4 Things Music Journalists Expect After Reviewing Your Album

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Allison Johnelle Boron, editor-in-chief of REBEAT Magazine, and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

 

It finally happened: that hot music blog called your album “inspired” and urged its voracious readers to give it a listen. You do a happy dance and text your mom to tell her you’re on your way to bonafide rockstar status. This one 300-word post has made your entire day, week, and month.

But before you get too swept away by seeing your band’s name in print, don’t forget whose fingers typed it. You likely either cold called the writer or blog, worked with a publicist or PR agency to facilitate the review, or had a friend of a friend pass along your music to his or her music journalist pal.

Whatever route the review took to get written, pause your celebrations and make sure these four things are on your immediate to-do list.

1. Write a thank you

Music journalists aren’t obligated to write about anything musicians send over. In fact, writers’ inboxes are absolutely flooded with emails from artists and publicists, making it impossible to open each one, let alone play the tracks inside. So the sheer fact that your pitch broke through, warranted a listen, and inspired a write-up is a bit of a miracle.

Be sure to send a thank-you note over to the writer. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but make sure he or she knows you truly appreciate the time it took to give your music a thorough evaluation. Regardless if the resulting piece is positive or negative, thank him or her for sharing his or her thoughts and getting your band’s name in front of readers.

If you were fortunate enough to have a friend or PR person introduce the writer to your music, be sure to shoot him or her a thank-you email, too. It’s a small gesture that only takes a moment but makes a huge impact.

2. Share on social

The first logical step after reading a review of your music is to share it on social media. But before you scamper off and start posting all willy-nilly, put some thought into it. Make sure you’re posting so that the blog knows you’re doing your part to promote its article. After all, writers hate thinking that their pieces fall on deaf ears, just like you worry that no one is listening to your music.

When posting to Facebook, go ahead and tag the writer and/or publication in your post. This can be done low key; a simple, “Thanks for the review, Blog Name!” at the end of your post can suffice. In a tweet, either mention the blog or writer at the end. As a bonus, it’s likely you’ll get a retweet from the publication. Yay for more promotion!

3. Credit when using quotes from the review

You already know that press quotes are a valuable part of any media kit or artist website. Displaying them for promoters, other writers, potential team members, and more adds credibility to your whole musical operation. If there’s already press buzz around your music, you’ll look that much more attractive to folks you’re trying to woo.

Just be sure you’re not extracting lines from reviews and posting them into the ether. Be sure to attribute them with the writer’s name, publication, and date, as well as a direct link to the review itself.

Also, if you want to clip the review into a snippet by condensing sentences, that’s fine. Use an ellipsis (…) to denote that you’re Frankensteining the review into a format that works for your purposes. For example, “the band’s new album is a real departure from anything else on the radio…a complete 180 from their last single.”

4. Keep the relationship going

Most writers aren’t expecting an everlasting friendship once your review goes live. After all, they’re busy people who also often balance their passions with day jobs, families, and personal obligations. Not to mention that after your review goes live, they’re probably already onto the next thing. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’ve forgotten you or don’t want to hear from you ever again.

In fact, it’s really important to keep those connections alive in an organic way. If you live in the same city as the person who wrote about you, invite him or her out to see you play, or if you have a plus one for a show, offer to take him or her as your guest. If you see an article or meme or funny video that makes you think of an email exchange you had, send it over.

The key is to forget the “salesy” stuff and forge a human connection. That way, the next time you release a single, album, or video, he or she will be more likely to jump at the chance to support it because of your personal connection.

3 Easy Tips To Consider Before Pitching to Music Bloggers

[Editor’s NoteThis blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

You found a list online entitled, “100 Blogs You Should Contact Now.” You’re ready to start emailing those 100 blogs about your album right away, because like the list says, those are all blogs you should contact now.

There’s just one small problem. They might not be.

Lists like those are often a generic compiling of the most read blogs or the blogs that are most receptive to unknown bands. They don’t delineate between a blog focusing on hip hop and a blog focusing on folk.

Those lists are a great starting point to find the blog right for you, but there are a few steps you need to take first.

1. Determine the Genre

First and foremost, you want to make sure they cover your genre before you reach out to the blog. Often a first glance of the site will make it glaringly clear if you are the right fit. If you’re an Americana band and the site is clearly only covering electronic or dream pop, you remove it from your list. In some cases, it’s not as clear at first glance. In those cases, start by finding a column that could be a fit for your band. Then look at the last five bands they’ve covered.

Do any of them fall within your genre? If not, remove them from the list as well. You may still be thinking, but it looks like they cover all genres, so there’s a chance they could cover my music as well. If you’ve looked at five articles and none of them have covered your genre, you’ll have a less than 20% chance of coverage on that blog. That low rate of return is neither worth your time or the blog you’re targeting. If at least one of those articles represent your genre, add the blog and move on to the next step.

2. Determine the Musician Career Level

When my music pr company, Green Light Go Publicity, is determining if a blog will cover a band at the level we’re working, we first break the stages down into five categories. Those categories are unknown, emerging, buzz, indie established, established and superstar. As a general rule, if you’re unsure of a band’s level you can look at Facebook as a guide.

For instance, we categorize unknown bands as less than 2k Facebook likes. Emerging have between 2-5K. If you fall into either of those categories, you want to make sure at least one of the five bands who were just covered by the blog are also within the same range as you. Like the above example, if they only cover established bands, the chances of you being covered are really low if you’re an unknown band.

This is also why it’s really important to look for columns that could be a fit for you at the forefront. A high profile site like Stereogum may only cover established and celebrity musicians in their news features, but could potentially premiere an unknown artist whose music they really love.

3. Determine the Best Contact

Once you’ve found a site that fits within the first two parameters, you want to determine the best contact at the outlet. Start with a writer who wrote the article or articles featuring a band matching your career level and genre. If you want to get even closer, look at writers who have covered artists similar to your sound.

Add that writer or writers to your list while noting the specific article so you can individually tailor your message when you reach out. If the writer isn’t clearly noted, then take a look at the contacts on the contact page and see if you can find the editor who best fits the column or type of coverage who fits your band.

That’s it. It’s really that simple to target the right contact. By taking a little extra time at the beginning to determine who would be most interested in your band, you’ll be able to invest time appropriately in those who’d most likely turn it into coverage.

The Business of Making a Record (Part III)

[Editors NoteThis is the final installment in a three-part series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to catch up. In this final piece, he guides first-time music makers as they navigate the world of defining their promotion and release strategy, as well as defining what success means to them. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

 

Ok. The champagne’s been popped. You’ve listened to your album on repeat since receiving the master, ordered your physical packages, and now you’re ready; ready to share your masterpiece with the world. Before we get to the grit of “Now what?”, let me start by talking about the last part of the previous sentence.

A large part of your success as an artist rests in the tenacity of your belief – the belief you are creating something of worth. When I say “masterpiece, I mean masterpiece. You have, in whatever large or small way, created something that is uniquely you.

Remember that at every turn.

When you’ve spent hours sending your record to hundreds of blogs for review, and one blogger bites – remember that. When the “likes” on the debut of your “sneak peek” for the first single don’t stack up to “industry standards” – remember that.

We don’t create for praise. We create because we know no other way. It is the life of an artist. In this self-assured approach, do not mistake arrogance for quiet confidence; this is never a good look and will only lead to complications. Now, let’s get to the meat.

There are as many ways to market an album as there are to record a song. Some grand and proven, others outside-of-the-box and risky. The only way you “fail” in this pursuit is by not truly planning out your approach. Throwing something in the air and praying a stranger knows to look up is foolish.

In the same respect, a scattered, unplanned marketing strategy will only lead to an annoyed audience and wasted opportunity.

What is within my reach?

Start here. Don’t compare your album rollout to anyone else’s. New duo Levv is probably not going to have the same access or promotional reach as say Macklemore or Sia. Creativity is key.

With so many avenues of approach at our fingertips, it can be daunting for a new artist to decide the path that best suites her or him. This process is extremely important to your success. A well-thought out plan of attack is almost as important as the product you have created. Here are a few ideas that may help jumpstart your upcoming album release.

Find the “comeback”.

When people suggest social media is the best way to begin promoting your release, don’t assume you already know this little gem of information because you’ve posted a Soundcloud link of a song to your Facebook wall. The world of social media is a much more complicated arena than the occasional “Get ready for our latest single!” status/tweet, or a picture post from the studio. You have to create the “comeback.”

What about your music brings people back to your page – pulls their finger to the “like” button – and what has them waiting for what’s next? People enjoy having something to look forward to. This can come in the form of revealing different pieces of your artwork, teasing songs from the album through video or audio posts, playing one song from the record live in the weeks leading up to the release, doing a pre-release on iTunes or Bandcamp, making a new song available each week as the release date approaches – the possibilities are limitless. It just takes some imagination and hard work.

Press: The ask.

For an independent artist this may be the most difficult part of the equation. If I’ve learned anything from my time in the industry, it’s this: the ask will get you further than the fear. If your goal is blog supremacy, then roll up your sleeves, and get to work. This is not for the easily winded.

Step 1: Compile a list of your favorite music blogs and publications. Begin following the sites and make a habit of regular visits. Be invested in the platforms you hope invest in you.

Step 2: Pick your most commercially viable or best song (TIP: send out an email to friends and family with a private playlist of the album, and have them vote on their favorites) and formulate a personal email to EACH of these outlets. Yes, personal – yes each. No blogger or music content editor with any clout is going to waste time reading, or listening for that matter, to a mass email talking about a song /record from an unproven, unknown artist when their inbox is full of known acts looking for the same spot (and usually sent from a reputable publicist).

This is work, my friends. You can’t decide one day that all you need to do is send out an email to 200 of your favorite online outlets and expect the rest to just fall in to place. Start this process early – long before your rollout is to begin.

The day after…

You’ve come to a crucial point that few talk about, but everyone experiences. I call it “the day after.” The album has been released, and you’ve spent an ungodly amount of time promoting and planning only to find yourself a month in and feeling as though all your hard work is already forgotten. Stop right there.

I am a firm believer in defining your OWN idea of success. Those in the arts, or most human beings for that matter, get caught up in numbers. Societal bars that dictate whether or not we are successes or failures. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The easiest way to avoid following the lemmings to this destructive cliff is two-fold.

Redefine what success looks like within your reality, and never assume quality work doesn’t require hard work when it’s finally time to release it.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you refused to carry the weight of living up to expectations that were never yours to begin with. All you’re in control of is the quality of your work and how much time you’re willing to put into making it a success. Before one album or song is sold or streamed, decide what your goals for the record are according to where you are in the journey. Build your brand and career with the knowledge that it may take some time before the work reflects the prize.

This business is a killer. It’s sleepless nights and dive bars – working two jobs mixed with moments of creation.  Remain true to what you feel makes you great – different from the pack. When you discover your unique point of view, create with intent. Be the best at what you do, work hard, and people will take notice.

For all the advice and careful planning one can give or receive, there is no perfect guidebook to the world of creative arts. It is a place for the dreamer; a road of self-discovery that will lead to triumph and loss – failures and success. Resolve to create because you must, and the rest will fall into place.

Thank you for allowing me to talk a little about my thoughts on making a record through the lens of my personal experience. These are challenging times for artists, but remember, we are the pulse of each generation. Without art, music, or words, we are left to brave the world in silence. So play loud my friends, because whether or not they know it, they need us.

6 Steps To Making Your Band Press Friendly

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

Have you ever tried to reach out to media only to find the sound of a deep and resounding silence on the other end? Maybe you heard back from one or two people who gave you a firm, “Thanks, but no thanks.” If you’re really lucky you heard back from one underground blogger who loves the sound and will get it up right away – and that’s the only response you hear after sending dozens, if not hundreds of emails on your band’s behalf.

It’s not easy to grab the attention of media when you’re a band who is not on the blogger’s radar. There are, however, a few simple steps you may have overlooked. These steps can also make the difference in who will pay attention to you and who will rapidly reach for the delete button on the keyboard.

If you want to increase the chances you’ll band will be covered, follow the next six steps to get your music heard.

1. Make your Site and Social Media Press Friendly

Believe it or not, media is always on the hunt for new bands. Outside of a publicist or direct email from a band, the discovery may happen through Facebook, Spotify, Soundcloud, or a major music festival like SXSW. Once a blogger has found a band he loves, he’s going to look for more information on the band so he can write about it. That may end abruptly when going to the website or social media if there’s no bio, contact information, or in the worst case – music that can be posted on the site. You may think the blogger will just keep digging for the information like a detective hot on the case of a suspected thief. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The blogger is already buried with other band submissions who provided the information quickly and easily so he can write a legitimate post. He’s not just a lazy journalist who can’t bother to do his research. He’s a blogger who has a high demand for his time and can only do so much.

How can you make the blogger’s job easier so you can increase the chances he’ll write about your band? Use this checklist to make sure you have all the relevant information on your website and across your social media.

  • Contact information with an email address
  • Bio
  • Streamed music or link to hear streamed music on a site like Soundcloud or Spotify
  • Links to social media
  • Hi resolution publicity photos
  • Cover Artwork on the single or album

2. Know Your Sound

Blogs, writers and radio hosts often focus on a specific genre or niche, so it’s important to know if your sound would fit what appeals to that particular contact. Before you do anything else clearly state your genre and in seven words or less describe your sound. As uncomfortable as it may be to pigeonhole your sound, it will also help you reach the right audience and start building into a larger one. As I mentioned in my last point, bloggers often face a time crunch, so if you can quickly and easily show them your music is the right fit, you’ll also increase the chance of clicking on the link to hear your music.

3. Know Your Story

Now that you know what information to include for a journalist, you need to know how to convey that information. The first step is knowing what your story is so you can convey it in a compelling way in your bio. At my company, Green Light Go Publicity, we ask all of our bands to fill out a 35 question survey to help round out the story and determine what would differentiate the band from all the other bands out there. You want a bio and story that would make a journalist who’s never heard of you immediately want to listen.  Here are few questions to get you started in helping define your story:

  • Where are you from? How does your location influence your music?
  • Are there any current events or anything in the media that influences your music? Or do any of your songs or album themes tie into any current events?
  • What’s your history? (How many albums, when they were released, how long you’ve been in the industry, etc.)

4. Have an Image That Conveys Your Sound

A publicity photo or cover art can often be the first deciding factor on whether a media contact will listen to your music. Like the bio, you want to make it compelling. You also want to make sure it represents the sound you’re making. Hiring a professional photographer whose photos have been published on reputable music sites is one of the best investments you can make for that reason. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at bands who are similar to you and see how their publicity photos convey the sound. This can give you a great launching point to define your own vision for your band. If you do plan to invest in a photographer, ask bands with compelling photos in your area who they hired and determine if the photographer would be able to capture your sound with the right image.

5. Set a Single, EP or Album Release Date

News by definition is looking for something new. If you’re trying to peddle your six month old album, you’ve already missed the window of opportunity and you’re better off waiting until you have new music to release.  Although there are blogs who are more (and less) forgiving on the timeline, typically you have about a one to two week window to send information on your single release prior and after the release date.

Once you have released it, I highly recommend having it publicly available on your social media and website so it can be easily heard. Pin your tweet and and Facebook post announcing the single release so it’s at the top of the page. If you’re releasing an album or EP, you’ll want to start sending information three to four months prior to the release. This is so the media contact has time to become familiar with your band and give the music a good listen. Your album or EP should only be available as a private link until after the release date. [Editor’s note: Try setting up a Pre-Order for your release on iTunes and Google Play to build excitement!]

6. Make Sure Your Pitch Includes Necessary Information

Now it’s time to put it all together and write a pitch that includes the necessary information in a clear and concise format. You should include a two-four sentence description of your band including your hometown, genre and description of sound, accolades (notable musicians you’ve played with either on tour or on your record etc), and story about  your band or album. In addition, you should have links to the following information (no attachments!):

  • Single approved for download
  • Private album stream
  • Bio/EPK
  • Publicity Photo
  • Social media including Facebook and Twitter

Once you’ve pulled all this information together you’ll have a steady foundation to not only contact media, but to also give you a chance to be discovered and written about without having to advocate on your own behalf.

Securing Your First Press

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Gav Duffy, publicist & owner of Raised By Wolves PR.]

Many new artists ask the simple question – where do I start? With the music industry moving so quickly, it can be hard to keep up and know how not to waste precious time. In my opinion, the key lies with press. Before the internet’s impact on the music business, the main route for seeking new fans and industry interest was by playing live. The live sector is now even more lucrative than recorded music sales, but is rarely the best starting point for new artists in 2015.

In large cities such as London or New York, there are any number of concerts taking place every night of the week. So how do you ensure people go to see your show? This is where press publicity comes into play. Music PR, press publicity, whatever you want to call it, is simply the process of advertising your music to the public. Blogs and online radio tend to be the first places to champion new artists. Artists usually hire a PR company to help publicise their music but if you cannot yet afford to hire PR services, you can make a start by yourself.

Before we get started, remember the number one rule – You will not always get a result. Don’t take this personally. Often your email may not even be read amongst the hundreds of emails blogs receive every day. A result can often come after some follow-up emails.

1. Who to contact?

Firstly, make sure you are emailing blogs that fit your style of music. A simple Google search will help get you started – such as ‘Synthpop blog’ or ‘Best rock blogs’. One major benefit of hiring PR is they will already have a well-established list of appropriate blogs and relationships with those bloggers but, again, you can still begin the process by yourself.

Bloggers like to feel you have taken time and approached them specifically, so be sure to read their individual music submission guidelines and avoid mass emails. Sometimes the submission guidelines can be a little pompous, but it is best to play ball. Take time to craft each individual email, address them by name, and even casually mention a post of theirs that you enjoyed. Yes, this is time-consuming but an hour or two of work in this way will significantly raise your chances of being reviewed. It will make the pitch more personal and make you look like you’re taking this seriously.

2. What to email to them?

A well-structured email to bloggers will heavily increase your chances should your email be read. It is best to keep subject lines simple and descriptive. If you are approaching Indie Shuffle about the new release of your band The Whatevers, then try something like ‘Indie Shuffle – The Whatevers’ or ‘The Whatevers – New Release’. Avoid caps lock, and the term “Press release” in the subject line.

For the body of the email, keep it personalised; for example, starting with ‘Hi John’. Then, most importantly, keep it to the point. Your main body should generally be no more than four-five sentences. Say who you are, why you’re getting in touch, and what you would like. Next part of the email is the more detailed ‘press release’ part. Avoid attaching this, as there is a better chance of being reviewed should it be written within the email and below the signature line of the main body. The press release should include a hi-res photo/artwork (again, within the email and not attached), and one or two paragraphs about your “story”. Tell them if you have a release coming out, if you’re a group or a one-person act, if you produce or play instruments, share the story behind your song or list some similar sounding artists. Once you start getting some press recognition, be sure to include that also – interest breeds interest so mention who is already supporting you. And be honest.

Lastly, if your email has engaged enough, the blogger will want to listen to some of your actual music. Always, always, always include links rather than attaching mp3 files. So clearly show your Soundcloud link (to your best song), your Facebook page, your Twitter handle and your main website domain.

3. What can I do once the mail is sent?

Well, once that bad boy of an email is let loose, it’s not a bad idea to jump over to Twitter and follow your target blog on there, even the individual bloggers should you know their handles. This can help your name be recognisable when they see it in their inbox. Follow-up emails are also standard practice. Don’t worry if you step on a few toes, just try and be respectful when it comes to these. They should be appropriately worded, possibly using terms such as ‘friendly reminder’, and well spaced out. To email a publication every day may be seen as pestering, but if you leave a week to ten days between email approaches, this is usually seen as respecting the publication’s time and workload.

Remember, even if you follow all these directions and spend hours a day submitting your music to blogs, there’s still a chance you won’t get posted. Don’t let it get to you, there could be any number of reasons as to why – and even if it is a case where they just didn’t like your music, so what? Music is subjective and you can’t please everyone. Shake it off and move on to the next batch of emails. Persistence will pay off and once you have a blog post written about your music, don’t forget to be polite and to thank the blogger for their time. So there you go, all you need to know to get some attention for your music and get your career up and running.


Raised By Wolves is a London-based music PR firm, who has represented clients such as Antix, Ella On the Run and High Focus Records. Be sure to check out Raised By Wolves on FacebookTwitter and their site. You can also email them here.

Gav3
(photo credit: Anna Orhanen)