Pitching music is a frustrating but crucial part of being a serious musician in 2020. If you want to play shows or put your music into consideration for playlists, radio play, and press coverage, some amount of DIY pitching has to happen. It’s natural to view the people you pitch to as hurdles preventing your music from finding an audience. However, that attitude will make it harder for you and your music to be taken seriously. Empathy is the ability to understand how someone else is feeling. Embracing empathy is something that will help your music career in the long run.
The power of empathy
Musicians are naturally empathetic because it’s a character trait essential for making meaningful music. Music means many different things to people. Its strongest value lies within human connection and understanding, and that takes empathy. But rather than confining empathy to songwriting and performing, putting it to work when you try to find opportunities for your music is something that can improve your chances and help keep you sane during the pitching process. We must realize that there is another human being on the other end of the internet connection. Once we acknowledge that, we notice improvements in our pitches and attitude when things don’t go our way.
Booking DIY tours and making your way through lists of dozens of music journalists and playlist curators can be tedious. It’s natural to focus more on your wants than the people you pitch to. But, just like how songwriters often get criticized for being navel-gazing in their music, a self-serving attitude will end up hurting your efforts. Don’t forget your goals or your passion when you pitch music. However, do realize there’s a vast world of competing interests and needs outside of your own.
Influential music curators are overwhelmed
Having empathy for the people you pitch your music to means realizing that you’re making music at a time of unprecedented industry saturation and that music curators are overwhelmed. Depending on the size of the blog, playlist, or radio station, it’s not uncommon for a single music industry professional to get hundreds of emails every week. If you spend weeks sending emails and following up, this is most likely the reason why. If you yourself in the position of music curators, it will help you not take being ignored personally.
What makes a music journalist or radio station’s music supervisor click on some emails and not others? There’s no way to tell, but you’re best off being patient and cutting people slack when you pitch to them. The unavoidable truth is that there are far more eager bands out there than meaningful opportunities to go around.
Who are they and what are they looking for?
To have empathy for the folks you pitch to is by learning about their specific needs and wants. Sending out copied and pasted emails to a long list of contacts will help you feel like you’re accomplishing something in the short-term. Yet, personalizing your messages will dramatically improve your chances of being considered for opportunities. Who are the people you’re pitching to and what are they looking for? Asking this question before you take the time to share music will make you quickly realize that many industry contacts aren’t likely to feature your music.
For the ones who might, empathy means looking into things like the specifics of how they want artists to submit music, what kind of artists they typically champion, and background about the blog, playlist, radio station, or publication in question. Rather than viewing those you pitch to as an obstacle, think about their needs. Will your music a good fit for them? If so, it will end up making your pitches more thoughtful and effective.
There are times when your efforts will pay off, and others when you’ll be ignored or passed over for opportunities. During times of rejection, empathy can be really tough to access. But if you can manage to, you’ll realize that the music industry is complicated and that your music isn’t for everyone or every purpose. For artists committed enough to keep trying to make and pitch great work after rejection, opportunities will come.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.