You’ve made the music, booked the gig, and, with the help of our post Press Release Writing Tips, have figured out how to write a press release that’s tight, punchy, and informative. You’ve included it in your EPK, and it’s part of your media kit… so now what?
Having the right words written is a great start, but getting your announcement in front of the eyes of the right people has got to be part of your marketing strategy. Here are some tips to help indie artists get press releases in front of the right eyeballs and receive the publicity they deserve.
Choose Your Targets Wisely
Sending your press release to everyone you know — or every music journalist you can find who has a public email address — is not the way to go, says veteran publicist Amanda Sweet, who runs the firm Bucklesweet Media. Instead, she recommends you do your homework and know who you are pitching.
“Who you send to depends on what you’re sending,” Sweet says. “When I was just getting started as a publicist, one journalist asked me, ‘Do you even know what I write about?’ I sheepishly told him, ‘No, I don’t.’ That taught me a valuable lesson about preparedness, and I learned my lesson fast.” To optimize your efforts and avoid potentially embarrassing situations, Sweet recommends reading a variety of publications, online or in print, and taking note of who covers your genre of music.
If you’re feeling particularly organized, try keeping track of the journalist’s name, publications, and genres in an Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet — if you’re lucky enough to find more than a handful of strong possibilities to contact, it’ll be helpful down the line to have your data consolidated.
Consider Sending To Other Industry Professionals
Journalists, bloggers, and editors aren’t the only folks who might be interested in your press releases, says Sweet. “Casting a wider net can be quite helpful. The more you can get in front of any sort of professionals in the music industry, the better.”
Radio DJs, booking agents, managers, and even music supervisors can be good people to research as you build your list. “Press release information is helpful when I am playing a song on the air,” says Gary Calamar, who DJs at KCRW radio in Los Angeles, and music supervises for shows like True Blood. He also receives plenty of press releases with music submissions for placement in his film and TV projects. “It’s good to have for placement submissions, but I usually look at a press release after I have already found and like the music.”
Lindsay Fellows, who has served as music supervisor for movies like The Chronicles of Narnia, sees press releases as an important source of information. “Especially when I’m working on a music-driven film, it’s always good to look for new opportunities to tie in an artist in a way that will raise awareness, and to do that, I need to know what an artist is up to,” he says. “Getting a press release gives me an awareness of who’s out there doing what. In the film industry, we have to know what’s going on in music, so getting clear and concise press releases can really help me keep up to speed on what artists are impacting the market and when.”
Gather Contact Information
Once you’ve collected the names of some promising potential recipients, some low-key detective work is in order. “Go to a bookstore and look at the mastheads for magazines,” says Sweet. “For newspapers, you generally have to do some digging online to find the appropriate writers and editors. Or you can ask a friendly publicist you know if they’d be willing to share some names with you.”
If your searches don’t yield the results you want, sometimes a general publication email can do the trick. “A lot of times, you can at least find an address like email@example.com,” says Sweet. “Interns generally take care of those. It’s usually not as effective as going straight to a journalist or editor, but it can still help.”
Time Your Pitch
Doing research beforehand can greatly increase the chances of your press release grabbing attention. “If you’re trying to promote an event, pitch it about six weeks in advance if you’re approaching a weekly or daily publication,” says Sweet. “If you’re approaching a monthly magazine, you have to think about their lead times, which are usually four to six months out. Regardless of whether it’s a CD release or a concert date, you really need to pitch it months in advance.”
When it comes to blogs or other online publications that don’t have to deal with printer and shipping deadlines, the rules can change, says Sweet. Many online publications post submission instructions that indicate how far in advance to submit a press release; if that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to make a call or write an email to inquire, or ask around in your music community for anyone who may have previous experience with the outlet in question.
Get On The Phone
“Don’t be afraid to call editors and ask questions,” says Sweet. “Editors are often very open to getting calls from artists, as long as the artist is educated and quick on his or her pitch.” Quick is a key word here — remember that nearly any editor you’ll be speaking with has tons of people trying to get his or her attention each day and more deadlines than anyone would want, so if you are lucky enough to get some phone time, don’t waste it.
What should you say once you’ve got the music editor for your dream publication on the phone? Sweet offers the following as a sample intro: “Hi, my name is Jane and I play the piano. I’m announcing a CD release show for my newest album and I’d like to send you a press release and some music. What’s the best way to get that to you?”
If the editor or journalist doesn’t seem completely crunched for time, Sweet encourages asking informed, intelligent questions, and knowing ahead of time what you want. “It’s perfectly fine to say things like, ‘I’d really love it if I could have a listing in your publication to help encourage people to come out,’ or even to ask for an informational coffee to talk a bit and allow you to introduce yourself,” she says. “If the editor is local, you can also ask, ‘Would you be interested to come out and hear me? No commitments — I’d just love for you to hear what I do.’” Regardless of what turns the conversation may take, remember to stay friendly and respectful at all times, regardless of the vibe coming from the other end of the phone.
Another bit of homework Sweet recommends before getting on the phone consists of musical soul-searching. “The key is to find something that makes you unique and that you can quickly share in a conversation,” she says. “What is your approach to Chopin’s Preludes that makes you different from the twenty other people who have recorded it? If you happen to be an Iranian musician who plays traditional music from your home country, that’s cool and relatively unusual, so be sure to mention that. If your album or performance has a community or charity aspect that makes it stand out, be sure to mention that, too.”
Fellows echoes the sentiment. “It seems like I get fifty press releases a day. Another story about a new band with a new single won’t do it, but a new band that was picked to play, say, Coachella — that will get my attention,” he says. “If a band is doing something really exciting or philanthropic, that will make it stand out.”
When it comes time to send your press release to press and industry contacts, try to add a personal touch that will make your email stand out from the scores of other notes vying for attention. “Once you know what your writer or blogger is writing about, try mentioning that in your pitch email,” says Sweet. “A little flattery is good — ‘I just read this great piece you wrote about XYZ, and thought you may be interested in what I’m doing along similar lines’ — then pitch your press release after that.” Be warned that false flattery can be easy to smell, though, so make sure that any article you praise is actually one that you’ve read and enjoyed.
Follow Up, Respectfully
“After you send a press release, I generally recommend giving it a week or two, and then following up by phone or email,” says Sweet. “Do that maybe two times, and if someone doesn’t respond, that usually means that they’re not interested. And don’t assume that everyone will get back to you if they’re not interested. Editors and journalists are usually too busy to respond to every inquiry.”
Don’t Stalk Or Annoy
You may find yourself wanting to enthusiastically follow up every single day — but Sweet urges a cool, calm, and collected strategy. “I hear editors complain all the time when people are being too over the top and overbearing,” says Sweet. “Don’t fall into that trap.”
While networking to find valuable contact information can be effective, be wary of using a music industry figure’s personal email, phone number, or Facebook page to get attention and pitch coverage; some editors or writers may not mind, but others may see it as an assault on their privacy. If all you have is a personal email, just write a quick and respectful email briefly introducing yourself and asking what the best way to send a press release might be.
Another off-putting tendency that Sweet warns against is false familiarity. “I’ve heard journalists complain that they get emails saying, ‘Hey, it’s been a long time since we’ve hung out, but here’s what I’m up to,’” she says. “Don’t pretend you know the person if you don’t. “
Just like many other aspects of the music business, getting attention for your press releases can largely boil down to the fine art of building relationships. If a certain writer or radio DJ responds well to your outreach, keep that person in mind for an extra-personalized email or phone call next time around. Similarly, if someone at Publication X hasn’t acknowledged or returned any of your last fifty calls or emails, keep track of that and try to find another point of contact that might be more open to your advances.
When sending out press releases — or pushing to get anyone to pay attention to your music in just about any context — it can be easy to lose a bit of perspective. “No matter what you do, remember to be you at the end of the day,” says Fellows. “If you try to adapt to what you think people want to see and hear, you’ll always be two steps behind. Just be yourself, and twenty years from now, you’ll be able to say that you did it your way, and you won’t regret it.”
Globe image from ShutterStock.com.
Indie Music Marketing Strategies (April 2012)
Excerpt from our guide, 10 Effective Strategies to Get Your Music Noticed: Promotional Strategies for Independent Musicians.
Andy Doe’s Proper Discord blog
Guidelines for submitting a press release (Los Angeles Times)
How To Send a Press Release (eRelease)
When Should I Send Out My Press Release? (About.com)
How To Write and Send a Press Release (Music Biz Academy.com)
Michael Gallant plays eclectic indie rock with Aurical and progressive jazz with the Michael Gallant Trio. He is also the founder and CEO of Gallant Music, a content and music creation firm based out of New York City. For more, visit auricalmusic.com and gallantmusic.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant.