Releasing a song/album is really like making a movie but on a smaller scale.
In a movie production, the director’s job is to get the whole team to embrace his/her vision. Of course, they take advice from different experts like the lighting director that comes with suggestions and then the director makes that part of the vision. In the background, you have the producers that do the financial decisions. The vision cannot go over budget. Still, in the end, the director’s job is to make the vision clear.
In music, that job is the artist's job. Sometimes they know, like an actor, they can direct a movie. But not any actor can be a director. Same in music in many ways, artists might not be suitable to make these decisions. Still, in the part that you release DIY, you are forced to be the director that makes decisions.
When I went to film school, I was a script writer, still, we did some classes with directors to be able to understand their work. One of the most talked about things was that a director should not seek advice and then always do the other way. If the light engineer gave a suggestion you need quite good reasons and concrete arguments about why that is not fitting the vision. Some demon directors were mentioned like Alfred Hitchcock who was up in a tower shouting direction out of a megaphone during a shoot. At the same time, Alfred Hitchcock also stated, “Actors are cattle”. Later in an interview, someone asked if he had said that and he replied: “No, I never said that, I meant it”.
Here I think the music industry has a lot to learn. As the releasing part if you are the manager, artist or even the record label. You must make your vision clear. If you do not know how should people know what you want? My first questions with a new release are what you wish to happen to the release. And in 99% of the cases, they do not know, or the answer is it should be a mega-hit, or that all people should hear it. That is as stupid as that a locally produced movie in Sweden would have the same budget as a major Hollywood production. You need to know if this is for the world, local or national market. Just there it determines how many teams you need and how much it will cost.
Time is also crucial. Imagine that the director starts to call round to the crew that they should do the most important shoot of the movie the next day and just expect all people at the set to be just ready and drop all their other projects and just be there? That is the feeling when an artist just gets an inspiration and wants to release the next song the same week.
Then during the shoot, all the suggestions that come from professionals are disregarded. On all the suggestions that they were asked for then everything was done in the opposite way. Yes, then the team just does their orders and do not feel the vision. They just do their job and lose the passion about the project and will not go that extra mile which all projects need to be successful. Here you have the artist that hires a professional producer and then starts arguing that this is not “their sound”. If you know better why even hire them? Or the manager that gets the advice to push the release and then comes back with some sneaky thing to get it out anyway even though they got the advice to push it. If the team is mistreated doors close amazingly fast and very silently.
On top of that the director that has dropped everything starts to yell that the crew did not do their best. The director should just be lucky that people showed up. The the artist complains that the song that was released in a week’s notice did not get that many streams.
Currently the panic is that you should release quickly since the live opportunities are slim. Think clearly and do not rush things. Do not be too slow either.
Be clear about what you want. You are the director, not a bad boss screaming at people rather being the boss that you like and are ready to work an extra time for at no cost.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham.