Even in the age of music D.I.Y., publicity is one of the first tasks that many artists outsource. That may not be your best strategy, says Ariel Hyatt and her experienced team at Cyber PR. And even if they do get help, there's a lot that every artist needs to do to set themselves up for PR success.
By Ariel Hyatt and the team at Cyber PR
The world of music publicity is loud and overwhelming (just like the people in it!) Contrary to prior belief, music PR – especially independent music PR – is not just about Pitchfork, Stereogum and Rolling Stone. Indie music PR revolves around an entire complex ecosystem of blogs (big and small), podcasters, publicists, fans, concertgoers, promoters, bookers, talent agents, managers, sync licensing people and more that contribute to growing artists careers.
With so many possible cooks in the kitchen, it’s nearly impossible to know who to listen to. The Cyber PR team has years of experience helping independent musicians become their own publicists. While Ariel previously wrote an article about this subject, there have been so many crucial developments to the PR space in recent years (the most significant being the addition of social media), so we figured it was time for a 2017 revamp!
Click to download the Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity
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 that we 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 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 who are constantly working towards 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:
- Your Music
- Genres and Comparisons
- Your Signature Story
- Photos and Album Artwork
- Your Socials
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.
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 or be sent right to the spam folder. We have a great 3-part SoundCloud guide if you need to walk yourself through best practices.
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 make sure you test the link first! The last thing you want is for a writer to click on the link you provided only to find that they can’t access your music. If you are leading with just a single, make sure the single is uploaded separately. If you have separate artwork for the single you should definitely 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 (a few captivating sentences), 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 – David Bowie 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’ll miss the opportunity to catch the attention of bloggers who might like 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. Be sure to go to the sites that you’re aiming for and see what the cover art they are posting looks like. While your music and art should obviously be your vision, it’s important to fit in with the other artists on the site as branding is half the battle.
eye-catching cover art from MJ Ultra
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.
Be sure to 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 post it. Showing your gratitude and support of the sites/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. Presskit.io is a fantastic place to get started.
If neither of these are 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, outdated content.
Check out our article on making an affordable website HERE.
That’s all for now! In Part 2, we’ll show you how to start contacting and establishing relationships with music bloggers!