Getting music press coverage can be a frustrating task. There is so much competition that just getting anyone to listen to what you have to say can be an uphill battle. If you are doing your own press campaign, you'll be fighting for attention with people who already have the ears of the press. It's really hard work - there's no two ways about it.
For obvious reasons, then, you don't need to make things even harder on yourself by taking the wrong approach. You only get one chance to make an impression, and you don't want it to be the wrong one. Here are some definite dos you want to keep in mind when approaching the media, as well as a few home truths, that will help you get your pitch in order. After committing these to mind, check out the don'ts of contacting the press:
DO...Respect the Guidelines: Many publications have specific guidelines in place to how you should contact them, when you should contact them and how you should follow up with them (or in many cases, instructions that you SHOULDN'T follow up with them).
It's easy to get the impression that some outlets are trying to antagonize you with all of their rules and that they're just lording their power over you. Understandable, but consider it from the other side. Music writers and publications get approached CONSTANTLY by labels, musicians and PR companies, all vying for some attention for their stuff. There has to be some way of managing this constant deluge of information, or nothing would get the attention it deserves. Much like demo policies set by labels, any system put in place by a media outlet is designed so that your music WILL get a listen instead of getting overlooked.
Or not. Sometimes, you'll run into some music journalists who aren't very nice or that do enjoy that microscopic bit of power they have. The bottom line is - so what? You can hate their reasons, think their rules are stupid or whatever else you want to think. The cold, hard fact of the matter is, you have to put up with them if you want a chance to be featured in their publication. You won't past "go" if you don't.
DO...Provide Photos: One common complaint by musicians and some PR is that music journalists are lazy and want you to do all their work for them. Instead of researching their pieces and accessing photos themselves, they want you to provide a press release with absolutely everything they need to know and a press ready publicity shot, in case they choose to use it.
Again - just do it. Sure, there are some lazy journalists out there. Many a record label has had the experience of seeing their press release reproduced as a review or preview of a release. But it's not your job instill a little work ethic into the ranks of music journalism. Your job is to get someone to write about your music so people will know about it and buy it. If a journalist has Musician A, Musician B and Musician C as potential topics, and Musician B is the only one who provided adequate info and a photo, then Musician B is about to get some press and Musicians A and C are out of luck. Press begets press, so Musician B just scored big time - all because they made life easier for the writer.
Of course, this isn't out of sheer laziness across the board. Back to the notion of music journalists and music media outlets coping with a lot of information - it just isn't practical to have to invest a lot of time in chasing down info and photos for a small piece.
DO...Provide Practical Information: True story: one day, in the space of about 2 and half hours, I received four emails from four different people claiming to be the number one MC in Houston (and I don't even write reviews - more on this story later). A common mistake musicians make when promoting themselves is thinking that they can use words to convince a journalist of their greatness. The music is the only thing that can do that. Nothing turns off a jaded music writer like a press release full of self proclaimed greatness.
A good press release gives the reader an idea of what the music is like, provides some background information about the musicians, references past achievements of the musicians, and often gives the press an angle they can use in a story. You should be confident in the music you're producing and proud of what you've accomplished, but be careful about the way you express that in a press release. It's not a love letter to yourself, and while we're at it, it definitely doesn't have any typing lIkE tHiS.
DO...Choose Your Targets Wisely: Back to the story about the four way tie for number one MC in Houston. Because I'm not a music review writer, I wasn't the best person for them to approach. It will save you a lot of time and frustration if you make sure that everyone you're sending your music to is in a position to write about it. It's also a good idea to target writers and publications that deal with your genre. You'll be wasting resources and setting yourself up for heartache otherwise.
DO...Remember the Music Industry is a Small Place: There is going to come a time when you're going to feel slighted by a writer or editor at some music publication. Maybe they've told you they're not going to cover your release, or maybe they won't even answer your calls. Resist the temptation to be anything other than professional. Not only will bad mouthing, yelling and name calling not get you anywhere, you can bet that will come back to bite you some day. Some day, you're going to want a gig at the venue that is owned by the sister of the boyfriend of the cousin of the writer you went off on, and they'll remember. Believe it.
From the time you make your first pitch to your last follow up call, stay polite and on message. It won't always be easy, especially when you hear that frustration in the voice at the other end of the phone line, but it's worth it.
DO...See it for What It Is: Sometimes, it's a popularity contest - the more people write about you, the more people who want to be writing about you. Sometimes, it's all about the writer's ego. It's frustrating. All you can do is recognize those things for what they are - distractions from what you're trying to accomplish - and keep on working. Take the right approach, and stay patient. That's the best way to succeed.