Common Mistakes Artists Need To Avoid When Contacting Journalists

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There are more music zines, blogs, forums, and fan sites now than ever before in the history of entertainment. If you have a unique audio creation to promote, there is most certainly a corner of the internet’s boundless landscape waiting to devour every second you lay to digital tape. You already know this, of course, which is why you’re so excited to send press kits, press releases, and every type of blanket promotional messaging you can think of to any writer whose email address has been foolishly made available to the general public. We don’t think that is the best way to get your name out there, but if you think it will work for you then by all means give it a go. After all, sometimes the best way to learn is through trial and error.

If you can resist hitting the send button for just a few minutes, however, there are a few simple tips we can offer to help increase your music’s chances of receiving consideration. It’s not a guaranteed formula for success by any means, but if you avoid the following common pitch messaging mistakes you will have an upper hand on the countless bands who are also competing for those writers’ attention.

1. Forgetting to properly introduce yourself

Most small bands handle their own press, but some choose to let friends and small PR firms lend a hand as well. Either way, make sure the person handling your band’s publicity identifies themselves across all messaging and social networks. There are few things more frustrating than receiving genuinely promising music delivered by people who failed to make their own identities known to the people they are writing. It may sound like a hard mistake to make, but it actually occurs quite frequently. Musicians want to share the good news of their exciting new sounds so badly they forget the importance of introductions, leaving journalists to wonder whether the person writing them is a fan of the band, an incredibly amateur publicist, or a member of the group themselves.

In short, don’t let be your only calling card.

2. Forgetting bios and contact information

This one goes hand-in-hand with number 1. Don’t let the thrill of possibly having your latest creation shared on a popular music publication distract you from covering the basic steps of artist promotion. Introduce yourself and your music, share your latest news, and then provide enough supplemental information that the journalist receiving your materials can create their content without a lengthy string of emails. Your messaging needs to provide everything writers and their readers may need or want to know about you and your music, including your history as an artist and where you can be found online. No one wants to write about someone they’ve never heard or who has no history and seemingly no presence online.

3. No photo

Essentially every website uses photos when creating new content. Whether it’s a review, news tidbit, interview, or something else, sites who cover your music will need photos to help sell the content to their readers. Including an image with your pitch email, or at least a link to an image stored online (via dropbox, for example) makes it easier for journalists to quickly create content around your music. If they like what they hear, but do not have any images for their article they will need to delay writing about you until finding/receiving a photo.

Remember: The fewer hurdles a journalist has to go through to cover you the better.

4. Links Don’t work

This one is just plain embarrassing. You finally get the attention of the editor you have always hoped to contact and the link you’ve supplied for your new EP is dud. Maybe you copy/pasted the wrong link, or perhaps the way you formatted your email caused an error, but either way the person you wanted to impress is now presented with a blank page informing them no such site exists.

These mistakes can momentarily squash all hopes an artist has of being covered by any publication, and the worst part of all if 99% of the time they never know it’s happening to them because they didn’t bother to check the links themselves. It’s possible the editor for Rolling Stone will write you to say the link in the email you sent about that band they had never heard of who has not done too much of note did not work, but it is far from a likely scenario. With most editors you get one chance, at least per album cycle, and broken links is a guaranteed way to get your pitch letter a one-way ticket to the trash bin.

5. Wrong Names, AKA ‘The Copy/Paste fail’

My name is James. If I receive an email to and it begins ‘Dear Matt, I am writing because I am a big fan of your site,” I get a sneaking suspicion the person contacting me is being a tad disingenuous. Further, it makes me not want to read your kind words and accompanying pitch because it’s the same words you tried to sell one or more of my writing peers.

If you want to make writers think you are creating something unique you need to remember that all writers are also unique, and the same selling points that work for some will not work for others. We have stressed this in previous posts, but cannot be said enough that there is no better way to contact people than with genuinely personal emails. Use their name (and make sure it’s theirs), ask how their day is, and take the time to highlight a specific aspect or two of their craft you enjoy. Kindness and sincerity will get you much further in this business than haste and repetition. Always.

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.