Journalism Tips #21: ‘Making The Most Of Your New Music Coverage’

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 make the most of their upcoming album coverage. 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.

New music is at the core of every writer’s efforts. Whether it’s reviewing, discovering, promoting, or generally updating readers, nearly every single thing we music writers post about in our day to day lives revolves around the idea of exposing more people to new music. Many sites, however, fail to properly explore every avenue for content creation when approaching coverage for a new release. There is far more that can be done than your typical review and interview column. So, with that in mind, we put together this handy dandy guide to maximizing your coverage of the next big release:

Album Announcement/News:

This is where it all begins. If you want to have the biggest return for your efforts you need to make it a point to follow the promotional campaign of new releases from the moment they begin. Response and clicks may be slow at first, but as you continue to cover the album you and your site will be a reputation amongst the fans of that particular artist and your overall following will grow. In order to become a site people frequent they need to believe you will always be on top of their favorite artist’s next move.

Album Review:

This is your basic ‘bread and butter’ coverage. If you want to talk about music you are probably already writing album and/or single reviews. Don’t stop. People may tell you professional criticism is dead, but it is not. With the amount of music available at an all time high it is more important than ever that the world have tastemakers people are able to connect and relate to. You and your site should be the lighthouse on the shore of an endless sea of content, each drop representing one artist hoping for mentions and coverage in the press.

Interview (email or phone):

Along with album reviews, this is the most common type of coverage to be created around new releases. Interviews are great because they allow you to connect with new readers by first forging a connection with a musician who is working as hard as possible to make creating art their career. These efforts forge relationships and networking opportunities that would otherwise be impossible to create.

Exclusive Premieres:

This is the holy grail of coverage, and it’s not hard to understand why. Partnering with an artist to premiere unreleased content from their album is guaranteed to bring a wealth of new visitors to your site. Artists will promote your content on all their networks, and in many cases their PR team will also send out a press release. Young writers and sites my have a hard time locking in big premieres, but with consistent posting and hard work it’s possible to position yourself to be among the first consider for an artist’s next big reveal.

Track-By-Track:

This could fall under exclusives, but it’s one piece of content that is often overlooked, especially with young/up and coming artists. Track-by-track features transform your website into the ultimate artist to fan digital engagement this side of streaming video. Lyrics are incredibly important when it comes to forging a connection with listeners, and as host to the secrets behind the songs your site is viewed as being close with talent. Artists trust you enough to host the true motivations behind songs that potentially change countless lives. It’s a big honor, regardless of the size of the talent’s fan base.

Listicle:

I call this the ‘Buzzfeed Approach.’ Create a list that correlates to the artist’s new release. It does not have to be deep or complex, but it’s never a bad thing to challenge yourself. Not everyone is a fan of the listicle, but in terms of generating more clicks for your site it’s easily created content that is easy to digest. I don’t know if anyone has cracked the code behind why people like sharing listicles, but it’s digital trend that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

Custom Editorial:

This is my favorite of the bunch. If you’re going to write about the music your passionate about it only makes sense to share the reasons you care so much with your readers. You can choose a single track or an entire record, either way the goal of these articles should be to share a piece of yourself with readers by leveraging the popularity of an upcoming release. Fans of that artist seeking others to be excited with will find your content and feel a connection with you and the work you do. In some cases, that alone can be enough to make them a reader for life.

Album Previews:

Last, but certainly not least, those fortunate enough to hear an album in advance of its release can craft content to excite fans for the record’s eventual street date. Some sites frame this content as ‘first impressions,’ but be careful to not cross the line and write a full blown review. There is a difference, and if your ‘advanced preview’ reads more like a ‘super early review’ you could risk upsetting industry contacts. 

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.