MUSIC PR 101: Don’t Pitch People Via Instagram

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but there are very few people who can be compelled to care about a band or song or product they don’t know just because of something they saw on Instagram. Maybe a friend of theirs tries a new restaurant and the resulting photograph leads to a future meal, or maybe a cool clip sells someone on an upcoming movie, but by and large there are very few people turning to Instagram for new media discovery. Of those that do use the image and video sharing platform for such efforts, only a tiny percentage are trying to make a living in writing, and only a part of that segment would even consider covering something solely because it caught their attention on Instagram.

It’s not you, but rather the platform you choose to use. Instagram is a place where people are able to see the world through the eyes of their friends, family, and any celebrity or brand they choose. There are discovery tools in place, and there are some who use them, but the majority of Instagram users tend to view the platform as way to better see what is happening in the lives of the people and groups they care about. Speaking from personal experience, there has never been a time when I thought the answer to my musical needs could be found on Instagram, but that doesn’t many people have tried to convince me otherwise. Take a look:

For clarity’s sake, this is the only time this band, or someone from this band, made an attempt to contact me. No emails were received, no tweets, no texts, not even a Facebook message. Their one and only approach was to contact me with a text based message delivered through private DM on a platform specifically designed to share photo and video. They couldn’t have given me a link if I asked for it, yet there they were, hoping for no rational reason whatsoever that their odd approach would make me want to give them a few minutes of my time. There is always something to be said for originality, but in this case it’s not enough to sell me.

And it’s not just bands I know. I have received messages from artists all over the world I have never heard of or from on any other platform. It’s as if these artists believe putting their all into one specific social network will somehow bring them great success, but in the case of pitching that is simply not true. I promised I would not make the name of the artist responsible for the following message known, but this is an actual pitch I received just last week:

“Hey UTGjames –

My name is ___ and I’m in an easycore band called _______. We play music along the lines of Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals, only with an added layer of pop punk. We have a new EP out soon, and I wanted to know if you would tell your followers about us and maybe write about us on your site? You can hear clips on our IG page. If you want to know more just give me your email and I will send everything over.”

There are a few problems with the message, including the fact my name is not actually ’UTGJames.’ That is my handle, but Instagram also makes it possible to see my real name, so the presence of my handle tells me this artist did not spend much time researching my work prior to contacting me. Second, they ask me to promote a band I know nothing about to my followers without giving me much, if any reason to do, and then proceed to ask for coverage on my ‘site.’ Again, the lack of a proper name tells me how little time was spent piecing together this pitch. The artist also appears to believe that the best way to introduce me to their music is in 15-second increments that they task me with seeking out on their feed, which speaks less to their talent as songwriters and more their ability to craft digital media clips. That is indeed a much-needed skill in 21st century promotion, but it doesn’t exactly make you a good musician.

Even if this person had written a perfectly worded pitch, the likelihood our interaction evolves into a full-blown coverage opportunity for their band is highly unlikely. I would first have to enjoy the artist’s music, tell them as much, provide an email, hope they follow-through, download their actual music, listen to their full songs, form thoughts worth sharing, and then – if all goes as well – start writing. There are simply too many steps and not nearly enough engagement to push me to do the heavy lifting as far as actual discovery is concerned.

In music, just as in life, time is precious. There are only so many hours in a day and you need to make the most of them, so you cannot waste time putting energy into fruitless endeavors. Pitching over Instagram is pointless. Journalists won’t take you seriously, and even if they do the time between initial contact and coverage could very from days to weeks, if not longer. Don’t waste your time trying to catch someone in a place no one else thinks to approach and use the traditional methods, like email, instead. Trust me, it will do far more for you and your career than Instagram ever could.

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.