As the streaming economy and listening habits continue to change, so too does the approach artists are taking to release music. In this piece, we dive into the frequency and the different ways that artists should release new singles.
Guest post by Chris robley of Bandzoogle Blog
Releasing singles at a steady pace is one of the keys to success in today’s music industry.
Daniel Ek said as much in a controversial interview from 2020:
The artists of today who do it realize that it’s about creating an ongoing engagement with their fans.
A stable music release schedule helps you:
- Stay in the minds of the fans
- Avoid long platters or drops in streaming engagement
- Stay creative and productive (and on your game)
- Towards decisive versions for your career
- Find new ways to draw attention to previous versions
And if the new expectation is for artists to release music more often, the SINGLE is what makes it possible! (I mean, you probably can’t produce an LP every two months, can you?)
Completing a single song is often a much smaller commitment. in terms of hours and budget. And since you’re only digging into ONE song at a time, you’re focusing your creative energy.
A stable release schedule also means giving yourself deadlines, which can apply the best kind of pressure. Out of necessity, you will be making decisions now rather than later. And as the saying goes, “Better to do than perfect. “
Here are six different ways to deploy singles.
There is a lot of different types of singles that you can release: main singles, remixes, live cuts, demos, etc. And each of these can have a place in building your audience, as long as you plan your music outing in advance for success.
But in this article, I’ll approach singles from a slightly different perspective, exploring:
- O different types of singles fit into your career as an artist
- HOW certain singles play a role in a particular season of your creative life
- And what you plan to do for these singles
1. Release a single to make the right introduction
Three years before Billie Eilish released her first LP, she released the singles “Six Feet Under” and “Ocean Eyes”.
Years before Montero, Lil Nas X released the song… wait… you know what it’s called… it’s the biggest single in the universe… “Old Town Road.
Either way, these introductions set the stage for everything that followed. Powerful beginnings that carved out a distinct sound and identity for themselves, they were also an invitation to a particular type of party. These early songs not only defined the artist, they also defined the audience. They made it clear who should be the real fan.
And while Eilish and Lil Nas X have both matured and evolved, it’s interesting to go back and listen to those early singles. You’ll hear something so essential about artists, and it was there from the start. They were on the mark outside the gates. They were entirely themselves. And so, no matter how they change over the years, this introduction had a promise they can’t help but keep.
If you’re about to release your first song, is it genuine to who you want to be? Does this clarify who you are as an artist and who your ideal audience is? If so, you’re off to a good start.
Simply put, people can’t like you unless there’s something to like.
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2. Release an advanced single to build towards something new
In a way, everything you post tells a new chapter in your musical history. But what I mean here is: something different is on the horizon for you. A new album. A change of artistic direction. A change in your alignment. A great movement. And you want to lay the foundation for this change.
Singles give you a great way to signal what’s coming up without giving listeners a boost.. You are invite fans for the trip. You build anticipation. And you are hinting at a bigger evolution down the road. So when it does, it feels both exciting and inevitable, rather than a betrayal of the previous chapters of your story.
You can advance to a new phase of your music career by:
- advanced singles from an upcoming LP
- to make a release in “cascade”
- or even release singles as they’re done, then regroup them into EPs later
3. Release a single that stays alone forever
Even massive sagas like Star Wars and the Marvel movies have standalone episodes. They’re unique, meant to exist on their own, even though they refer to parts of the larger franchise universe.
These stand-alone chapters can be a lot of fun. The creative team can expand in a way that is freer of expectations. And if all goes to hell, that doesn’t tarnish (too much) the overall franchise.
The same can be true for your music. You might write a song that doesn’t suit your character at all. You can arrange a song with a completely different set of instruments than you are known for.
The track can confuse a listener who is invested in how your artistic identity is expressed through a complete album. BUT… this song could also have a ton of merit. It might be worth it to share. If it’s billed as a once in a lifetime experience, your existing audience might love it. And that might appeal to a whole other audience who might then appreciate your “truer” music.
So release it! Low risk! It does not all have to be linked to a larger work.
4. Release a single that reaches the audience of another artist
You play gigs with other artists hoping to impress their fans. The same goes for musical collaborations. Whether it’s multiple lead artists on an album, featured artists on a single, or remixes, when you work with a collaborator, you can tap into the audiences of others.
In fact, when you correctly list the employee’s information in your metadata during the music streaming process, you are guaranteed to reach a new audience because the music will appear in both artists’ streaming profiles.
Of course, collaborations can fit into ANY of the other categories I mention in this article. They can be a big part of a new chapter. They can be self-contained as a unique experience. And in the case of remixes, they can reference an earlier part of your story in a new and interesting way.
5. Release a follow-up single to maintain the momentum of a previous album
Once the album is released, the story is not over. You probably have more ways to reinvest in people than you think.
Demos. Remixes. Live recordings. Even songs that you made along with an album, but maybe didn’t match 100% to the record. These can be posted later in a way that links to your album, while feeling brand new at the same time.
You don’t have to be too valuable for these kind of follow-up singles either. Live demos and cuts don’t have to sound like hi-fi masterpieces. Your fans will always eat them (as long as they’re, you know, listenable).
6. Free singles that help you get rid of the clutter
Sometimes as artists we suffer from a sort of creative fog when there is too much unfinished work left on the table. There are also phases in our life when we are less prolific at generating new ideas.
If you find yourself in any of these places you may want to dig into older records. It’s funny; you might think of that negatively… like, rummaging in the trash. But I have noticed many times that I back to half-finished songs I had written or recorded a long time ago, so I wasn’t always the best initial judge of what is good or bad at the time of writing or recording.
Songs that I had forgotten sometimes sound surprisingly good to me later on. So … empty the safe. Finish that old job. And turn it off!
You don’t need to wrap it up like an album of B-sides, rarities, and unreleased songs like your favorite artist might have done when he had to pull out of a label deal. (These are usually pretty disappointing albums and reveal why the songs initially sat on the editing room floor). With YOUR unreleased tracks, it can… be stand-alone (# 3), refer to a previous album (# 5), or point to a collaborator (# 4).
You can even release them as singles and then wrap them up for a future B-Sides album! (# 2) Again, assuming these are good songs.
Completing all of those things half-done can make you feel like the slates are clean and now you’re ready to do something entirely new.
Whether we’re talking about completed recordings or ones you haven’t produced yet, there’s a lot you can do with singles. And you should explore all of these options throughout your music career. Singles are a crucial part of building momentum and maintaining interest in today’s music world.