Music PR 101: Don’t pitch people via LinkedIn. If you already do, please stop.

We talk about a lot social media platforms and the various ways they can improve one’s position in the music industry both as an artist and as a professional. We’ve covered how Twitter and Facebook make constant engagement a breeze, as well as how emerging platforms like Snapchat and Periscope make your interactions with the world at large even more personal. What we haven’t covered, and what we honestly never thought we would have to cover, is the proper use of LinkedIn. However, after several weeks of strange messages and friend requests we have found there is no getting around the fact people still don’t know how this professional networking platform is meant to work, so here we are with a quick explanation.

LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and promoted as a business-oriented social networking service. The mission of the company has more or less remained the same since that time, though several new features and tools have been implemented along the way. I cannot speak with any authority as to what founders of the site thought might happen when musicians and music professionals joined their service, but given the way their site functions I highly doubt they ever anticipated LinkedIn being used as a platform to pitch journalists, label owners, booking agents, and the like on new music. Why would they? The vast majority of the service’s users, and by that I mean far more than 90% of those with an account, work outside of the entertainment industry. Of those that do work in entertainment, only a small fraction of people work in music, and only a tiny fraction of them have any reason to pitch someone about a new artist or album.

This math may have your mind spinning, but let’s cut right to the chase: There is never any reason to pitch someone about a band, album, or tour through LinkedIn. Doing so is the modern day equivalent to distributing your press releases through MySpace bulletins circa 2006. People might see them, but will they care? More importantly, will they act on them?

In the decade I have been active in the music business I have probably received dozens, if not over a hundred, friend requests on LinkedIn from bands and low budget (aka no budget) PR firms. You know when these requests come in because instead of receiving an email that reads “John Jones wants to connect” you receive something like “Death By Unicorn Blood wants to connect,” or “Rich Money PR wants to connect.” For the life of me I cannot think of a single reason anyone would ever accept these invitations. Unlike other social media platforms, which are built with brands in mind, LinkedIn and its users put very little value into the amount of connections someone has unless they’re matched by numerous endorsements for a particular person’s professionals skills. Simply having a large numbers of connections does not impress anyone, nor should it!

In that same time, and especially in the last several weeks, I have received numerous pitches asking for content in regards to records, signings, tours, and everything in between. The quality of these messages usually ranges from piss poor to only somewhat terrible, and since LinkedIn isn’t built with media-sharing in mind there is never much content to browse.  If anything, messages will end with a large amount of links asking you to do the leg work.

To further explain the types of messages that shouldn’t be sent, here’s an actual pitch that recently hit my LinkedIn account:

Hey James,

My name is [removed to protect identity] and I am the founder of [Anonymous PR firm]. I’ve got several great punk rock bands with new or recently released albums I want to tell you about. I see you used to work at Under The Gun Review, so I assume you still write about music somewhere. If you want to interview these artists or perhaps get a download of their music, just let me know and I will shoot you over a link. Also, can I have your email? I was going to call you, but I thought that might be a bit forward.

Here are the bands:

[Punk Band A] – This group rules! They just played a tour with [unknown band A] and [unknown band B] across Southern Arizona. The response was huge and we expect big things in the future.

[Punk Band B] – The pride of Alabama! This band has been playing music together since the members were 14. They just graduated high school, but they are quickly establishing themselves in the greater punk scene. The band has submitted their music to Warped Tour’s battle of the bands contest three years in a row, and each time they place fairly high.

Again, if there is ANYTHING you need at all, let me know.

Sincerely,

[A bad publicist]

There are a number of issues with this email. For starters, the person admits to knowing I don’t write about music for a certain publication before assuming that I still do write and that I would want to cover their bands. My LinkedIn profile clearly outlines where I work and what I do, so the opening sentence has already informed me that this person did very little research before contacting me. Secondly, they offer me free downloads of music without knowing a thing about me. What if I left my old job because I pirated a bunch of music? What if I run a leak blog on the side? Neither of these are true, of course, but the person contacting me doesn’t know that.

Furthermore, the publicist behind this email makes the assumption I not only check my LinkedIn messages regularly, but that I also do business through LinkedIn. While I cannot speak to what most people do with their LinkedIn account, it’s very unlikely that many view the service as a place to do actual business. At most, people use LinkedIn to connect with professionals they don’t know and then use that connection to find the proper avenues for contact. The publicist above did do that, but not until AFTER they decided to go ahead and pitch me. That’s what my dad would call “jumping the gun.”

At this risk of talking to much about what should really be a pretty straightforward factoid: STOP MISUSING LINKEDIN. If you want to connect with industry professionals who may be able to help get you a job or if you want to connect with someone so that you can learn how to properly send them pitches, fine, but every other topic of conversation you might message someone about should be reserved for other platforms and messaging services. Send an email or make a call. Heck, you might have a better chance of getting noticed and taken seriously through Twitter than LinkedIn. It’s all about presentation.

There are million ways to be discovered in music, but there are several million ways to waste time by promoting yourself in all the wrong places. LinkedIn, as it is today, is the wrong place to promote your new music. Just don’t do it.

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.