The holidays represent a lot of things: time with family, a break from work or school, food, gifts, and some more food. But something that may not be so obvious is that the holidays present great opportunities for musicians. As the holiday buzz is starting to kick in, I want to help artists prepare with the ten most important steps to take so that artists music will be front and center when the holiday season is in full swing.
1. Create Something New for Your Fans
The holidays are the largest music-buying season, so distributing a new album or single gets your name in the game. If you don't have time to release a holiday album, distributing a holiday single can help get your music out there. Think of it this way, someone may search for "Silent Night" and find your cover of it, and then want to check out the rest of your music.
Just keep in mind, that while holiday songs are great, they are seasonal, so it might make more sense to have a focused thematic release, and not to include a Christmas carol on an otherwise non-holiday album.
If holiday music isn't your cup of cider, consider releasing a remixed single or deluxe version of an older album as a way to offer your fans new material.
2. Do Your Research
If you're releasing an album that covers holiday classics, research the tunes to determine if they're in the Public Domain. If they aren't, you'll be responsible for securing the necessary licenses before your music hits stores.
3. Don't Miss iTunes Holiday Deadlines
Get your music in iTunes before their holiday shutdown! iTunes takes a holiday break like the rest of us, so it's important to plan accordingly. While the iTunes store will remain open for consumers to purchase music, movies, TV shows or podcasts, new content won't be going live during this time. If you want your music to be available in iTunes for your worldwide fans over the holidays, make sure you get it in before the deadline.
iTunes hasn't announced their holiday schedule, but just to give you an idea of what to expect, iTunes was closed last year for the week of Thanksgiving, and again from December 22nd through January 1st.
4. To Give Is Better Than to Receive (to some degree)
Tis the season of giving. Promote your music by giving away a free track on Amazon MP3 during the holidays. Check with your digital music distributor for help in setting this up. (Note: iTunes does not permit free tracks.) If you're not sold on releasing a free track (pun absolutely intended), think about setting up sale pricing during the holidays.
5. Expand Your Reach
For many people, the holiday season means more free time to discover and purchase new music. Make sure your current releases are live in as many services and territories as possible, so they can be discovered and bought all around the world. Similarly, if you have older releases that have previously only been available for download, consider adding streaming services to help generate additional revenue for past titles.
6. Build a Holiday Playlist
Make it easy for friends, family and fans to hear your music on any digital device by building and sharing holiday playlists in Spotify, Rdio and other streaming partners. Mix your own music with holiday tunes from other artists to change things up and reach a variety of music fans. If you have time, create a separate playlist for each holiday you celebrate. More playlists means more opportunities for your music to be heard.
7. Think Outside the Box
Consider submitting your release to non-traditional sites and outlets for reviews and features during the holiday season. Mommy-blogs, electronics sites, local online magazines, and many other partners are looking for material for their seasonal gift guides. Just remember, lead-time is important, since many sites start planning their holiday gift recommendations months in advance.
8. Be the Life (and the Music) of the Party
Holidays are a time of celebrating. Celebrating = parties. Ask around about holiday parties happening in your area, and offer to be the musical guest. You never know which party guests will go on to tell their own social circles about your acoustic set. Bonus: holiday parties usually have great snacks.
Can't find any parties that could use a live performance? Consider throwing a holiday party yourself and turn it into a small concert. Invite other musicians to play a few songs each so they encourage their fans to come as well.
9. Go Local
There may be many more performance opportunities right under your nose. Look into local fairs and other town events to see if there are open slots for musicians. Or use your music to bring joy to others by volunteering some time at an elderly care facility or hospital. Music can be the best medicine.
10. Plan Ahead: The New Year Is Coming
Finally, if you've got some free time in between the family board games and (spiked) hot cocoa refills, do a little planning for a successful 2014. Expand your touring plans to cover new ground and reach new fans. Let your trend reports help in your planning by seeing which cities have had high sales of your music, and think about booking gigs at venues in those areas.
The holiday season is packed with new movies and commercials, most of which need background music. Wouldn't it be cool if your songs were selected for these revenue-driving opportunities? Ask your publishing administrator if they'll work with you to license your music.
Looking to grow your team? Research managers, meet with PR and marketing companies, hold auditions to fill that empty mandolin player spot in your band... you get the point. Use downtime to set up 2014.
The holidays may still seem far away, but with all of the opportunities for musicians, it's important to start planning now. Here's to a 2013 holiday season packed with music from independent artists.