Release strategy : Don't do it like Kanye
Initially scheduled for July 2020, Donda the album of Kanye West is not yet available. The artist makes - once again - rage hordes of fans waiting. And in this game, as we know, the main objective is to satisfy his fans. If you miss your release, you take the risk to disappoint, to lose fans and to make less good figures than what you should have done.
So to avoid being in the same situation as Kanye, we review how to make a successful release. We'll look at what to think about before scheduling a date, what to do once the date is scheduled, and finally what to do once the project is released. Normally with this, you shouldn't have to spend $1 million a day to rent the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and finish your album on the wire.
Remember that even though it's important that your project is heard for a long time, the first week counts a lot. A release is a communication argument, you have to take advantage of the event to generate desire. Missing this moment could be harmful for the durability of your project.
Before setting up the date
With Donda, Kanye put the cart before the horse. He planned a release date, as well as a listening session in front of a (large) audience, streamed on Apple Music, before finishing the album. We had the chip in our ear when 2 Chainz published a photo in Insta story, recording his verse, 11 hours before the release of the album. And the cutter falls at 23/07, the mix and mastering is not finished, the album will not be released.
The lesson to learn? Don't communicate on any date before having finished your project. We know it can be a driving force to have a deadline, but impose it on yourself and don't tell your audience. It can create frustration, and the public may not be waiting for your second release date.
Your project is technically finished, you're burning to release a date on the networks? It's not the right time yet. Of course, you can show your studio sessions in story, throw snippets, in short start teasing the project all along the process. But to give your audience a release date, you first need to make sure when it will be on the streaming platforms. Whether you use your own structure or a digital distributor (Distrokid, Tunecore, Spinnup...), there may be technical problems that would hinder your release: music on the wrong artist profile or an element that blocks with the platforms: an uncleared instrument, an explicit cover, the distribution on social networks late... everything must be considered.
Well done: the project is completed and validated by the distributor. You have a date. Now the countdown has begun. This date is the finish line, you'll have to program checkpoints that will take you to the end of the course. It's a time for communication strategy. Even with Kanye for whom it seems easy, there's a strategy behind the release:
1° On 07/21, the Beats by Dre ad
The rumor has been going around for a few days, Kanye is finally going to drop Donda. It becomes official with the Beats by Dre ad featuring the athlete Sha'Carri Richardson. In the background, we hear an unreleased track from Kanye. A discreet insert confirms it: "Kanye West - No Child Left Behind. Donda drops this friday. Listening event livestream on Apple Music thursday at 8PM E.T." The machine is launched.
2° Listening session
Sold out in no time, Kanye sets up a listening session open to the public. It happens at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The album is supposed to be released the next day.
3° The benefits
These 2 events are stages of the communication strategy around Donda. 2 events that will generate media coverage. All the media will speak about it, and will create an expectation around the project.
The date of the 23/07 arrives, the album does not leave. It's a cold shower for Kanye's fanbase, even if many were not really surprised, knowing the artist's record. We do not worry too much for West, but in the case of a release of lesser importance, it makes the soufflé fall, and deprives the artist of a good start. Kanye will then organize a second listening session the day before the second release date. A waste of time and money that not everyone can afford.
But this won't happen to you, since you've managed the project's finishing touches well beforehand. So your communication strategy will have to gather a set of actions that synchronized between them will bring the fan, or future fan, to listen to your project at its release.
A little tip to get the word out about your release: use Base for music to reach a new fanbase. Promote your project with sponsored posts that the platform will have calibrated for you.
Don't let up on the pressure. We can say that Kanye does not manage well the period before a release, but the period after is usually well managed. For example with Jesus Is King, he released 2 videos in the same time : Follow God and Closed on Sunday. Not to mention the entire Sunday Service Choir project available on YouTube (which includes the excellent cover of Ultralight Beam) which was released 2 months after the album's release.
These kind of steps are not placed there randomly, they were planned and anticipated well before the release of the album. This is the only time in the article that we will tell you: do it like Kanye. Plan the post-release steps beforehand. They allow the project to last in time, to re-launch the interest around it.
Now that you know how to do better than Kanye, you'll have no excuse to perform when your project is released. We're sure your next project will be just as good or better than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but don't neglect the strategy surrounding the project, or your genius will remain misunderstood forever.
Learn How to Grow your Fanbase
Sign-up to our newsletter to receive all the tips & tricks on the Music Industry.