5 Tips for Better Relationships with Music Writers

In March of 2017 I will celebrate a decade of music writing. I will also be just 8 months from my 30th birthday. In all that time I have written literally thousands of articles related to artists from all over the world and the art they have felt compelled to share. I’m sure when the time comes I will reflect on the highs and lows of it all, but right now all I can consider is just how many promising artists I have engaged with and where their careers ultimately went. Some became huge stars, but the vast majority ended up in obscurity. Still, I wouldn’t change a minute of time spent writing because every post was tied to a story and relationship that I have felt lucky to have in my life.

I say this because music promotion in the digital age is just as much about building relationships as it is knowing how to sell yourself. There are more artists and more music blogs than ever before, but there are still roughly the same amount of people walking the Earth who are passionate about discovering new music To get in front of them, especially in a meaningful way, you need to stand out from an untold number of competitors who are all vying for the same amount of digital space you are, and you have no way of knowing what they bring to the table.

There is nothing I can write that will give you a guaranteed path to recognition, but having worked in both journalism and publicity I have learned a few tricks that, over time, will allow you to get your music in front of the people who need to hear it. This is not an overnight recipe for success. In fact, it’s going to take some time to do what I have laid out below correctly. If you work hard at it though, the rewards will be huge.

READ THE WEBSITES YOU WANT TO BE FEATURED ON. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH WHAT THEY COVER

Few things frustrate music writers more than being bombarded by artists who clearly know nothing of their work of their site. While practically everyone claims to be open to any and all music as long as it’s good most websites have a very specific focus for their editorial coverage. You need to make sure you fit in with the site’s focus before you can even consider asking to be included in upcoming features. This may sound like common sense, but trust me – it’s not.

BECOME A PART OF THE CONVERSATION BEFORE YOU TRY TO MAKE THE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOURSELF

A lot of sites are doing away with their comment sections right now, but most sites still rely on social media to spread the word about their latest posts. After you find a site you believe would work well with your music you should set your sights on becoming a part of that site’s digital community. Retweet posts that interest you, ‘Like’ stories on Facebook, and whenever possible go out of your way to tell a specific writer or group of writers that you enjoy their work. You would be shocked to learn how few people ever receive compliments for their writing, especially in the world of music discovery. Your ticket to frequent coverage could be as simple as telling the person you want to write about you that you enjoy the writing they’ve done. Don’t be suck-up, though. Be honest. “Real recognize real,” as they say.

THE BEST TIME TO MAKE FIRST CONTACT REGARDING YOUR UPCOMING RELEASE IS AFTER THE WRITER KNOWS WHO YOU ARE

This may seem a little backwards to some of you. After all, how can someone know you if you haven’t reached out yet? That is exactly why the two previous tips exist. Between your engagement with the writer’s work, as well as your normal self-promotion online, it should not take too long for a writer to take notice of who you are. If you start swapping tweets one day, or perhaps they like something you tweet about their site, then consider yourself in. Success in this industry is built atop the relationships you make.

FOLLOW-UP, BUT DON’T OVERDO IT

With the amount of artists in competition for coverage right now it’s easy to understand why most bloggers are unable to reply to all their emails. For this reason, never take a lack of a immediate reply as a sign your art is somehow bad, unacceptable, or not that interesting. The truth of the matter is more likely a lack of time on the writer’s part than anything concerning you directly. After a few days have passed, email again. Don’t be forceful, but do revisit the points you made in your initial email. If a few more days pass and you still haven’t heard anything, send one final email. If you still hear nothing it’s probably time to try another site/writer. The writer may come around in time or they may not, but at least you put forth your best effort.

HARD SELLS NEVER WORK.

Good music sells itself. It seems oversimplified, but it’s true. Good music, like all good art, can speak for itself. All you need to be worried about is making sure people have the right information regarding your art, including where to buy it, where to stream it, and where to hear it live. If you feel like a salesperson when writing a journalist it is safe to assume your message will read like a sales pitch. Believe that you music is good enough to sell itself and the rest will fall into place (as long as you follow the other tips in this feature).

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.