ADN #042: A Step By Step Guide To Launching Your Album Pre-Order

Artist Development
8 min readSep 10, 2023

Hey Friends -

Welcome to the Artist Development Newsletter.

Every Sunday, I send an email providing actionable tips for artists and industry on one area of the music business.

Last week, we discussed why scheduling meetings with yourself is beneficial.

You can re-read last week’s newsletter here if you want to refresh.

Today, I want to walk through a list of to-do’s to set up your next album pre-order campaign.

Here we go.

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This week, my band, The Cadillac Three, announced our new album, “The Years Go Fast.”

We launched our album pre-order Friday and released our new single, “Young & Hungry.”

This album is almost three years in the making.

It has been a significant endeavor between the writing, recording, and planning to get to Friday’s launch.

With all of the planning still fresh in my mind, I want to give you a starter checklist based on our launch so that you can set up your next album.

Here are 17 considerations & how we approached each:

Set a Release Date:

  • Decide on a specific date for your album release.
  • Ensure it aligns with your promotional schedule and allows enough time for pre-orders.

What we did:

  • We completed our album in May 2023.
  • I spent six weeks planning with our record label.
  • Laid out a single rollout strategy and put the album release seven weeks from our announcement.
  • Single — 9/8
  • Single — 9/22
  • Single — 10/5
  • Single — 10/20
  • Album — 10/27
  • The announcement came on September 6th, and the album will be out on October 27th.

Select Pre-Order Platforms:

  • Choose the platforms where you’ll offer the pre-order, such as your official website, major music streaming services (e.g., Spotify, Apple Music), and online retailers (e.g., Amazon, iTunes).

What we did:

  • We have an official pre-order for CDs and vinyl via our website’s merch store for North American customers here.
  • A store for CDs & vinyl for UK customers here.
  • Digital download pre-orders at iTunes & Amazon.
  • Pre-save and pre-add campaigns with Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Etc. Here.

Create Exclusive Content:

  • Offer pre-order incentives, like exclusive tracks, merchandise bundles, or behind-the-scenes content.

What we did:

  • We have merch add-ons within our shop that include limited-edition items.
  • We released a new single to build anticipation for the album.
  • We released official music and lyric videos with the track on Friday.
  • Official video here.
  • Lyric video here.
  • With each additional single we will release between now and October 27th, we will release other video content.
  • We will also kickstart social media campaigns around “The Years Go Fast” and “Young & Hungry” to engage with our audience and raise awareness to potential new fans.

Pricing Strategy:

  • Determine the pricing for the pre-order packages.
  • Consider offering different tiers to cater to various fan budgets.

What we did:

Announce the Pre-Order:

  • Use your social media channels, website, and mailing list to announce the pre-order date and provide a teaser of what fans can expect.

What we did:

  • On Tuesday, we swapped our profile photo on social media.
  • We also sent an email to our paid Country Fuzz Fan Club, letting them in on the news of the album a day early.
  • On Wednesday, we announced the album on social media.
  • On Thursday at 11 pm Central, we posted that the Pre-Order was live and that “Young & Hungry” was out.
  • On Friday morning, we posted that the video for Young & Hungry was out.
  • On Friday, we also sent an email to our mailing list and our BandsInTown subscribers.
  • Next week, we will begin to zoom in and highlight each of the shop’s individual songs and merch items.

Design Artwork and Packaging:

  • Work on album artwork and physical packaging design.
  • Ensure it’s visually appealing and relevant to your music.

What we did:

  • We used archival photos for our album cover to tie into the title, “The Years Go Fast.”
  • We also did an updated photo shoot to match the album’s sound and influences.

Digital Distribution: If using digital platforms, make sure your distributor (e.g., TuneCore, DistroKid) knows the pre-order and has the necessary assets.

What we did:

  • In our case, we are on Big Machine Records, so they handle all of the outreach on distribution.
  • If you are releasing independently, there is a decent amount of behind-the-scenes work in the uploading process.
  • Here is a checklist that is a great starting point for that process.

Physical Distribution:

  • Coordinate with manufacturers and distributors for physical pre-orders to ensure timely production and delivery of CDs, vinyl, or other physical formats.

What we did:

  • When choosing your album release date, one of the most important factors is ensuring you have your physical product on time.
  • CD replication can typically be completed in 4–6 weeks.
  • Vinyl varies, but it can be anywhere from 2 to 6 months, depending on the demand within the period you are looking to release your music.
  • We spoke with our label about their turnaround timelines for CDs and vinyl; that is how we landed on our release date of October 27th.

Pre-Order Landing Page:

  • Create a dedicated landing page on your website for pre-orders.
  • Include all the details, pricing, and links to the platforms where fans can pre-order.

What we did:

  • We built our new shop for our pre-order with our merch company and have it linked directly via our website.
  • I recommend four weeks for the buildout of this type of page.
  • Additionally, I suggest at least six weeks before you begin working on any designs for merchandise you want in the store when you launch.

Press Kit:

  • Prepare a press kit with high-quality images, a press release, and exclusive content to send to media outlets for coverage.

What we did:

  • Four weeks ago we did a new photo shoot.
  • Four weeks ago, we shot seven new music videos for songs from the album.
  • Three weeks ago, we sat down with a journalist to do an interview, which he turned into a new bio for the album.
  • All of this gets compiled into a Google Drive folder, along with logos, templates, One sheet, etc., for sharing with team members, press, radio, DSPs, booking agents, etc., for promoting the new album.

Engage with Fans:

  • Interact with your fans on social media, respond to questions, and build excitement by sharing songs, videos, or artwork snippets.

What we did:

  • As I outlined above, we began teasing the album on social media on Tuesday.
  • As fans engage, we look for opportunities to engage with comments, teasers, etc.
  • We hosted our festival (Country Fuzz Festival) a few weeks earlier in Maryville, TN. We had an afterparty on the first night and invited our Country Fuzz Fan Club members to hang out with us. At the party, we surprised everyone by giving them a sample of our new Whiskey and playing the entire new album.

Pre-Save and Pre-Add:

  • Encourage fans to pre-save (on Spotify) or pre-add (on Apple Music) your album to boost its visibility and reach on these platforms.

What we did:

  • Build out links with all of your DSP partners listed for sharing in your “Link In Bio” on social media and your website.
  • You can find these links in your preferred distribution platform, or if you are signed to a label, they will provide them for you.
  • You can use a site like Linkfire to host.

Monitor Analytics:

  • Keep an eye on pre-order numbers and engagement metrics to assess the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.

What we did:

  • We receive a weekly update on sales from our merch shop, label, and digital partners to monitor sales and adjust our marketing efforts around what we see.
  • Request to be added to a daily or weekly email with your store and other partners to track your progress.

Coordinate with Partners:

  • Align your strategy with DSPs, radio, press, etc.

What we did:

Track Inventory:

  • For physical pre-orders, track inventory to avoid over or understocking. Communicate with distributors to make adjustments as needed.

What we do:

  • As we receive our weekly reports, we will examine whether we need to adjust our order quantities for CDs, vinyl, merchandise, etc.
  • The beauty of a pre-order is you have a moment to look at your data and adjust your projections.
  • Beginning next week, we will have enough data to review this.

Customer Support:

  • Prepare for potential customer inquiries related to pre-orders.
  • Have a system in place to address concerns promptly.

What we do:

  • We monitor our email list for any outreach from fans.
  • Our shop has customer service in case anyone has trouble with their order.
  • We look at DMs to see if anyone has a question.
  • We watch our fan club forums to see how people respond to the announcement and pre-order options.

Thank Your Fans:

Once the pre-order period ends, thank your fans for their support.

Consider exclusive thank-you messages or content.

The goal is to provide your fans with the best experience possible.

The more care you put into their experience, the better result you’ll see for all your hard work.

If you made it to the end of this email, shoot me a quick reply with a 😎.

See you next Sunday!

Neil Mason

Artist Development

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