by David Roberts
It’s still technically winter-time at the time of writing this post, but before you know it, it’s going to be spring and there’s a good chance that you’re thinking of releasing a new album.
I’ve read at least a dozen articles with people who make sweeping claims like “Don’t release in January” that quite honestly don’t have any idea what the hell they’re talking about. When you should release your album depends on A LOT of factors and there’s no simple reason why you should pick one month over another. It all has to do with what your plans are AFTER the release. Let’s take a look.
In the last few years there has been a big push to get major label artists to release their music in January. For years, January was considered a dead zone in the industry because holiday sales were low and the chances of a record making it big and staying in people’s minds between January and the next big push of holiday sales was almost zero.
Having said that though, that opened up a new market for artists with staying power. Adele and a few other major names (Lana Del Rey, Arctic Monkeys, The Maccabees) knew that they had some clout and would be able to capitalize on the “lack” of new music in the January season to make marketing easier and cheaper to do.
Indie Advice: January is a pretty good month for indie music because music bloggers are fresh off the high that was “The best of the previous year” articles that they spent all of December posting and are looking for something new to talk about. Since bands don’t send them much right after the holidays, you’ll have a pretty good chance at getting placements. Having said that though, if your goal is to ride the Christmas-buying wave and you don’t have a STRONG following, releasing in January means you’ll be irrelevant by March and come year end, no one will even know your name.
February – May
Here’s where things start getting hairy. Spring is PRIME album release time for “indie” bands. I use the term “indie” loosely because here I’m referring to bands who are most likely to be playing festivals. Obviously, Adele doesn’t play festival gigs and is more of a mainstream artist than someone running the festival string. I digress.
Spring time is horrendous for competition. It’s when the new year is in “full swing” and bands are looking to get their records out so that they have something to push through spring and summer tours, as well as to help keep a band relevant to land festival gigs.
Indie Advice: If you’re thinking of releasing in this time period, you better be damn sure that you’ve got some money to break through the noise with. Blog advertising costs go up around February to May because big name artists are also going to be fighting for the same space as you. You’ve also got to worry about people’s listening span. With so many new records to listen to from big name acts, bloggers and fans will be a bit tough to sway to listen to your own stuff. Avoid Spring if at all possible. Release a single or a new video, but don’t let your whole record out just yet. Play some shows, sell your old CDs, build hype, etc.
June – August
Things start to calm down in the summer months (or winter if you’re in upside-down land. Aka Australia). But that still doesn’t mean it’s optimal time to put your record out. If blog coverage is your goal, there’s a good chance you won’t get a whole lot of love. Summer is festival season and blogs will be quite busy covering their favorite acts at big festival dates. Obviously, festivals don’t run the entire 3 months, but the bigger taste-makers tend to favor posting about bands who will be performing at festivals (because that’s the “news” of the stories and press releases that are sent to them).
Although, despite it being festival season, smaller blogs tend to have a harder time getting new content to write about. Although submissions still come in, because the bands that “matter” have already sent in their new album information, blogs are struggling for content if they can’t make it to Bonnaroo or CMJ in New York City.
Indie Advice: Summer is a solid time to release. Don’t expect to get a lot of placement on ForkPitch, but smaller blogs will be all-ears as usual. You can get away with releasing in the summer if you have the time to promote heavily. It’ll take a bit of extra attention to grab the ears of college students and young people who will be attending festivals. New music doesn’t stick very well in this time period because of how music-heavy the summer is to begin with, but you won’t be competing with bigger name acts for promotional space as much.
Finally, the winter season. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the winter months are generally best for major label artists trying to ride the holiday wave. Obviously, as an independent artist you’re probably not very worried about how well your album sells during a specific time of the year, but rather if it sells at all. September-December is ignored largely by independent artists because there’s no summer-touring involved, nor is there a winter tour they’ll be supporting either. Going out on the road when there’s snow on the road is generally a no-go for anyone, which is why September-December is the quietest period in the year for album releases.
Indie Advice: If possible, release your record in this period of time. Obviously, you won’t be able to go out on tour in support of the album, but because you’ll have your album broadcasting to open ears, you may be able to follow up with a single/EP release in the early part of the following year to tour behind. When you’re an indie, exposure is what counts the most in the beginning, so having a solid footing to build off of when you’re trying to compete for more/cheaper advertising space on social media sites is crucial. If this is your first or second album release, use the safety of September-December to build a repertoire with blogs about your music.
A lot of what is mentioned above is based around one thing: touring. If you’re an indie that’s looking to tour after the release of an album, then there’s a good chance your press release will contain tour information about what you’ll be doing following the release of your album. If your goal is to get more exposure for your tour, and in turn get blog readers interested in coming out to your show in town, then you should make your decision about when to send out your new-album press releases in regards to how good of a chance it has of being written about.
If you have no plans of touring then just about any of the above time slots will work. Obviously, take into account the fact that festivals and other factors will affect a blogger’s decision to cover you, but generally speaking, smaller bloggers (not the huge tastemaker ones likes Pitchfork, NPR, Paste, Obscure Sound etc) won’t have as much to cover during high-traffic music months.