I’ve toured for over 20 years, plus I’m a music journalist, so I’ve seen this from both sides. I’ve gotten press in Billboard and I’ve written for publications like SingOut! and Acoustic Guitar. Here are some tips to get your name where you want it.
Get a list of contacts
The Indie Bible is a good resource. There are a lot more, just Google what you need. It’s best if you can get the name and direct address of the writer responsible for your genre of music.
Don’t blast every writer on the planet
No one in London is going to care that a singer-songwriter in Smells Funny, Montana, has put out an album. Stick mostly to the cities where you perform. Throw in a couple of big name websites/publications, especially if you have a personal contact for any of the writers or editors.
Do not include attachments
Most writers and editors will not open an attachment from someone they don’t know. Send a good press release with links to your press kit, photos, music clips and videos. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
One writer told me that he gets so many emails, he hardly reads them anymore. It was difficult to reach him on the phone, but when I did, it really helped to talk with him. After that I got more press from him than I did in the past – maybe because now I was a real person and not just some spammer.
If you get good press – even if it’s just a sentence – thank the writer. It’ll help them remember who you are and it’s just a nice thing to do. (Can you tell I live in Canada?)
Be politely persistent
Don’t send daily press releases. They won’t get read and there’s a possibility that after awhile, everything you send will go to their spam folder. Weekly press releases are okay if you’re coming up on an important event like a CD release or a concert in their town.
Never chastise a writer or editor, even if you think they’re being extremely unfair for not recognizing the absolute awesomeness of your band. There’s a good chance it’ll bite you in the butt later on. This goes for direct and indirect communication like blogging or Facebook posts. Sometimes it can be a very small music world.
There are a couple of people on my Never-Give-This-Artist-Good-Publicity list because they did something reprehensible in the past. One was a musician who selectively edited a review I wrote to make it sound like I loved her album. I wrote to her and gave her a chance to take it down from her site, but last I looked, it was still there. I’m not exactly the music editor at the New York Times but still, word gets out.
Have well-written promo material
Nothing turns a journalist off more than a bunch of greatest-thing-since-Dylan superlatives. Be descriptive and creative. What instruments are in the band? Do you do originals and/or covers? What style of music do you do? I know a group that could say they’re a bluegrass band, but instead call what they do “uptown hillbilly swing.” Who do you sound like? I know, we all hate comparisons but it gives the reader someplace to start.
Make yourself stand out with a good story. Did you sell everything you owned to finance your first tour? Is your second cousin a member of Green Day? (And did you get a quote from him?) Did you learn to play by listening to your grandfather’s Van Morrison LPs? You get the idea.
Insure that your material is free of misspellings and awkward phrasing. If you’re not certain of your writing abilities, ask someone to help. While your manager or your girlfriend may be a decent writer, you might want to hire a professional. Many journalists also write bios and press releases on the side. I’m one of them – get more information here.
I once got a nice article in Billboard because I met one of the writers at a conference. I didn’t stalk the guy; I just made myself known. He gave me a great quote that I still use.
Follow the directions
If you want a review of one of your recordings, find out what that publication or blog needs from you. Do they want an actual CD? Do they prefer on-line submissions? Do they only review metal and you’re a folk singer?
Don’t ignore the music
You can’t sell something if it isn’t good. (I’ll dial back the snark about some mainstream performers … you’re welcome.) Hone your songs, gig as much as you can and fire the drummer if he shows up drunk for every gig.
If you’re interested in having me write your bio or press release, you can reach me here.
I currently write for SingOut!, Minor7th.com, Indie-Music.com and occasionally for others. If you have a recording you’d like to have reviewed, please contact the publication directly. I can only review music sent to me by my editors.