All unsigned artists are looking for the same thing from music journalists – more coverage online. Whether that be to help drive ticket sales for their shows, sell albums and EPs or just gain more streams of their music online, a few lines from an influential publication or blogger can help send them in the right direction.
With the printed music press being somewhat dwarfed by online publications, bloggers and even social media, the days of sending off demos to record labels and music magazines and waiting to be signed or covered are long gone (and many would say that they never even really existed).
Artists in 2017 need to utilise a whole different skill set to get coverage for their musical projects online. Whilst larger sites undoubtedly carry a lot more Klout online and a link from their site to yours can do great things for your search visibility in Google and the like, it is important to build yourself from the ground up. In truth, a lot of popular publications will look at your social following and if they don’t think you already have an audience, they may not even consider mentioning you, even if you are the next Hendrix or The Beatles.
This post won’t deal with building an audience, as that is a massive project and even the basics would take a great many posts to get to grips with. Instead, it will give you 6 simple questions to ask yourself before sending out that email to music journalists to help you get in the writers’ good books and maximise your chance of gaining coverage.
What To Ask Before Approaching Music Journalists
Do they cover your genre?
The first thing to ask yourself before sending an email to anybody is “does the writer or publication cover my genre?” If the answer is no, find somebody who does. There is nothing more frustrating to music journalists than receiving unsolicited emails from bands that you have never heard of and whose genre that doesn’t fit in with your publication or website. If you only write about metal bands, you will likely not be interested in the next Johnny Cash. A little bit of research will save you a lot of time and give you a higher success rate.
Summary: Only contact writers who are likely to cover the type of music that you make.
Where are they based?
A lot of publications such as MOJO, Q Magazine and NME cover national music news, including festivals, album releases and other wider musical news. There are also national publications that only focus on a particular genre, such as Kerrang!. You will then get location-based publications, such as BN1 Magazine and Brighton’s Finest, which tend to only cover news in the local and surrounding areas.
A lot of local music bloggers also tend to cover artists who are performing in their local area and who are from their local/surrounding area. I fall into this category myself, and whilst I do some work reviewing festivals and artists nationally – e.g. Bill Laurence at The Glee Club, Birmingham – I generally spend about 90% of my time covering artists who are performing in and around Brighton.
Summary: Only contact publications that cover the geographical area that you want to target.
What do they do best?
Just like dating, wooing the press to cover your band or act is a game that requires patience, practice and a reasonable amount of online stalking. When approaching a music journalist, make sure that you know a bit about them, rather than giving a generic ‘we love your blog’ and hoping that their ego will persuade them to give you the time of day. Find out what types of content they do and see how that can help you. Do they specialise in reviews, interviews, gig previews or album reviews. Each website has its place in promoting your music, with its audience that you hope will take an interest in you. Most publications will probably only cover you once, unless they become real fans, so timing is key. Don’t approach a reputable live reviewer if you only have 3 tracks and no shows lined up. It’s a good idea to keep a spreadsheet with all of the local publications, their specialisms and contact details of the writers.
Summary: Find out what type of content websites like to produce and tailor your request to meet this.
Do you know them?
As you can imagine, even smaller blogs and websites are inundated with bands and solo artists who think that they deserve the audience of the press. The best thing you can do is find a way to bridge the gap between yourself and them – and a good way to do that is through your network of other local bands. If you know somebody that has recently been covered by a publication that you are looking into, ask them how they got coverage from them.
If nothing else, don’t be afraid to name-drop in an email. Whether it’s a local act that you often play alongside, plays the same genre as your music, or your friend’s band that you know they’ve written about, the writer is going to be much more interested in you if they feel like they know you (even through a friend of a friend) so make it a bit more personal.
Summary: Find a link to the writer, ideally in their previous work, to get them interested in you.
I don’t know how other music journos feel about press releases, but personally, I hate them. While some larger publications may copy and paste them into their news section, from an SEO point of view this is bad news for the website and the artist, so it is something that I don’t do. The problem that I have with most press releases is that they are written like a new story and it takes a lot more work to turn them into something original than something a lot more stripped back.
The bare bones of a what you should send a music journalist are;
Band name, genre, line-up and home-town/based in
Latest release – release date, title, bit about the release, where available, link to video/audio
Next gig/tour – link to full tour dates on website, mention local dates and link to Facebook event for local date if available
Social Media Links – only up-to-date profiles please
Link to high-quality images to use (do not attach to the email)
Tom Sayer (singer-songwriter) from Brighton
Latest release: Remember Us (July 2017), written about the characters from The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Listen on Soundcloud
Next gig: Open Mic at The Greyhound on Thursday 17th August 2017
Images available on tomsayer.co.uk/blog
Summary: Don’t feel like you need a lengthy press release. Keep things simple, intriguing and easy for the writers.
What makes it news?
The problem that I have with most press releases is that they are written like a news story and it takes a lot more work to turn them into something original than something a lot more stripped back. By their nature, press releases are blanket statements written to give the facts to multiple writers in hope that they will cover the story, but in general because they are so broad, they cannot cover the local details that might make the story interesting for you and your website.
For example, a band performing a UK tour and having a show in Brighton might not be a real scoop to your publication, but if the band haven’t played in Brighton in 10 years and the venue has just been refurbished following a council grant, then that is something newsworthy. It’s all about how you present that information to the writer.
Try to think of it from the other side. How is a press release stating that “BAND NAME is performing at VENUE NAME on DATE” or “SINGER NAME releases NEW ALBUM NAME” interesting?
Summary: Turn what you’ve done into a unique story and it will be much easier to gain coverage.
Approaching Music Journalists: A Summary
Save yourself a lot of time and effort by only approaching the writers and publications that are likely to have an interest in what you have to offer. The scatter gun approach will only end up in you being blacklisted by the press. Remember that writers are human too so be polite, make it easy for them by giving them a good story and then hopefully you’ll make some good contacts to help your band on their way to stardom.
RELATED READ – HOW TO WRITE A MUSIC BLOG