Make Your Emails Count

Steven LaClair, founder and editor for Nothing Original, joins us today to share some thoughts on email, publicity, and why many in the industry need to think about the way they communicate with music bloggers/journalists.

The time I have available to spend blogging about music has decreased dramatically over the last three years. There was a time when I could wake up at 8am, catch up on any emails I received during the night, respond, and post accordingly in a surprisingly small amount of time. Sadly, that is not the case anymore. It’s a full-time job trying to keep up on the world of music. The news cycle never stops, and falling behind can be detrimental to a blog. When I decided working 15-18 hours a day for a few dollars wasn’t worth it compared to a full-time job, I scaled everything I did back and believed I could still make my site, Nothing Original, work. I was dead wrong.

I always preferred to have a constant flow of fresh content on Nothing Original. I’d consider it a good day if I could get post somewhere around 10 articles, if not more. Going through emails and albums trying to figure out what I care about and what I think my readers would care about was fun, but it took a toll on me day after day. I kept at it though, because I love writing about music and I love sharing my opinions on music with others. I wish I could still do it, but there’s only so much time in a day. When I do have the time, I open up my email to over a hundred pitches that are a mix of press releases, requests, album advances, and whatever else a publicist or band is trying to get posted that day. It’s simply overwhelming.

Some publicists share three to four press releases a day, if not more based on the amount of clients they have and the number of releases being worked on that particular day. With ten or more publicists doing the same thing I’m receiving well over fifty emails daily, which makes determining what’s worth posting incredibly difficult, and that is before I scan the net for stories or streams I may not have been directly pitched.  I have to figure out what is the best material to post and then find a way to say it that actually engages an audience that is already inundated with an untold number of headlines, advertisements, and clickbait-readied tweets before myself or the Nothing Original team even make an attempt at grabbing their attention, and I have to do all that in a very little amount of time. There is no possible way to make every publicist and every reader happy, but I do my best. Still, even on the good weeks, a lot of potentially great material gets discarded.

This is not the way writers should feel about receiving email. The idea of checking for pitches should not incite an overwhelming sense of anxiety or stress, but it does and that can lead one to wonder why they bother trying to be a writer at all. Most of us only have so much time in a day, and when we spend half of it going through just emails on things that honestly don’t really matter. What makes the first pitch from a publicist on a particular client different than the four follow-ups they send in the next two days? Writers cannot meet every request, and if we’re going to meet any while delivering quality content to our readers then writers’ schedules needs to be considered. I’m not asking for a world where we only receive one email a day, but I am asking for those pitching writers to be more considerate in the amount of content they shovel our way. Make the headline grab our attention, ensure the content is remotely interesting and keep it short. Also, don’t follow-up more than once in 48 hours.

I love writing about music and I wish I had more time to do it, but the truth of the matter is that adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it make writing for next to nothing a hard hobby to justify. When I do have the time, I wish looking through requests wasn’t a chore. Let us care about your band. Make each band try and seem special to you. Making them feel special to you will make the band feel important to us and then hopefully we can write about it. Make your emails and requests count. I can’t meet them all, but I’d like to at least try.

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.