How do you launch a new album? How do you compete in a crowded marketplace and cut through the noise to be heard? Here is how I made it to #2 on iTunes as an independent artist, on a shoe string budget, passing Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to get there!
The Success Story
There is so much music out there and I would argue that there are very few markets more competitive than the music business. You’re aiming for a moving target, and every day the business is a little different. On Friday, September 30, I launched my new release, Dear Fall, on iTunes and hit #2 on the charts! (And yes, you can still buy it, just go to www.gracieschram.com!)
I did it without a record label, without a manager, without paid advertising (except a $250 Facebook ad), marketing, or any paid staff for that matter. Keep in mind, I’m 18 years old and, I'm a full time college freshman – far from a seasoned professional!
In order to get to #2, I had to get past Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen! Dear Fall hit the charts in the morning at #70 and steadily climbed throughout the day and at 6pm, hit #4 behind Billy Joel. At 9pm I passed Billy Joel and at 10pm I passed Bruce Springsteen! I stayed at #2 through most of Saturday and stayed in the top 10 all weekend. It feels surreal to think back on it and I am incredibly humbled by all the support! So how did I do it?
Here are 3 things that I think led to my success and can lead to success for anyone launching new music.
1) Work Smarter (and Harder)
You’ve heard the saying that you should work smarter, not harder. Well, I hate to break the bad news but if you really want to succeed, you have to do both. Putting in the hours is not optional. There are no shortcuts. Yes, it’s important to prioritize, but you still have to do the work. Dear Fall took more than a year’s worth of hard work to make it to iTunes for the world to hear. Leading up to the release, I had many late nights working until 2am on press emails, social media, artwork and videos. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work it is to launch an EP or an album. Simply putting it on iTunes is not enough, you have to make sure people hear the music and create a hype around the release.
2) Say Thank You & Build Your Network
When was the last time you got a handwritten, personal note thanking you for your time and referencing something personal about you? I’m betting this is a rare occurrence.
I believe in the power of a thank you note. If you ever meet with me, I do my best to send a thank you note within 2-3 days of that meeting. The note and the envelope are always handwritten. You might also get other follow up (email or otherwise) relating to the topics discussed. I strive to stay in touch and maintain relationships, reaching out when I see something that I think might apply to you. You have no idea how many label presidents and songwriters and industry professionals have personally thanked me for my thank you note. You will automatically stand out because not very many people take the 5 minutes to write a thank you note. In short, I say thank you and I truly mean it. This has allowed me to build a network of fans who are rooting for me.
3) Prepare and Execute
What does it look like to launch a new product in the music industry? A timeline needs to be made of your plan, showing who is responsible and for what. You own the details and oversee every piece of it until your product is a success! While this seems like a straight forward business practice, it’s proven to be a foreign concept for many of my fellow artists.
I spent a year preparing for this launch. I wrote over 50 songs, to pick 4, and worked on the artwork and photography. I toured around the country, playing 101 shows with 120+ days on the road.
I tested out my new songs on live audiences as the opening act for American Idol star David Archuleta.
I recorded 3 new music videos in 4 days with my film student friend in Chicago.
I worked with talented musician and producer Brad Corrigan (from the band Dispatch) to produce the songs, and then came launch day. I had an incredible product, but no budget for advertising, no record label to finance the launch, so how did I get the word out? I leveraged my community and my fans. I have been steadily building my network, picking up fans and cheerleaders at every show, adding to my followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and growing my email list.
I reached out to them ahead of time asking for their support and for their business! I created video snippets for “behind the music” clips, recorded on my iPhone, that I released in advance giving my network a “sneak peek” of the music. I reached out to my friends with social media connections ahead of time and asked them to listen and if they liked it, to please pass on the word. I also made it easy to share by creating a free custom URL
I worked really hard in high school and won the Coca-Cola Scholars scholarship, and I was able to leverage that relationship on launch day by using the Coca-Cola Music Periscope channel for a 30-minute live concert. I had 10,000 live viewers and 31,000 replays!
So, a year’s worth of work came down to a flurry of activity on Friday, September 30 and the result was hitting #2 on iTunes passing Bruce Springsteen to get there! I am so proud of this music and I’m grateful for all those who have believed in me. This is my advice, work hard, say thank you often, build your network, prepare so you have a great product, plan, and execute and you may someday say you beat “The Boss”!