Publicity doesn’t “just happen” when you just release your music or do something newsworthy. Most stories in the media are promoted through publicity strategies done behind the scenes.
One of the biggest myths for musicians when it comes to getting publicity and media attention is that all it takes is to do something cool and newsworthy. Truth is, media coverage rarely happens without a push by the people who want coverage. In fact, nearly everything you see covered in the media is actively promoted behind the scenes.
But you can win this game once you understand the rules and do what publicists do: actively reach out to those media outlets that are hungry for new content to talk about. To help, we’ve put together 10 tips and techniques you should use to promote yourself and generate publicity for your music.
1. Always have your “publicity lens” on
When it comes to generating media coverage, you need to look at everything you do through a publicity lens. Ask yourself: “Is this interesting enough to get covered and, if not, what could I change to make it more likely to get covered?”
If you’re going to spend time and energy trying to get others to write about or cover you, you’ll want to start doing things that are interesting enough to get covered. To the extent you can tie what you’re doing as a musician to the story you’re trying to promote, the better. For example, our band, Beatnik Turtle, generated press and media attention by releasing one song every day for a year. This was an audacious goal, with built-in risk. Would we pull it off or would we fail? That helped to make it interesting to the journalists, bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, and others who ended up covering us. But most importantly, it was tied to the music and something we were already doing, so reaching out to generate publicity was a natural thing to do since it was built into the story.
2. Copycat and piggyback on the work of similar artists to you
As we discussed in “How to Generate Music Marketing, Promotion, and Publicity Opportunities,” you should find artists similar to you and research where they’re getting covered. These same journalists, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, and social media influencers are the most likely to cover your music, as well. You’re not doing this to be like these other artists, but you do want to get covered like they are. After all, they already did the hard work to find the journalists, outlets, and media that want to cover your kind of music. Now you need to reach out to them and tell them about what you’re doing and promote your stories.
3. Research the journalists and people who you want to convince to cover you
To get covered by someone, start with being interested in them. Spend just a little time exploring their social media activity, websites, and LinkedIn profiles. Read their stories, and find out what they’ve covered before. Discover the audiences they write for and the kinds of stories their blogs or outlets normally write about. These will give you the best ideas to pitch stories to them that meet their needs and their audience so you can reach out to them with exactly what they’re looking for.
4. Laser focus
The narrower you target your publicity, the more likely you’ll cut through and generate interest in what you’re doing. Although your instinct might be to angle your publicity stories so they appeal as broadly as possible, instead, be as targeted as possible. For example, if you’ve got a specific song that resonates with a certain cause or segment of people, that might be the song to promote to those specific audiences rather than your “radio-friendly” track to everyone.
5. Use polite persistence
The people in the media are busy. Sometimes journalists, bloggers, YouTubers, or podcasters don’t respond back because they’re working on something else, are traveling, or are just inundated with requests. Don’t quit if you don’t get a response after one try; try to “go until a no.” Very often, it’s the second or third message that catches their attention. Also, each message that comes in keeps them aware of what you’re doing even if they don’t respond. Don’t assume that they’re not reading what you wrote simply because they didn’t have time to answer you back. That said, if they do write back and pass on your story, then respect their answer. But understand that it doesn’t mean “no” to you, just to the story. The rule is: never send an old story, but send new ones their way.
6. Never make the media wait
While it may take a while for a blogger or journalist to write you back, when they do, don’t make them wait! Journalists have tight deadlines, and if they reach out to you for information or an interview request, you should help them cover you. If you don’t get them what they need quickly, you might miss out on coverage.
7. The media loves to get a scoop
Journalists, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, and others in the media love breaking a story, finding the next up-and-coming band, or cool song before anyone else. One way to use this to your advantage is to reach out to them before your release to give them an exclusive look and listen. Sharing pre-release material or providing access for interviews can be an incentive for them to check you out and cover you.
8. “As you requested” and “solicited materials”
If someone in the media asks for your track, album, bio, or press materials, add “as you requested, I’ve attached…” to your correspondence. People in the media get so much mail and messages, so make sure they know that they asked for whatever you’re delivering to them. If you ever have to send a physical package in the mail, mark the envelope with their name as well as “Solicited Materials” so when it hits their desk, they know it’s something they specifically wanted you to send.
9. Be easy to reach
Make yourself easy to reach if anyone in the media decides to cover you. If you always have your “publicity lens” on, you’ll be pitching coverage to the media whenever you have something noteworthy. If you routinely do this, you’ll actually build some momentum — sometimes enough that they’ll reach out to you. So make yourself available by being easy to reach and responsive if someone contacts you. This means that your website should make it easy to one-click contact you and you should have your bio and basic facts accessible so it’s easy for them to get it. (For more info about the types of bios you should have, see our previous article, “Craft Three Band Bios to Describe You and Your Music.”)
10. Follow up after getting coverage
Always send a thank you whenever you get coverage. Doing so makes a big difference and could result in that person covering you again.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
How to generate music marketing, promotion, and publicity opportunities
To make money with music, make sure you’re easy to find
Craft three band bios to describe you and your music
Writing a business plan for your music career
How to get the attention of a talent buyer or booking agent