Understand Strategic Release Planning With Artist & Entrepreneur Josh Stevens
An artist must consider that there are more complex strings attached to releasing a track than just uploading it to Soundcloud or Spotify. Part of the process is knowing how to market your craft, how to budget for publicity, and knowing when and how to promote it. Being that there is no specific way to release your work, however, the singles that end up at the top of the charts do involve wise strategic release planning. Allow us to introduce the reputable songwriter, record producer, artist, and entrepreneur- Josh Stevens. He is the CEO and Co-founder of Stadium Music Enterprise with a vision to help artists and brands develop. Earlier on in his career, he worked with the likes of Hip-Hop and Dance music which included artists like Steve Aoki, The Game, Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Calvin Harris, and many more. Josh’s skillful way of masterminding these have been crowned with a Grammy Award Winning, Billboard Award Nominated, RIAA Platinum Certified, Juno Award Nominated, and ARIA Music Awards Platinum Certified (Australia). As an artist himself, his focused steered to his own artistic sound with Pop and Indie music.
Having a domino effect of successes, there wasn’t a reason why we wouldn’t want Josh’s expertise when it comes to release planning- let’s get straight into it.
We know that in your early years, you were in a group called Mental Advisory. What were some of the initial challenges you guys faced when it came to making music and getting it out there?
The main challenges I think we faced early on was being able to reach more people outside of just our immediate friends and family. Social media had just started at that time, so you still had to go through a label to reach consumers. It’s a much different game these days and actually can be much more difficult for an upcoming artist to navigate. Back then the line to success was pretty direct, all it took was having music and a brand that people simply “liked.” Now you’re dealing with mass micro markets that fluctuate daily, and you have to maintain your place at the moment to moment. It can be pretty overwhelming for an artist of any age, not just new. Veteran artists are dealing with the same issues.
In your opinion, how much planning time should an artist take before the release of their new track?
First, there is no real timetable for art. With that being said there can be a time frame for developing a campaign budget for a brand roll out. Simply, if you don’t have a campaign marketing budget in place, it will be challenging to reach people. Nothing takes a toll more on an artist’s mental state then working hard on a project to see it only exist on their hard drive or only heard by their family.The formula I usually go by for developing a budget is (3) times the amount it cost to make the music product. That is the amount you need to start to see a level of impact with actual demographic results. Now that number can vary, that’s my starting position. I usually hold off on releasing anything until I have that budget in place. Then, however, long it takes to get that budget is the length of time before a release needed.
What are some of the essential steps to take when planning to release a track?
The one most important step I believe in releasing a track is finding out your purpose and message behind why your even releasing it. With every release, there will be a push-back from the audience. Finding what message you want that audience to consume is vital. Every content release is a brick in the wall for building a brand.
What is all involved in each step you mention?
Develop a production budget. An amount that doesn’t bankrupt an artist and is sustainable each month. Funding is what will keep growth moving forward, even at a small amount.
Understand the message you want the audience to leave with. If you don’t know your message, how will the audience or consumer know?
Try to build a team of people with up and coming peers who equally want to grow. Most importantly identify their wants and talents. If someone is passionate about publicity ask them if they’re going to help secure and reach out to blogs for the press. Note, that finding their passion is vital. If someone deep down wants to be an artist or producer, they won’t last long in the wrong position being your assistant or engineer.
What are some of the most typical challenges an artist could face in the midst of this process?
The biggest challenge I see with the young artist is not looking to the future of the project financially. They spend all their time and money building the music but forget about visuals, the rollout campaign and what it will take to budget that. For every week you spend in the studio working you should spend one day developing a rollout strategy and how to fund it.
How much should an artist care and focus on streaming services like Spotify to put out their new music? And, why?
Streaming services are the new radio, so it is essential to understand. But it is like the wild west in the music industry right now; anything can work at any time. If you feel your fans don’t consume your music on streaming services and only purchase vinyl then go that way. Your micro market will declare itself; eventually, trial and error is the only way to know.
How do you get the most out of it as an artist yourself when you are on these streaming services?
As an artist, I use the streaming services as data collection. It allows me to see where and who consumes my music. Then if I so choose, I can double down on those demographics or pivot.
If your not precise on your messaging the audience will pick you not the other way around. Thus leaving you to chase markets. Ends up feeling like your swimming in the ocean with no sight of land. Knowing this data minimizes the chance of these situations happening.
How does social media tie into releasing a track?
Social media is the lowest hanging fruit when comes to reaching an audience. It’s also the cheapest for the number of people you can reach. It gives you the quickest way to see a reaction and know if you “have” something. It is also a “passive” audience meaning it’s not the end all. Eventually being an “internet artist” can come about if your not willing to get out on the road and do the hard work.
A few years ago, getting blog premieres for new tracks was an ideal way for artists to push their new releases. Has this changed? If so, how?
The blog premieres were important years ago because they reported to sites like Hype Machine which a lot of the industry looked at to see if an artist had a buzz. If you don’t know Hype Machine, they were a site that calculated how many blog posts an artist had and put it on a chart.
Nowadays that doesn’t apply as much, in my opinion. The blogs are still important because they each have their micro audience but using them to leverage the industry isn’t the reason.
What tips can you provide for artists looking to engage their fans when a song has been released?
One tip I would provide to artists on how to engage with their fans during a release is to understand that once a song is released, it is no longer their song. Thus asking their fans about how it affects their lives, ask them to post videos of them singing the song, ask them to do their music video to it. Give them the ok to interpret it how they see it. Get out of your way.
Any final comments for our readers when it comes to planning a release?
Enjoy the process of building and executing the goals set for the release. Once the hype dies, which it will, then it is just repeating the process over again.