[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Getting someone in the media to open an email you’ve sent about your music is nearly impossible these days. Everyone is clamoring for the attention of a relatively small number of writers, editors, playlisters, influencers and bloggers, and it becomes more and more difficult by the week (or so it seems) to break through and stand out.
You may spend hours crafting the best press release and ensuring your email has every bit of information someone could possibly need to write about you, but remember: they’ll never see it if they don’t open it.
As someone pitching new music or rising talents, you need to spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring you’ve made the best use of the valuable real estate in your subject line. It may not allow you to write much, but I am happy to share some tips that I see so many musicians failing to take into account that could make all the difference.
Everyone reaching out to press in an attempt to promote themselves feels the urge to talk up their accomplishments and their position and give their careers a boost. While that may be human, it’s a fault that may hurt you if you go overboard. You should feel free to describe yourself as talented, rising, bubbling under, the next big thing (okay, maybe that’s a bit grandiose), especially if you have anything in your arsenal that can back up those adjectives.
What you shouldn’t do is call yourself a pop star if you just released your first single. Please don’t lie or use phrases or words that don’t make sense at all simply because you believe they will make you sound better, and therefore convince an editor or writer to cover your music.
There’s a difference between a small hyperbole and a complete untruth, and you must be careful not to confuse one for the other. Trust me, if you insist that you’re a chart-topping rapper, and the person receiving the email has never heard of you…you two are not starting off on the right foot.
Comparisons – Yes Or No?
Bands, managers and PR people all have different ideas about whether comparing one act to another is good or bad, and everybody has valid opinions on this subject. Personally, I find them very helpful, and I really appreciate when someone goes out of their way to point out solid, truthful (that word again) similarities between musicians.
For example, if you record songs all alone on your acoustic guitar, you may use names like John Mayer, Shawn Mendes, or James Taylor in your subject line. You aren’t saying that you’re just like them, but rather in the same vein. This allows a journalist to skim through their inbox and identify an act that may be up their alley, if they like that sound, or perhaps one that will be perfect for some kind of piece they’re working on.
Artists who insist they cannot be compared to anybody or that they’re making music unlike anything anyone’s ever heard before…they’re lying to themselves, and I believe hurting their chances of getting coverage because of that.
If you decide you’d rather not compare your music to anyone else, that’s up to you, but there is another way. Instead of listing other popular acts, you can include specific descriptors and adjectives in your email subject line. Words like summery, heartbreaking, hard, bedroom, and club-ready all tell you right off the bat what the song will be like before anyone has pressed play.
You may also want to consider using genre titles, such as rock or rap, or perhaps you may dive deeper. Emo-acoustic, Norwegian black metal, trap-pop and lo-fi indie rock also get the same job done.
This is another instance where I know there are many artists who feel their art simply cannot be described using any genre, but that’s probably not the case, and if it is…I really want to hear what you’ve come up with.
Don’t Be Obnoxious
When writing email subject lines, the first thing everyone wants to do is stand out. Of course you have a desire to make sure your message is opened, but you don’t want to go overboard and be obnoxious, and you’d be surprised how often this happens.
Feel free to include symbols, numbers, punctuation…whatever feels right to you, but if you’re trying something out, you may want to run it by some friends or people in the business first. There is a marked difference between this:
Pop-Punk Band Rocks Hard With New Single!
***🚨Pop-Punk Band Rocks Hard With New Single!!! ~MUST! COVER!~🚨***
There’s attention-grabbing, and then there’s just unprofessional.
Use Their Name
Whenever possible, use the name of the person you are emailing. This is such a simple suggestion, but it is so effective, it may actually be worth taking the time to do whatever research necessary in order to make sure you’re customizing everyone’s message.
Most music journalists receive hundreds of emails per day, and the vast majority of them are blanket messages sent to everyone. By now, writers have become used to every missive from every PR person on the planet finding its way to their inbox, with no thought given to who they are, what they like or what they cover. The entire system has become a mess, so if you can show them you spent a fair amount of your own time and respect theirs, you have a much better shot at speaking with someone who may be able to help you.
You don’t have to go crazy with this idea, just keep it simple and personal. Oh, and you’ll want to include the receiver’s name in both the subject line and the email, at least once.
Outlet Helps Too
If you don’t have the writer’s name (sometimes it’s difficult to tell who will be opening the message you’re sending), you can include the outlet in your email subject line. Again, many PR firms send out hundreds or thousands of emails at once, with no time spent singling anyone out. If you believe your new song, video, or album would be perfect for one blog that covers the kind of music you make, make that known in the only place the journalist will see it…before they open your message, of course.