Getting more press is one of the most important parts of your music career. It helps your industry buzz, gets you better gigs, lands bigger sponsorship relationships, expands your audiences, and builds your music’s credibility. So how do you get more reviews or your work highlighted?
You might have a list of accomplishments that you are proud of but you’ve struggled with getting the word out about those things.
Sometimes, you have the wrong story (it isn’t that interesting). Other times, you have the wrong audience (you just need to find the right media source). This is where having a publicist will be great asset to you: they have existing relationships with journalists and have a feeler over what “sells” and what doesn’t. Besides, it’s always nice having an objective opinion from someone outside of your band helping you create a story that journalists will be interested in writing about.
If you don’t have a publicist, you can still send out a press release or create a guerrilla marketing campaign about the story. Some topics that could be considered “press worthy” could be large changes, such as:
Releasing a new album: Don’t just sell the music, sell the story behind the music.
Releasing a new music video: You might contact music magazines or blogs, asking for an “exclusive” (you premiere your music video on their website before releasing it to the general public).
Embarking on a tour: If you have sponsors/partners, ask for their help in promoting this.
A change in your band’s line up: Who could resist a good break-up story or introduction of a musician with a following?
A controversial situation or battle: Always a press favorite.
Invited to a prestigious show or music festival: You want to leverage any momentum you can, especially when the press is hungry for stories related to a hot event.
A fundraiser or major charitable effort: Get the organization to and their donors/volunteers to help with this. Chances are, they have some great contacts.
Winning an award: A story in of itself. If you’re creative, you could get something about losing the award too.
A new partnership or sponsorship: Not all press has to be strictly music. Local chambers of commerce and business journals might be interested too!
Signing a new agreement with a booking agency or record label:If anything, PRWeb might be a good way to promote this event.
Receiving press coverage in a major media source: Press begets more press. You’d be surprised how incestuous media content is.
Anything that could be seen as “major” news: Look at your favorite media sources and detect a pattern for the kinds of stories that they feature/deport on. If you have something that would fit in, you can contact editors/reporters and pitch your story.
There are many more situations that could spark an interest. To get an idea of what kinds of stories are interesting, look at newspaper and magazine headlines. More than anything else, the headlines or topics deal with some kind underlying story. The press loves controversy and conflict because it makes stories more interesting (which in turn, makes them more likely to be shared). What sounds more interesting: A band releasing a new album and going on tour or a band releasing a new album and going on tour after a 20 year hiatus? They could very well be the same story but require a different perspective to help sell the story.
News should also be current. However, you should keep a log of notable accomplishments or moments on your music career because they can often resurface or be used as fodder for a press release. You might also consider building an online pressroom for your band (more useful than an online press kit for the media). Just remember: keep it press-worthy!
Source: Music Think Tank (by Simon Tam)
Recently, my band Megan Jean and the KFB was contacted by Relix Magazine to be included on a sampler CD they include with all of their issues, which boasts a readership of of 360,000 people worldwide. They said they loved our music over there at Relix, and we thought that was awesome. Their magazine is all about breaking up-and-coming bands, and has been doing so at a grassroots level for decades.
They courted us as Musicians, under the pretext that they were interested in our material. The first thing I should point out is that this man’s job title at Relix is “Senior Sales Executive,” not “Journalist.” I wrote back, curious what they would need from us, if we were in fact interested. Then came the sales pitch:
"The CD comes bound inside every issue we print (over 100,000 copies). Tracks normally run for about $3,000. HOWEVER, as a first time advertiser I would like to offer it to you for $1,800. Basically a steal considering its going to hit thousands of ears across the country. I can package the track with an On the Rise spot for a total of $2,000. The On the Rise spot is about the size of a business card and can contain the images of your choice, text and website of your choice. The track will also come with a 50 word bio in the magazine and will be placed on Relix.com to be streamed for free, so there is an online component as well….Also, each track that is submitted has the opportunity to have that album reviewed and placed in our album review section….Only catch is, we would need a really quick turnaround…we master and burn the compilation this coming Monday!”
Now the Musicians are being courted as First-Time Advertisers, with no more mention of our music, or our talent. The exchange had changed course, from feeding on the hopes and dreams of a struggling musician, to presenting a “deal” for a first-time advertiser. Well, which category do DIY musicians fall into? Are we struggling artists, desperate enough to believe a well-known music magazine like Relix would or could ever simply stumble across our music and *gasp* like it enough to give it a break? Or, are we small business owners who know and understand the value of advertising and paid placements in well-read trade magazines?
Realistically, DIY musicians need to be both, but Relix is hoping for the former, which is exactly why they use this classic ACT NOW sales tactic. They are counting on your desire to have your music heard at all costs, so they couple it with a rushed 5-day deadline will make you jump on a coveted spot that had “opened up,” and normally wouldn’t even be offered to you. The trick is to look not at the offer, but at WHO is offering it. Is it a sales rep, or a journalist?
I have no problem with paid placements, but I think both music-makers AND music-lovers need to be aware of their existence in major music publications. I also have no doubt that there is some measure of legitimate exposure that comes with paying to be included on such a sampler. The issue I take with this practice however, is that it’s predatory and dishonest, not only to the bands who believe they are being contacted on the merits of their music, but also to the readership who believe that Relix Mag dutifully seeks out and promotes the finest up-and-coming bands in America.
Relix magazine’s tagline is “It’s all about the music,” and not “It’s all about who paid enough for us to write about them.” Keep in mind, Relix was started in 1974 as a newsletter to connect people who bootlegged Grateful Dead concerts. With offers for paid placements in “Up and Coming” articles and album reviews written for a fee, just how much of Relix nowadays is comprised paid placements? Moreover, as a band, is that the kind of music-mill press you’d like for your yourself? As a music-lover, is that the kind of music you’d like to be listening to from a magazine you turn to for inspiration? As far as bands considering this sort of offer, reach out to other bands who have been featured, and ask them if they thought it was worth the money. I guarantee you’ll get a better picture that way. If you feel the exposure is worth the price tag, and you have those resources available to you, then it’s more of a calculated risk than a swindle.
A Look At The Numbers
But first, consider all the things $2000 will buy your DIY band (for us, that’s 2000 cds, which sold at $10 a piece will net us $18K in profit, a much tidier sum). $2000 is also roughly the cost of a small online content-marketing campaign though a PR agency, which might also be a more organized, genre-specific, and focused way to to get your music heard.
As to the larger and more philosophical questions raised, as to where to pour your heart out for a price, and where to turn to for inspiration? I find it’s all a lot closer to home than you think. Local blogs at local venues and festivals, that’s where you’ll get your best start. After all, it’s music fans that build a career, not paid placements.
Source: Hypebot (by Megan Jean)
Conversion optimization is one of those terms that sounds a bit jargony and like something one would want to avoid. DIY musicians have plenty on their plate without getting overly technical about web design and ecommerce. But learning a few principles can go a long way in getting your website visitors to check out your music, find out more about you or purchase music, merch and tickets.
If you’re selling stuff on your website, from music to merch, or you’re promoting a concert and linking to the ticket providers, finding ways to encourage fans to buy things is an important part of online success. Though conversion optimization often focuses on sales or signups, getting people to listen to music and find out more about you is also something you can encourage.
WHAT IS CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION?
Conversion optimization in internet marketing is described in Wikipedia as a:
"method of creating an experience for a website or landing page visitor with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors that convert into customers."
A landing page is a single page on your website that is designed to take a visitor you’ve attracted through such means as social media and email newsletter links or via advertising and encourage them to request information, sign up for a newsletter, listen to music or sell them music, merch or tickets.
This can be approached a lot of different ways from putting the info and offer “above the fold”, i.e. in the area that appears on one’s computer screen before one starts scrolling, to creating a much longer text and image sales pitch with multiple points at which your visitor can click to take action.
The latter is a bit more likely to be found on sites marketing services or related products. For a music page it’s typically better to make the music player or newsletter sign-up form or concert announcement with ticket links easily identifiable and ready to go.
Though I’m focusing on one’s official website, the landing page concept is also relevant to one’s social media page or blog posts when you’re hoping to get some sort of response or action.
BEYOND THE LANDING PAGE
But conversion optimization is also important for overall website design. Different visitors are at different stages in their relationship to you and your music. A landing page is typically designed to do one thing. A website is typically designed to do a lot of things.
So making it easy for visitors to find what interests them through clear navigation and overall simplicity is one way to get started. As one design expert encouraged:
"Improve Visitor Engagement…if you can increase the amount of time that visitors stick around by improving your visitor experience, it will impact your conversion volume, as well."
Since every page of a website can be considered a landing page, in the age of search engines and direct page links, one way to use your whole website to promote an action, like downloading a single or signing up for a newsletter, is to have a popup box that encourages just that action on whatever page your visitor first lands.
As you see specific tactics that others have used you’ll start to develop your own sense of what fits you best while taking into account your visitor’s experience.
Source: Hypebot (by Clyde Smith)
For independent artists, YouTube can be one of the most powerful platforms available for promotion and exposure. Of course, it is also one of the most difficult platforms to garner any significant growth and attention.
This challenge was no different for 23 year old hip-hip artist, and Brooklyn native Rob Scott.
As his manager, it was my job to figure out how to bring his dream to fruition. Without any assistance from record labels, we began to effectively use YouTube as a platform to get Rob Scott noticed.
Within the first couple of months, it was painful to notice that his long nights in the studio would only result in his songs receiving 11 views. To make matters worst, the 11 views I am speaking about came from the friends and family that was in the studio with him.
Initially, we would post his YouTube link all over people’s Facebook pages until we realized that spamming individuals was probably not the best way to gain true fans. We then decided that garnering views organically is the best possible solution. Today, he has accumulated over 235,000 channel views and has acquired more than 1, 400 YouTube subscribers.
Some may wonder how so?
Below are 6 strategies that we used to organically build Rob Scott’s Youtube channel from desolate to highly-trafficked:
At one point, Scott would upload a video at least once a week. During one week we would upload a song with a cover art and a couple weeks later we would upload a music video for that same song.
It is important to break down your material to get the most out of it. What I mean by that is, if you have a music video that you are planning to release, put out behind the scenes footage for that video, put out the song before you put out the video, or put out a snippet before you even release the song.
Now you have three pieces of content all based around that one record.
The more things you have to release, the easier it is to follow the rule of frequency. Evidently, it is almost impossible to acquire a great amount of views if you post a video once a year.
There have been several rare cases such as the Harlem Shake video going viral without the use of “frequency”, but I would not recommend depending on pure luck.
With Rob Scott, we created a schedule and began creating on a regular basis.
Another step that Rob Scott implemented to reach his amount of views was re-doing songs that were already popular.
Trey Songs released a song entitled “Can’t Be Friends” three years ago that gained a lot of commercial attention. While the song was still at its peak, Scott decided to re-do the song over with his own words and then shoot a music video for it.
Because viewers would search for the original Trey Songs version and see Scott’s rendition, it gave him a better chance of being viewed by some of the fans of that particular record. To date, Rob Scott’s rendition has over 90,000 views on YouTube and is still growing daily.
Marketing Tip: Cross-Promote Your Music and Videos with Non-Profit Organizations
The impact of Kickstarter went way further than just providing another way for bands to get funding for their projects, it redefined what music means as a currency. Investing money in bands’ projects allowed music to be more than just a product, but a communal experience, or a living, breathing thing. It also meant music could exist as something more than a way than to just make money, but to build something. Knowing this, Music Think Tank passed along a really good idea: power your music tracks and music videos by promising to invest a percentage of sales or collected views on a non-profit.
Here’s an example:
- In every video blog, we are going to select a project to support. During our tour, we are going to pledge 5 cents for every view. For every thumbs up, we’ll pledge ten cents. We’ll encourage fans as well as the recipients of the donation to share the video with as many people as they’d like.
- With each video, we’ll also take a quick moment to talk about what we’re supporting and why we believe in it.
- Each episode, we’ll invite viewers to submit their own favorite non-profits, Kickstarter projects, etc. in the comments section. The causes in comments that get voted up will be more likely to get selected.
- At the end of the tour, we’ll film the checks being made and mailed (or online donations being made).
It’s a proven commodity that non-profit projects in music always look good on paper, and often they perform really well. It’s not a way to make a lot of money, obviously, but it’s a savvy way to build exposure and show your fans that you’re not too big to let your music do some good for other people.
Facebook got here first, of course, and Google+ joined in more recently. So if you’re a marketer, you’ve got to be asking, what’s the best platform for you to focus on?
Let’s find the winning services in the important areas.
Facebook wins this one, hands down. With a reported user base of over 800 million, if you want to put your brand on the platform where users are—and where they’re talking to each other—Facebook is the place.
Twitter is likely in second place, probably with about 10 to 12% of Facebook’s user base (depending on which sources you believe) but its social reflection model (retweeting) makes it more powerful than the raw numbers would indicate.
Google+, no matter what the numbers say, is new, is seen as the social network for geeks, and doesn’t have the breakout appeal of the other networks. You can’t say, “Find us on Google+” in an advertisement and expect people to know what you’re talking about.
Facebook, again, wins on this front. A brand manager can make a Facebook page that does almost as much as a regular Web page, and with the added bonus of having a “Like” button in a standard position to encourage social sharing.
Facebook also lets managers create nice lists of related Facebook pages in the left-hand navigation.
Neither Twitter nor Google allow you to dump huge blocks of HTML into brand pages. Google+ does, however, have more post types than Twitter. A string of photos or embedded videos can make a Google+ brand page look like a photo album.
Twitter brand pages are, not surprisingly, lists of tweets. Brand managers can pin a single tweet (with an image) to the top of the stream, but the rest is just text and links.
While Facebook offers the most flexibility of design, giving managers access to the whole middle of the page (see Best Buy), Twitter allows its brand users to do a far better job of reinforcing their company’s aesthetic.
Twitter gives managers the capability to change the color scheme of the entire brand page, as well as put in their own header art and background image. Check out these early examples of Twitter brand pages: Heineken, Dell, and Pepsi. They all share the same locked-down template, but reflect their corporate designs effectively.
Google+ allows designers to change company logo and header art, actually five little squares of header, but nothing else. The limitation can be used to good effect (Angry Birds) or mitigated through a mostly-white design (Hugo Boss).
Interaction: Facebook/Twitter tie
Facebook is all about the Like. Some brands have millions (Best Buy has 5.5 million). These Likes are valuable, as each represents social network reflection out to, potentially, millions more people.
Facebook also makes it easy for brands to bribe users, by restricting content or features to users who have Liked their pages.
Twitter’s interaction is about two things: The Follow and the @ Reply. While the Follow is the Twitter equivalent of the Like, a personal endorsement of a sort, Twitter’s large and plain inclusion of the reply box on its brand pages encourages users to send public messages to and about brands. The reply box is somewhat misleading, though: It says, “Tweet to…” instead of “Tweet about…” But it looks like an effective way to get users to reinforce brands by posting items with their Twitter handles in them.
Google+ interaction design is a bit of a mess, in comparison. The main interaction points are the +1 and “Share this page” buttons, but I wager that most users don’t know the difference, and they’re right next to each other. Users can also comment on individual items on a Google+ page, but these will not have the same social spread as the stronger overall brand mentions that Facebook and Twitter have engineered into their designs.
Mobile: None of the above
Each of the three services presents a constrained view when called up on a smartphone. Designs are removed, and any HTML elements are stripped out and and replaced with lists of posts. The services look much the same, in fact, on claustrophobic mobile devices. They all become just lists of updates, with easy access to their platforms’ primary social activities: Likes and comments on Facebook, Retweets on Twitter, and Comments on Google+. None of the services offer brands a good, customizable mobile experience.
Facebook is where the power is, but Twitter’s clean design and interaction model makes it an attractive and necessary secondary platform for marketers to work on.
Google+ doesn’t have the features, reach, or clarity to compete with these two power players yet.
However, the clear and best course of action for a marketer or brand manager is to establish a presence on each platform. They can even reinforce each other to good effect.
Pepsi, for example, lists its Facebook page as the go-to link in its Twitter profile.
Article originally appeared on Cnet (http://www.cnet.com) and was written by Rafe Needleman.
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This past spring I polled a number of music blogger friends and gathered the results in “How to Avoid Pissing Off Music Bloggers (and Several Other Handy Tips for Artists).” I think it was a pretty good article and the feedback it received suggests that it was helpful to a lot of people. But there’s a lot to the process of music promotion — from a music blogger’s perspective, at least — that the article didn’t cover. Frankly I left out a number of particulars because I didn’t want to come off as too condemning, brash or caustic in my criticism of other people’s poor practices. Lord knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my own life…
Originally I had the idea to play off of Ben Stein’s tongue-in-cheek book about how to ensure that you stay as miserable as possible for the rest of your life, How to Ruin Your Life, but after I had scribbled down no fewer than a couple dozen issues I take with how people market music online, I momentarily gave up. (As it turns out, I’m no Ben Stein…) No matter how good it might feel to straight-up rip on other people who who are terrible at what they do, many who profit from being a nuisance under the guise of legitimate promotion, I realized that my personal emotions were getting the better of me and I was saying some things that I wasn’t entirely committed to in the spirit of “setting the record straight,” or whatever. It’s not my plan to be mean spirited here, and trust me: this is the toned-down version.
This week I’m hoping to have a few articles readied that will close out a chapter of whatever this website has become, each dealing with a different aspect of what this whole music blogging thing has come to entail. For the past six and a half years the daily process of being bombarded by people trying to push music on me has steadily become the most irritating aspect of the blogging process (something which practically every music blogger I’m friends with will attest to), and one that will sadly continue on long after I’ve given up on blogging. Much of listening to new music now has become a task no different than checking Facebook or Twitter: combing through band-spam isn’t nearly as rewarding a task as it might appear to the non-music blogger. Even so, I’m still hoping that this doesn’t translate as me spitting in the face of the very industry that helped me actually become a music blogger. Without emails from bands and the select few record label reps and marketing jockeys who I befriended in my first year as a blogger, I likely wouldn’t have continued on. Also, in reality, they come with the territory: I’ve been able to avoid having to have a real job for a few years because of this silly little blog and it’s kind of ridiculous that I’ve allowed this one small aspect of the process to wear on me. Sour grapes is all… Also, since 2005 I’ve had the good luck of learning a lot about the marketing process and the industry of music because of these interactions, and from time to time I was even introduced to some really, really good music that I would have otherwise never heard. But for every good email there are hundreds of duds that I’m confident exist in this world for no other purpose than to annoy me and waste my time. If you’re looking to gain some helpful insight into how avoid making some easy mistakes as you market your music online I’d suggest checking that first article out, but if you’re looking for a little bit more, here are a few of the major problems I take issue with these days, which are just a few of the many ways to fail at promoting music online.
So, you’ve found an email address? Perhaps you traded contact lists with another artist, blindly harvested information from sites indexed by The Hype Machine or were passed down contact information an employee who previously had your job. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, however, is to assume that simply because you have an email address, that you should use it.
The quickest way to find yourself on the bad-side of an email recipient is to send them something that they have no interest in. Think about how you feel when you receive a “FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: This will make your day!” email from a relative who you only interact with at Christmas time… now multiply that by about 100, and that’s what the average music blogger deals with on a daily basis. Only instead of receiving photos of adorable puppies and double-rainbows, they’re emails packed with puffed up bios, questionable mystery-attachments and music that usually isn’t worth a damn. Fact of the matter is that if you utilize that send-it-to-everyone-and-see-what-sticks method, you might not be asshole, but you’re kind of acting like one. What’s that you say, you like music? Then I’m sure you’ll be interested in this:
For fans of REAL music…
One of the problems with this is that even if you’re careful, considerate, and you do the legwork to find outlets that are appropriate for your music, you’re in the minority, and your email is likely to be clumped in with the daily wave of incoming spam. Unless you’ve already had successful communication with the recipient, there’s a good chance that whatever it is you’re sending to them will likely be greeted with as much excitement as a LinkedIn invitation.
Six years ago there weren’t that many people willing to send bloggers email, so of course it was easier to get noticed, but there were also fewer blogs out there to consider for your campaign. If you have 400 blogs in your radar, it’s easier to assess which are right for what it is that you’re trying to promote. When there are 4,000 this becomes damn-near impossible. Yet simply because other people make a habit of sending out blanket solicitations that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consideryour audience. Some will argue that they get the same number of replies and blog posts based on this method as they do when they take far more time and focus their aim. Don’t be mistaken though: successful spam-artists are still spam-artists.
Overlook Account Management
You’ve done it! You’ve trudged through every last blog indexed by The Hype Machine & Elbo.ws, you’ve collaborated with other artists & publicists, you’ve combed through blog directories until the dead of night, and you’ve finally gathered the ultimate physical & digital contact list. Now it’s as easy as BCC-ing them all on your next email blast and you’re off to the races. But what happens if contact information changes or the recipient simply does not want to be on your mailing list? You’re actively working address that, right?
Allow me to give you an example of what I’m talking about by publicly doing whoever is in charge of EMI’s mailouts a solid…
Merry Christmas, jackass
When I graduated from college in 2006 I moved back in with my parents while I worked to pay off my student loans. But as time went on I became more financially stable and moved out on my own, and during that time I also happened to transfer the blog to its own domain from a Blogspot. Yet here we are, over five years later and I STILL receive mail at my parents’ house, addressed to me from EMI, which even cites the old Blogspot URL (which I don’t even have own anymore, actually) on the address label. To make matters worse, the contents of these packages are typically promotional copies of albums (so my parents can’t even bring what they receive to a used record store) by such unappetizing artists as Dean Martin. So, not only has EMI failed to update their contact records in five years, but they’re targeting the wrong people with their mailings, and are ultimately paying postage (and the cost of a bubble mailer, someone to stuff envelopes, yada yada yada) to send glorified landfill fodder. And you wonder why major labels are dying?! Sure, it’s fun to pick on the big guys, but this is a problem that practically everyone promoting music is guilty of in some fashion.
Even if you don’t concern yourself with physical mailings (which you shouldn’t!) how often are you updating your contact information? Another example: Over its lifetime, including various contributor email addresses and the central contact account, there have been over a dozen email addresses associated with Culture Bully. Over time things changed though, and in part due to contributors coming and going around 10 email addresses have been deactivated. So as to not miss out in the event that a long-lost-love (they don’t exist) wants to get in touch with me (which will never happen) however, I have a “catch-all” set up so that firstname.lastname@example.org will be forwarded to the one single email address that I use. What happens when you don’t update your records? I receive upwards of a dozen emails from you every time you send a single email blast. This, to me at least, is as annoying as receiving an email twice, however, because both show that you don’t bother with account maintenance.
Additionally, if you don’t offer recipients a one-click method for unsubscribing from your emails, you’re potentially doing yourself some serious harm. Many senders will add a blurb explaining that if you no longer wish to receive such messages, you can email email@example.com and will be removed. But what if the music blogger goes ahead and does that, and you can’t figure out what email address it is that they’re requesting you to remove because your contact list is 2000 addresses deep and you haven’t updated in three years? Countless times I’ve sent in removal requests only to get a response saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I can’t find your email address on my list.” Know why? In part because of that catch-all. And because you BCC’d your email, I can’t tell which of the dozen-plus expired email addresses you’re still using.
Further, it’s not a blogger’s responsibility to update your records for you. So please think twice before sending out “contact information update” requests, asking us to fill in our information for you (especially when everything you need is usually right there on our websites!). Between assuming interest and maintaining current contact info, this is where 99% of publicists and artists fail before recipients have even taken a moment to actually, you know, listen to a single second of music.
(Also, I’m not kidding about the single-click opt-out button. Here’s why it’s probably more vital than you think it is: Because companies like Google offer a single-click opt-out button of their own which is called the spam button. Think I’m kidding? You’d be surprised how many bloggers use it to help ensure that unwanted emails sent from strangers don’t become a nuisance.)
Of all the how-to-market-to-bloggers tutorials I’ve read over the years, one of the most consistent inclusions is some sort of mention of how you should “personalize” emails so that they leave a better impression on the recipient. Every last one of these tutorials is correct: you should personalize emails. However, this doesn’t mean slipping the email recipient’s name into a template that you’re sending to hundreds of people. It means actually personalizing emails.
Anyone can add a name to a subject line or email body, and if you think that you’re on top of things by differentiating yourself as such: how poorly, poorly mistaken you are. Not only are email programs capable of doing this for people now, but if you are entering information yourself, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you screw up and call someone the wrong name, address the wrong blog in the body, or pull-off some other easily avoidable copy & paste boner. (I’ve done it myself when emailing five family members, imagine how prone to mistakes this method is when emailing hundreds of blogs with thousands of contributors…)
During this past spring’s blogger survey, when I was asking for general feedback, I received this message from Tiana Feng ofRide the Tempo: “Generally, if you spelt my name wrong in an e-mail it would automatically end up in junk.” Can you imagine how many emails Tiana gets for Tina? But people get this wrong EVERY DAY with simple things, like, y’know: blog names. If you’re emailing XXX@culturebully.com, how much sense does it make to address the recipient as Analog Giant, let alone Culture Buddy? Aside from suggesting that we now have some sort of implied friendship, you’ve just shown how little the email means to you. But that’s not even the worst part of this “personalized email” fallacy.
Also acceptable: Culture Billy, Culture Belly & Couture Bully.
I don’t read many music-related emails, but if I had to guess how many mistake “personalize” for “pander” I’d have to put it at somewhere around 25%. “I’m a big fan of the site.” “Such a great blog!” “I read it every day.” (All of which still introduce mass-mailings sent to dozens if not hundreds of recipients.) Numerous times I’ve talked to other bloggers about this and the conclusion that we’ve all come to is that if even half of the people who say they loved our blogs even visited them, our traffic/Twitter follower/Facebook Like statistics would be through the roof. Yes, it takes a long time to actually send individual emails to individual people, but before you mock the idea of doing so, consider what you’re asking for in return. How long do you think it might take someone to listen to one of your songs, let alone an EP or full-length album. From there, how long might it take them to email you back to get updates on what you’re currently working on (tour info, new material, etc.)? Then there’s the actual process of posting something on their blog. This could be as simple as slapping a music video online (which takes, what, a minute?), or as detailed as writing an artist profile or album review. Granted, this is a fairly rare occurrence, but sometimes it takes days (not 24/7, obviously, but…) to compile information, allow sounds to simmer, and create something worthwhile to put online. And you can’t be bothered to get Tiana’s name correct when entering it into your copy & paste email template?
In this situation “personalized” means giving a damn. After all, that’s what you’re asking us to do, isn’t it?
This one’s fairly quick and to the point: If a music blogger/journalist/whatever takes the time to write something worthwhile about your music (let’s say an article about a music video that you’ve just released on YouTube), then why not direct readers to the article rather than directly to the YouTube page? You still get your YouTube view, plus you’re showing a bit of goodwill in the process. The same could be said for occasions when articles include links to your tracks via Bandcamp or Soundcloud embeds: If the very assets you’re trying to promote are every bit as visible and functional on an article that someone devoted time to creating, why not direct your fans to their page instead of the Bandcamp or Soundcloud bases? Doing so might seem basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many artists/publicists miss these opportunities to promote their own work. If you want to build lasting relationships, show that you care about the time people are spending on putting your name out there. It literally costs you seconds and there’s so much that can be gained from it.
As amusing as the above tweet might be, I cannot stress enough how important its message is. These words come from Wil Loesel, who began his “media career in 2000 with SFX/Clear Channel Entertainment as a client liaison” and now runs the Culture VI Experience blog. This remains one of my favorite tweets because of its direct contradiction to what countless workshops, publicists and music marketing 2.0 websites will tell you. And it’s true.
A recent interview between Billboard’s Ian Rogers and Marc Geiger (former ARTISTdirect CEO, current William Morris Endeavor agent, and one of the “true bridges between the old and new music businesses”) constructed a rather familiar scene for anyone who’s followed the business of online music marketing over the past decade by suggesting that a single blog can still break a band. The single blog in reference is, of course, Pitchfork, and due to the website’s “global distribution” (opposed to print’s regional reach) Geiger explained how Pitchfork is able to cause “potent” word of mouth to spread about an act when they dish out a positive review (he also suggested that the whole of TV on the Radio’s success can be attributed to an “eight-point-something” review, for what it’s worth). For a more recent example Geiger explained how a single glowing review of a free download on the site has led to the Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye becoming so in demand that he now garners upward of $25,000 for a live performance. Nice as that may be however, it paints a rather false picture of just how much the music blogosphere — even its “major players” — might have on your act.
Brandon Griffiths, founder of music blog aggregator Elbo.ws, explained to me this past spring that his site monitors around 4,000 music blogs. That’s the number of music blogs that the site indexes, but by my estimation there have to be at least 10,000 around the world. Even that figure might be a little light. Add to that however many “legitimate” magazines and newspaper sections are focused on music, and think of whatever the total number of people around the world there are who are contributing to these outlets… what we’re left with is a lot of potential “tastemakers.” But of them, how many have truly supportive and engaged audiences to a degree that the outlet could single-handedly help elevate the profile of an artist or band given a positive review? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? How many outlets the likes of Culture Bully (in 2010 56.04% of traffic was generated by search engines, with 89.52% being new visitors… which is to say that the Real Reach is quite a bit smaller than any perceived reach) would it take, when combined together, to create the same level of buzz about your music? One hundred? Two hundred? Five hundred?
In a perfect world, even if all you do is spam recipients with the exact same un-personalized message, let’s say that the return rate (where you’re simply given a reply) from sending emails to music bloggers is somewhere from 1-3%. That means you could end up having to send out thousands of emails for any given campaign to gain a sliver of the online-coverage you’re seeking. Sure you could land a Pitchfork profile, or have an mp3 end up somewhere high on The Hype Machine’s daily popular songs chart, and hope that either causes a trickle down effect which leads dozens and dozens of other websites to post about your music, but both scenarios are relatively unlikely.
In the end though, what happens if you do miraculously get 200 blogs to talk about your music? That could mean a couple more iTunes/Bandcamp/Amazon sales, it might help swing a bit of weight in your favor when it comes to landing gigs at reputable venues, or it could even push you to landing some coverage from a major outlet, all of which would technically help push your career to the Next Level. But you have to decide how much time and effort you’re willing to spend on these what-ifs. As a musician, every minute you’re spending pushing your music to hot-and-cold bloggers, or journalists or whatever you’d like to call people who rap about music online, is one less minute you’re actually playing music. It’s one less minute that you’re actually performing, or one less minute that you’re on the phone with a promoter trying to set up your next show. Yes, you can get a publicist or a manager to handle your online “strategy,” but then you’re going deeper and deeper into your own pocket to pay to pay a premium for a process that has a laughable success rate regardless of who does the job.
Online marketing is valuable. But the point here is to underline the importance of not letting others (the Weeknd’s success, for example) influence you into thinking that it’s the only way to go: you too could demand $25,000 a show if picked up by Pitchfork; you need a publicist because if you’re not marketing online, you’re bound to fail! Ultimately you have to think to yourself, where exactly IS the money coming from (rapper)?
If you’ve read this far it’s my hope that you were able to pick up on just how much these issues have to do with personal preference and circumstance, and that they might not be issues that arise with the majority of music-heads you deal with. Having said that, you never know… if someone had a bad weekend, who knows whether they’ll be interested in opening your email on Monday. You can’t plan for these inconsistencies. And even if you do all the right things and someone still doesn’t show interest, it could be because they’re simply overwhelmed that day or that they think your music sucks: it’s impossible to know which and I don’t know how to solve that. But what I can say is that, for me personally, the issues mentioned here really do go a long way in influencing whether or not I give you my time. There are so many factors that can affect how successful you are on any given day… Write an email that’s too long? I won’t read it. Email me twice by mistake? I won’t read it. Use an introductory line that rubs me the wrong way (What’s good with you guy-bro)? I won’t read it. When it comes right down to it, most of the time email marketing a crapshoot.
There is no Right Way of doing things, and I would hate to be in your position, either as an artist or publicist having to push music for a living, which is why I’m sorry if I’ve come off as too snarky here (again, sour grapes on my part). It’s difficult to get your name out there, and it’s only getting tougher to do with each day that passes. Truthfully, a bit of the above is questionable advice, but it still speaks to an important idea (I’m talking to artists here): Do not stop educating yourself. Of the tens of thousands of artists trying to push their music online every day, those who continue to identify new ways that they can do things better are those who are likelier to succeed. How many boneheaded “how-tos” are there like this very article identifying ways to market music in the digital era? Hundreds, if not thousands. And how many of them are weighed down by abstract ideas like “write a great subject line” or “watch your tone”? Plenty. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek the advice, just be mindful of what advice is worth taking. How many times have you seen mediocre acts land a big spot on a bunch of random blogs (hell, this blog!) and thought to yourself that you are waaaaay better than them at what you do? Then again, maybe they did something you didn’t. It’s really a matter of what you take away from seeing others succeed and how you filter the advice of others. Whatever you do, never forget: If you think you’re doing everything the Right Way and are unwilling to modify your game plan, it won’t be long before you’ll become as irrelevant as a band who still uses 30 second Real Player clips on their Angelfire website to promote their music. Good luck.
Article originally appeared on Culture Bully (http://www.culturebully.com) and was written by Chris Deline.