When to release your second album? Album release cycle

When To Release Your Second Album? The Album Release Cycle

Releasing your first album is always a bit of a whirlwind. You release the record, publish singles, go on tour, get back, and you want to relax. But that second album is all important. Here’s how and when to release your second album to ensure success.

As a general rule, bands should release their first five albums 12-18 months after the previous album’s release. Initially, it’s important that albums are released close together to grow a broad and dedicated fanbase. This proven release cycle allows time for sufficient promotion of the first album and writing, recording, mixing and pre-promotion of the second album.

That may seem quite a quick turnaround, or for some bands, that may not seem long enough. But let’s explore why and what else you can be doing.

The Album Release Cycle

For decades, the album release cycle was a staple of the record label’s arsenal. While the popularity of social media and streaming has disrupted it somewhat, it remands a good benchmark.

Album Release Cycle - Knight Music

1. Writing The Album:

The first step is to write your album. This process usually takes 4-8 weeks as you spend time individually or together as a band coming up with ideas. Then rehearse those ideas to work them through and learn the parts. It’s not important to finalise those ideas yet, but you must come up with enough ideas to fill a 10-14 song album. Try to have some demos recorded to streamline your time in the studio.

If you’re interested in how long your album should be, you can check out my article about it.

if it’s your second album, you should also use this time to find a producer to work with

2. Recording the Album

Due to the cost of a recording studio, you will want to get this done as quickly as possible. Whether you are releasing the album yourselves or through a label, your songs will always change during the recording process. As you hear them back and get influence from your producer, you will tweak the album. This is why it isn’t too important to have everything 100%.

Depending on your band’s genre, you will usually start by recording a guide track as a group to a metronome. Then each band member will record their parts in isolation, starting with drums, then bass, then guitars, additional instrumentation, backing singing, solos and then lead vocals.

While you are recording your album is a great time to capture some content for social media. Fans love to see behind-the-scenes content in the studio. It doesn’t have to be super flashy, well-produced or even includes any of your music. Just talk to the camera about the process and capture moments of having fun in the studio.

3. Mixing

For a band, the time during mixing is a fairly relaxed period and the calm before the storm. The release cycle is quite gruelling, so you’ll want to use this time to relax a bit. However, it’s a great opportunity to learn from and work with a producer and mixer to discover everything that goes into creating an album.

If you use this time well to learn the craft, you will be able to think more holistically about future albums and how different instruments and parts of a song work together.

Following this stage, once the album is recorded, mixed and mastered, you can set a release date. If you are working with a label, you might have to wait for an appropriate slot while they check competing bands and resource capacity.

4. Pre-release Promotion

With your release date set, your label, or you should start promoting the upcoming release. The Pre-release promotion phase is usually 8-12 weeks while the label arranges the logistics and distribution of manufacturing the album and getting it in stores. This phase is critical as you are essentially marketing your product and building demand so that your fans flood to stream it and listen to it upon its release. You want a lot of activity in a short time to create a buzz.

Additionally, with your tour dates set, you will also want to sell tickets to that. At a minimum, you want all your existing fans to know about it, but ideally, you want to reach as many new listeners as possible.

Activities at this stage include planning the tour, creating promotional videos, releasing singles, pitching to radio stations, doing interviews and arranging album reviews with the media. If you are working with a label, this can be quite intense, but they should give you public relations training.

5. Album Launch & Touring

Now you have launched your album, you will start your tour and get to share your music with fans. Depending on your popularity, the tour will usually be 3-6 months, and it could be a national, international or global tour.

During this phase, you will still be doing additional promotional activities. Your label should arrange interviews with the local press or media. Take the time to meet and greet fans, it’s the best part (in this writer’s opinion), but also make sure you have some time to yourself.

Again, try to post on social media when you can, but your label will be running campaigns while you’re away to drum up additional tour ticket sales.

And then the cycle starts again. Many bands write some songs while on tour, so that process is streamlined, or they get more time off.

While bands may wish to release music more quickly, it generally means that they are not putting enough effort into marketing and sales of the album. Which will make the success of future albums more difficult.

Changes due to streaming

Some predicted that this album release cycle would die with streaming. And while it has changed slightly, it’s still largely the same. Yes, you can release a song as soon as it’s finished. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

Releasing an album as a whole creates a lightning rod event that boosts the album’s promotion. With pre-promotional activities to generate demand, an album will get an influx of sales when it’s released, making it more likely to perform well in the charts and generate a buzz.

Protest The Hero released their album Pacific Myth via a subscription model. The subscription cost was the same as buying an album ($12), but they released songs as soon as they were written, recorded and mixed (1 per month for six months). The band said the release was because they didn’t like waiting so long between writing the music and sharing it with fans. They said they lost the buzz of the new music by the time fans even heard it.

However, while this was a great idea (and the EP was great too, you can read my review of Protest The Hero’s Pacific Myth), most people already pay monthly for their subscription. They don’t want to buy more content unless they are a super-fan of the band. And that’s really who it’s for.

Promoting An Upcoming Album?

If you’re preparing to launch an upcoming album, I have 2 decades of experience in the music industry and a decade in marketing. Please drop me a message, and we can discuss your upcoming release and how I can help.

Or if you have it all sorted, I’d love to hear your new music. I promote established bands and write unsigned album reviews.