So you’re finally releasing your album after a lot of hard work. Now, what do you choose for your album’s single? How do you choose the right song? In this episode, Bree Noble walks us through choosing the best song to use as singles for your album release. She discusses a few things to keep in mind to get the most bang for the time you’re spending promoting the songs. Equip yourself with the right song choices that will keep the momentum going for when your album is finally out. Listen in to learn more about picking the best single!
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Choose The Right Song: Picking The Best Single For Your Album Release
I’m going to be talking about how to choose your next single. I get this question all the time because people write a lot of music and it’s hard enough to decide, which songs to put on your album or EP but, which songs should you really focus on for your singles? In my Rock Your Next Release program, I always recommend leading up to your album or EP release with a few singles. Usually, around three, depending on what your schedule is. You can do more than that if you want but you don’t want to release so much that you get burnt out promoting. The singles that you do release are important. You want to make sure that you are getting the most bang for the time that you are spending promoting the songs that you choose.
I’ve got three questions that we are going to ask ourselves when deciding which songs to choose to release as singles. The first question and the most important question when it comes to singles is, “How is this particular song going to attract new listeners for you?” There are a whole bunch of different ways that a song can attract new listeners for you. I’m going to take you through a series of decision-making questions so you can think about, “This song that I am choosing here, is it going to do these different things for me? How many of these things can it check off of this list?”
Number one is if you are in a particular genre or if you are trying to attract certain curators of playlists in a particular genre, then you want to think about how does this song fits into the genre. We realized we like to do a lot of genre-bending and genre combining. We don’t want to be pigeonholed and stuck in a box of a certain genre but when you are thinking about singles, you’ve got to think about, “What playlists can I reach out to or what editorial playlists on Spotify would this be a perfect fit for?”People connect so much more to storytelling than anything else, more than any other kind of marketing message. Click To Tweet
You want to think about that to your song. Listen to it side-by-side with other songs in the same genre or the genre that you are targeting and see if that fits. Would it really fit well on a playlist with other songs of that genre? Don’t try to convince yourself that it’s a great fit when it isn’t because that’s not going to serve you. Be honest with yourself about this. That’s number one, the genre fit.
Number two is, does it have explicit language? I do need to mention this because the Women of Substance Podcasts and other podcasts I know about don’t have an explicit rating. Occasionally, we can sneak something in but if we get reported or anything, that could cause a real problem. That’s the case too with a lot of playlists. They don’t want to have explicit language because they know that their audience is a certain type of audience. They want to be able to listen to it in the car and all of that.
You do need to take that into account. If explicit language is important for your songs, meaning then, of course, you need to have it. If it fits with your audience and the genre that you are going after, it’s totally fine. It needs to be a consideration of the things that might limit that song for you, so consider that.
The third thing is your artist brand. Does this song fit well with your artist’s brand? Sometimes we create songs that, honestly, we are only a wave of inspiration or an outlier. They don’t go along with most of the styles that we do. I can give an example. For me, my songs are usually inspirational. Sometimes Christian but more like inspirational crossover messages of hope, strength and all of that.
I did collaborate once with someone. We had a song that was about somebody cheating. Now, the message at the end of the song they realized that they could get what they were looking for from their spouse. They just needed to talk to them and communicate. I remember when I put that out, I’m like, “That’s doesn’t exactly go with my brand perfectly. I’m not sure if my audience would identify with this song,” but I put it out because I loved the vocal and the style of it.
I wouldn’t have put it out as a single from one of my albums, probably because it didn’t go along with my brand and what people were expecting from me. Also, you want your music to portray your values. That’s something that you designate when you are looking at your brand pillars. If the song doesn’t fit that like, in the case I mentioned, I probably wouldn’t promote that as a major release from an album. That’s something to think about.
Number four is storytelling. Storytelling is important. I believe that people connect so much more to storytelling than anything else than any other marketing messages or descriptive language like that. It doesn’t work as well as storytelling because people love to go on a journey, even see themselves in the story, learn about interesting people that they might not encounter in their lives. I know I love that about music. Thinking about things from different perspectives and getting inside the story of somebody that I can’t yet identify with but I want to because I want to try to connect with people that are unlike me.
Anyway, that is all to say that storytelling is very important. If you have a good story around your song, either the story that the lyrics tell themselves or a story of how you wrote the song and how it connects with your life, that is important because that is going to make it so much easier for you to market. It’s going to be a much more natural fit when you are talking about the song. You are going to be passionate about it because you wrote it for a reason. That is the fourth thing to think about when deciding if a single is a good fit for releasing.
The fifth thing is the musical hook. Does this song have an incredible hook of some kind, whether it’s an instrumental hook, a chorus hook, even a lyrical hook can work, too? If the idea of the title or a particular lyric in there hooks people or would go well, where people might use it in situations outside of listening to the song, that can be helpful, especially in the days of Reels and TikTok. It bothers me a little bit that we base so much virality and people’s popularity around 30 seconds of a song but it’s the world that we live in. It has always been that way with pop music.
I’m not saying that you have to write your music to fit into 30-second or 1 minute like TikTok bits and Reels bits but you do need to think about that. Aside from that, if someone is listening on a playlist, you want them to get that hook and be thinking about it later like, “What was that song? I want to immediately go add this to my playlist because I like it.” That hook is important. It doesn’t have to be pop. All music has some kind of hook. Classical music has instrumental hooks. Things that repeat in there that people can identify. “I know that song,” because of that particular part. Don’t think I’m just talking about pop music.
The next one is video. How would this song translate into a music video or even a lyrics video? If the lyrics are prominent in the song, then you might want to release a lyrics video. Can you imagine what the backgrounds for that would look like? If you are thinking of doing a music video, then have you already thought of a concept for this? Again, this goes along with the storytelling as I said earlier. If it is a natural storytelling song or a story that relates to you, that will make it very prime real estate for video.
Our next and final one for this section is the promo angle. When you were talking to podcasters, bloggers, press and radio interviews, all of that stuff, what promo angle can you use with this song? Think about, “Does it relate to anything going on in the world, whether it’s current events or things that happened throughout the year?” Is it a great song for Valentine’s Day? Can it align with any other holidays that we have throughout the year? Can it align with any causes or things that are happening like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness or Pride Month? There are so many things. Does it go along with any themes that happen naturally throughout the year? This can help you figure out when to release it as well, of course.
When you are talking to the press, you want to connect the dots for them. They don’t want to have to think very hard. They are busy. They are dealing with many stories. They are juggling so much stuff. You want to make their life super easy for them, so make sure that you have thought about what angle you can use for this song. We came up with seven things there. Those are all the things that are going to help you decide, whether this is a great song to release that’s going to attract new listeners and help you get discovered.
The second question you want to ask yourself is, “How is the launch of this single going to build your relationship with fans you already have and nurture that relationship?” The first question that you want to ask yourself again is about the story. As I said, “Are there great stories around this song? Do they relate to things you may have already talked to your fans about, passions that you have or things that you have in common with your fans that you know that have drawn them to you?” That’s going to be a question that you ask.
Maybe it’s a story around a cause or you are a big proponent of helping the environment and stopping global warming. Does your song talk about that? Is that something that you can use to connect with your audience that you have attracted that probably also feel strongly about that subject? That is the first thing. The second thing is the brand pillars. That also goes back to causes or your values. When you come up with your brand pillars, you have come up with a set of values and things that you want to stand for and be known for. Does this song help you reinforce that?
The third thing is the live-performing aspects, especially live streaming. When you are going to want to promote this song online, you are going to want to be able to perform it. You are going to want to maybe do a mini-release party, do that online or some different mixes of it or versions of it online to show them different sides of the song. You can do an acoustic version, a full band version, a mix with different instruments or whatever. Are there cool ways that you can do this song live in front of people online that would be interesting?
Maybe one time you could play it acoustically and sing solo, you could bring in your band and do it or you use a looping pedal and you can use that to build your sound behind you. Is it something you are going to be able to perform live? There’s nothing wrong with using tracks. You can do that too but do you have access to the tracks? I can’t tell you how many students I say, “Where are your tracks?” They were like, “I don’t know. I’ve never got them from the studio. I don’t know how to get them back.” Make sure you have your tracks so you can at least perform on a live stream with a track if nothing else.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be you and your piano, you and your keyboard, you and your guitar, you and even just a basic backing track that you created yourself. Make sure that you can do that because that’s going to allow you to interact with your audience over this song. Perform it live for them. Show them different ways that they can hear the song beyond the recorded version.If someone's listening on a playlist, you want them to really get that hook and be thinking about it later. Click To Tweet
Those are the three things you want to think about when you are thinking about your own audience or the audience that you have already developed. Question number one was, “How is it going to help you attract new fans and increase your discovery?” Number two is, “How is it going to help you develop the relationship and nurture the fans that you already have?” Number three is, “How is it going to create career momentum for you?”
Basically, the answer to this question is how many of the things that I mentioned can you check off about this song? How many checkmarks in the first seven things under the discovery would this song satisfy? How many things out of the three things under your fan relationship does this song satisfy? If you can check off, I would say at least half of them. It doesn’t have to check off everything. Sometimes, it’s not perfectly fit in your genre but it’s got an amazing hook. That’s okay. That trumps it.
Look at how many things are checked off. If at least half of these things are checked off, you have a great candidate for your single. I would love to hear from any of you if you ran your decision-making through this process. Did you find the right song? I take my students in Rock Your Next Release through this process. We also go through a process first of figuring out what are the best songs to put on your full project, your album or EP.
That’s a little bit of a different process. It’s more focused on what your fans would like versus discovery because singles are more used for discovery to bring people in, to magnetize people into your world, and then they can discover more of your music. It’s okay to have album cuts. It doesn’t mean the songs suck. That means they are great songs but they might not be perfectly discovery-oriented. That’s how you can decide what is the best thing for you to release next as a single.
If you want more information about how to figure all this stuff out, about release strategy and to learn my four-part Rock Your Next Release framework, you can always go to RockYourNextRelease.com and watch my free class. I hope this has been super helpful for you. Check us on ProfitableMusician.com. That’s our show. We do all episodes related to anything that an independent musician needs to build their fan base and make more money from it. Have a great day, everyone.