How To Get Through To Busy Music Industry Writers

Busy-krnlpanik-flickrI've previously written about connecting with music bloggers for music coverage as have many writers over the years. If you follow tech blogs you'll periodically see posts about getting your startup covered often from writers explaining what they want to see. But I haven't seen anything specific on getting music industry writers' attention. So here are some of my thoughts on so doing whether you're with a music tech startup, offer business services or are a DIY musician who feels you should get some biz coverage for your approach.

A while back I posted "5 Tips For Identifying & Connecting With Music Bloggers For Music Coverage." This post got a cosign from numerous music bloggers and some additional useful insight in the comments so I believe the advice is solid.

Don't Expect Business Writers To Write About Art

While some of that post is useful for those seeking the attention of music industry bloggers and journalists, there is definitely a big difference between writing about art and money.

While business people tend to recognize the difference not all musicians do. In fact, I used to get regularly attacked at ProHipHop by people who claimed to be offended that I wrote about business on a business blog without talking about art.

That told me a few things about them that ensured they would never get coverage even if they did contact me with a business item including:

They either weren't paying attention to the subtitle of the site (Hip Hip Business News) or weren't very smart since business writers tend to write about business. That's why we call them business writers.

They'd never read my music reviews or they would know that nobody in their right mind would ask me to review their music.

They don't appreciate that I'll cover your business news whether or not I like your music.

In fact, one of the few times I pointed out on Hypebot that I wasn't a fan of an artist but still respected their business moves I was treated abusively in the comments. Unfortunately I'm sensitive and since no one's ever said they appreciate the fact that I can separate art and business and not hold their shitty music against them, I try not to mention my aesthetics unless I really dig somebody.

Know Who You're Talking To

Know who you're talking to, what they usually write about and what they've said about what they want to see.

Sometimes I'll explain why something is off-topic so that the person pitching will pitch me appropriately in the future. But I've been surprised at the number of publicists that have responded by telling me what they'll pitch in the future and assuming they got it right. Those folks only get it right about half the time. If they didn't ask if they were getting it right in that response, I don't bother to spend more time on them. Most writers wouldn't bother at all.

But check my sig at the end of this post: "music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing." I made it easy for them to ballpark my intersts but they didn't bother to read my sig even though that's where they got my email. I try not to hold that against people but tech bloggers at high-profile tech blogs are particularly unforgiving. Most especially TechCrunch bloggers. My bad, shouldn't single them out especially since I was thinking of a PandoDaily writer!

Some tech bloggers have written about their preferences and unfortunately I can't find a great example at the moment but I've honestly been astounded at some of the rather bizarre reasons I've heard certain very high profile bloggers say they'll use to reject a pitch.

On the other hand, tech bloggers who include music industry coverage tend to be very specialized. For example, John Biggs at TechCrunch, who I'm not referring to in the above note because I haven't seen his requirements, covers more music hardware than anybody I've seen not specializing in that area. So it's often easier to identify such people in tech blog settings.

On the other hand, there's a pretty short list of people covering the music industry on a regular basis and an even shorter list of people covering music tech. I know everybody's really busy but sometimes you've got to bite the bullet and put in the time for proper research. It will pay off in the long run even if it's painful at the moment.

Update: Don't miss Bruce Houghton's post "Why I Blacklisted 100+ PR Companies Today."

Remember That Writers Are Humans With Limits and Work With That

Though I have a list of interests in my sig, it doesn't really tell you enough. It's more a general guideline. But like most music industry writers and pro journalists in general, I cover way more things than I can truly understand with much depth. That means that sometimes I'll miss something I really should cover or cover something that doesn't really deserve it.

To be honest most outlets don't support true expertise. That's because media business models are based on what readers show interest in and tend to be pageview driven. Since reader response mostly has little correlation with expertise in terms of pageviews, except for very specialized publications, there is no reason for ad-supported, pageview driven media outlets to invest in true expertise.

So getting worked up when I or another writer covers one thing and not another is not a good move. And oftentimes that situation is complicated by the fact that many topics only need one example and none of us feel like we have to name check everybody doing something similar.

Don't Get Argumentative In A Writer's Inbox

Sometimes our choices lead to people becoming argumentative. I understand that tendency. I'm an argumentative kind of guy. But arguing with me in my inbox cause you want coverage is not a good look.

Asking for clarification or sharing more info is fine with me. Unfortunately that's not true for all writers because once any of us have broken through the awareness barrier, we're then pitched way more things than we can cover and most of us are probably pitched more things that we'd like to cover than we can.

At this point, for every 10 items that I bookmark or receive via email, 5 of them are plausible, 2 I really should cover, 1 gets covered. Strictly speaking, that math may be overly optimistic in terms of your odds of coverage.l

Don't Talk Trash In The Comments

Another issue similar to arguing in writers' inboxes is making catty or angry comments on blog posts. There are multiple musicians and music business owners who probably deserve some coverage but killed their brand with me. I can think of a couple offhand who I would have covered or turned to for insight by now but I'll never write about them until they establish a positive relationship with me that counteracts the damage they've done in the comments.

And I'm not just talking about comments on my posts. If you comment a lot on Hypebot, I'll see you whether or not it's on my posts. You should assume the same everywhere though that's not the case with all writers.

Do Speak Truth and Share Knowledge

Look, I know there's a lot of money in lying and if you're a success many of your lies will be forgiven but please consider speaking the truth.

And if you can't help yourself, don't lie about things that are easy to contradict. Unless, of course, you're at the Jimmy Iovine level.

I can't speak for other writers on this but if you feel I'm in error and treat me with basic respect while trying to educate me, you can turn around long-term coverage in your favor if the evidence is on your side.

That can include links to research and coverage by specialized writers. It can also include access to analytics or screenshots of such evidence.

Remove Roadblocks to Coverage by Helping the Writer

I was contacted recently by a musician that I only know through Facebook. He's a pretty tripped out guy and we'd previously discussed a graffiti campaign he'd done which I was initially interested in covering.

However he didn't have any pictures of the graffiti and only "suspected" that it was one of the reasons his release at that time did well. So I passed.

When he contacted me again he said I'd promised him coverage and he wanted me to write about the moves he was getting ready to make. Because I find him pretty interesting I was willing to continue the conversation despite the overall lack of professionalism or understanding of what I do.

In fact, I was willing to get on the phone with him which is much harder to make happen than people realize. But he's in a weird time zone and I told him I'd get back to him when I figured out what my open times were in his time zone.

He actually agreed to set up a Skype account, which he said he hated to do, but he didn't think to look up the time zone differences and send them to me.

That week I was not feeling well, was a bit overwhelmed with things and just didn't get to it. Sometimes I'm like that.

Plus, there are people I'd like to talk to that I haven't got back to including people who wrote me months ago. Even people that I've already written about who I'd like to continue talking to. That's just how it is.

If he'd sent me the timezone, he'd already have coverage. But now I feel guilty and I doubt this individual will be responsive to an apology. I could be wrong about that but do you see the roadblocks that now exist that could have been cleared or avoided by simply helping me out with info I said I needed to look up before setting up a call?

In Closing

I decided not to do a cut and dry tips post because I wanted to dig in to the why and there are other angles to consider. Please feel free to add your thoughts or ask me direct questions about all this in the comments.

[Photo "Busy" courtesy krnlpanik.]


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is currently relaunching All World Dance. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. I get lots of messages from bands asking to be reviewed … most of them don’t use my name in the opening remarks … and others have no idea what I actually write about.
    MY ADVICE: actually read the blog before you email … use the writers name and mention something you like about their writing.

  2. What’s been bugging me is pro and corporate publicists who send me the stuff I don’t want to cover yet won’t send me the stuff I want to cover.
    They just can’t get past their blinders to what I actually care about.
    There were two items this week that I probably would have prioritized if the company’s publicists would have gotten me a press release before it went out.
    Finding out a day after other people published the news pretty much killed that not because they were no longer worthy items but because missing the moment made other items worthier.
    Plus both publicists that should have sent me the news I’m now not covering recently sent me items that I would in no way cover.
    And they will never know now because we don’t have a real dialogue going and they both strike me as annoying.
    Tough world!

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