November 4, 2010

Week 7: How To Release Your Music (Part 2 of 3)

(This is Week 6 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Do-It-Yourself Music Advice)


So, you’ve decided how you’re going to present and package your music. Now you’ve got to plan a killer CD release show. You have got to dream big. Knock the cobwebs out of your brain and come up with something that will make people want to come out and celebrate with you. Put some honest thought into this and it’ll likely pay off in a big way.

The CD Release Show (Part 2 of 3)
Snake Skin Prison CD Release Poster

Can You Touch It?
Have the CD in your hand BEFORE going any further. Don’t assume the company producing the physical product will make deadline and have t for you. I’ve been to quite a few shows where the band is hosting a CDless Release Party. It doesn’t look good for the band.. at all.  People have chosen to be with you, pay the cover price, and help you celebrate this occasion. They’re probably even willing to drop a $20 to buy your music. The LEAST you can do is have it available for them.

You can only have one CD Release show (well… per town your band calls home). Make it count.

Booking A Club
There are a couple of schools of thought here. Do you play a club where you’re a regular or try and shoot for the stars and book a club a little bit bigger than the ones you’ve been playing?

If you are a local band, chances are you call a certain club home base. It’s where you play the most gigs. In my thought process, this is where you should host your CD release show. It tells the booking agent, bar owner, and club manager that you see them as an important piece of your band brand. 

If you take the bigger is better route, make sure you’re taking a step as a band and not just doing it as a one-off. There’s a good chance that the club who’d always book you will see this as a little bit of a slap in the face and it may be harder to book there the next time. But, if you’re trying to step-up to the next tier, go for it. Use the CD release show to announce your arrival.

Please, if you do the latter, make sure you explain things to the club that gave you our first chance and helped you develop the following you (hopefully) have earned.

The Line-Up

Again, there are a few ways to go about this. I’ll present three. Depending on the club you’d like to play… you may not have an option, but just in case you do think about these.


Get on a Line-up

Find out if the club you’ve chosen has a good line-up scheduled or a headliner that works with your style of music. Sometimes you can get lucky and a national act or a popular local act will need an opener and if you play your cards right, you can promise the club a few more folks through the door than any other opener (you ARE going to have a good crowd to come support you… right?).

Provide Your Own Line-Up

Assuming you are not selling out clubs right now… come to the table with a headliner that is one of the top local draws in your genre. Do your homework on this one. The idea is to find at least one band that provides a much bigger draw than you and have them play directly AFTER you. That way you get the benefit of their fans who are ready to party and a few more heads through the door which will likely mean a few more dollars in your pocket from CD sales. I remember there was a band I did some promo for called Loss Rayne. They released their CD Fragile Mind in 2005 at Alligator Grill (an unconventional spot but nice) and booked Malford Milligan to headline. It was a packed house.

It’s a Party… Right?

It’s your CD release show… wouldn’t you like to pick three other bands who are buddies of yours to help you celebrate? This will work best with a smaller-club scale release. It’s just a big-ol party and you are as much of a participant on stage as in the crowd. Just keep in mind, if this is your choice you’ll probably give away more CDs than you sell, but darn you’ll have a good time.


I’ve already done two stories about promotion. You can read them here - Week 1 and Week 2. The addition to that is… this isn’t just another show. It’s a CD Release. Treat it special.


Something that has impressed me is bands printing physical tickets to a CD release show. Most recently, the Austin band Snake Skin Prison has gone this route for their CD release party that is happening on November 19 at The Parish Room in Austin (see poster up top). The bonus cool thing they’re doing is lead singer Matt Ballengee is posting photos of people with their tickets in a special album on his Facebook. Buy tickets for this show here. 

A band that always seems to impress me on the promotional front is Full Service. They’re actually releasing an acoustic album on November 27 at Stubb’s and they are offering a download of the album for free in exchange for ordering an advance ticket. Show information here.

I’ve made the statement before and I’ll likely use them as an example again. Watch these two bands. They are doing a lot of things right in the band promotion game. If you want to learn you should watch, listen, and follow them (Also follow area folks like One-Eyed Doll, Dave Madden, Trashy and the Kid, and Three Kisses).
Another impressive thing for me is when bands go out and push the album through conventional media. Sometimes this takes many attempts, but if you’re playing your cards right, you can likely get booked on a TV or radio show, get a review or interview in a magazine, do a few podcasts, and get some bloggers to rave about the show. Now, if you’ve not given a crap about any of these things before your CD release show is planned, why should they care about you? This is why making good contacts in media is important.

Finally, sink a little bit of money into design for the CD and promotional posters. Your CD is a big achievement. If you want people to drop their money on the product, you need to drop a little bit of money, time, and energy on the materials you’re going to be handing out to promote the piece.

When I was working for a federal grant, my boss always wanted to throw in a little extra at the end of a presentation… something unexpected but appreciated. He called it a lagniappe (Click the word for an actual definition).

What does this involve for a CD Release show? I don’t know.. they sky is the limits. Announce from stage that you’ll buy a shot of J├Ągermeister for the next 3 people who buy a CD. If it works… announce that you’ll do the same thing for EVERYONE who buys a CD during the last song (What better way to end a CD release show than with an audience participation shot?). Throw a few nice t-shirts out to the audience. Make a package deal just for the show, free shirt with CD purchase, or an “everything is $5” sale. Play a song you have never played before live just for your diehard fans. Give everyone who buys a CD a raffle ticket and give away the drumhead from the show signed by all of the bands who played. Something big.. something that will be appreciated.

Cheers to Jagermeister
(This is from my birthday bash in 2006)

FYI: If you do the shot thing… warn the bar… and work a deal with them.)

Dream big. It’s a HUGE deal. You’re birthing a CD and setting it free to the world. The more of a big deal you make about the release the more people will take notice and maybe do a little talking you up to others.

Also, remember, the CD release show is the BEGINNING of the promotion of a new album, not the end. After the show, you have got a long way to go.. so get some sleep (the next day or two) and get ready to hit the promotional trail hard the next week… because you’ve got to get some press on this bad boy so it can grow some legs and run on it’s own.

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