When it comes to choosing a release date for your album, timing is everything. The wrong release date can condemn your album to a lifetime of obscurity, or at least force you into doing one of those "re-releases" down the line.
Choosing a release date is an art, not a science, but there are some basics you need to consider before you set that record release date in stone. Weigh the following factors before you announce your album release, and improve your chances of getting press and making sales.
Consider the Competition
Who are your musical inspirations? What artist are you compared to all the time? Chances are that your inspirations and comparable artists are also your biggest competition when it comes to selling records and getting press. Before you schedule your release date, check their schedules. You don't want to drop an album on the same day.
This isn't because they're better than you, but if they're bigger than you, you'll have a problem. The media is only going to cover so many releases of any given genre for any given release date, and the more "must-review" artists you go up against, the less likely you are to get the press you want—and need.
Further, all of the fans you want to buy your record may decide to buy that other artist's record first and yours later, if at all. Not good.
There's never going to be a release date with zero competition. However, if you're a rapper, for example, who gets compared to Jay-Z all the time, there's no real need for you to go up against him out of the gate.
Choose your release date for this album wisely, maximize your press and sales potential this time around, and then you may be in a position to worry less about the competition (though don't think for a second even the world's best-selling artist doesn't strategically choose release dates. You're always going to do this on some level).
To effectively do a big push for your new release, you're going to need some upfront cash. If you have to delay your release for a few months to stack some chips, do it.
I know you're eager for people to hear your work, and I certainly know that musicians get tired of their stuff quickly. However, if you don't have a little bit of money to spend on shows and some promotion, it's all for nothing anyway. The amount of money you need depends on the scale of your release and your goals, but spend some time planning a budget and then hold off until your earn the cash. You'll be glad you did.
Time of Year
November and December are not great times to release an indie album since the big labels are going to throw out a ton of major releases they hope will attract your holiday gift dollar. This big budget, big artist release rush means there is next to no press space, radio space, or retail space for small indies.
January is also a bit of a dead time for the music industry as a whole since everyone eases back into spending gradually after the holidays. SXSW dominates everyone's agenda in March.
Consider early February, late spring, or early fall for your indie release. The music industry calendar works in your favor during those times.
Availability to Tour
If you're releasing an album, you need to play some shows, no way around it. You don't necessarily need a three-week tour, especially if you're new to playing outside of your home market, but you do need to be able to get out there for short runs to promote your album. If you've got a day job, that means taking time off from work. When can you get off work and for how long? Are there big projects coming up at work you can't miss? Align your release date with your vacation days so you can actually go out and promote it.
Your PR Company's Advice
If you hire a PR company to promote your release, their feedback about release dates is incredibly valuable. They are tapped into release dates, media preferences and patterns, and everything else that will impact your ability to get the most attention possible for your release. Defer to their judgment, or at least factor it in when making your decision.