Lesson number one of soliciting press for your songs: treat music journalists with respect. We go into a relationship with an artist with the best intentions. After all, we can’t do our jobs unless you do yours well. A song premiere, review, interview, or think piece about your band can introduce your music to new pods of rabid fans and raise your profile considerably.
But when you make the following six mistakes, you can kiss press coverage goodbye forever.
1. Misspelling their name
There’s one music publicist (who shall remain nameless) who calls me “Alison” in every email he’s ever sent me. One little letter may not seem like a huge deal, but typos and grammar errors are enough of a turn-off, let alone the carelessness of screwing up someone’s name, particularly when you’re soliciting that person on behalf of an artist.
To make matters worse, I’ve actually worked with this publicist on multiple occasions, met him in person, even shared a table with him at an event. And yet… “Alison.” Needless to say, I haven’t returned a single email since “namegate” began a few years ago.
It takes mere milliseconds to proofread your emails, text messages, and social media posts. There’s zero excuse for butchering the name of that ultra-cool Pitchfork writer when Google exists. If the unthinkable happens and you shoot off that email with a typo or naming error, immediately follow up, apologize, and for bonus points make a little joke about how you’ll create a trick to remember their name. And then never do it again.
2. Friending them on Facebook
If you have a pre-existing relationship with the journalist, you’re probably already friends on Facebook or you share mutual friends that make it a little less creepy to friend them. Friending them out of the blue, however, is a bit random, especially if you’re working through a publicist and they’ve never had any interactions with you directly.
Sure, connecting and networking is great, but with a plethora of other social platforms out there explicitly designed for that purpose, many people are choosing to keep Facebook personal. Instead, head over to Twitter, follow them, and thank them for their write-up. Develop the relationship there, and then migrate it to another platform.
3. Only being friendly when you want something
Here’s an all-too-common scenario: you’re out at a show and you spot that music journalist who premiered your last single on their hip, indie blog. But instead of giving them a moment of your time when they say “hello,” you’re too preoccupied with your bandmates and buddies, basking in that post-show glory.
Worse? The next month, you email the same writer to announce your small run of shows on the East Coast like you’re best friends.
No, no, no. If a writer has dedicated their time to listening to your music, giving it a fair write-up, and promoting it on their socials, they’re worthy of a chat and probably a drink – even if their review was negative. Don’t put writers in one little box where they only live to serve you and your music.
By being friendly and receptive to them – no matter the setting or what projects you have going on – you’re building a true relationship that will result in guaranteed press coverage in perpetuity. On the flipside, one little snub could turn off a writer for life.
4. Dropping off the face of the earth after the piece runs
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when you see your name in print. You immediately want to show everyone, post it on your band’s socials, add it to your website and profiles, and print it out and hang it on your fridge. Before you know it, a week has gone by and a new review of your EP’s caught your attention and the cycle begins again.
Please don’t forget to email the writer of the original article and thank them. We realize a lot of what we do is completely thankless, so when someone goes the extra mile, it means that much more.
Also, sometimes we’ll need additional assets, like another photo for the article, a working sound file, or a link after the article is published. It’s extremely frustrating to email an artist or publicist multiple times for something beneficial to them and never hear back. Don’t be that guy.
5. Working with a disreputable publicist
You’ve heard it all your life: the people you surround yourself with reflect on you. That goes doubly for your music team. Depending on how long they’ve been writing, music journalists will know the Cadillacs of publicists from the Pintos.
So if your philosophy is, “Any publicist is better than no publicist,” think again. It’s better to hold out and save your pennies to score a publicist who has great, organic relationships with writers than to hook up with one who warrants an eye roll and never receives an email reply from writers.
How can you tell if your publicist is reputable? Before you even start working with one, ask around. Chances are your fellow musician friends have sifted through the local publicist pool and can provide some guidance on who’s hot and who’s not.
Also, the internet is your friend. If you see an artist similar to you covered on a site, Google around and see if you can locate the name of their publicist, then do some research.
6. Not sharing our articles to your socials
You know that feeling when you work really hard on writing a song, arranging it, recording it, designing its artwork, and releasing it – only to have it fall on deaf ears and slither off into oblivion? Every musician has been there at one point or another.
Now, imagine you’re a writer who’s worked really hard on behalf of an artist you truly believe could be the next big thing. You’ve written a review you’re really proud of and managed to get it placed on a trending blog. But instead of it garnering the pass-along rate it deserves, it falls flat because the artist didn’t acknowledge it on social.
Remember that, as far as our pieces are concerned, your existing fans are a primary target market. They’re the ones most likely to read and share our articles. If you don’t show our pieces to them, they may never see them. Then, we’re left think you’re ungrateful for the coverage and will probably never cover you again. It’s a quid-pro-quo situation; if we’re willing to dedicate time to write about you, take the three seconds it requires to tweet out the finished article.
What does this boil down to? Treat music journalists with respect and courtesy, and they’ll have your back. On the flipside, writers have memories like elephants and can always remember who’s worth the effort. Make sure when your name comes across an inbox, it’s a no-brainer: they have to cover you.
Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Goldmine magazine, Paste, and more. She is the founder of REBEAT, a “blogazine” focused on mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle.