HOW MUCH LEAD TIME DOES A MUSIC RELEASE NEED?
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
How much lead time should you give each and every one of your releases?
Whether it be a single, an EP or album, you need to leave a certain amount of lead time before it's available publicly on all platforms.
Whether for streaming, download or physical release, the lead time is very important. What I'm seeing a lot of artists do is, the moment their song is ready they schedule it for release in the shortest time frame possible because they just want the song to get out there and be in front of people.
While I understand that feeling as I've been there, where I was extremely excited about a release, I was held back by physical manufacturing. Years ago, in order to warrant your music being pressed on CD or vinyl, it needed time to be tested for viability.
A record company, which is a business, needs to test a product for viability before investing in it, so in the past, DJ's would be sent records (test pressings) to play in clubs or on radio to test its value and see if there is a market for it, if there would be some kind of demand. Based on the response and the crowd reaction, the company would determine whether that record would be a viable release and if so, how much time and money to invest in that record.
That was a lengthy process and therefore required long lead time to get the music produced, manufactured, tested, distributed to market and to media, etc.
Today, with streaming and digital downloads being the prominent music consumption methods, we have the ability to release a record almost immediately, sometimes within three to four days as some distributors and aggregators offer. There is a risk when doing this, as sometimes you tell your audience that the song is going to be available in two days and then when the day comes, it's not available on all platforms because they couldn't all get it uploaded, scheduled and propagated in time.
Doing this can upset your fan base or put people off of you because you'll be giving them information that's not true and you look like you're not standing up to your word.
That's reason number one not to schedule your releases too soon but rather give your release a longer lead time by scheduling them further in advance.
Another reason, and very importantly, if you want to generate hype and build anticipation for your record, you need to have strategies and plans in place, along with the tools and people to execute those plans and strategies in order to generate that hype and anticipation. In order to do all of that, your record needs adequate lead time to execute your strategy and have all third parties involved be able to play their role in the release.
What should the lead time be? That depends on your strategy and plans but it should be at least a few weeks to a month for even the simplest campaign and many months for more complex campaigns.
To get your music in front of people, magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, social channels, etc are all valuable to you and each individual platform and outlet will have their own required lead times for their editorial. Of course, all of that needs to be taken into account, so if your song is scheduled for release in four days' time, a monthly magazine won't have enough time to go over your release and write about it in time for their next issue. Websites will also require a certain amount of time and will often want exclusivity, so there again your lead time needs to take their platform's operational procedures into account.
Thirdly, to submit your music to the editorial teams behind Spotify, Apple Music and any other stores that you might be looking for features on (Beatport, Traxsource, Juno, etc), you'll require some lead time. For example, to reach out to Beatport, you'll need to have some DJ support already, as proof of value to that stores' audience. So before your release campaign, you'll need to run a DJ promo campaign to gain that support.
As for streaming platforms, Spotify for example, they have Spotify for Artists for your to submit your music to their editorial team for potential playlisting and to do so, you need to have a minimum of seven days between distribution and release and even that is cutting the timing fine. That's their minimum requirement which is of course not the ideal situation.
The real value of Spotify for Artists is not necessarily in the editorial features and playlist potential but rather in the metadata you provide. Their platform asks you for finer genre, territory, cultural and instrumentation specifics. That information is extremely valuable to your release, even if the song is not selected for playlisting.
Here's an example, let's say your song is a psychedelic rock song with electronic influences, in the vein of Tame Impala or MGMT. Through your distribution, it will be listed as a Rock song but so will a song from Nickelback, even though those are very different styles of music.
By entering more info in your Spotify for Artists account, you can specify that your song is psychedelic and features synthesizer, electric guitar, drum kit, and samples, further assisting the Spotify algorithms and recommendation engine to place your song in front of a much more suitable audience to your music.
The recommendation engine and algorithms are largely misunderstood and people are taking wild guesses about how they operate but it's all actually quite simple to understand and it's honestly remarkable what they do for you if you use them correctly.
So although there's no one-size-fits-all solution, the longer your lead time, the better. The more time you have to execute all of your plans and strategies and reach out to the people that can help give your release more impact, the better your releases will do and the more your career will grow.
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