Anyone looking to make a living off of original songs is aware that knowing how to play excellent music is as important as knowing how to promote it. Nowadays everyone can put up a website, set up a SoundCloud profile and promote away on social media, but there’s something that eludes even the most social media savvy: how to get critics to notice and review your music.
Social media has made the process of reaching audiences a lot easier than just a few years ago, but it hasn’t really done that much to ease the process of getting some press for your music. If anything, it’s made it harder seeing as music editors and writers are swamped with emails from bands, PR agents, and managers from every act -big, or small- at any given time. After all, having your music reviewed by a publication exposes you to an entirely new audience, gives you social proof, and a pretty good idea of how you’re music is perceived by pros. Everyone wants that. Thing is, it’s way easier to not get your music reviewed than it is to get a beaming article on Pitchfork. In fact, it’s so easy, most up-and-coming musicians handling their own promotion are making the following two deadly mistakes when it comes to chasing around a review:
Mistake #1: You’re Being Spammy
Gone are the days when spam was some poorly crafted email asking people to wire money yo shady bank accounts, broken english and all. Today, spam is a little more well constructed. Is that email you got from a template and have been sending to every editor in town barely changing any of the content. It may have no spelling mistakes and you might not be asking for money, but make no mistake, it is spam and it is received as such. Sending the same repeated email to every writer and editor you can find, is the easiest way to burn all your bridges.
The easiest way to correct course is by taking a cue from marketers, segment your target. Really take a look at publications that already cover musicians that have a style similar to yours and add them to a list. Then go over it and scratch any publication with a no-submissions policy (if they do have one, they’ll put it up in their contact page). Once you have a curated list, find the emails of the editors or any specific writers that cover your particular genre or you think will like what you have to offer, then start writing. A personal email will always be better received than just some canned press release (though you should have one available, more on that later).
This is one of those times when having good relationships with local artists can help. Chances are, musicians that have been around for longer, have already walked the path that you are just starting. In other words, they might have the email addresses of the people you’re trying to reach.
During the entire process, keep in mind that you probably won’t hear back from a lot of the people you’re trying to reach. Don’t lash out. Sending a follow up email trying to guilt them into replying or writing about your music will do a lot more harm than good. While sending a second email is not bad practice, doing anything more than that requires a lot of finesse. Remember you are a part of a community, you don’t want to come off as rude, disrespectful or desperate and have that become part of your reputation throughout the industry.
This is only the first deadly mistake most newbies are making when it comes to getting writers to talk about their music. There’s another, equally deadly mistake newcomers are making that it’s keeping them from getting the reviews they want, check out part 2 to see what it is.