My name is Rob Jamner, and I am a songwriter from Berkeley, California. On February 22, 2019, I am going to release my first EP into the world. It has been a long time coming, and I want to share a few things that I have learned.
Before we get started, I want to acknowledge that I was working with a pretty solid budget, and I have seen artists run successful release campaigns with almost no budget at all. I chose the following tips because I think that they apply to anyone, regardless of budget.
1. Create a record that you’re excited about.
I know it seems obvious, but this is the most important step. If you’re not proud of what you’ve created, you’re not going to promote it very well.
Whether you’re mixing your album in a home studio over the course of six months, or booking a professional studio for a few days, you want to prepare as much as possible. Practice your songs. Make demos. Take notes. Write out arrangements or collaborate with musicians you trust.
I spent about three months getting ready for my recording sessions. Working with my voice teacher and my guitar teacher, I tried to become a more expressive and consistent performer. I recorded demos of my songs to get a better sense of what I wanted to do in the studio.
(Listen to the demo at the link below)
Track one: the demo I recorded for my song “Eventually.” Track two: the studio version.
As important as it is to be prepared, once you are in the studio, you have to let go of everything and trust yourself. Your record will not be perfect. It will be something even better: a time capsule of an important moment in your life. Enjoy the process. Embrace the imperfections. When it’s done, let it take on a life of its own.
I recorded my EP, Holding Stones, at Tiny Telephone over the course of seven days with an amazing mixing engineer and a wrecking crew of studio musicians. I wanted to share it immediately, but I knew I needed to be strategic.
2. Bring your story to life.
In order to generate interest for your record, you need to create a narrative about yourself and your music, and find ways to bring it to life. Where do you come from? What are you passionate about? Why do you make music? What makes you unique? These can be tough questions to answer, and it might help to get an outside perspective. I would recommend working with a marketing consultant, or reaching out to some close friends.
As an artist, I am passionate about collaborating and building community. Knowing this, I designed a project that turned my passions into a compelling narrative. I commissioned five video artists to create short films that paired with each of the songs on my EP. Instead of asking them to make traditional music videos, I gave them the creative freedom to tell their own stories. I didn’t know how any of the films would turn out, but I loved the idea of my own art inspiring other artists.
I want to share the first two films with you.
The first film is an animation about a woman whose procrastination turns into a monstrous plant that takes over her house.
The second film tells a story of love and friendship between a man and his pet fish.
If you can find a clever way to tell your story, people will get excited about your music. Find something that feels authentic to you and run with it.
3. Give people easy ways to engage with you and your work.
Once you have a story, you want to make it easy for people to learn more. Start by putting out a single from your record, and make it available on as many platforms as possible. I would recommend a distribution service like CDBaby or Distrokid, along with independent platforms like Bandcamp and SoundCloud.
To draw people in from your social pages, post a video for your song. It could be as elaborate as the films that I commissioned, or as basic as a performance recorded on your phone. In fact, simpler videos often perform better on social media, so don’t be afraid to post something that’s a little rough around the edges.
Spread the word in your community. Make friends at shows and open mics, and hand out download cards of your new music. If you give people something tangible, they are more likely to follow up. You can order download cards from services like Dropcards and Bandcamp.
4. Promote. Promote. Promote.
People need to hear about something many times before they start to remember it. I’ve heard that it can be as few as seven times or as many as 30 times. It’s important that you keep posting about your record release on social media. First of all, you can’t assume that everybody sees everything you post. In fact, social media algorithms tend to limit your reach. By posting regularly, you increase the chance that more people will start checking in. Second of all, the more you post, the more that your story will come to life.
If you want to get a higher level of engagement, I would recommend building an email list. Mailchimp allows you to organize your emails and create beautiful campaigns, and it’s free if you have fewer than 2,000 mailing list subscribers. Give people an easy way to opt in to your list, like a signup page on your website. If someone joins your mailing list, they are more committed to you than a typical social media follower. Also, if a social media platform collapses (see Myspace), you won’t lose your contacts.
Finally, don’t be afraid to send personal messages to friends and family. As long as you are not spamming them, they will be excited to hear about something that is important to you.
5. Make notes for next time.
When you do your first album release, things will not go exactly the way you expect. Some ideas will yield great results. Other ideas will fall flat. That’s okay. If you make notes about your first release, it will help you make smarter plans for the next one.
I have certainly learned from a couple mistakes during my first release. I wish I had networked with more people in the months leading up to my release. I wish I had picked a smaller venue for my release show (I recently backed out of a venue that was too big for me, and I’m still looking for a better fit). I wish I had posted more consistently on social media, and explained my project to people earlier on. But I don’t regret any of these things. Instead, I am excited to take what I have learned and apply it to future releases.
I hope that these tips have been helpful. If you have music to share, don’t hold back. The world needs your voice.
More About Rob Jamner:
Rob Jamner is an indie rock storyteller and poet. He thrives on ambiguity, playing with expectations in his music. Some moments are catchy and cathartic, others are surprising and sophisticated, and they all come together to make a singular, distinctive sound. Passionate about building community, Rob frequently collaborates with other artists to bring his songs to life.