What if you could make people fall in love with your music before they’ve even heard it?!
That’s the subject of today’s installment of Why It Worked.
Flip the script on release timelines
When Kevin Breuner and I joined the future-facing BandLab Technologies team in 2023, we knew we’d get to observe a whole ecosystem of artists succeeding in innovative ways, through the use of new tools, instant and global collaboration, and unorthodox release strategies.
BandLab, after all, is a platform where creating and sharing music is understood as a social activity and a living process. Recording can be synergistic, particpatory. Feedback can be easily sourced. Tracks can be revised, forked, or finished.
And even when a song reaches that final stage — it’s mastered and delivered to outlets like Spotify — it feels like a very different kind of occasion from the old-fashioned “official release,” where artists toiled in secret and then presented their strange new work all-at-once to the world.
Our favorite music promo from the last year
In 2024, fans often love new releases not because the music is alien to them, but because it’s already familiar. They’ve watched the process unfold on platforms like Reels, TikTok, and BandLab. Fans may have even contributed to that process in some way.
So the “official release” isn’t an introduction, or even a culmination, but yet another form of invitation and participation.
There was a story Kevin and I covered on our former podcast that perfectly illustrates this kind of release strategy: the social rollout of Walk Off the Earth’s song “My Stupid Heart.”
And even though the song came out about a year ago, we felt like it was such a great example that it’s worth revisiting here as part of the ReverbNation Blog’s Why It Worked series.
So what can you learn from this case study? How did Walk Off the Earth get people invested in their upcoming single before it was out?
Here’s how to make fans love your music before it’s released
Don’t post announcements, tell stories
The band didn’t rely on mere information such as: “The song will be out on X date!”
That would’ve simply created awareness. Which is very different from anticipation.
Instead they built a whole world around the song, post by post.
Teach people who the song is for
Walk Off the Earth takes us on a journey that starts with a direct address:
@walkofftheearth If you have a stupid heart, then drop a ❤️ in the comments! #walkofftheearth #stupidheart #lovesong #givingseason #yearontiktok #givingszn #fyp #foryou #music #heart #love ♬ My Stupid Heart Walk off the Earth – Walk off the Earth
They tell us what the song is about, someone heartsick to get back to a toxic relationship. That’s a fairly universal but emotionally-charged experience.
We know exactly who the song is for. It might be YOU!
Make release dates the least important thing
Instead of holding the song back, Walk Off the Earth let fans see, hear, share, and participate in aspects of the song’s story long in advance of the release date.
What you share TODAY about your upcoming music has to be compelling on its own. The content can’t rely on viewers taking a later action.
Tell the story in many different ways
Probably the most impressive aspect of this campaign is how many different videos Walk Off the Earth made.
Each with a completely unique approach and tone, including:
- Humor and memes
- Stirring up controversy
- Music-related trends
- Funny studio moments
- Teasing the song in different arrangements:
Hammer the hook into our heads
When it comes to social video content, Walk Off the Earth really plants an earworm by ONLY sharing the chorus.
Over and over and over again. They weren’t shy or apologetic about the repetition.
Did we get bored? Nope. Instead, the hook became like an old friend we’d meet at a new party every day.
Budget the time to do it right
The fact that they created so many stellar videos means, of course, that they’re highly skilled in video production, good at coming up with concepts, organized enough to execute them well, and dedicated enough to finish dozens of ideas.
Not every artist is going to be at this level. Walk Off the Earth are stars of TikTok and YouTube for a reason.
But the point is: Work hard!
Up the chances of viral success
They didn’t do the typical thing of chopping one video shoot into 15 different snippets. They committed to many different ideas.
When you make dozens of different videos for a single release, assuming all of them are creative and well-executed, you’re really improving the odds that one or two of them will go viral.
Walk Off the Earth found the most success with a video of the singers’ kids, because… of course they did! They rock it:
@walkofftheearth Our boys have been obbsessed with our new song ‘My Stupid Heart’ and wanted to perform it for our TiKTok peeps! What should their band name be?! #walkofftheearth #mystupidheart #romeoeats #wote #wotekids #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #newmusic #musictok #producertok #newsong ♬ My Stupid Heart – Walk Off The Earth
But would they have even MADE that video if they hadn’t committed to the plan of shooting and testing many others?
Invite fans to collab
Another kind of content was the open verse challenge…
@walkofftheearth Replying to @Guelu we can’t wait to hear what y’all come up with! #mystupidheart #openversechallenge #walkofftheearth #musictok #newsong #musicontiktok ♬ My Stupid Heart – Walk Off The Earth
… which got a huge amount of fans creating and sharing their own videos!
And remember, all of this happened before anyone had even heard the finished song.
As a fan, when you take the time to add your own creativity and voice to a song, you HAVE to hear the official version when it’s released, to see how much better or worse YOUR version is.
So why does anticipation and fan collaboration work for music promo?
- The audience already feels they have shared ownership of the song
- As a result, they’re invested in the song and want to see it succeed
- They want to remove the mystery and hear the full song now that they’ve heard the hook a hundred times
When the song dropped on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, there was a built-in audience and ready demand. People were waiting to stream it on release day, because for fans, it wasn’t “day one.”
It was another step in a journey they’d already been on for months.