It’s 2019, and staying in front of the listener is the name of the game for artists looking to grab a foothold and keep it in this scene. In today’s consumption-fueled world where you can listen and/or watch anything and everything at the click of a button, the consumer life cycle of music is much shorter. Because your music is staying with the listener for a shorter amount of time than ever before, figuring out how to stay on their minds and in their ears has become more difficult. So if you haven’t made peace with the fact that the game has changed, it’s now time to do so.
Going two years between releasing new music, is now almost assuredly counterproductive if your last release created momentum and buzz. A two-three year gap used to provide a healthy “waiting and wanting” phase you would want your listeners to experience, but that’s now become too long. There have been many artists wise up to this, and have started to increase the fragmentation of their release: multiple lead singles and grat tracks, breaking the album into two EP’s, releasing two-three songs each week, etc.… This has definitely increased their project’s longevity and aided in staying in front of the listener…however I don’t think that purely upping the fragmentation is the most conducive strategy going forward. Unfortunately, I also think artists are going to have to release more music too if they want to sustain momentum.
By no means am I suggesting an artist drown their fans in releases, because you will tire them out and it’ll be impossible to digest them, but I am suggesting you add about another EP’s worth of music every two years to the already standard schedule of an album every two years. Basically, you rotate each year between album and EP, where they’re completely different songs on each project; not combining the EP into the album. I believe the optimal release schedule that stays in front of the listener but doesn’t oversaturate the fanbase now looks like this:
- Start: Lead single from EP
- 2 months later: Instant Grat from EP
- 1 month later: Release EP
- 6 months later: Lead single from album
- 3 months later: Instant Grat from album
- 1 month later: Instant Grat from album
- 1 month later: Album Release
- 9 months later: start the process over with lead single from EP
Essentially, it’s a continual 15 songs with seven different release phases over two years. It’s plenty of content for listeners, but not too much and while it’s a hell of a lot of work, money, and planning, it’s not ridiculously outlandish if you’re bringing some decent revenue from touring and your previous catalog.
This new music cycle keeps you in the publications, gives everyone plenty of social media content, new songs to add to playlists, something for people to talk about, something for you, management, and/or booking to use to uptalk when speaking to buyers, and keeps your set from becoming stale.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t achieve progress by spreading out your releases more and that this is the gospel, but waiting too long is definitely a major killer to the buzz you’ve already created. Tail-off after the album’s life-cycle is a very real thing, and the longer you wait after a small healthy waiting period, the harder it can be to win listeners back.
It is important for me to state that you also have to have the songs. Rushing a project, or putting out an inferior product, won’t get you anywhere either. But don’t let yourself use that as an excuse. Push yourself to do it and see where you end up.
Also, it’s not like you have to do this right out of the gate, nor do you have to do this once you’re a legacy act, but once you can pull in 75+ people in a couple of different markets, I’d really try to make this your plan for as long as you can sustain it and keep the musical integrity.
I think this is one of the biggest problems rising artists encounter. They put out a project that gathers some buzz and starts to build momentum for the band, and then they wait 2+ years to put out anything else, they finally drop something and then they wait too long again to put out the next one, and then boom….before they know it, they’re pedaling backward. Love it or hate it, more music with more release phases is how the game is played right now. Creating longterm momentum is almost impossible any way else.
It may seem like the new landscape is tougher, but it’s way tougher without a plan. If you’re starting to get some touring momentum, you need to be pretty much always planning, writing, and saving for your next project and planning to cut 15 songs every two years if you really want to hold the attention of the listener these days.