Haulix Advice: 3 Examples Of What Not To Do When Contacting Journalists

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Hello, everyone. Happy Halloween! We don’t have candy or treats to hand out, but hopefully after today’s Advice column you’ll feel like you learned something (and maybe even had a bit of fun in the process). If you have a suggestions for a future installment of this column, or if you have a question you would like us to tackle, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts.

Here are two facts about the music industry you cannot avoid:

  1. You’re going to have bad reviews
  2. You are rarely, if ever, the only person trying to get someone’s attention

If these seem obvious to you, good! You’re already ahead of the curve. For everyone else, let’s continue…

Seeing as today is a holiday I thought it might be fun to keep the lengthy paragraphs at bay in lieu of something a bit more lighthearted. We often speak with journalists about the problems they encounter when being approached by independent artists, and for the most part those conversations have resulted in Advice columns that are, or will soon be live on this site. Today we’re going to try something different. Here are three examples of what not to do when contacting journalists, followed by reasons this behavior should be avoided at all costs. The music industry may seem large, but it’s a very tight knit community where people discuss the interactions they’ve had with artists they’ve encountered. You do not want to be the focus of those conversations.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment at the end of this post.

1. No matter what, never letter bomb someone’s personal address (online or in real life).

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I am hiding the identity of this person for professional reasons, but for the sake of this post know that they’re a PR representative for a very well-known record label. She’s perfectly happy to help any band she can and is willing to listen to new music, but by going around the submission system established by the label the band in this post has lost all chances of being signed to the label this person represents. She may not post the band’s name publicly (that would only give them more promotion), but if another professional were to ask her about her experiences with them it would not reflect well on the group, and slowly a ‘domino effect’ like sequence of closing doors will begin to occur.

2. Understand not everyone will enjoy your art, and do your absolute best to be okay with it.

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There are battles worth fighting and then there are differences of opinion that won’t be swayed. Bad reviews fall under the latter of these two, and as such no battle is necessary. Some people will love what you do, some will hate it, and many will never experience it. This is a fact of life every artist must face, and it’s how they choose to handle criticism that says the most about their character to both fans and industry professionals. The job of critics are to critique, just like yours as an artist is to create art, and part of their job requires them to sometimes tell people they do not enjoy the art they chose to share. That doesn’t make them bullies (unless they get overly personal, which admittedly can happen), but if you call them out on social networks or otherwise go after them you will become a bully yourself. Fans respect you because you do something unique and are not afraid to hide that gift, but if you aren’t willing to let others express themselves freely their feelings toward you will begin to change.

3. Submit your music once and allow ample time for a follow-up. Anything more and you risk becoming a nuisance.

Social media has made everyone more connected than ever, which means we spend a lot more time communicating with one another than we did even a decade ago. That’s all well and good, but when it comes to running a music publication it also means there are a number of channels for bands to reach you through that are open 24/7 whether you like it or not. While some bands still send press kits and follow general submission guidelines, which is always the best way to do things, others have taken to Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram to try and grab the attention of publications. Too much contact can be a bad thing, and if you try and reach a journalist too many times they will block you or otherwise pay no mind to your communication. Recognize that they are busy and work at crafting a pitch so great no one will be able to move on to the next submission. Remember: It only takes one pitch being read by the right person to change your career.

James Shotwell

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.