If you’ve never released music before, you have to start with a single song.
Artists at the major label level usually put out a single first, unless they’re dropping one of those “secret” overnight albums. The lead single rallies the fans, gets press talking, and builds energy for playlists or radio.
Here’s why releasing a single is essential for brand new artists too.
The reasons listed above MIGHT apply to new artists — especially since a single can serve as a lower-cost introduction to both fans and the music industry. In areas of the biz where you benefit from a few early champions, a single gives new artists a way to demonstrate “market viability.” Basically, does your music have appeal? Is it working for a particular audience? You can prove it with a single.
But there’s an even more foundational reason to begin your music career by releasing a single: You need music on digital platforms in order to claim your profiles.
However, those promo features are unavailable until you have music on the streaming services. You want to release your debut single, establish a presence on streaming platforms, and then be in a position to use their tools to promote your more important followup release (whether it’s a single, EP, or LP).
Your music can gain more traction on streaming platforms when you use:
But until you release something, you can’t get in there to claim your accounts or DO anything on those platforms.
Artist promo features offered by digital music services
Here’s just a few specific examples of what I’m talking about above:
- Pandora AMP has a voice messaging tool where you can talk to your listeners before or after they hear one of your songs, tell them about important news, and link them somewhere. Very cool. And totally worthless until you have music on Pandora.
- Spotify lets you customize your artist profile, integrate your concert calendar, build a following, and even submit songs to their editorial team for playlist consideration. All cool features. And impossible to use if you don’t have at least one song on Spotify.
- On the topic of Spotify, once you’ve released your first single on the platform, claimed your Spotify for Artists account, and built a following, each followup release is guaranteed placement on the Release Radar playlist of EVERY ONE of your followers (as long as you go through Spotify’s direct playlist submission process for each subsequent single or album).
- Similarly, you can’t do a pre-save campaign for new music until you’ve established a presence on Spotify.
Start with one song. Plant your flag. Grow from there.
The strategy is simple: As a new artist you should start by getting one song out there into the world. Claim your accounts. Then use all the tools available to promote your followup releases.
Chris Robley is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songsthat've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.