WRITTEN BY: Justin Sarachik
There is a lot more to being a serious artist than just making music. If you have any aspirations of having a career or getting on someone’s radar, professionalism is a must. There is a point where talent can only take you so far, and for some, that talent is never even realized by anyone because of a complete failure of simple and concise communication.
The number ONE way to get your music heard in today’s world is through the Internet. Sometimes you get lucky and a song on Soundcloud or YouTube blows up organically or gets playlisted but what does everyone else who isn’t so fortunate do?
Enter, the elusive, press release.
A press release is your entire brand, identity, career, and “handshake” in one shot. Think of it as a resume of what you’re currently doing, and whenever you send one out, it’s like sending a job a resume…remember, first impressions and the aforementioned “handshake.” You might only get one shot.
But before we dive into a press release, let’s talk about publications.
Many times your submission, which let’s be honest, it’s really a pitch for coverage, is going to a submission box or a busy editor. A generic submission box might get a few hundred emails a day. It takes a lot of time to sort through these emails if they can even be kept up with at all. The same goes for editors. If you don’t hear a reply, 75% of the time it’s because they didn’t A) see your email or B) don’t care enough to click it because they didn’t recognize the name. There are two ways to combat both points, STAND OUT!
This next part is time-consuming but very crucial, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look on the blog, website, magazine, etc. for any keys to how to submit. If they list 1 – 8 steps to follow, nail every single one. They are saying, “Do this and we’ll notice.”
If you are trying to get in touch with a certain section, editor, writer, search the site for contact information or an email to send to. Try to avoid stalking them on social media, and messaging them on every platform. It can come across as annoying or off-putting. (Twitter is least invasive for hitting up people you don’t know F.Y.I.).
Now, browse the website. Look at what kinds of articles they post, and check out their writing style. Look for artists who fit into a similar mold as yourself and see if they even cover that. For instance, and this happens ALL THE TIME if you’re pitching to a family website, maybe don’t submit music littered with profanity or graphic sexuality. In the same vein, if you’re music that’s explicitly family friendly , you probably won’t get your video posted on to WorldStar unless you pay…but you might if you’re good enough. Learn how to gauge and read what a website will publish and figure out whether to invest your time or not.
Also, make sure you get the genre right. Don’t submit a mixtape to an alternative rock website. Don’t send a Christian hip-hop site your death metal cover of a Marilyn Manson song from your band Angel Executioner. Be aware of the formats.
Also, the kiss of death in an email is to write, “[Publication] is my favorite, I read it all the time and have been following for years.” Then the next sentence or even the music indicates that this statement isn’t true at all and that you just swap the name out every time you send. Having a template is great, but sometimes scenarios dictate a little more than a name change and email address. Be as personable with someone you don’t see or know to the best of your ability.
Now, let’s talk about that “nice to meet you email.”
It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of relationship you have with the person who is going to post your stuff, keep it consistent from the first handshake to them being the best man at your wedding. Why should you get less professional as you go?
DO NOT just drop a link to a video or song with nothing else. That says nothing of who you are, and will usually get ignored.
DO NOT say, “Yo sup guys?? Peep my mixtape.” Would you introduce yourself like that at a job?
DO NOT make your whole introduction but not supply the needed information. Remember, you may only have one shot to be seen. That first email should include everything the person needs to know who you are. They shouldn’t have to respond with, “Please send me a picture, please send music for download, etc.”
DO NOT email a novel or send a haiku. Figure out the perfect balance of enough information without sending a copy of War and Peace or a Dr. Seuss book.
DO NOT litter your email with typos. Ex: getting your name, dates, tracks wrong, etc. It’s happened.
DO NOT send an email that has all CC’s attached or says forward on the subject. It shows that the person is just “another” place to pitch and lacks that one to one feel.
DO provide a summary of who you are with the most important details or accomplishments you have.
DO provide links to where your music can be heard.
DO provide a high-res photo of yourself and artwork.
DO provide all relevant social media links so they can link people to you.
DO be clear and concise in the heading. EX: “ATTN: Young Clueless Drops Debut Single ‘What am I Doing?’: Music Video Debuts 1/1/18”
Remember, if you provide all the info, it’s less work the writer has to do. If I never heard of you and I have to spend 20 minutes looking up what you’re all about, I’m going to pass. If I never heard of you, but your entire story is written out, I can take that 20 minutes and post you.
Don’t make the publication put more effort in writing about you than you writing to them. Writers have a limited amount of time and deadlines to hit, they can just move on to the next more professional submission even if your music is better.
Now, for the 25% of the times, the publication doesn’t answer.
Sometimes your press release is perfect but the person reviewing doesn’t like your music. Sometimes everything is perfect but maybe that place isn’t posting new artists right now. Everything could be perfect but your music does not fit with the direction of what the site posts. And sometimes, and this is tough to swallow, your music just isn’t up to snuff. Maybe the quality is bad or maybe the talent is lacking. Remember, this is subjective though. So perhaps another place will like your music.
Don’t give up! One to two follow-ups are perfectly fine over a two week period. Do not do it the same day or even the next day. Also, don’t just copy and paste or forward the same email every time, change up your approach. What you did the first time didn’t work, why would you do it again?
Often times, emails get lost or piled up, and that second email could be a good reminder of someone the publication wanted to post but it got lost in the abyss.
Also, don’t expect a reply. If you are fortunate enough to receive one, great, if not, don’t email demanding one or asking for a review of your music. If they don’t have time to post it or like it enough to post it, they aren’t going to give you a list of reasons that you’ll probably object to anyway.
If you don’t think you are able to write a press release or an introductory email before the release, find someone who can do it for you. Sometimes a professional look is the best thing money can buy for an artist!
Now before you conquer the world with your shiny press release and music resumes, let’s cover a few other things…
Artists, remember, a publication does not work for you. They are not responsible for marketing or promoting your product, YOU are. Present yourself in the best and most professional way possible regardless of where you’re at. Invest in your craft, don’t make others do it for you. If they offer packages and you can afford it, figure out the best one to advance your brand and weigh your options. If you don’t think you need that, then don’t feel pressured to do so.
Also, don’t take shots at a publication if they don’t post you. One day they might want to and will remember your negative chatter on social media. Just like people who get fired from their jobs for old social media posts…same thing.
Don’t submit old songs or news. If your album came out two months ago, don’t send out press releases now. You missed your window. Singles have a bit more leeway, but if it’s more than a few weeks, it’s over. One exception would be in a music video or song suddenly went viral.
Also, make sure you send over the music that is the best representation of who you are all the time. If you’re a conscious rapper and send over a trap song to try to make it on a trap site, you’ll eventually be found out. In reality, don’t send over something whack! Once making that first impression send the best and newest thing you have.
If you are an artist or band who keeps your music social media pages on private – open them up! How are you supposed to get your name out if no one can see it? The same can be said about a serious artist who uses their non-artist name to push music. It’s fine to have an artist page and a personal page, but don’t confuse the brand by making it into one or pushing stuff through different names.
Lastly, in music journalism, everyone wants to be your “bro” until you don’t write about them or for them. Then, you just never existed or are a hater. This person’s job is to write about music. You can’t make someone like something they don’t like. Just get tough skin and move on. It’s nothing personal, writers are thinking of what’s best for their audience. Agree to disagree and keep moving. Use it as fuel to prove why they missed out on posting.
That’s it. If you have any other questions, find me “non-invasively” on Twitter.