If you’re preparing to send out your next pitch email to a slew of music journalists, there are a few boxes to check before you blast your carefully crafted message. Our hope, as writers, is that you’ve already thought through most of the things below, but, unfortunately, each one of these elements gets overlooked more than you might think.
Some pitch preparation is mental and some is material, but to make sure you have your bases covered, keep these six things in mind before pitching a music journalist.
1. Have some kind of clout
Here’s the really tough thing about pitching: Many times, you need to already have press clips in your arsenal to get more press. What happens if you’ve never had a write-up in your career? How do you persuade journalists when you have nada to show them?
Don’t freak out: “Press” can come in many forms. When you’re first starting out, make sure you’re active on social media. Try reaching out to someone who would be willing to give your track a listen without reviewing it.
For instance, if the writer you’re obsessed with is on Twitter, shoot him or her a kind, non-pushy tweet and ask him or her to take a quick listen. Make it clear you don’t expect a review. Chances are, if that person listens, you’ll have a tweet that says something like, “Wow, what a grooving track! I really loved the Hammond organ… sounded like the Doors!” Now that’s a great quote to send along with a pitch.
Besides social media, your song placements (even on Spotify playlists), gigs at prominent or buzzworthy venues, or even a great, compelling, personal story might be enough to sway a journalist.
2. Have all materials ready to go
This should be somewhat obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many back-and-forth email exchanges I’ve had with musicians who’ve sent me what should have been their EPK piecemeal.
If you don’t have an EPK, and you’re even remotely serious about music, do yourself and all future writers, agents, promoters, bookers, etc. a favor and get one. Even a Dropbox folder will suffice. For press, make sure to include clips, a long- and short-form bio, and a selection of high-resolution photos. If you’re feeling adventurous, upload your latest album as MP3s, though most writers I know (including myself) prefer to stream the music we review.
3. Reach out to writers via their professional emails – nowhere else
It’s great, if a little creepy, that you’ve done your due diligence and found a writer’s personal Facebook, Instagram, or Myspace from 2005. Don’t contact them via those channels – ever. Similarly, the best route to reach a writer at a blog or magazine isn’t the website’s “contact” form. You might get a reply from smaller publications, but chances are pretty slim because those forms are inundated with coverage requests seemingly every minute of every day.
Instead, try to find a writer’s email. This doesn’t mean cyberstalk them or crawl through 631 pages of Google results to find his or her personal email. If he or she wants to be contacted about coverage opportunities via a particular email, it won’t be hard to find.
4. Discover connections between your work and theirs
This one isn’t a requirement, but it’s sure nice when it happens. I spend a lot of time writing about legacy artists, particularly those who topped the charts in the 1960s. One of my other regular gigs is profiling up-and-coming and indie artists on a pop culture blog. It’s always a special treat when an indie artist who’s soliciting coverage makes a connection to my legacy work, and, not gonna lie, those artists are almost always going to earn a write-up.
Try to relate your new single to an artist a music journalist has covered in the past, or do a bit of research (light research – again, no combing Google for hours) to see if you both went to the same college or grew up in the same state. Find something that ties you together. It’ll make both you and your music stand out.
5. Be prepared to wait
The internet is instantaneous; journalism is not. Some writers are able to crank out quality work at a moment’s notice, but most of us need a little bit of time to sit down, listen to the music, and formulate our pieces.
Writing, editing, researching… they all take time. No one likes to deal with a pushy artist (or publicist, for that matter), so while it’s okay to follow up on coverage, make sure you’re generous with your timely expectations.
6. Know you might get rejected
When a writer rejects you, it’s never personal. There are a plethora of reasons why the music you’ve toiled over for months and months was passed up by every journalist you’ve emailed: it might not have been a good fit, the journalist just didn’t dig it, or he or she is just simply too swamped to take on another review.
Note that rarely will you get a formal rejection email from a music journalist. We’re just too busy to email every single person who pitched us to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Most journalists get hundreds of cold-call emails from artists and publicists a day. The truth is, we miss a lot of the music we might really love because we simply don’t have time for it all. That’s just the harsh reality.
By keeping these six points in mind, you’ll be better prepared for your next pitch. Along with these tips, make sure to proofread your pitch, spell the writer’s name right, and check that your links are working. If you make all of these things a priority, you’ll be in a great position to earn a write-up.
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.