By Ben South, The Orchard's Senior Manager of Client Relations, UK.
So, your biggest priority of the year is approaching: a new album from the most prominent artist on your roster. You’re feeling organised; with 3 months to go before release date, the album is mastered and in production for physical. The digital is uploaded and ready to submit. Press and online teams are hired and have begun their campaigns. You’re releasing a single 2 weeks before street and have a radio plugger on board for that, along with a completed video. A 20-date tour is booked starting release week. Lovely. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, hopefully nothing at all. But as a label manager, one thing that still surprises me is that I am sometimes not made aware of all this activity, or I am told when it is too late for me to effectively utilize. Digital stores plan the layout of their storefronts ahead of release date; they work to deadlines just like everyone else. So getting them the information they require on time is essential.
In days gone by, I used to call up buyers at shops and sell in records. Healthy sales were dependent on a plot, being able to tell buyers what they needed to know about the release, why their punters would be buying it, who’s playing it on radio, which publications would be reviewing it. Collectively we can refer to these selling points as “marketing drivers.”
Additionally, understanding what a shop sold, their market, a buyer’s tastes and knowledge and more generally nurturing great relationships all helped the process and allowed me to sell all kinds of releases, even if they were niche records without much in the way of marketing behind them.
The digital world is a different beast, but all of the above still applies. However, while there were 1000s of shops all with their own niche, in the digital space there are far fewer players, so I would argue that marketing drivers are even more important than they used to be. Essentially, if a service is going to give your release visibility on their store, they need to know it will sell. So, I thought I’d give you a brief rundown of what you need to send to your label manager and when, to give your priority releases their best chance at digital retail. You’ve gone to all the effort of marketing your artist and giving their new release all the support it needs, why stumble at the final hurdle?
Depending on the scale of your release, some of the below may not apply but some of it must.
What We Need
A listening link. Sounds obvious I know, but it’s important. The people who make these editorial decisions want to be able hear what they’re going to be recommending to their customers. And make it easy for them, it needs to be a streaming link. Links to downloads no thank you.
A press release or one sheet
Sales history and predictions. How well have previous releases from the same artist done? Have they charted? What are your predictions for first week sales, digital and, if relevant, physical?
Have you set up a pre-order and how’s it performing? Anything specific to particular stores (exclusives, bonus content etc)?
Artist assets. Links to your artist’s online assets and social profiles: their website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram, Songkick, etc. with stats where relevant.
Press & Publicity. The name of the artist’s publicist and the PR company running the release campaign — print and online. Provide details for all territories where there is activity. Send clear and concise breakdowns of print coverage, online, perhaps even TV! Is it a review, a feature, perhaps a front page spread? This should include items that have already run, things that are confirmed and also TBC.
Radio. Have you hired a radio company or plugger (if not, try iPluggers)? Which stations and shows have been playing your music? Are these spot plays or playlists?
Video(s). Are there any videos associated with the release? If so, have you secured support with an editorial partner?
Advertising. Are you running any print or digital advertising? If so, what publications? What’s the budget for digital and what platforms are you targeting?
Live. Is the artist / band touring? If so, where and when?
Where? Territory focus. Let your label manager know where your release will sell, where there’s a plot — whether that be local PR, tour dates, radio promos, and so on.
Is your artist happy to post pre-order links and buy links during release week? (Note: never link to multiple services in the same post.)
Definitely include anything else you feel pertinent and any key selling points not already covered, like details of contributing or featuring artists.
When We Need It
The all important question. It goes without saying there should be an ongoing dialogue between you and your label manager for all your priority releases. Make them aware of your release from day one and keep them in the loop with all developments.
As a rule of thumb, the further in advance the better. Ideally you’d be supplying your label manager with a list of marketing drivers 6 weeks before release date. This won’t always be practical, but at the very least it should be 4 weeks in the US and 3 weeks ROW. Leaving this short lead time should be the exception rather than the rule. 4-6 weeks is what you should aim for. This will allow your label manager enough time to process what you’ve sent them and communicate to The Orchard’s various retail marketing teams around the world.
In addition, chase up your PR companies so that you can send your label manager one final update exactly 2 weeks before release date ROW, 3 weeks in the US. Your client manager wants that in their inbox first thing Monday morning.
Of course, there are occasional genuine last minute priorities that pop up and in these instances we do our best to work around tight deadlines. For the rest, it is often a simple lack of communication. We know you’re not doing everything 2 weeks before release date, so just keep your client manager informed. Cool? Cool.