Never Release Your New Album in December

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By David A. Barber
Author of Gigging, Everything You Need to Know About Playing Gigs (Except How to Play Your Axe)

What is the best time of year to release your album?

Darn good question. Our answer is aimed at local and unsigned acts. Once you’ve hit the big time, a whole slew of different factors will come into play and certainly, the major labels have experts in marketing to advise them. For the rest of the world, i.e., the vast majority of you out there here’s some advice based on real-life observations and experiences.

Most bands want to release their new album immediately after they get done with the lengthy and oftentimes painful process of recording, mixing, mastering and production. At that point, they are so sick of working on it, that they tend to rush the release part. Don’t do it.

Do not schedule your album release party/show/event while you’re still recording. Things can and commonly do pop up to cause unexpected delays and if you feel like you have to get product out by a certain date, you’ll rush the remaining process and that can be bad for the finished product. Delays in mixing mastering and getting the artwork finished have delayed many many releases. So wait until you get your CDs (or whatever) back from the manufacturer before setting the official release date. You can book gigs, in the hopes that they might be release shows, but if that doesn’t happen, just use them to hype your upcoming release. Don’t book the official date until you have the product in your hands and have checked it for any problems (we’ve seen CDs arrive with the insert panels out of sequence and once they even had someone else’s music recorded on the discs!). Give yourself at minimum of three weeks to get the CDs out to local newspapers and magazines in time for them to write a review before or around the same time as the official release date. You can even sell limited signed editions as pre-release copies before the official release. This can help considerably with bringing in a little cash flow to offset all the money you just spent on the recording and production process.

Now consider the time of year (maybe this should happen before duplication/production even happens). You want to release your album when you can get the biggest crowds and therefore create the biggest buzz. In our local market the busiest times of the year for the clubs are in the Fall and Spring, while it’s cold enough out that outdoor events and festivals aren’t happening very much, but not conflicting with the holidays. Your market may be different, but it’s not rocket science to figure it out. Ask your favorite venue booking person when their busiest season is.

The summer months are packed with festivals, which can be quite lucrative for touring/performing and for selling new merch, like your CDs. If you have a big festival gig booked, that might be an excellent album release show. If you will be having the release at a club or bar, don’t do it in August, when crowds thin out the most.  In December, or more accurately, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, people, including those in the entertainment and reporting industries, want to spend time with their families, so they take time off, making it even harder to get reviewed or noticed. Additionally, in December through early January, many companies throw their annual holiday parties. These can be great gigs to play at, but it would be inappropriate to release your album at one. The other problem is that it’s harder to draw a big crowd in December because everyone is partied out, broke from buying presents or traveling to be with family. The closer to Christmas, the worse the turnout is likely to be. New Year’s Eve is another big party night where good-paying gigs are plentiful, but not a good time to release your Album, especially if it’s a private party/gig. Likewise, the first couple weeks of January tend to be slow due to bill paying, getting caught up from the holidays at work and the still-fresh memory of that New Year’s Day hangover.

If you want your album to be available for Christmas shoppers, make sure it’s done in October or earlier. Releasing a Christmas album on Dec 14 doesn’t give you much time to sell it. On December 26 the market will be gone until next year.

Other Holidays to avoid: The Fourth of July – Who wants to be stuck indoors when there are fireworks everywhere? St. Patrick’s Day (unless you are an Irish or Celtic act), All the Monday Holidays (Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend) because people travel, BBQ and throw their own parties. Avoid Halloween and Valentine’s Day, unless your act or release naturally fits into those themes. The Super Bowl and other big sports events, like the Summer Olympics should also be given a wide berth.

One more thing to consider is the date you will print on your artwork.  If you release in December and the copyright dates are all this year, then, in January, your album will look like it’s last year’s news. Releasing earlier in the year can give your new product months and months of fresh shelf life. Releasing in the Spring or late Winter can ensure your product is available for the Summer Festivals (that you should already be booking).

We’ve sen artists tour around the region throwing CD release shows for months on end.  Every different market should be a new opportunity to promote your new CD.

A little thought and research can help you avoid some common album release mistakes and get you the most bang for your buck.

Good luck with your release.