Horse’s Mouth is now available on all major DSPs including Spotify. Stream it, playlist it, share it with your friends! 

Here are several things I did wrong for my first single release. Hopefully, you (and I) can learn from my mistakes!

1. I spent waaaay too long recording Horse’s Mouth- over a year in fact. Even now I hear things I want to change.  I should either have just put out the demo or put out other tracks while working on it.  I spent so long on it because I had it in my head for 20 or 30 years without ever having recorded it. It’s hard not to be precious about something that’s been with you that long I guess.   But like I said, I had other tracks ready to go pretty much. So there was no need to wait so long. 

2. I paid for marketing advice and then didn’t follow it.  I hired Matt Bacon’s team at Dropout Media before I realized I wasn’t going to be ready to release on the schedule they suggested. So, I put their marketing efforts on hold, intending to restart once ready. In the meantime however,  I ate through my budget and ended up having to just wing it myself.  (Sorry Matt!)

3. I got caught up in a side project that, while fun, took time away from recording and working on the release.  I ‘m talking about Potty Talk– my silly little DIY puppet show with the pots and pans on my stove. I still plan to shoot them occasionally, but I think letting them be my main focus for so long was a mistake. At the very least, I should  have put them in their own social media accounts so that potential fans didn’t see a bunch of talking pots and pans when they were expecting to see a musician. 

4. I used Covid as an excuse not to work. While I did need to sleep a lot, I wasn’t all that sick. I could have kept working on music.  The truth is, I lost momentum a week before getting Covid and didn’t get it back until a week after.  Inertia’s a bitch! 

5. Then I got a bug up my butt to record a new version of Horse’s Mouth and worked on that instead of promoting the original. It was meant to be a stripped down version- just guitar and vocals. But then, of course, I started adding in other instruments. That is not the problem though. In fact, I am really excited about this new version. But, I stopped working on the marketing for the release of the original version and left it all to the last minute. So, on the day of the release, I had to scramble to get stuff done and consequently missed a bunch of opportunities for the first day of streaming on Spotify.   

6. I still haven’t gotten a system down for posting on social media efficiently.  Social media does not come naturally to me, but I realize its worth and am game to post several times per day.  That’s partly why I started doing the Potty Talk videos, as it was more content to feed the beast. But I still spend way to much time scrolling for every post and I have yet to use the tools to schedule posts ahead of time. I also edit on my phone, which takes me a long time and hurts my eyes. I do it to make use of some of the tools built into Instagram and TikTok, but I am sure there is a better way on the desktop, I just need to figure it out. 

7.  I tried to be clever by staggering my release. This is a little complicated. But basically, you upload your music to a distributor like Distrokid and then choose the stores,  digital streaming, and social media platforms that you deliver to. Distrokid gives you an ISRC code for each song. It is a unique number that is used to track sales and streams. Generally, I upload my songs to Distrokid first to get the ISRC, then set up the physical release and downloads on my website, and then set the services I want to release to.  

My idea with Horse’s Mouth was to try to build momentum for the track by releasing to social media first, so that other people could use the song in their videos and only later release it to Spotify in the hopes that this would help me get on their editorial playlists (which is kind of like winning the lottery).   

But there are a couple of problems with doing it that way. For one, if you then upload a video with your song, the social media platforms will flag it as potential copyright violation. I didn’t realize this and got several videos flagged.  The workaround is to upload silent videos and then use your song from their library that they got from your distributor in your video. This can be tricky to sync the audio to the video with their editing tools and often limits you to the portion of the song used in their preview snippet of the song.  Instagram will also then silence your whole video when you download it.  However,  this is still preferable to uploading your videos to the social platforms without going through your distributor for the sound because it prevents people from using your sound without attributing it you, or worse- uploading it to a distributor themselves. 

Another issue with staggering my release had to do with chart reporting.  At this stage, I really shouldn’t be concerned with charting at all, but I wanted to be set up to chart just in case my song took off.  The charts heavily weigh day one sales and streams, but it only takes 500 or so sales your first day to chart on some of the Indie charts as I understand it.  But, as soon as you release a song to social media, that counts as it having been released for sale as well. So my day-one did not have many sales or streams.  Even though I used a different ISRC code by uploading the same song to distrokid twice, since they are named the same, they are treated as the same release and my day-one was the first one.  Again, since charting is not really something to worry about at this stage, it’s not that big a deal, but still. 

Okay, that’s plenty for now. I am sure there are more things I could have done better. But I am not going to beat myself up over it. Just something to learn from. Hope it helps you as well if you are trying to do something similar.

Screenshot of Isaac Toast's profile on Spotify featuring his first single Horse's Mouth