Journalism Tips #19: ‘3 MORE Ways Writers Annoy Publicists’

Thank you for joining us for another installment in our our ongoing Journalism Tips series. We started this column as a way to help aspiring writers get their start in music, but over the couple months we have been evolving into a place writers come to have their questions about life in the business answered. Today we are continuing that effort with a response to a question posed by multiple readers in regard to how writers can better themselves professionally. If you have any questions about developing as a writer/blogger in music, please do not hesitate email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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Last week, we spent the entirety of our Journalism Tips column discussing three major ways music writers annoy publicists. The reaction to that post was so strong that we decided to run another, and if your response remains strong a third is not out of the question. The purpose of these lists is not to make journalists feel bad, but rather to highlight aspects of the way we all do business that could stand to be improved. Whether or not someone takes it upon ourselves to make changes is entirely up to the individual reading this article, but at least we can rest knowing you are more aware of the common mistakes so many of us make.

Without further ado, here are 3 MORE ways music writers drive publicists crazy:

1. Requesting event coverage within 72 hours of the event.

Music writers, especially those new to the industry, tend to get so caught up in the day-to-day events of the music business that they often forget to plan future coverage far enough in advance to guarantee they actually receive the accreditation they seek. Instead, they wait for an email or Twitter reminder to inform them of events happening in the immediate future and turn to publicists for last minute access, which in turn forces the publicist(s) to drop whatever they are working on to try and get an answer to a question they most likely should not even ask this late in the game.

No one believes bloggers and other music writers are lying when they claim to have very little free time for future planning, but it’s incredibly rude for writers to assume everyone else exists to help them whenever they find the time to put in a request. I am willing to go out on a limb and say every single person working full time in publicity today is far more busy than any single writer or blogger could ever pretend to be, and the fact anyone who isn’t Rolling Stone or Pitchfork is ever granted passes for a show, let alone access to artists, is a testament to just how hard PR people work on a daily basis. In order for them to perform to the best of their ability, however, they need writers they can depend on, specifically those who recognize their struggle and make an effort to place coverage requests in a more timely manner. If you can be that person for the publicists in your life, they will do what they can to make things better/easier for you. Remember: Everyone advances faster when we work together, and in order to do that we must respect one another’s role in this industry.

2. Delaying exclusive content to the point it must be given to another outlet, then turning around and complaining about losing the exclusive.

This one is a little more specific than some of the other grievances we have shared, but it’s something I see happen on a near-weekly basis, typically in cases involving smaller/unsigned/indie bands. Sites looking to boost the number of features they’re able to run agree to do an exclusive with a relatively unknown band who somehow managed to land decent representation, and in the time between that agreement and the negotiated launch date a plethora of additional, likely bigger opportunities arrive that cause the exclusive to be shelved or postponed. This may seem like no big deal to the writer, as they believe good content will perform well no matter what day it runs, but for publicists who have planned a specific promotional push for content expected to launch on a specific date it can be one of the most aggravating experiences they have face in their career. They have clients they want to make happy, and more importantly those clients have fans they want to make happy, but that cannot happen unless you hold up your end of the agreement as a writer and run the content on time. If you fail to do this and notice you exclusive appearing on another site, the only person you have to blame is yourself. Never blame publicists for your own lack of professionalism.

3. Sharing pre-release music/media with people other than the intended recipient

You had to know this point was going to be made eventually, right? Haulix specializes in digital distribution and fighting music piracy, which is a long way of saying we work with a number of record labels and publicists around the globe every day. When these professionals want to share unreleased/advance music with members of the press they upload and watermark the music using our system, then distribute those material to select members of the global writing community. By ‘select members,’ I mean to say they go through their entire contact list and select the individual people they want to stream, download, and otherwise engage with their content prior to it being made available for public consumption. What they do not intend to do in these instances, however, is share watermarked advanced music with someone who then turns around and shares that same music with the ten-thirty people they have writing for their music blog. This is not only breaking one of the very few stipulations agreed to by the writer when accepting the media files, but also dramatically increases the likelihood of music leaking.

Listen, we get it. We understand it’s incredibly simple to receive an email inviting you to something and then forward it to others you believe you can trust so that they too may enjoy whatever advance you have just received, but it’s also incredibly stupid. For starters, just because someone contributes to your blog does not necessarily mean they can be trusted with unreleased music. If they receive music from you and it leaks, they will not be held responsible. You, however, will be held fully accountable for the leak and may even face criminal prosecution as a result.

You know what is just as easy as forwarding advanced music to people who are not supposed to have it? Emailing a publicist or record label and requesting that a second copy of the record be sent to whoever on your site is covering the album/artist in the near future. This not only protects you, but it also allows the publicist to better track who has access to music and what type of coverage they are planning to create. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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.