Yes, this installment of Music PR 101 is about developing relationships with writers. That may seem a little self-serving, but this isn’t about me. The thing is, you’ll be amazed at the benefit of having a writer in your corner. After all, anyone who helps to get your music out to the world is an ally worth having. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you build relations with music journalists – or at least one of them.
As with any part of music promotion, you want to start local and build out from there. So when you’re looking to build a relationship with a writer, start with one that lives nearby. Research the local newspaper, the local weekly, and music websites that focus on local music. Find the music writers and introduce yourself – repeatedly if you must. Social-media outlets make that pretty easy to do, provided the writer is not a complete hermit. Don’t worry about being a nuisance. After all, writers are always looking for content. By reaching out to writers, you are actually providing as much a service for them as they are for you. No matter what avenue you use, introduce yourself and invite the writer to check out your latest album, song, or video. Keep this in mind; a writer is 100% more likely to write about your music if he or she actually knows about it.
There is at least one other good reason to start local. Say for instance that you have found a writer near you that likes your tunes and has written (or agreed to write) about you. Guess what the next step is. You invite that writer to your next show. In fact, invite the writer to your next show until that writer agrees to show up and to write a review about your show. If the writer really likes your show, he or she becomes more likely to check out another of your future shows — and to bring some friends to share in his or her musical discovery.
Ricky, don’t lose that number (or email address)
OK, so you’ve gotten a writer to write some nice things both about your recording and your live performance. That’s great. But you need to look beyond just that initial response. This isn’t just about couple of articles. The bigger picture is that you now have an ally in the media. That’s not a small thing. So here’s what you do. Make sure you save the writer’s email address. And phone number. Oh, and make sure that information is backed up somewhere. Then use that contact information the next time you have a new song, video, show — anything. I can tell you that there are a good number of musicians I have known for more than a decade – to the point where it’s not just a relationship between a writer and a band he enjoys but a friendship. Why is that important? Well, chances are that writer is going to move on to other outlets at some point. Then you’ve got a connection to a publication where you’ve never been featured.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of contact information, if a writer ever hands you his business card, show a little initiative and use it. I almost always have business cards when I go to a show, and I almost always give them out. Probably less than 10% of artists actually use the information on my card. That’s a whole lot of bands that could have gotten some press if only they had reached out to me.
Not locals only
You want to start your media relations close to home because the local writers are the ones that can help your local audience grow. However, don’t settle for just having a local writer in your camp. Keep sending out your music to every outlet you can think of. Wherever you get a positive response (yes, even if it’s in a place whose language you don’t understand), make sure you keep in touch with the writer who likes your stuff. Sure, you may not know exactly what the writer said, but it’s pretty cool when for instance you can post a French review of your album to your website or social media outlets.
The truth is that you never know who you’re going to reach. I know this much. There are more music and entertainment websites, blogs than you can possibly consider. You’re not in a situation where it’s Rolling Stone or bust. Yeah, it’s a great thing if you end up in the pages of Rolling Stone, but you can get way more coverage before that happens. And guess what. Avid music fans will check out bands they find interesting. I’ll give you an example. There is a duo from Brazil called Horror Deluxe. I found them on a Garage Punk (now Radio Mutation) compilation, and have written about them numerous times – mostly because the band lets me know about new albums and such. So yeah, even if it’s in some country that’s thousands of miles away from you, there are plenty of opportunities for your music to be featured, which leads to more people talking about and seeking your music. And that’s what you want: more people talking about and seeking your music.