The world of music publicity is loud and overwhelming. There are thousands of people who will try to tell you what to do, and will offer advice whether you asked for it or not. With so many voices out there, it’s hard to tell which ones to listen to. Our team here at Cyber PR has years of experience helping independent artists become their own music publicists. Ariel wrote an article about this wayyy back in the late ’90s that has helped a lot of artists get results. Obviously, things have changed a little bit over the past twenty years, so we have revamped it for 2016. This is the first installment of a 3-part series designed to help you execute your own effective music publicity strategy.
To help you through this process, we’ve created a detailed Music PR Checksheet! This will ensure that you’re not missing any steps, and are getting the most out of all the work you put into your DIY PR campaign. Click the picture below to download your free checksheet.
The State of Music Publicity Now
Music publicity has changed radically over the years, and will continue to change in the future. 90% of the music journalists Ariel used to know don’t write anymore – their publications went away years ago. So we ventured into the digital world, and cultivated relationships with thousands of music blogs online (and thousands more that crop up every year).
It’s not only about the media, though. There’s no question that music blogs, podcasts, and websites are important, but the internet has brought another huge change to music publicity: the ability to personally connect with fans through social media. Facebook, Twitter, email newsletters, Instagram… however you want to reach your fans, social media makes it easy (and often free) to do so.
Why does this matter? Because music publicity and social media are now intertwined. In order to get good publicity for your music, you have to have a good social media strategy. It can be challenging to get loads of press if the writers don’t see that you already have fans. Music bloggers and journalists are trying to get people to come to their sites – they’re not going to write about you (or even listen to your music, really) if there’s no proof that at least some people already believe in what you’re doing. Therefore, in order to run an effective PR/publicity campaign for your music, you first have to make sure that your social media strategy is solid. We could wax poetic on ways to make your socials great (check out posts on FB and Instagram), but for now, let’s focus on the nitty-gritty of how to become your own music publicist.
Music publicity, like building a fan base, takes time, dedication and effort. When you are in the throes of a PR campaign the effort sometimes feels Herculean compared to the result (if you gauge the result solely on how many placements you receive). However, with a bit of foresight, organization and grit, you can get good results.
Let’s get started!
The First 5 Steps: Preparing Your Digital Press Kit
Writers are very busy people, constantly working for a deadline. They get hundreds of emails a day from publicists and artists. Therefore, you should never make a writer work to get any information they may need. A digital press kit will help organize your information so they can immediately access your music and quickly get a sense of who you are. Here’s what your press kit should include:
Our team at Cyber PR has helped to create hundreds of effective press kits, so we’ll give you some tips on how to make the best impression possible.
1. Your Music
As a general rule, most writers prefer to get music via Soundcloud links. Unless their submission policy specifically states to send an MP3, DO NOT send files to writers. It clogs up their computers, and quite often your email will just be deleted.
Make sure you have your full album or EP (along with the artwork) on Soundcloud as one playlist. If the album is not yet available you can set it to private but test the link first! If you are leading with just a single, make sure the single is uploaded separately. If you have separate artwork for the single include that.
If you’re trying to get an exclusive premiere, send a private share link like the one above.
TIP: On your Soundcloud profile, add a 100 – 200 word bio (the Sparknotes version of your Signature Story), and include all the links to your website & socials, as well as where to find your music on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Music blogs rarely include links to buy, because most new listeners just want to stream, but it’s always a good idea to have those links available just in case.
2. Genres and Comparisons
I know that describing your own music can be a really challenging thing. But bloggers and music journalists are getting pitches constantly, and they don’t have the time or the inclination to read two paragraphs about how your music is “genre-defying” or something equally vague. You need to find a way to quickly describe your music, an elevator pitch that will get the right people interested right away. How does one do this?
Choose 2-3 genres that fit your music. Then choose 2-3 soundalike artists. This paints an instant picture of your music. But be careful – Dave Matthews might be your hero, but that doesn’t mean your music sounds like his. Get accurate feedback from people you trust, and be as truthful as possible. If you pitch yourself inaccurately, you might not catch the attention of bloggers who will love your music, while simultaneously annoying bloggers who click on your Soundcloud link, expecting something completely different.
3. Your Signature Story
Your Signature Story is the second cornerstone of your brand and your artistry (the first, clearly, is your music). This story shouldn’t be bland and boring! It should be personal or painful or revealing in some way, and, of course, interesting to read. The idea here is not to eclipse who you are as an artist or songwriter, but to create a hook – an angle that makes you relatable, and reels in a potential fan. A really strong signature story is not easy to create on your own. I strongly advise hiring a bio writer to help you.
Include what your music sounds like towards the beginning of your bio. This way, if a writer is pressed for time, she can simply take a sentence or two from your bio and place it directly in the write-up. This is the perfect place for your 2-3 genres and 2-3 comparisons.
TIP: Avoid vague clichés such as “melodic,” “brilliant harmonies,” “masterful guitar playing,” “tight rhythm section,” etc. These are terms that can be used to describe any music. Really think about what makes your music special!
4. Photos & Album Artwork
A great photo is crucial. You need at least one photo that is clear, well-lit, and attention-grabbing. You want it to show off your personality and the vibe of your band. Try to avoid the typical “band sitting on a couch” or “band standing up against a wall” clichés – music writers see about 500 of those a day.
An eye-catching photo from Hero The Band.
Make sure your photos are easy to locate and download (in hi res). Ensure that the file is properly named so that if the writer downloads it, it will show up easily in a cluttered file or on a desktop.
TIP: Put several color images, both vertical and horizontal, as well as your album artwork on your photos page, so editors can choose the ones they like best and which work best for their specific formats & layout.
5. Your Socials
Include links to your socials!! Not only does this give the media a better sense of your music and who you are, it also shows that other people give a damn. The bandwagon effect is a powerful tool in the music industry, and if a blogger sees that people are already excited about you (even if it’s just your friends!), then it’s a lot easier for them to get excited about you too. Just make sure that you’re actually updating the socials you link to! And if you’ve gotten any sort of press in the past, make sure to publicize it on your socials. Showing your gratitude and support of the sites and journalists that feature your music makes it much more likely that others will want to feature you too.
Prepare Your Kit
Now that you have the elements needed for your digital press kit, you have a few options. Sonicbids and Reverbnation have wonderful tools to help you create a press kit. They then make it incredibly easy for you to submit it to music festivals, gigs, and other opportunities – both through their websites, and over email.
If neither of these is appealing to you, you can also just create an area on your website that houses all of this information. Make sure you update it regularly though! There’s nothing more unprofessional than sending a press kit with really old content. That’s one of the great things about Sonicbids and Reverbnation – they connect to your socials, so a lot of your content updates automatically.
Check out our article on making an affordable website HERE.
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