Monday, December 8, 2008

CD Release - Setting a PR/Marketing Timetable

I've been taking a few weeks off from songwriting as I process the boxes containing many copies of my second digiPack CD that I just received from DiscMakers. The PR/Marketing process is a little bit easier the second time around, because I have a bunch of notes from the last CD. This got me thinking about suggesting how to go about making an action plan timetable for your CD marketing efforts for those who may be doing this for the first time.

1. The first thing is to get the CD sounding perfect of course. This usually means first being satisfied with the tracking, then being satisfied with the production and mixing, and lastly being satisified with the mastering, whoever is performing these roles. If you are not progressing through any of these stages, get help (producer, (multi-)instrumentalist, engineer, mastering engineer) and/or a fresh set of knowledge ears involved.

2. Once the 'product' per se is done on the audio side, you of course need to get the CD packaging done, which may involve a designer who specializes in this sort of thing. If you have the chops and want to attempt it, download the templates and have a go. Remember you will need to use 3 main inks on the CD, include the fonts and images used, note the song order and durations, get the bar code art.

3. At this point (and to get the bar code), I go the CDBaby route and fill out as much of the CD info I know and pay for the CD and the barcode, which gets me the bitmap UPC code I need to finish the design.

4. I send the audio CD and data CD off for replication, which takes about 2 weeks or so. I try and get 50% of them poly-wrapped. It's up to you, but some stores and places like Amazon require the wrap. As soon as I get them back, I send the 5 that CDBaby requires (which starts the 3 week process of digitizing the CD for digital distribution), and I send copies to Amazon as well, separately uploading the higher-res CD art and 30 second sound clips Amazon wants. At this point, I assume the music will show up on iTunes in 2 months or so from when CDBaby receives the CDs, this is only a guess, but in terms of setting the actual 'release date' of the CD, it seems sensible to pick a date when people can hop over to iTunes and find it.

5. For the next 3 weeks while I'm waiting for CDBaby to do their thing, I start to focus on reviews. Though sources like the Indie Bible are useful for this, I find it helpful to make a priority based list of where would most like to be reviewed and work down from that. Of course, may reviewers only want mp3s and don't want you to follow up and probably will never respond or review your work. But this is part of the drill. So I start by listing all the review sites that would influence me to buy something (about 20 or so): a combination of blogs, podcasts, web sites, local press, weeklies. For this, you have to switch hats and regard the situation from their point of view - they want good narratives, interesting stories, something exciting, different, coupled to an event, with an attractive picture. Imagine also they get 100 CDs a day. Pick your targets carefully, think about what your larger goals are (driving traffic to iTunes?) and proceed.

6. A subeffort of (5) might be directly soliciting a few quotes that you would like to use on PR material. Once you have something in hand, many artists make up posters and start planning a CD release party and date. The assumption is you can do your songs justice when playing them live. Oasis has a whole CD about CD release parties.

7. The next step would be to start booking shows corresponding to places where you have some fan base or draw or other connections. If you are just starting out, try organizing a show with performers who already have some fans - everyone likes an organizer...

Hope that provides some food for thought. Look me up on CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes if you are curious.

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