How to cut through the noise and make music writers care about your art

As any music blogger will tell you, the quality of pitches sent from both aspiring artists and PR professionals often run the gamut from gorgeous to outright embarrassing. Some pitches are creatively designed emails with elegant text and photos, while others are one or two paragraph emails that highlight a few recording details. Some others are little more than a hello and a hastily copy/pasted link, but thankfully those are typically few and far between.

What makes one blogger click a link others might overlook is something we don’t really have time to get into because the possibilities are essentially limitless, but there are ways to hedge your bets. If you keep a few key things in mind when crafting your outreach to the press your chance of getting noticed will be as high as anyone else, leaving it to your music to do the rest.

1. Know who you are talking to

This one may sound obvious, but as a guy named James who has received emails addressed to everyone from Sean, to Beth, David, Matthew, and even Topher, I would argue it’s something too many take for granted. The importance of knowing who you are talking to in a pitch and gearing the conversation towards them cannot be overstated. If I see an email addressed to anyone other than myself I immediately send that message to my trash. It’s not for me, and if it was the person sending it didn’t both to double check the one line where they address me directly, so why give it my time?

You also need to remember that many writers are as younger, meaning they don’t necessarily prefer to be addressed as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss.’ In fact, I haven’t encountered a single music journalist at any age that people refer to as Mr, Mrs, or Ms _________. Learn the first name of your contact and use it whenever possible. Be personable. It makes you, and your music, come across better.

2. Make sure the person you’re writing covers your style of music

In a decade of writing online I have never been associated with a site that regularly covers dance music or black metal, nor I have written about either topic at length, but every day without fail I receive a number of press releases trying to sell me on the latest talent from each genre. There are things I admittedly spin out of curiosity, but the vast majority of these release go directly to the trash bin. I have enough talent to engage and cover without wasting time on material that fall outside the coverage area of the sites who accept my work. You or your client may be talented, but I simply have no way to help you, so don’t waste your time or mine with an unnecessary pitch.

3. Read the submission guidelines

Most, not all, music blogs have some form of submissions guidelines buried on their site. Do your research before submitting your music to ensure your pitch has the best chance of being considered for coverage.

4. Always keep it simple

Everyone in music is busy. It doesn’t matter what day of the week you reach out, or what time of day your email is read, the person on the receiving end will always have a million tiny tasks awaiting their attention, including several other hopefuls such as yourself. Play into their lack of free time by finding concise and exciting ways to sell yourself. Long emails are only read in full when the recipient has a deeply vested interest in what is being conveyed. That is rarely, if ever, the case with reading new music submissions. Keep it simple and keep it fun. Tell who you are, what you create/represent, and where that art can be found. If you have something new you are trying to bring attention to, highlight that in its own short paragraph, along with any related links/embed codes.

5. Be respectful

Knowing the blogger’s name and the kind of content found on their site is one thing, but you can win over a writer much faster if you also show a true appreciation for their work. Comment on specific articles you enjoyed, or mention topics you know they have covered in the past. Bloggers, like anyone else, love to know their work is actually being enjoyed. Tell them.

6. Provide the blogger with everything the need to create a post in a single email

As noted above, time is of the essence when it comes to music blogging, so any pitch you send should provide the recipient with everything they need to cover your music. Building a relationship is important as well, but when it comes to actually getting featured on a site you can help yourself quite a bit by providing bloggers with any and everything they could need up front. This means providing everything from details behind an LP/EP (studio name, producer), to store links, tour dates, social links, and – most important off all – a proper promotional photo. Writers don’t have time to scour social networks for the most recent professional-looking image of your band. Do the work for them and they will love you all the more for your effort.

7. No one likes spam.

As you build a list of blogger contacts it will be increasingly tempting to blast every single email you find with the same promotional messaging, but believe me when I say doing so will win you no friends. Promotional messaging should only be directed to people who have covered your talent before, as well as those who have experienced any interest in covering that particular artist or release moving forward. Not every site will work for every piece of news and information you develop, so be smart about who receives what and you will have a much easier time maintaining strong relationships with those in the industry.

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.