This article was originally posted on MusicCoaching.com.
Part of being a DIY artist is marketing yourself like an entrepreneur or small business owner. You’re presenting the brand of “You, Inc.,” comprised of all the unique things about your music and you as an artist. And while putting some tracks up on social media platforms like Facebook and MySpace – and your own website – is an important part of your marketing plan, you can’t just leave it at that and hope someone will simply stumble across your music.
An important part of your PR efforts as a DIY artist is to effectively present yourself to music blogs, podcasts, online music communities, websites, and magazines. It’s a given that if you’re at the stage where you’re ready to approach the music press, you should have at least two things: 1) a professional-sounding collection of your songs that represents you at your best; 2) tangible proof that you are playing regularly and working hard at providing an engaging experience for your fan base.
Assuming you have both those things going for you, what comes next?
Unless you have networked at a conference or have had the chance to meet a blogger, podcaster, etc. in person, there’s a good chance your first interaction with the music press will be via email. A well-crafted introduction email might land you more free promotion than you could ever afford – a poorly executed email will immediately make its way to the “deleted” folder.
You don’t have to be a trained writer or even a great natural marketer to put together an attention-getting email. But if you’re serious about making music your career, you do have to approach the media thoughtfully and professionally and think like a business owner whenever you’re presenting yourself and your music. Here are five tips to think about before (long before!) you hit “send” on that next email.
1) Have a clear grasp on your story
You love your music and you think people should hear it. But you have to think of yourself like any other company or brand. In order to get people to tune into you, you must have a good handle on your story and mission statement as an artist, and be able to persuade potential fans with short attention spans why they should give your music a listen.
“I’ve been passionate about music ever since I was five and I like to write songs,” or, “I grew up watching MTV and know my music is better than what I’ve seen on there” isn’t going to cut it. Clichés aren’t going to set you apart from the other thousands of indies who have the same story.
Instead, think about which unique qualities set the story of how you came into music – something personal and specific. Perhaps you were raised by circus performers who were hip hop fans, which led you to develop an interest in playing the accordion and writing clown-themed raps. (You certainly wouldn’t have to try to stand out if that were your story). Even if you are a guitar-driven indie rock band or a traditional singer/songwriter, think about the personal experiences that have led you to pursue music and how that comes through in what you do. Then write that story out, in no more than three sentences.
People with the power to write about and recommend your music to others often get hundreds of emails daily, and they will tune out if you don’t get to the point quickly. If they want to know more, they will ask. After you write down your short story – aka, your “elevator pitch” – repeat it over and over to yourself, so you can rattle it off when someone asks you. And relay it in every email you send to someone you think should be listening to your music, along with a direct link to some songs.
2) Keep it local
When you’re deciding which media outlets to contact about your music, start with those that write about musicians or events that are located near you. If you’re at the beginning of your career – and especially if you’re at a point where you’re regularly starting to see more than just your four closest friends at your shows – you need to focus on getting attention in your home city/local area. In the beginning, reaching people who can actually come out to see you play, understand where you come from, and who can interact with you personally is an important part of establishing personal relationships with fans. The closer they feel to you, the more likely they will be to recommend you to friends, and the more often all of them will want to download/buy your music, buy your t-shirts, or come to see you perform.
3) Do focused research
As a DIY artist, there’s nothing that can waste your precious PR time more than blindly sending out “listen to my music” emails to every person on the planet who listens to music. Still, a lot of bands do just that, thinking that indiscriminately casting a wide net will increase the odds that someone will respond.
Think of it this way – if you don’t own a house, would you like to get repeated, unsolicited emails about homeowners’ insurance? If you front a country band and you randomly email bloggers that write exclusively about heavy metal or someone that runs a steampunk zine begging them to listen to your music, you’re committing the same crime of irrelevancy and wasting your own time. You could also be building a bad reputation for yourself in the industry.
Thanks to Google, it’s quick and painless to search for the media outlets that regularly talk about the exact type of music you play and to find the people that might be interested in hearing from you, which ups the chance of a positive response to your email significantly. Along those same lines, know which type of outlet you’re emailing before you send any emails so you can set realistic expectations about the response you might get. A blog, a newspaper, and a magazine all take very different approaches when it comes to writing about and talking to artists. Also, before you start to send emails, make a list of sources. You can add to and subtract from that list as you go along.
4) Send personalized emails
Once you’ve made a list of media outlets to email – even if that list is long – resist the temptation to send a form letter. Take the time to craft each email separately and include a few personalized details you’ve learned through your research about the person/publication/source in question. If you are sticking to the “short and sweet” rule of emailing, this level of detail shouldn’t take too long to add, and it will show the person on the other end that you’ve taken a little time to learn about who they are, that you’re legitimately interested in their feedback, and are serious about your career.
5) Don’t send more than two emails
Along the same lines as “keep it short and sweet,” when you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never communicated with, limit yourself to two emails: an email with links and a follow-up email, sent at a later date. People writing about music hear from a lot of artists, every day. And the best journalists and bloggers – those that truly care about what they do and have a legitimate love of music – are going to actually take the time to thoughtfully read and listen to almost every email and music link they get.
You can’t expect to get a “yes” or “no” right away, so you need to be patient. You might get a quick “Thanks for sending this! I’ll listen to it within [a certain time period] and get back to you.” If that happens, wait the amount of time the person specified and then send a follow-up message a few days after that. If you get no response to your initial email – which, frankly, quite often happens – wait at least a week before sending your follow up. In either case, if you don’t hear back after your second email, end it there and move on.
As you think about the process of sending emails to the press about your unique artist brand, try to remember the last time you heard anyone say, “I love this new band. I had never heard of them before. All they had to do was send me a link to a free download of their album, and I was sold!” Likely, you can’t, because that never happens. In order to get the attention of music journalists – or anyone for that matter – you need to provide compelling reasons for them to listen and fall in love with your music. And if you can create that magnetic pull to your “creative products” (your music!) through all your marketing efforts, you will continue to add to your roster of “loyal customers” (your fans!).
Julia L. Rogers is a classically-trained musician, a published author, and a contributing music writer at Bitch magazine. Julia plays out regularly in New York City in various original projects and writes about business strategy, social media, and emerging technology for corporate clients ranging from AOL Small Business to American Express. Julia is also available to be hired as a music bio writer.
Read more music business posts for the DIY artist at MusicCoaching.com.
Creating The Perfect Pitch