Releasing high quality music on a consistent basis is one of the most important aspects of any music marketing strategy. The rate you release music will not only determine how well you hold your audiences attention, but also how you time your social media, advertising and influencer / curator marketing. Due to this importance many artists wonder how often they should be releasing music…
How often should artists release new music?
Artists should ideally put out a new single, EP or album every 4-6 weeks. This allows adequate time to properly promote the release, but also maximizes the amount of music you can put out before you start getting diminishing returns.
There is some nuance and exceptions to this, but first I want to explain why every 4-6 weeks is the ideal time frame…
Why every 4-6 weeks?
A large portion of the reason releasing new music every 4-6 weeks is ideal is related to music streaming, and more specifically Spotify. Spotify’s Release Radar algorithmic playlist operates on a 28 day window where each fan can only have 1 song by an artist in their Release Radar playlist. This means if you release faster than every 28 days you will start to compete with yourself in Release Radar.
One important thing to note is that while this is bad, it doesn’t matter much if you don’t have that many followers. Typically if you have 100 followers on Spotify you’ll only get 10-20 streams from Release Radar in the first 1-2 weeks, but if you have 10,000+ followers Release Radar can be a pretty big deal.
Aside from Release Radar setting the ‘maximum speed limit’, going faster also makes it very difficult to adequately promote the song. It also makes it hard to keep up with marketing activities, marketing budgets and maintaining song quality.
On the slower side, the longer you wait to release a new song the more hype you’re going to lose from the previous song. People also have relatively short attention spans nowadays. You want to keep yourself top-of-mind for your fans as much as you possibly can to make sure they stay invested in your world.
If you drop an album and wait 10 weeks to drop a new song, it’s not going to end your career by any means. It just means for most artists, unless you do a great job keeping your audience entertained through other means, you may start losing some momentum.
Why doesn’t X music artist release music this fast?
Artists commonly ask why a certain artist they listen to only drops a few songs a year. Or if they only drop full albums every 2 years (or even longer in cases like Tool). The truth is that the rules change when you’re successful, or if you’ve developed a fan base over time that expects a certain amount of time between releases.
When you’re a smaller to medium artist you’re generally in a ‘growth mode’, where you’re competing for attention and trying to push through the noise. When you reach a certain critical mass your fans alone can sustain everything you do while everyone waits for new music to come out. At that point you’re not competing for everyone’s attention, you already have it.
It’s also important to point out that every genre is different. In the progressive metal world its very typical for bands to release very few singles, and have long stretches of time between albums. This is partially due to the complexity of the music but it’s also related to how the albums are often concept albums or designed to be listened in full. The fans expect this so there is no harm in following the trend, however it doesn’t mean you should be a follower and not a leader in either case.
Albums vs Singles
For most artists if you’re planning a 12 song album, i’d release 8-9 of the songs as singles. Then when you release the album re-use the ISRC codes so all the streams link to the album versions. This has the benefit of allowing you to pitch all those singles to Spotify editorial and each song will have a shot on Release Radar. If you drop the whole album in one go, you have to choose one song for Spotify editorial and one for Release Radar.
Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but for most artists this applies. Take note of what medium sized artists in your genre / scene are doing and consider what is normal and consider breaking this best practice, just don’t ignore it.
If you’re worried about fans getting annoyed that the album is mostly already released material, thats largely a non-issue. Fans generally prefer getting music more often than waiting and getting new music once per year or less.
If your album is going to be a concept album, or songs flow into one-another, you can create the entire album first and then trickle it out as singles. In general this batch-creation strategy is a fantastic approach to making it possible to keep up with releasing music every 4-6 weeks. Before I launched the first song for my new band Every Waking Moment in 2022 we had 8 songs written and 3 songs 100% completed. This gave us a buffer so we could maintain our release strategy more adequately, even while I release music every 4-6 weeks for my solo project.
There is also a hybrid approach to this singles / albums debate called the waterfall strategy. I wrote an article on how you can do it with DistroKid here: https://musicgrowthmachine.com/how-to-do-a-waterfall-release-strategy-with-distrokid/