How Musicians Get An Album To Be Heard By Millions Of People In 2024

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Some of the stupidest YouTubers love to say controversial things like “the album is dead” since it gets them views and money for their stupid course. But have you ever noticed every artist you love cares a lot about the albums they make and really put a lot of effort into them? It’s almost like those course-selling YouTubers are full of shit about everything. The fact is, an album is often a point where you can make an artistic statement, or use it to end an era where your fans reflect upon your music, and is also a way to make money and up your fans’ enthusiasm so you can have a moment to call attention to yourself to build a fanbase. The reality is, albums are still huge.

But as many of you have pointed out, until now, I haven’t really gone all in on them on this channel and how they figure into marketing. But let it be shown, I listen to your comments, and well, it’s about that time. Now one of the things we should first establish is “what is an album?” Since my comments are often really confused. So one of the funny things about albums is in the roughly 75 years that they’ve existed is they’ve been basically the same exact thing. A way to say that these particular songs belong together under this title.

Since till about 20 years ago, they existed solely in the physical form, and they would be evidence that at some point you considered this a bunch of songs that went together. But even those would change from time to time, like when Body Count had to pull their absolute banger of a song, Cop Killer, off their classic debut, and when The Strokes had to pull New York City Cops off their classic debut. Anything both records had to be changed for the same reason really makes you think. Anyway, there’s proof that both of those existed, but the way albums differ in the streaming era is the old version no longer exists once you change it.

But truly tomorrow, if you had nine albums out right now, you could shuffle all the songs for a week, then shuffle them up the next week, and those are all your album for the time being. Ugh, I know I just gave some brain genius the dumbest idea possible just now. God help us. Anyway, I know a lot of you are thinking that if you make a physical album, then digital has to match, and Chief, let me tell you, that hasn’t been true in god knows how long. For decades, there’s been less songs on the vinyl and more on the CD or cassette, and vice versa. Vinyl bonus tracks were huge in both the 90s and 2010s in some genres. Really, albums have always been, well, whatever you define them to be.

But in the digital world, since you could have some manic episode and change around your album, depending on how you think they should go regularly, like you were some guy named Pablo and you were just living your life, reimagining the tracks and putting up new versions, sounds oddly familiar. So what is an album? Really, whatever you decided it is this week, you can go in the back end of your distributor and change it in the digital world anytime you want. You can repress it with different songs and make a new version. However you want to express to your audience that these songs belong together, well, that’s an album. And that’s the same as it’s always been, but it’s a lot easier to change these days.

And these days in the digital world, an album really is just an artist sanctioned playlist, because they can change on a whim. Because truly on the consulting calls I do with musicians, you all seem really confused. Since most of the time an album is an artistic choice about what goes on there, and some of you treat it like everything needs to be a business decision, but some things really should just be about your art. But let’s be honest, albums can be marketing and business decisions and it all affects the marketing. So let’s chat about that.

So an album is more than just the songs on it, since it means a lot to the listeners and leaves open a lot of interpretation, and most of all it’s a point of conversation that can evolve to spread the word about your music through word of mouth, record reviews, online discussions, that really help it get heard by new people. But let’s talk about this from your perspective first. An album is often a statement with a theme behind it. That statement can be as simple as “here’s what you were doing since your last one” or it can be a profound shot across the bow of a genre’s indictment of how it has become generic, or whatever words you want to string together so the goat Anthony Fientero can roast it when he reviews it.

But when you put it out there in stories, Instagram grid captions, interviews, behind the scenes videos, or an essay, whatever you like, the statement about the album can give the not-so-gifted brains in your audience the nuance to talk about it when it’s more spelled out. And yeah, sure, some artists can do this through mystery and illusion, and frankly, if you’re capable of this, you don’t need my help doing it because you’re clearly a master of metaphor well beyond my help. And really, in a lot of genres, especially the more antiquated ones, you really are judged by an album as to your career trajectory since now the world can see if your latest record has more or less streams, and a general industry truth is if you’re successful, then have two less successful records, well, you’re now a legacy artist, and will get less and less opportunities till nostalgia brings you more opportunities in the way of 10 year anniversary tours, etc.

But even outside dad rock, indie punk, and metal, the album orientated rock genres, albums are a point where your scene checks in on your progress, and while that may scare you, if the reaction is good, this is what makes careers. In even pop, hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music, which are probably the least album orientated music, records are consumed less by the average user, meaning that the number of people who listen to singles will be drastically bigger than those who listen to the whole album, but there’s a reason these artists and these genres take albums seriously, in that along with that you can drive a lot of consumption, what also happens is a fan who builds a strong relationship with you will financially support you, unlike one who hears you on a playlist occasionally.

But some of you are really uncomfortable being judged for your album. In fact, a lot of the biggest artists I’ve been in a room with have been crippled by fear of how their audience will react to a change in their sound, but really whether you like it or not, all albums are gonna be judged that get any public attention. This is why so many artists have been making mixtapes instead of albums, because they give an artist psychological safety to experiment. Just look at Charli XCX, which she was calling her initial experiments with visionary producers AG Cook and My Forever Queen Sophie, as they redefined pop. FKA Twigs called Capri songs a mixtape, as it was a real departure from her last two LPs. But really, it’s a way often for artists to adventure without having to have some guy with millions of followers judge them and have to talk about it for years to come.

But really, these mixtapes talk like an album, look like an album, and walk like them. But for some reason, we let artists dodge the heavy weight of an album judgment with when somebody calls it that. But back to what albums actually are for artists. Sometimes an album can be defined by its vibe, or emotion, or the genre palette you’re working with for the time being. For example, in 2023, Skrillex put out two albums with totally different vibes across 27 songs. Really, he hit an inflection point in his career, where it was time to tour, play Madison Square Garden, and a ton of festivals, and he wanted to call some attention to himself, but he had two totally different vibes of songs. So he just went in and separated the emotions out.

It’s in Spotify, TikTok, Instagram, Apple Music, or for that matter, anything that’s algorithmic based, chooses violence against anyone who’s diverse with their music. This allows you to choose your own vibes you’re looking for, and not have an album so long that no one will ever listen to it, and instead, a coherent statement that people can discuss. But there’s also defining an album by your era, which could be a certain amount of years of your life. For example, the pop artist Lau famously just waterfalled his How I’m Feeling Now record until he decided it was done and put a cap on the era, and if you don’t know about that, watch my video on Waterfalling Your Music. Charli XCX made one of the best pop records of all time with How I’m Feeling Now as a reflection of COVID era lockdown emotions.

But really, you can define an era in so many ways. This can be your sad-thussy era as you explore your gender identity after a breakup, or your banger era where you just make party music. Whatever it is, you need to just tell your audience that as you tell stories, and more frankly, if people care, the narrative will spread, and people will often identify with it. But really, what I think is important when I wear my marketing hat instead of my producer or artist cap is that this is all a moment to call attention to yourself. And what I mean by that is as long as your pre-order link is up and people can pre-save stuff from you, well, that does you good to keep promoting that album before it’s out. But let’s talk about what that looks like.

Now, we all know I’m the guy who started the conversation about how absolutely stupid it is when unknown lesser-known artists tease their music as it misses opportunities. But since albums are not for new listeners as much as those who are curious about you, the rules are a little different. Since let’s be real here, chief, an album could be how someone first takes you in, but odds are the reason anyone is going to listen is curiosity has been created and hype’s been created around you in that somebody’s heard a little bit about you and maybe it’s time they finally give you a chance. So while singles and music videos are often the samples we use to get most people interested in an artist, an album is the moment where we tell people to focus on you as you’re about to go off and potentially really grow the relationship with the listener.

Since we all know when someone makes a great album, our relationship to the artist grows immensely as compared to when they put out a bunch of singles, some of which are often mid at best and others are ones we rinse. This is all to say, unlike singles, albums should be talked about for months before releasing. In fact, it’s common to announce an album on, say, single three of five or five of eight and then dropping another single between the album’s release after eight weeks and then dropping another single release day is often a way to make a huge splash. And when you drop that album, dropping that last single, it can be a way to call a lot of attention. And some people save their Opus of a music video for release day of their album to call attention to that album. But all these decisions can be creatively used to get attention for the album.

But let’s be real here. Occasionally, some nerd will review your single on TikTok. Albums are really what gets talked about and makes it so writers, influencers, YouTubers will make videos and create conversations around you that can resonate far through your genre. If you do something exceptional and it’s time to create this moment where you feel like you are a lot of places at once, well, that really grows an audience. Since albums are more profitable by nature, it can even be time for billboards and other marketing since the return on investment can pay off. And when people see your record in lots of places, well, people who talk about music notice fast and feel the need to talk about you if they’re seeing you in many different forms.

This is some of why putting out an album that really blows up is doing like what I’ve said in my community video and you collect all the addresses and contacts of people who are influential in your genre and make sure they get a copy of your record and are alerted to it. The more people who are talking about it, the more people who love music and take it in all the time are going to feel the need to listen to your records. Since while a single can get you some attention, so many of the tastemakers who can elevate you to more fans if you get past their gate will only look at an album. And this is why making sure you do your community work and notate these tastemakers is crucial so you get that fan base growth when you put out your album. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about with community work, head down to the description.

And what I’m really saying here is when it’s time to really up your audience and you’ve really put in work and you’ve got some momentum, putting out this album can really be when you get that big boost. But I kind of skipped one of the main reasons to release an album, which is MONEY. The fact is the pre-order bundles of shirts, weird merchandise packages, VIP packages, vinyl cassettes, and the million concepts artists seem to come up with are frankly, well, how you drive up sales and walking advertisements for your music, aka merchandise. You know, the shirts, hoodies, or those stupid bucket hats. Well, these are a point where you can often sell them since you’ve been rolling out these singles and fans are excited to hear your LP before you disappoint them with a bunch of good album tracks.

Because if I have to hear your record is nothing but bangers one more time and they really sound like a bad version of Skrillex Bangarang, I’ll not listen to it. But the reality is many of your favorite albums exist because some artists needed money to fund a tour, child support, or their next venture, or their manager or label said, well, those singles you’ve been dropping sure would go well together and we could run a pre-order campaign and make a ton of money. All this is to say doing a great job bundling posters and putting things your fans really want in this pre-order can drive up profits, but also do a lot of marketing work.

Famously, my aforementioned Forever Queen Sophie bundled the Sophie double dildo and got herself a lot of attention, which of course is iconic, but not quite as iconic as this amazing sweater I just got. Anyway, a lot of album marketing is getting people excited to drive this up since pre-orders also determine chart positions. Since buying physical albums weighs more on the charts, and if you can get even some position on the heat seekers or chart of your genre, you can do a lot of bragging that gets pitches for festivals, opening slots, and other opportunity doors open.

But even if you’re not quite ready for that, what an album can do is give your listeners an experience that grows deeper and racks up streams for 12, 14, 18, or whatever songs continually keeps you on the mind of fans so they spread the work and make a relationship that’s more likely to help you grow. Which brings me to a metaphor that’s pretty right for this. When you put out an album, it’s like getting a bigger rock to throw in a pot. While releasing five to eight-ish singles before an album is becoming commonplace, the hype and discussion that goes along with an album really helps make this ripple go bigger.

In that the bigger this record does, the more you are set up for success later. Since albums also meet consumption, since you can raise your streams and metrics as people listen to them for the rest of your career, that’s going to be a baseline of numbers of streams you can build off. And as you grow, people are going to look at those things to decide if you should get big opportunities like the ones I just mentioned. After all, you should come up with some sort of story about this album since you got to get people interested in it. But let’s also talk about some actionable things you can do after your album is out to keep pushing it.

Once your album comes out, put up a full album version of it on YouTube, where it’s just one video with a bunch of chapters that are marked off where each song starts. You should obviously release the rest of the songs individually, but if you really want to go big, you can do all sorts of graphical things. You can put up all lyric videos for the different songs, or if you really want to go big, Quadeco who released a few of my favorite songs in recent years, where he put up a full version of the record as a video. But you can even just do this with the album cover as well, since this will encourage people to build a relationship with the whole record and listen to it as a whole.

But also remember another thing, albums kind of last forever, or for at least as long as we have this world. So you should put your release in a calendar so you can call attention to it every year. If the album really does well, a lot of artists put up merch from that record again every year for 48 hours to try to capture some money. Because reminding people of a record they loved often reignites interest in you and leads them to stream your new material, since old material is the best promoter of new material, just as new material promotes your old material better than anything else.

But really you want to keep the conversation going around your record, and that’s the question you should be asking yourself after it comes out. This can be sharing user-generated content, aka the stuff your fans make around your music, and a lot of artists make a lot of alternative versions of songs after the record’s out for a year to keep changing the conversation around the record. These can be new features on a song on the record where you switch up the verse on the bridge with some new artist on that, or collaborations, or acoustic versions, remixes, or even a full remix album which then will help the algorithm see you as tied to the artists who do remixes of you and get connections to versions of your song and reiterate the hook which can help the song spread. In my opinion, this isn’t done nearly enough.

And for Rock, an example I think of all the time is My Favourite’s Mama just did a split cover record with Narrowhead where they covered each other’s songs since their last records came out about a year-ish ago, and this effectively does the same thing of reigniting interest in the songs and helping the algorithm to connect them to one another. Many people wonder about music videos and whether they should come out after a record comes out, and all those songs that came out with your record on drop day can get music videos if you want to keep the conversation going. It’s the same thing since in the TikTok era I see no reason why after your LP is out, you can’t for one to two months try to push each song on the record, and while I’ve not seen anyone do that yet, I’ve advised a few artists to do it since I think it’ll end up being huge.

Since really what’s so game-changing about the earworm era of shorts is that songs are often finding new listeners or people who already like a song, and it doesn’t matter how old they are because no one checks the birthday of a song to see if they should like it or not. Another way people reignite interest in a record is to make a deluxe edition. Not only does this make it seem like the record was a success, but it reignites interest in a record again by adding songs to it. These can be new songs or songs that didn’t make it to the record, but you can add them to the record, call it a new version, and make it seem like a big deal and reignite relationships with it. But really the thought I have on how to market an album is to keep continuing a conversation around it. Promote it with stories till it’s time to move on to a new era of songs, and that’s often our artistic choice on how to leave it in separate an era for you to decide in an artistic way. The real fact of the matter is for as long as you can remind people on stories, on Instagram and TikTok, making content you can stretch a record people love out is gonna be helpful. And as long as they’re listening, they’re probably talking about it, which can grow your audience till you have something new to put out. So here’s the thing, while you just learned about album marketing, if you really want to grow your fan base, you need to understand how to promote singles, which is probably the most important part of promoting an album, which is on this video that’s on the screen right now. So make sure you watch that next if you really want to level up.

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