It's a cutthroat industry out there, and when time comes for you to throw your hat in the ring and release new music, it's up to you to do everything you can to maximize its impact. Here several industry experts weigh in on what artists must do to capitalize on 'premiere culture' as it functions today.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
With competition fiercer than ever, you need to be sure your next premiere has a meaningful impact.
How did you discover the last band that changed your life? Did a friend or family member introduce you? Did you catch them at a gig? Did an algorithm determine the artist or group was something you might like based on its knowledge of the last thousand songs you’ve played?
The music industry has changed. Consumers no longer rely solely on genre gatekeepers to determine the next big thing in music. Robots can do more to predict someone’s next favorite artist than even the most talented writer, and those machines are growing smarter with each passing day.
The days of blogs regurgitating press releases with copy and paste tactics to garner massive followings based on a falsely earned association with speed or authority are history. Today’s music fan learns about their favorite artist’s latest happenings from the artist’s official channel on any one of the numerous popular social media platforms. If not there, they can get the same news regarding tours or videos or studio time or really anything from the band members’ accounts or their label’s accounts or their publicist’s accounts or the venues where they’re playing or…you get the idea.
The days of blog exclusives are also mostly extinct. There are still countless blogs running so-called exclusives from the myriad of bands from all corners of the Earth every day of the week, but anything of value is almost instantly reblogged by everyone else, often without crediting the source. That change has lead many to accept far more pitches for premieres than in years prior. Sites that used to be highly selective are now forced to take on more premieres in order to reach the same traffic goals.
The only content that matters anymore is original content. In the case of premieres, that responsibility extends to both the artist and the author. The greatest song ever written can vanish into the depths of the Soundcloud and Bandcamp abyss if it debuts on a site that doesn’t care about the material. The artist’s fans will still care, of course, but they were going to care anyway. The fans are visiting for the song, and they will never visit again unless the site has something to offer beyond the material.
Unknown artists have an even greater need for talented writers. Exclusive content premiered through the right site can go a long way toward helping local acts gain national or even international attention. Excellent writing can make people click content they otherwise would scroll past, and it can get readers thinking about the music presented in a way they might not have previously considered.
James Rhodes of FiXT shared the following thoughts on premieres for this article.
“I think the premiere culture is a 2-way street. Both parties (artists/labels on one side, press outlet on the other) are looking for a value exchange. The artist/label wants some amount of exposure to a new audience along with receiving the credibility/recognition for being covered by the press outlet. The press outlet wants to cover content that will bring them engagement from current followers/readers as well as a new audience from the artist/label they are covering. But merely posting a song as a premiere doesn’t really move the needle anymore, at least for most young or developing artists (heck, even some established artists). Sometimes a press outlet doesn’t add any opinion to the piece, they just copy/paste what is given to them. As a label, I want the press outlet to provide some credibility and acknowledgment to the artist/music by having something positive to say about it, that would excite their readers to care about the content.
To do it right takes time/planning and time is merely the least available resource for all parties as well. Frequently, the reality is, a premiere is done just for the sake of having a premiere to satisfy the artist and we’d better just releasing the song direct to fans on Spotify and posting on our own socials. Sometimes we do a premiere with a ‘big’ outlet and literally gets tens of plays in the first 24 hours on a YouTube Video when we could have had thousands or tens of thousands if we just made the video public on YouTube. Other times, the press premiere is overwhelmingly positive and a win/win.”
Rhodes has an excellent point. As simple as it may seem, sites and artists often get what they give when it comes to premieres. Rushed content produces underwhelming results, as does writing void of passion. You cannot expect anyone to care about the content you don’t care about yourself.
There are also many intangible hurdles. Just because you share content on social networks does not guarantee reach. Having a plan in place to promote content beyond the initial posting can help, but there are still limits. The chances a single feature makes or breaks an artist are low, but that is all the more reason to care about making each element as impactful as possible.
Additional ideas to encourage engagement include:
- Sharing new updates with your mailing list.
- Teasing new content with audio or video clips shared on social media.
- Paid promotion on social platforms.
Logan White, a contributor to Substream Magazine, suggests artists consider pairing premieres with other essential releases.
“I love tying in the premiere to another piece of big news. Sometimes that’s an option, and sometimes it not. It doesn’t dictate whether I do a premiere or not, but it’s great to be able to give fans something else to look forward to. Especially for new listeners who are checking the song out, and the band for the first time, if they dig it then they immediately have something to look forward to.”
Molly Hudelson, another music journalist, emphasized the importance of artists aligning themselves with sites that care about their music.
“Where you premiere a song is huge. If an outlet is selective about what they premiere and is a voice that your audience values, this matters more than a premiere from a site that isn’t selective or doesn’t have a voice that connects with your fans. Premieres “just because,” with an outlet that doesn’t hold significance, won’t help.”
Whatever you choose to do moving forward, do it with purpose. Select the where, when, and how of your future premieres just as carefully as you select the music you share. The work is worth the reward, and that goes for everyone involved. If anyone says otherwise, run the other way.