Releasing an album of music can be as simple as listing it on iTunes and calling it a day, but I think there’s a better way. I think there’s a way to take advantage of different online stores and services to promote discovery while not losing out on any potential revenue from people willing to spend some money on melodies.
Here’s what I would do if I was releasing a newly recorded album.
In an effort to deter piracy and please the biggest fans, as soon as the album was mixed, mastered, and finished, I would put it up on Bandcamp for $10. People following a band closely enough to know when new music is coming out also probably already use Bandcamp (or can figure it out). I’m convinced that piracy of “leaked” music before it’s released happens by super fans too impatient for the chance to buy it. You can fix that by making it available to buy before people can get it for free.
Next, I would plan an official release date shortly thereafter, ramp up a little marketing and getting the word out for the release on iTunes and Amazon. This mainstream release on the major music stores is to get the more casual music fans, people browsing around, and others that may somehow find the album. I would knock the price down to $7.99 at this point to further encourage the purchase of music.
Finally, after 30 days of the album being on iTunes I would put it on Spotify and Rdio. Not just from stuff I read, but when I hear personal stories from managers, bands, and those in the industry that say they still haven’t made more than $100 for the entire length of time they’ve been on Spotify, something’s wrong. Streaming services are important for discovery reasons, but they aren’t providing any (or much) revenue. Until they can bring something to the table – even if it’s less – there’s no reason for musicians not to think of them as second class services.
Depending on adoption of the album and how sales are going, after 6+ months I would look into sites and services like NoiseTrade.com that focus on promotional gain over financial gain. Capturing emails, growing the fan base, and getting the most people to hear the music would the goal for the remainder of the album’s life.
Most musicians aren’t creating music just for the chance to be broke and in debt. At minimum they need to recoup the costs that went into making the album. By playing off the immediacy of digital distribution to please your biggest fans and people willing to pay a premium, you capitalize on sales. Using a trickle down approach to services that have less return, you don’t cannibalize potential sales in the name of discovery.