If you’re just starting out with under 1,000 followers, dropping a 15-track debut album probably isn’t the right tool to get you the big break you’re looking for. Rather, putting out a single that gets added to a big Spotify playlist or climbs the Hype Machine charts is what will earn you that early buzz.
Nowadays, most up-and-comers release four or five singles first, and then put them out together as an EP. After a few EPs, they’ll ideally have enough buzz to drop a proper album.
The first week of a single release will seem like your biggest rush, but a lot of artists think you just drop a single, scream from a megaphone about it for a week, and then hope people keep listening. Sadly, that’s a recipe for a drop, then flop.
Artists who know how to sustain momentum can actually see their single do bigger numbers in the following weeks if they have the right strategy. Here are seven surefire ways to extend the life of your single.
1. Put a long-term press strategy in place
The normal approach for a single release is to have your song premiered by the biggest and best blog that will cover you. They premiere the single, and then all of the other press follows.
One common mistake many musicians make is putting all of their eggs into one basket — whether it’s just one blog or just one week of e-mailing bloggers. Think long-term: before you drop your single, lock in a premiere roughly one month in advance. Then send “early listen” emails to other blogs you want to cover the track, and then on release day, hit every blog in your contact list.
But don’t stop there. Send follow-up emails. Keep scrolling through the web for other blogs you may not have considered. Yes, blogs like fresh content, but you have anywhere from three to four weeks to catch their attention. Your first week will be the rush, but it should not end there.
2. Spread out your social media posts
Say you drop a single on Monday, and by Tuesday you have five different posts from blogs. Don’t post all five links in one day! Get all of the coverage possible from your single, and spread out that content on your social media.
Post links to the articles on Facebook. Highlight some of the best features on Instagram. Tweet every article and @mention the writers and publications.
In addition to press, you can keep posting about your song on social media in new ways — but do it thoughtfully. Posting the same link to your song over and over and over is just going to get you ignored. Post different links or pictures with different a call-to-action each time, and spread them out between non-promotional posts.
3. Work the Hype Machine charts
If you’re not familiar with Hype Machine, it’s essentially a music blog aggregator designed to discover new music. In order to get your song featured on Hype Machine, you’ll need to be covered by a participating blog. Hype Machine lets you search by genre, so find the blogs that cover your style of music and pitch to them.
Once you get featured, promote your Hype Machine link to your fans and friends in order to climb the charts. If your song does well and breaks into the top 10, chances are that record labels will have their eyes on you.
4. Create content unique to your single
As I mentioned earlier, posting the same link, image, and call-to-action over and over is going to get old. There are plenty of ways to come up with content that breathes new life into how you share your single.
For example, you could create a series of images that highlight the lyrics. Release them over time to keep the single in your followers’ feeds, but in new ways. Or if you have footage of you and your band working on the single in the studio, polish it up and post it a few weeks after the single as a #TBT to the single’s writing and recording sessions.
5. Record an alternate version
This is a fairly common method to keep a single relevant, because it works. If you’re a loud rock band or an electronic act, arrange a short, stripped-down version of your single and record it.
If your song is already acoustic, come up with a new way to perform it. It could be an a cappella version with hand clapping and stomping. There’s always a way to reimagine a song in order to give it a thrilling touch-up. Your fans will appreciate it, and it will remind them to go back to the single.
6. Release a remix series
Smart artists plan remixes for their singles before the singles even drop. It’s a way to keep the song alive, build relationships with producers, and reach a new fanbase.
If you can lock in a remix with a producer with a bigger following than you, that is the golden ticket. But be sure you’re approaching producers who will add value to your single, rather than just remix it. If your song is slow acoustic folk and you pay a dubstep producer to remix your single, will that really attract the right kind of fans for you?
If you don’t have connections to a bunch of great producers or the budget to pay for top-notch remixes, try holding a remix competition. You can make the prize simple: free tickets to your next show, a CD or vinyl of your upcoming EP, a poster, a T-shirt, or a small sum of money. You could even team up with a blog that will help judge the best remix.
Whatever you choose to do, figure out ways to incentivize producers to remix your track to keep the life of it going, even long after you put out the single.
7. Create a smart advertising strategy
The days of relying solely on organic reach have been gone for a while now. It’s imperative to set aside at least a little bit of advertising budget along with a smart, targeted strategy to reach fans.
In the first week, you really want to blast the song, but also have ads that run longer, even up to a month or two after the single. Boost posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Upload your track to YouTube, and pay for your song to be sponsored. If you don’t have a music video, that’s fine — just post the artwork with the audio or create a lyric video, and put a little money behind it.
Target listeners who like the style of music you play, and pay attention to where people are listening! It could be Australia or Germany or New York City. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you use streaming analytics to ensure that you’re targeting people who are most likely to become your fans.
Sam Friedman is an electronic producer and singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, creating music as Nerve Leak. Praised by major publications such as The FADER, his unique blend of experimental and pop music has earned him hundreds of thousands of streams across the web.