← Part 1 was about what the album meant to me and a few considerations about what a successful release is and isn’t.
I’ll explore now the release campaign, how we approached the concept of social media marketing, why it failed (for me) and what changed in the aftermath.
Here’s the song Unter Den Linden, arranged with Paolo Clementi:
The release campaign
I hired Christopher Carvalho of Unlock Your Sound as a manager for After 1989 way ahead of my ideal album release day, 9 November 2019. The date wasn’t randomly chosen, as it was a double anniversary: the fall of the Berlin Wall (30 years) and the Kristallnacht (81 years).
Chris immediately devised a strict but doable schedule, involving me in the process through Trello and other collaborative tools. The first single, official music video and the connected promotion material — imagery, copy and the electronic press kit — had to be ready a month in advance. We worked together in a professional yet friendly manner and nothing was a problem, as I was determined, focused and willing to do what needed to be done to achieve a good album launch.
As planned, we published the opening single Skinny Kid a week before, exclusively to the private Facebook group and a selection of music blogs. The music video was favourably reviewed and got some traction on YouTube, ahead of the full release. After 1989 was out on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music and all the other streaming services, on the 9th of November.
Since the aim was to reach the highest number of people possible, we went full-on with submissions to blogs, SubmitHub, Musosoup, magazines, podcasts.
Of course, social media marketing in the form of sponsored campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Posts on Reddit, the private group on Facebook, the painstaking search for the owners of the most prestigious indie playlists on Spotify. For a few weeks it was a deluge of public activity and private word-of-mouth. We got reviews, interviews and very good feedback.
I reckon the launch per se was in large part successful. However, I got tired relatively quickly. Not only because I was trying to move to Sweden and therefore got distracted, the issue at stake was the campaign didn’t actually suit me and I was at fault.
The plan outlined by Chris at the beginning was clear and surely reflected the typical steps for an indie debut album in 2019. Moreover, I was fully on board because I wanted to experience it first-hand. Despite my lack of love towards the streaming industry, I didn’t want to discard the idea because of my bias. In retrospect, I shoud have.
That was also a time where I found myself increasingly at odds with mainstream social media. I never felt okay in it, I couldn’t stand the way the algorithm worked, all the negativity, bots, trolls, the ads, the relentless push to acquire and sell personal data. Unfortunately, my first foray with Mastodon in 2017 wasn’t enough to convince me to break with that shit earlier.
Something that truly bothered me was the fact that Spotify completed the commodification of music in a way that I couldn’t stand. Everyone kept repeating how good of a marketing tool for musicians it was. I could never see that. Spotify don’t tell you who your fans are, don’t allow fans to get in touch with you and surely isn’t interested in making indie music profitable.
A recent post on Mastodon
It wasn’t the ridiculous trickle of pennies that the streaming services sent me over the following thirty-eight months, nor the fact that Bandcamp was indeed in a different league (I knew my followers, got messages, reviews, sold CDs and digital albums). It was the obnoxious feeling that corporate social media, and Spotify, weren’t a place where I wanted to be.
I’m not the most socially skilled person out there, however, I wish and can connect with others. I need something though: authenticity, being surrounded by genuine people. I had enough of having to shove ads of myself to strangers, had to stop selling my name as if it was a brand.
The immediate result was that I completely stopped promoting the album. I think everything came to a halt right before the pandemic arrived in southern Europe. The rest is history: in August 2020 I deleted my account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, cutting off usage and interactions on Spotify.
During a complete refactor of my website that appeased my innate minimalism, I joined the Indieweb and re-joined Mastodon, finally finding that smaller but tighter community of genuine people who are not afraid to call a spade a spade.
I think I might have actively promoted my music on Mastodon twice in a year, and yet the amount of feedback, comments, reviews, genuine interest and actual sales I got eclipsed the previous social networks combined. This time it was out of true interest, so I really appreciated it.
Full credits to Chris, because despite the path he initially suggested wasn’t right for me, what he had said since the beginning was to find my way and my voice to tell the story. I could have argued back that I wanted to focus on Bandcamp only and he would have been happy regardless — I was the one that wanted to try going full-social-media.
What if I had to do it again
I would repeat the same steps. Some mistakes are meant to serve a purpose and this one taught me invaluable lessons. I know that I won’t go down the same route for my future releases and I would never criticise indie artists trying to make it on Spotify. Something that’s not right for me might be perfect for someone else.
To conclude, a short piece from my journal, 1st of November, 2019:
The album is a day closer to its release date — it’s just 8 days now. Still plenty to do, yet manageable. I realise this story has been with me for three decades, really. I’ve taken steps to distance myself: to me, it’s already released. It’s out of my system, and again: in a peaceful way.
← Older postMix: ‘In Super-8’ by Ember Rev