How to Get Your Music Heard by Writers at Big Publications
One of the toughest things to do in the music industry (other than make a living) is to get your music heard by the most successful, most influential writers at well-known and highly-trafficked websites and magazines. These people are inundated with music coming at them from every angle, and because of the internet, now there is no filter. Many writers (myself included) are delivered tunes that are totally inappropriate for many reasons, and there is no way to stop it all from coming.
So, what is a smaller act to do to one day be featured in a powerful media outlet? Well, as is the case with most things in the music world, nothing is a given and nothing is promised. I wish I could give everybody a surefire way to get their music heard by those Journalists in a position of power, but this is simply not the world we live in. Instead, here are a handful of tips I know have worked before; you may want to consider them if you’re looking to become a new musical media darling.
Go for Smaller Publications
It’s every musician’s dream to see their name on the cover (or at least somewhere inside) of Rolling Stone, but it’s probably not in the cards for most of you. Don’t be too disheartened! It’s not all about the publications at the top of the food chain, but if those are in your sights, you’re going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up.
I’m here to tell you when you’re just starting out, no outlet is too small for you, whether you’ve heard of them or not. If you’re still in the early stages of your musical career, or even if you’re not but you’re willing to take anything and everything you can get (an attitude that will take you places), always seek out and do what you can to get your name mentioned or your music covered by every blog, magazine, podcast…you name it, no matter how small their reach may be.
I have spoken to plenty of artists or Managers who think it’s not worth their time to reach out to tiny publications or to accommodate them when it comes to sending music or granting concert tickets, but this is a dangerous strategy and one where everybody loses out.
Smaller websites and magazines are usually the ones hungriest for new music and previously undiscovered artists, and they often have the freedom to feature lesser-known names. Even if you become best friends with the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone and they think you’re the next big thing, that’s still not going to get you on the cover, and it might not even mean there’s a space for your name in print. It’s that tough.
Those writers at smaller outlets will be more inclined to stick to an act they love and ride the wave of success with them. If you’re good to them, they’ll be excellent to you, and they’ll remember your name and your art if they should end up going to larger publications.
Also, it’s worth noting many Bloggers and Journalists at larger outlets still read smaller ones, where many of them learn of artists about to break. Tastemaking blogs are usually smaller, less famous brands, but they are powerful in their own way and sometimes they have an influential audience. While their email inboxes are overflowing, and Publicists are calling them day in and day out, top-tier writers are scanning their favorite smaller blogs for brand new talent, and this could be you if you’re smart (and good, of course).
I’m here to tell you when you’re just starting out, no outlet is too small for you, whether you’ve heard of them or not.
Use Social Media
As somebody trying to sell themselves (in addition to your art), you should be using social media anyway, but not just to project to your growing fan base what’s happening in your world. Social media in many forms can be a great way to start to create connections with anybody and everybody, from your most ardent supporters to those at venues and record labels, to Journalists, who are known to be big users of a number of social apps.
Twitter is perhaps the best option when it comes to starting up conversations and forging new friendships with strangers. The platform allows you to follow anybody—-which they often notice—-and stay on top of what they are doing and saying. Don’t be afraid to chime in and comment on something these writers post from time to time, asking them a question or being funny or snarky with a quip. This is what Twitter is for, after all! Instagram is the same, and while it can be a bit tougher to really get a conversation going, if you are active enough, somebody is sure to at least remember your name, if not also click on your profile and perhaps even give your music a listen.
Many people take social media very casually, but those who put some effort and planning into it are usually able to get the most out of it and advance their careers as a result. Think about keeping track of writers whose attention you’d like to grab with a document or a spreadsheet. Note where they write for, and when you connect with them in some way. You don’t have to be incredibly anal about this, but if you want to really be organized, it can be a good idea to know who you’ve had the most connections with, the best ones, and which Journalists you’ve been missing.
After you’ve tweeted or commented with someone a handful of times and you’re ready to promote something, it’s not inappropriate to reach out to them directly. Direct message them, tweet them, or find their email and make sure to mention you love what they say on Twitter or comment on a recent Instagram post to give them a helpful reminder about who you are and the fact you’ve interacted before. This tactic usually only works if you’ve actually put in the work over some time, and not just if you followed them and expected they’d hear you out immediately.
Hire a PR Team
While it might be costly and nothing is guaranteed, hiring a Publicist can be one of the best ways to get your name out there and your music in front of people at the biggest media outlets in the world, though don’t get too excited—-it’s not a perfect route to recognition.
Publicists promote music for a living, and it is their job to know who likes what, where they are writing, and the best ways to contact those people. While you can devote some of your time to tweeting at writers and reading blogs, this is what these people do all day, every day, and if you can hire a good one, they’ll have a wealth of knowledge about all things related to promoting an artist just starting out.
Having said this, there are a number of drawbacks you need to be aware of when you begin looking into hiring a publicist. First of all, it can be incredibly expensive, especially to get one who is well-known and respected. You’re often paying for experience and connections when it comes to the world of PR, so if a company quotes you something much lower than what other companies or people are asking, there’s probably a reason. Also, PR isn’t always effective, and no amount of money can guarantee any placement. Emails go ignored, schedules change and Editors sometimes turn things down for a multitude of reasons. Publicists can push and try their very best to get you the coverage you’re looking for but keep in mind just because your bank account is depleted, it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have anything to show for it when the campaign has concluded.
Many people take social media very casually, but those who put some effort and planning into it are usually able to get the most out of it and advance their careers as a result.
Send Something That Grabs Them
The offices of big-name publications are flooded with music every day, and I hate to tell you, but most of it winds up in the trash. Thousands of artists, record labels, and Publicists send CDs every month, and there are only so many people with only so much time…and most of them are discovering music online anyhow. If you’re going to continue with emails and sending Spotify and SoundCloud links, keep to it (unless someone would like a CD, of course), but if you’re going to mail something physical, make it stand out.
Don’t just put your CD in an envelope and include a paper press release; go above and beyond, even if it costs you something extra. Package your music in something bright and colorful, which immediately grabs the eye. Fill a package not only with your music, but with something funny, or an item they’d love to have aside from music. You may want to restrict these efforts to those who have already expressed some sort of interest in your music, as including a CD, a t-shirt, and something else sure to make a person laugh or remember you when they open it can be very expensive, especially when putting together several of these packages.
Have Another Story
Everybody wants the story about their music to be that it’s life-changing, the most honest, or simply the best new thing nobody has heard yet. This is fine, but it’s extremely rare for an artist and their wares to be so wonderful they don’t need anything else to help capture the attention of Bloggers and writers at the biggest outlets. If this hasn’t worked for you yet, or if you can admit perhaps you just aren’t this person to begin with, come up with something else which makes you, and your music, interesting.
Maybe you self-financed an album by taking the worst job in the world. Perhaps your album was inspired by a story-worthy life event, such as a baby, a marriage, or a death? Are you known for something else, and you’re just now making a push into creating music? There are a million different stories to at least help you get your foot in the door, and you shouldn’t feel bad about having to discuss something other than just your music.
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