Music industry tastemakers are incredibly busy people, and even those working for smaller outlets are inundated with promotion seeking emails. This being the case, it's important to make an immediate positive impact, something a surprisingly large number of artists still manage to fail to to do. Here we look at the two most common screwups artists make, each guaranteeing any music writer won't give your pitch a second glance.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Overcoming the biggest hurdle in DIY music promotion requires a little thing called human decency.
Music tastemakers are some of the busiest people in the entertainment industry. Even the smallest publications receive dozens of requests per day for coverage. Bigger outlets, as well as widely-recognized writers, may receive more than one-thousand emails any given week. The majority of the time, outlets and writers are busy dealing with established talent and music that is quickly gaining momentum online. Those able and willing to cover lesser-known acts only have a finite amount of time for discovery, which is why making a positive and immediate impact on anyone you pitch is essential for your success.
We write a lot of blogs offering advice for reaching tastemakers. We have even gone so far as to create contact lists to help people reach playlist curators. However, no matter how much we write and discuss music promotion, industry influencers continue to complain about up and coming artists’ lack of preparation and respect. People at all level of the industry often contact us with concerns that people are nowhere near as passionate about professionalism as they are becoming successful, and that — for most — is a huge red flag.
With that in mind, here are the two complaints we receive most often, as well as advice on how to avoid further frustrating music writers, podcasters, and YouTubers in the future.
Know your audience.
Very few tastemakers have influence over every area of music. There are exceptions, such as The Needle Drop, but most critics and influences earn their positions in the industry by specializing in certain areas of music.
The same goes for publications. Pitchfork may cover more music than anyone has time to listen to, but there isn’t one person doing all the work behind the scenes. Pitchforks, as well as most music publications, rely on teams of people — each with their own specialties — to curate content people should experience.
Few things will get your pitch for coverage denied or overlooked faster than failing to understand what the person you’re contacting covers. This is especially with playlists, which can be extremely specific in terms of the music they’re looking to features. When artists begin flooding tastemakers with material outside their coverage area it only serves to frustrate influencers and lower their interest in music discovery altogether.
It’s hard enough for up and coming artists to get attention today without having to compete with people who spam critics because they were too lazy to research the people they were contacting. Don’t contribute to the problem of over-saturation. Research every person and publication before reaching out. Be sure your email is going to someone or someplace that values the type of music you create. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time, including your own.
Make it personal.
There is no Mr. Pitchfork or Ms. Rolling Stone. However, without fail, artists constantly spam inboxes of publications and writers without addressing the people on the receiving end.
Worse still is the large number of artists who write a single draft of a pitch letter that they then copy and paste to all press contacts with zero personalization.
A good rule of thumb for promoting your music is to make every piece of outreach as personal as the music you’re trying to share. Your songs mean everything to you. They are a representation of who you are what you wish to share with the world. Your promotional materials are an extension of that representation.
It’s perfectly acceptable to create a pitch template for promoting your music that shares the same basic information with everyone you contact. However, that template should be a starting point for messages and not the entire message. Your outreach should aspire to make everyone feel as if you want them to hear your music more than anyone else in the world. Let them know you admire their work and that you understand what they are passionate about in music. Talk to them as if you’re trying to make a new best friend.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re being asked for a favor by a stranger who has no interest in who they are, how they’re feeling, or what they’re trying to do with their own career. Make people feel special.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.