide web, then you need to get it distributed online. A digital distribution company will make your music available on digital platforms such as:
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
Is your song a cover? If so, make sure to get a license to release it!
3. Create an electronic press kit (EPK)
If you are wanting to get press coverage for your music, then you’d want to get an electronic press kit (EPK) set up before release.
What’s an EPK, you ask? It is exactly what it says it is. It is a page where reviewers, radio DJs, journalists can access your:
- music video
- press release
You could do this on your own website, or arranged neatly in a Dropbox or Google Drive folder.
Of course, you’d want this to be hidden from the public before the release date, so you may want to password protect it, or have it on a private link.
If you need an EPK created, send us a message, and we’d be happy to help you.
4. Upload your music privately
Journalists, bloggers & radio DJs will want to listen to your music before it is released, so they can prepare their piece, or consider playing it.
5. Copyright your music
Copyright your music. Make sure nobody can steal it, legally.
If you are British citizen/resident, you don’t need to register your music in order to secure copyright protection in the UK. As long as it it recorded or written down, your music is copyrighted the moment you create your original song.
6. Upload your track on the BBC Uploader
If you are a UK artist, you ought to take advantage of using the BBC Introducing Uploader.
Uploading your music on there will allow BBC Radio to listen to your tracks for airplay consideration. You will also receive notifications if your music was listened to.
You can also set a regional location. For example, if you are in London, the tracks will be assigned to BBC Introducing team in London for them to listen to.
7. Publish your album’s details on MusicBrainz
If you are not familiar with MusicBrainz, it is an open encyclopedia of music metadata. In fact, it used by the BBC to as their source of information.
It collects details such as artist names, tracks, titles, record labels, song durations, and links to social media and websites.
As MusicBrainz supply information for the BBC, it is ideal that you submit your album information here, so that see all the correct information.
8. Place your songs on a sync licensing platform
Sync licensing is a very lucrative way of making money from your own original compositions and recordings.
If you’d like your music to be used in film, TV, commercials and videogames, then you will need to add them to esteemed licensing catalogues.
Adding your music to be available in these catalogues will ensure that if your songs get played, you will get paid!
9. Register for SoundExchange
10. Generate smart links
Consumers of music do not use the same stores or streaming services to listen to their favorite music. You may find that segments of your audience will prefer to use Spotify over Apple Music, or vice versa.
Generating smart links will help organize and put all your links to the streaming services and digital stores under one single smart link. There are many tools available for this.
Some smart link services allow you to redirect the user based on what device they are using. For example, you may want to redirect Apple iPhone users to iTunes or Apple Music.
11. Set up your Spotify artist profile and submit pre-release information
If you have not already, you should set up your Spotify artist profile.
Once your artist profile is claimed, you will be able to edit your artist biography, choose your ‘hot picks’, upload your profile picture and cover image, and access useful insights on what playlists you are on, and information on your audience’s demographics.
If this will be your first ever release, you will not have Spotify profile until the release it out. To claim this before your record is released, contact your digital distributor and ask for the ‘Artist URI’. You will be able to access Spotify for Artists by giving them this URI to claim your profile.
Remember to submit your pre-release information to Spotify, ideally six weeks prior to the release. Spotify’s editorial will review your submission and see whether your tracks are suitable for placement on playlists.
12. Claim your Apple Music artist profile
There are two ways to claim your Apple Music for Artists profile. You can go through either methods:
- Use their iOS app
- Claim via their website
Apple will verify your identity or relationship with the artist using the information you provide to them. You can use Apple Music for Artists to upload your artist image and view useful insights.
13. Submit your lyrics online
One of the cool tricks we like to do is to submit band lyrics to lyrics websites to add to your digital and search presence.
You know you’ve made it when you can find lyrics to your songs on multiple websites online, right?
Not only that, but your fans will be able to look up the words to songs and will be able to sing along to them at concerts.
Websites such as Genius, AZLyrics, Metro Lyrics, and LetsSingIt allow you submit lyrics for approval on their website. Usually, there is a submit button or account sign up button somewhere for you to do that. Here are a list of websites you can submit to:
14. Get on Wikipedia (if you are notable!)
One of the first things people do when they want to get to know bands and artists is to read their Wikipedia page.
For as long as you meet the notability guidelines, you are eligible to create a Wikipedia page about your band or artist.
Also, you’re not supposed to write your own, so be sure to get someone who knows how to contribute to it using Wikipedia’s guidelines and formatting.
15. Get physical music distribution
We have talked exhaustively about the online and digital side of things on this album release checklist, but physical music stores are still a thing.
Even I almost forgot about this when I was releasing my first album, Constellations! It was not until I looked at a back of a CD jewel case that I realized.
For this, you will need a physical music distribution company who can distribute your CDs on shelves of stores such as HMV, FNAC and Best Buy.
Get in touch with one, and see if that is something they can do for you!
And that’s it!
We’ve covered both the fun and boring stuff in this ultimate album release checklist.
Hope that’s been useful for you!
We help musicians and artists reach their full potential with their single and album releases. If you are in need of a music marketing agency, we will be able to take care of everything digital for you.
Feel free to send us a message. We’d love to hear from you.
Want to add suggest something to the album release checklist? Please leave a comment below!
- Sell your concert tickets from YouTube
- How to get your music video on Vevo. What are the benefits & drawbacks?
- How to become a verified artist on Spotify
- How to pitch to Spotify playlisters & curators
Starstorm Digital was founded by award-winning music performer, producer, and digital designer, Kai.
Kai performs in a Japanese rock/metal band called Esprit D’Air, which achieved international acclaim, featuring in HuffPost, BBC Radio, Kerrang!, Louder & more. The company name was named after the band’s song, ‘Starstorm‘.