Music PR to many is a strange and mysterious world. Awell-kept secret of ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do that, why they hell did you do
that???’ To me that seems a bit naff. Lots of bands are keen for their music to
reach a ‘wider audience’ (for more people to play one of their songs on
SoundCloud) but don’t have the backing of a label to support them, the money to
pay a PR (this is nothing against PRs – lots would and do work for free to help
promote and support the music they love, but ultimately it’s a job and they
need to eat…) and aren’t really sure how to get their music written about or
even heard by ‘the right people’ themselves. Other people aren’t fussed about
their songs being heard by a ‘wider audience’ and don’t care about ‘PR’. That’s
I wanted to write this guide to give people who might want
just a few pointers on how they might be able to get some people writing about
some song they wrote themselves – because it shouldn’t be a secret.
Send good emails
A really important thing for people who are sending stuff to
music writers, bloggers etc I think is to put yourself in the shoes of said
music writer, blogger etc. They’re receiving hundreds of emails a day – many of
which are from people they know and whose music taste they already trust (and
some from people they’re inclined to keep on the good side of so that they’ll
keep sending them premieres or giving them interview time with big bands in the
future…). They’re busy and, like everyone, sometimes lazy, tired, hungover,
grumpy, etc. So you need to make it as little effort as possible for a music
writer to hear what you have to say, to find out about your band, and to listen
to what you’re sending them. Keep your email fairly short, tell them everything
they might want to know in the email (release date, name of band, SoundCloud
link to song, name of song, name of album link to Facebook page, link to photo
of you or your band) and order it in a way that’s actually easy to see and
read. Don’t tell them your life story, don’t attach mp3s or press shots (link
to stuff online) and don’t try to pretend like they’re the only person you’re
emailing by talking about how much you love their blog.
Send it to people who
might actually like you
Another important thing, and something that will save you
time (and might over time help you build a reputation that stuff you send them
is worth listening to), is send stuff to people who might actually like what
you’re sending them. It is an almost
guaranteed waste of your time if you’re sending a fuzzy lo-fi punky guitar
track to a blog that almost exclusively covers ambient electronica in Auckland.
If you think you sound a little like Johnny Foreigner (or preferably someone
even smaller and newer, let’s say playlounge, why not) – go on to Hype Machine,
search the artist you sound similar to and see the list of blogs who have written
about that band and when they wrote it. Here you’ll see a list of blogs and
music writers who like a band who sound
similar to your band and are still actively writing stuff – and therefore might
be more likely to like and write about your fuzzy lo-fi punky guitar band too.
Definitely more likely than a blog that covers ambient electronica in Auckland.
Understand what is
This bit sounds a bit crap, but ultimately it’s going to
save you time and pain. You need to understand what a music website will and
won’t likely write about or care about. They’re much more likely to write about
a new song that has been put online in the past 24 hours taken from an album
that is out in a month than they are a song from an album that’s already out
that you can listen to in full on Spotify. Ultimately, journalists and bloggers
are writing articles (or creating content) ‘to an audience’. They need to write
stuff that that audience cares about; streams of new music that haven’t previously
been online, new tour dates that you’ve just announced, news of your album
which will be out in two months etc. And ultimately they need to do this
because they need people clicking on their links, visiting their websites,
picking up their magazines – so that they can make a little money from advertising
and afford to pay their rents. Their potential link-clickers followers probably
don’t care too much about your song if it’s been online for a year from an
album that’s fully streamable, even if you have created an iPhone shot brand
new video for it. Sorry.
Know what the ‘story’
This is also a bit crap, but will help. When you’re sending
stuff to people to write about you, it’s good to have an idea in your head of
how they might write about you – i.e. what is the story, why is it interesting?
Sometimes imagining the headline a blogger might write is a helpful way of
yourself understanding what the interesting thing to the writer is. ‘Band
announces debut album, streams first song taken from it – listen!’, or ‘Band
shares new video for song taken from forthcoming split’, or ‘Band announces UK
tour with other band, shares new song’ etc. This all sounds a bit naff, but if
you know what the story is, it’s much easier to write a good email. ‘Hey Jamie,
My band has a new album out in May and we’re gonna be announcing it with a stream
of the song ‘First Song Stream’ next week – thought you might want to check it
out before it goes online’ type thing. Not ‘EVERYTHING ABOUT MY BAND IN A
CONFUSING WAY WE’RE DOING THIS THEN WE’RE GONNA DO THAT THEN LAST YEAR WE DID
THIS MAYBE YOU CAN WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT IT SOMEWHERE I DUNNO’. You know? You
pretty much want to know what the person is going to write about you when you’re
writing the email to them.
The editor of the NME realistically writes a very small
portion of the NME. The same applies to lots of online music publications. Lots
of staffers and freelancers have a fair amount of autonomy in what they write
about and will regularly pitch ideas and suggestions up to the people in
charge. They often receive far fewer emails than the reviews editors, the
features editors, the new music editors – and have much more time to read your
email and listen to your music. Oh look, Emma Garland recently wrote about
Trust Fund on Noisey, maybe she might be up for hearing more from small UK DIY
bands and can run them past Ryan Bassil? Sammy Maine covered Trust Fund in her
2015 stuff to look out for on Drowned in Sound, maybe she’d like your bedroom
pop project and can send it to Drowned In Sound editor Sean Adams? Will
Richards featured Trust Fund as a stand-out track on DIY, maybe he’d suggest
your band to the editors of the magazine for potential coverage? Rhian Daly
reviewed the album in the NME, maybe she can talk to the Reviews Editor about
your album potentially being reviewed. The list goes on.
These people are pretty easy to find, easy to email, and nice.
If they like your band, they’ll do their best to cover it. And they might be
realistically more likely to listen to you than the Editor-in-Chief at
Give them plenty of
heads up (make them feel special)
This ties in to knowing what the story is and knowing what’s
interesting. Bloggers are much more likely to write about something if it’s
new. If you upload your song to SoundCloud private and keep the news about your
album under wraps, send it to a music writer and say you’re going to be putting this new song online
and announcing your album next week, the music writer firstly has more chance
to listen to it before it’s old news but also feels a little bit special cos
they’re hearing something before everybody else and might have the chance to
introduce their readers to it. Then once the song does go online in a week, the
music writer already knows who you are (if they’ve gotten round to listening to
your song) and maybe much more likely to write about it.
Similarly with an album release, give yourself at least a
month (if not a lot more) to help spread the word about it. If it’s January and
you’ve just got the final mixes of your album back, maybe say it’s gonna be
released in April. That way you can ‘announce’ the album and gradually tease it
with maybe two or three song streams (and maybe a video for that song) before
it’s even out. Then when it is out and on bandcamp and all that, people can
still listen to it as they would have before – only they may have already been
introduced to you because of that song they heard last month they really liked.
Be nice. People are generally nice and being dicks to people
isn’t gonna help anyone.
Be patient. Lots of people send and receive emails all the
time. Sometimes it takes a day to find a chance to listen. If they’ve not replied
in a couple of days, maybe give a polite follow up email.
Upload songs onto SoundCloud as private and send it to a few
select people before it goes online. Give them a heads up. Make them feel
special. Give them more chance to hear it before it’s ‘old news’ already.
Get all your ‘assets’ prepared. Bloggers might want a band
press shot. They might want a download link to your album. They might want the
embed coding of your new song. They might want a high-res version of your
artwork. Get this stuff all ready. Upload your press shot and artwork to an
image hosting site like imgur.com and send the links of these images in an
email to yourself so you’ve always got them handy.
Attach mp3s in emails. This clogs up people’s email
addresses and will piss them off.
Search out these people on
Facebook and Twitter and pester them with messages to listen to your band.
Follow them and see what they tweet about it and the stuff they write about,
sure, but don’t piss them off.
Upload a whole album to bandcamp
and then send individual track streams to bloggers. If the whole record is on
the internet, it’s probably not that interesting (as crap as that is, sorry)
Other than that, I guess just make good music?
If you have any questions, feel
free to email me – email@example.com