Getting good press in the music business hasn't gotten easier in recent years. Competition is stiff and engaging the interest of press can be even harder than capturing the attention of fans. Here we look at music journalism and how to cultivate a relationship with industry gatekeepers.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Getting press in music is harder than ever before, but with a few simple steps, you can develop a meaningful relationship with industry gatekeepers.
The competition for attention in music is fierce. Whether you’re seeking to reach consumers directly or trying to get press from genre gatekeepers, there is a countless number of competing talents vying for the same thing at any given moment. Those artists lucky enough to get ahead do so first and foremost because they possess that intangible ‘it’ factor that draws people in, but that alone doesn’t make a career. The only way to continually move forward, both with fans and members of the press, is through engagement.
You can find a million articles about engaging your audience, but far less tell you how to support the members of the press and music community who find time in their busy schedules to promote your work. It’s not hard to do so, but it does take time, and hopefully you will make the decision to engage that content more often after reading this post.
But first, a few hard truths about music journalism and promotion in 2019:
- The vast majority of publications are writing less news posts because the traffic those posts receive is declining with each passing year. Most people get their news from artists via social media, which for many makes sharing anything that is not ‘a scoop’ or an otherwise exclusive/cool piece of information a waste of time.
- Many publications, especially larger outlets like Rolling Stone, are featuring less new talent now than ever before. The reasons for this are numerous and unique to each site, but one common argument against new music coverage is that it often fails to generate traffic. The lucky few who do receive attention from these outlets earn their appearance by first developing a dedicated following online or creating something that is undeniably special.
- The term ‘exclusive’ means very little in 2019. There was a time when exclusivity existed online, but these days, most content can be embedded anywhere in a matter of seconds. What matters most is the information surrounding the content. For example, appearing in Rolling Stone may be a cool thing to brag about, but if a smaller site can offer more compelling writing to accompany your latest creation that site could potentially play a larger role in earning you new fans than RS.
- Some sites will say yes to anything. Traffic is king online, and many sites are scrambling to grow their daily readership by any means necessary in hopes they can make a few pennies more from people viewing ads. That desperation leads many to agree to anything pitched their way, which in itself is not a bad thing. Promoting new music from young artists is something to be admired in a time when many don’t make time to do so. However, many sites who agree to everything put very little time into making any one piece of content special.
- Writers help artists they like before anyone else. If you’re lucky, someone with influence will discover your music and take an active role in promoting it without being asked. Most artists, however, are not that lucky. You should constantly be following and engaging with writers and publications online, as well as engaging with their content. Make yourself recognizable to them without coming across as someone trying to get something in return. Journalists are inundated with requests all day long, so try to not be another person in a long line of anonymous voices screaming into someone’s inbox for attention. In other words, be a decent human who treats others like they matter.
Got it? Good. Back to the matter at hand.
If you can overcome the immense competition for the media’s competition it is in your best interest to show appreciation for the content creator’s work. It should be clear from the points above, but the market for coverage of new artists and music from largely unknown talent is quite small. Getting someone to pay for that coverage is basically impossible, which is why so many of the best new music writing and promotion comes from people working for free out of their home, dorm, etc. They write about the music they’re passionate about, and that passion is what their audience wants. It should be what you want, too.
Whenever you’re lucky enough to receive positive coverage you should — at the very least — engage with the content in some small way (like, favorite, heart, etc.). That small act, which takes just seconds, tells the writer you see what they’re doing and you appreciate their effort. It tells them the time they spent crafting content to help promote your music instead of someone else was not time wasted, and it makes them feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves. They are now part of your journey, and that connection to your career may very well lead them to cover you more in the future.
You will get further ahead if you actively engage with the content through sharing or commenting on content related to your group. These actions show appreciation for the content, but it also adds something of a personal touch, especially if shares are accompanied by original text. Like parents always tell us, saying “thank you” and being polite will get you far in this life. In music, showing appreciation through promotion and direct engagement tells writers that you respect their craft as much as they respect your art. It sends a message that their content is seen and felt, which is the same thing you are searching for as an artist.
Virtually anyone can get covered once or twice, but the key to consistent press coverage is networking and the relationships you develop over time. It’s work, but it’s work that’s well worth the effort required.