Social media is both a blessing and a curse. This shouldn’t be news. These days, it’s easier than ever to connect with friends, fans, and total strangers. For musicians, it opens new portals to press opportunities and even lucrative contracts, but as with everything, there’s a certain level of finesse for each and every action.
Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever tried online dating will tell you, a certain level of decorum disappears when people are protected by the internet’s veil of anonymity. That’s why it’s more important than ever to retain dignity and treat others, particularly music industry professionals you’d like to work with in some capacity, with the same respect you’d show total strangers in real life
As a music journalist in the digital age, my inbox is literally bombarded with cold calls and requests for coverage from artists and publicists alike. That’s to be expected and while it’s somewhat annoying when the requests obviously aren’t genuine or were mass sent, the real frustration comes when my social channels are bogged down with insistent, even aggressive, messages. And, like online dating, there’s barely a, “Hi! How are you?” before the sender explains what he or she wants in explicit detail.
This isn’t to say that you should never try to connect via social media. On the contrary, if done properly, it’s a great entre onto a writer’s radar. Here are a few tips to contact music journalists on social media.
Do: Follow your favorite music writers on social media
Don’t: Request a follow-back immediately
Would you follow a random stranger on Twitter or Instagram and then immediately contact them for a follow back? Unless that person specifically said, “Follow me, then tweet to request a follow back,” don’t do it. The same goes for music journalists. Yes, our job is to source great artists and write about them, and yes, we may even be interested in your music, but asking for a follow back immediately, even in the sweetest way, guarantees we’ll ignore you.
Why? Consider the alternative. Whenever I get a new Twitter follower, I’ll always look at his or her profile, just to see who they are, what they do, and what we have in common. If that follower is an artist, I may listen to one or two tracks organically to get a sense of his or her sound. That won’t always lead to an article, but there’s that possibility. And yes, it may warrant a follow back.
Alternatively, by the time I check my phone and see that I’ve got a new Twitter follower and a tweet from said follower asking me to reciprocate, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth. If this person is tweeting at one music journalist in this fashion, it’s a safe bet he or she is reaching out to a whole bunch more the same way. There’s zero chance I’m going to follow him or her back or even take that quick moment to listen to his or her music.
Do: Respond to their tweets in a genuine way
Don’t: Reply to tweets with non-relevant links to your music
Twitter was made for discussions, and the cool thing is that anyone can participate and get involved. But when those discussions are interrupted by self-promotion or off-topic garbage, it can kill not only the chat but also any relationships that were blossoming between Twitter pals.
Keep in mind that music journalists are fully formed people, too. We have good days and bad days; we have 140-character random thoughts that we tweet out without really thinking about them. If your favorite writer tweets, “Can’t wait to hit Disneyland with my BFF this weekend! Don’t you guys love Dole Whip?” don’t reply with, “Listen to my new single, ‘Best Song Ever!’ When can you review it? Let’s do an interview!” Again, like so much of this, it’s obvious. But it happens all. The. Time.
An appropriate tweet, on the other hand, might be, “Dole Whip is the only reason I go to Disneyland!” And, since your aim is probably to engage this writer in some way, add a relevant question (emphasis on relevant), like, “What’s your favorite ride? Mine’s the one with the shortest line!” Interactions like this are genuine and human, which is all we’re really asking for here.
Read “Why Social Media For Musicians Is Easier For Some Bands Than Others”
Do: “Like” their photos on Instagram
Don’t: “Like” all of their photos on Instagram in an effort to get noticed
Everyone’s had this happen at one time or another: You open Instagram, see that you have an obscene amount of new likes, and realize you have no idea who said liker is. Usually, it’s:
- a creepy creepo creep
- a random company trying to get your attention (and dollars)
- a bot
- your mom’s friend who just joined Instagram, followed you, and is liking all of your pics
- a drunk ex from college
If you’re a music journalist, however, there’s one more option:
an artist who saw your name on a blog/figures you covered his or her friend so, naturally, you’re eager to cover him or her/randomly found you
Look, we appreciate followers just like everyone else. But, to re-emphasize the first two points, don’t act like a freak trying to get attention by flooding our Instagram “like” feeds with a barrage of hearts. Yes, it’s weird that some dude I don’t know is liking photos of my friend’s one-year-old baby, my cat, and the pretty personal photo I posted on Christmas 2014.
In circumstances like this, I have to wonder, “What’s this person’s end game?” which is a question you, as an artist, need to be asking before every social media interaction. What do you want to achieve here? If you’re liking a bunch of Instagram photos, you’re probably trying to get noticed.
There are better ways to do that, like (see above) through genuine interactions. Pick an appropriate post, like a photo of a concert, the beach, or something that’s a little removed from that writer’s personal life, and give it a like or comment along the lines of, “Awesome shot! Zuma Beach is my favorite, too.”
Do: Request to DM them after building up a rapport
Don’t: Endlessly spam them with your music
Seriously, is there anything more invasive than a Facebook message or Twitter/Instagram DM from someone you don’t know and that person doesn’t provide a reason for contacting you? It’s one thing if it’s a completely organic, “Hey, Just wanted to say I really enjoyed your latest ReverbNation piece!” and quite another when it’s, “Review my album! Here’s a link to share with your readers, and please post it on your social media channels!”
Here’s an actual example of a cold-call Facebook message I got recently from someone I don’t know from Adam:
At first glance, it doesn’t seem so bad. This person seems to have a lot going for his or her music: 2.5 million Spotify streams ain’t bad. But it’s clear that he or she is after one thing: coverage, and there’s no subtlety, which is a turn off. (And, for the record, I had no idea who the person was that apparently referred this message-sender to me. Also a turn off.)
Think about it this way: you’re at a bar, and you spot a music writer across the room. You wouldn’t walk right up to him or her and say, “I’ve got 2.5 million Spotify streams! Cover me! Here’s my single! Listen to it!” That’s a surefire way to not get coverage. Remember, social media isn’t removed from real life; politeness will take you far.
Start your interactions in public; Twitter is ideal for this. Once you’ve developed a foundation for a professional relationship, ask if you can send the music writer a DM. He or she will probably know what’s coming, so if you get a “yes,” it’s a great sign. And it’s all because you created a basis of familiarity.
Do: Find something you both have in common
Don’t: Make it obvious you want something from them
For me, there’s nothing cooler than someone who shares my interests, whether they’re music related or not. Like most people, my social media profiles are an amalgam of what I like and what I don’t, which opens up conduits for conversations with my friends, followers, and whoever else happens by. If an artists pops in to add his or her two cents, that’s completely okay. In fact, if that person adds something particularly special to the conversation, that’s definitely going to pique my interest.
For example, one of my weird, musical quirks is a love for jug bands. So when I recently got a message request on Facebook from a guy who plays in a jug band and recognized that I was a fan, I immediately accepted. That spoke my language in a real, human way, as opposed to someone who spews a bunch of generic, copy-and-paste garbage at me (see above).
If it’s obvious that you’re half-assedly injecting yourself into the conversation and pretending to like say, a particular cuisine the writer is raving about for the sake of a little attention, wait for a better opportunity. If one doesn’t come up, this person probably isn’t the right person to be writing about your music.
Why? Because if you’re a hip-hop artist, sooner or later, the writer will tweet about something hip-hop related. If he or she doesn’t, double check that you’re familiar with his or her beat. If that writer regularly covers Latin music or smooth jazz, it’s not going to be a good fit anyway. And no, he or she won’t make an exception for you because you’ve got 2.5 million Spotify streams.
All of these tips can be boiled down into one, trendy catchphrase: Don’t be thirsty. Seriously, just like in real life, quality relationships take time to foster — even professional ones. Keep in mind that even though these words of wisdom definitely increase your chances of coverage, they don’t guarantee it. There’s a plethora of reasons why a journalist could choose to ignore you. When that happens, don’t take it personally, move on, and start the process all over again.
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.
Todd - August 2, 2017
The writer in this bit seems just a pinch full of him/herself. As if Music Journalists were still living in the glory days of the CD and Rolling Stone Magazine. Sadly, folks have moved on. There are so many blogs, youtube channels, etc. with folks reviewing/talking about/pimping various music, that it’s lost most of it’s relevance IMHO. Folks tend to gravitate to what their friends are listening to in an organic way through social media. Not by listening to what a stranger has to say about it.
Mark - June 7, 2018
Todd (of the August 2 comment): I think if, to you, the writer seems full of themself, they have earned anything that may lead, mistakenly, to that semblance. The article is well thought out; and more, they pay attention to their grammar and syntax, where you do not. Where you may favor underground, basement ‘zines, or the offhand, online equivalent, there is still a market for an overground readership. The points in the article above are well made, and apply to more than relations between writer and musician: they’re observations of common sense. You’re correct about the large number of blogs and Youtubers; but judging from how poorly thought out most of the video reviews are that I’ve wasted time watching on Youtube, some of us much prefer to read something someone is paid for, which often means they check their work before handing it in. Your point would be better made in noting that Rolling Stone reviews have been notoriously unreliable, in printing ‘reviews’ of albums the writer had never even listened to, an example of a publication where anything like professionalism, in the sense of product knowledge, was the antithesis of the reality. Another example, for a different reason, is the (now-defunct) Tower Records magazine, Pulse. A specific example of untrustworthy reviews: In 1987, they praised the new Black Sabbath album, The Eternal Idol. When the next ‘Sabbath album, Headless Cross, was released in 1989, in order to promote it, they roundly panned The Eternal Idol. Dishonest urinalism, forget anything like critiquing by scientific method. So there’s two instances you can use to touche me. 🙂 But generally I’ll stick with a paid reviewer who (usually) has a reason to take time to think their argument through to a deserved publication. Cheers! Mark
Bruce - March 25, 2020
What he said….
Barbara Keith - August 4, 2017
Well what a good article and thanks for the chance to read it. Regards Barbara/New Venture Duo
Mark - June 7, 2018
I listened to your music, and quite like what I heard. I now follow New Venture Duo.
Todd Hendricks - August 6, 2017
Thanks Allison, those are great insights. I’ve been trying to make some contacts to promote my stuff but so far unsuccessfully. Pay no attention to what the other Todd said. 😉
Phil Foster - January 10, 2022
Some excellent points! Yes – I can understand how frustrating it must feel to be contacted purely for ulterior motives: no-one wants that – even if their job often involves promoting new artists. At the same time, if you are seeking to reach out to music journalists with the aim of promoting your music, how can you get the balance right when you are trying to make contact? (The journalists must surely understand that you cannot be there purely to have a friendly conversation; that you do need to promote yourself; and that time – yours as well as theirs – is an important commodity.)
It’s the same, after all, when you are applying for a new job…
I think Allison is saying that we all need to aim at showing due respect to those we contact; and that, in time, some of those contacts may build into the ‘quality relationships’ to which she refers. So, should we not at least do some research before writing to a particular music journalist (as we would before applying for that new job)? We will do ourselves – and them – a favour by not contacting those who are clearly into a different genre of music than that which we are creating. Also, it doesn’t cost a lot to show some interest in the other person, outside of music; to paraphrase her, we are all human beings!
My interest in all this is that my niece is a singer-songwriter; I hope that it isn’t just the family connection talking, but I truly believe she is no ordinary artist; that she offers songs and accompanying videos that are accessible, brilliant, and original.
But, at the end of the day, she desperately needs some solid, influential contacts: no matter how good you are, if you cannot get the publicity…
Anyway, good luck to all the struggling independent artists with genuine talent out there; thanks to my niece, I have now heard of some of you… and I’m trying to be open to listening to more…
And good luck to you, Allison – and to all the other music journalists out there: as you try to find those talented musicians…
May we all continue to reach out to one another with respect!
Anjeza - January 29, 2022
Thank you for this article – Very helpful tips