At Ovrld, we get a lot of e-mails about bands, most of them written by artists trying to go the DIY route without understanding what goes into effective publicity. Yesterday, Ovrld chief Carter Delloro was invited to be on a panel about what artists can do to get themselves heard, and there was a lot of great advice from panelists including Quiet Company’s Tommy Blank, rising artist Gina Chavez, Triple 8 Management’s Jesse Atwell and publicist Tyler Cannon. We know it’s tough to feel that paying for a publicist is justified (trust us, though, it is), and it can be hard to come up with those funds when you need gear and have rent to pay, so we’ve decided to share some suggestions for those of you trying to get press coverage, much of which was originally shared by Ovrld Managing Editor Morgan Davis on Facebook a few weeks ago, but which lines up with quite a bit of the advice given by the panel. These are just our personal thoughts, and while we’ve tried to make them general enough to work at any outlet, no two press outlets are the same.
1) Proofread. Seriously.
I can’t begin to tell you how many e-mails we get that get the name of the site wrong, get our names wrong or are just riddled with errors. You are sending your stuff to writers, we notice these things and it tells us a lot about how professional you are or aren’t. If you’re writing your own press releases, bios or one sheets, try to have another set of eyes look them over for you before you send them out, and always double check your e-mails and correspondence before hitting send. It can save you a lot of embarrassment and help ensure you make the best possible first impression.
2) Your subject line NEEDS to give us the basic info of what you’re promoting.
I know it may seem like a cute idea to just put “Greetings” or “Hey” for your subject, or to put “Please cover us.” But some of us who write for multiple places can get thousands of e-mails a week. I am not exaggerating. An e-mail that just says “Hello” is not going to help anyone stay on top of anything, and I guarantee that if I’m sent something as generic as that, I will forget it, not because I don’t like you, but because I am sifting through so many other requests. A great subject is something like “Coverage for [insert band name]’s Show at [Insert Venue] on [Insert Date]” or “Seeking review of [insert band]’s [insert album] featuring members of [insert other bands]” or “Exclusive opportunity for [publication] to premier by [insert band].” Be clear, be succinct and know what’s important about what you’re promoting.
3) Know who you’re sending your work to.
There is a prominent local site that states in its submission outlines that you shouldn’t try to “flatter” them. Personally, I think that’s a really dickish way of stating a worthwhile point and the point is that you shouldn’t fake enthusiasm or knowledge. As an artist, you should stay on top of your local publications, not because you should be modifying your art to fit what they’re into, but because you should be aware of who is and isn’t receptive to your work.
At Ovrld, we have a pretty diverse staff, with a diverse array of interests. I’m not going to pretend that I’m well-versed in Austin’s metal scene, but there are people on staff who definitely are. If you’re in an Austin metal band, you should know who those people are, you should reach out to them directly and you should maintain a relationship with them because they are potentially valuable allies. Sending a general e-mail to a publication is a good first step, but there’s no reason why you can’t directly contact the writers you know are going to be more interested in your music. Likewise, don’t send your music to places that don’t cover your genre, it’s not worth your time. There are some sites locally that don’t cover hip-hop, or country, or metal, but there are other sites that have anything from standard to abundant coverage of those genres.
And you know what? If you genuinely like a site’s coverage of something, or like a specific writer, go ahead and flatter them. Maintaining relationships, whether they’re personal or business-related, always involves balancing positive and critical feedback.
4) Be aware of your successes and selling points.
It’s not enough to just send your music. Did you play a high profile show recently? Tell us! Did an industry vet producer seek you out and help with your debut? Tell us! Are there some prominent guest stars on your new release? Tell us! Similarly, if you have a big show coming up, or you know that another publication has or will be running content on you, that is information that should be communicated. Publications love to tie content in to events, it helps everyone involved because more people will be seeking your work out if you’re also promoting a show, and that potentially brings new readers to the publication as well.
5) Promote yourself.
It is extremely frustrating to run content on an artist and then watch as they do nothing to promote it. Just like playing a show means doing your best to bring people out, if you get coverage from a publication, you need to share it and you should share it as soon as possible. Publications pay attention to artists that drive traffic, and those artists are the ones that will get more and more coverage. Artists that do nothing to promote content, who don’t share it and seem to be disinterested, are the artists who are unlikely to get covered again soon.
6) Venture outside your hometown.
Don’t be afraid to send content off to other cities. You’d be surprised how much more receptive publications based elsewhere can be, and how much getting a write-up in a national outlet– even if it isn’t huge– can help you get media attention in your hometown. There are a good number of local acts that have struggled to get any coverage whatsoever in Austin who have nonetheless managed to get attention in everything from Portals to Pitchfork. Unsurprisingly, local outlets started paying a lot more attention to these bands afterwards.
7) Keep trying!
Just because you got ignored before, don’t assume that a publication won’t eventually cover you. We get sent so much stuff, so frequently, that sometimes even great material gets lost and we only get around to it once someone else writes about it and we’re reminded to check it out again. It happens. Don’t hesitate to check in, or make another attempt later down the line, just don’t e-mail a contact too frequently. For long term campaigns with plenty of lead time, once every few weeks is adequate. If you have a closer deadline, you can raise that frequency but you should never send any contacts an e-mail a day. Think of it as a courting process; too frequently will make you seem desperate, too infrequently will make you seem noncommittal.