There are a lot of bands who get in touch with me every day. A lot. Like over a 100 most days. So why is it that I almost never cover independent bands with no representation and instead tend to go with PR companies I know and trust? Well asides from the fact that a lot of bands are awful musically I rarely even end up clicking on their Bandcamp link (If they even have the wherewithal to send a Bandcamp link) Usually I just end up deleting the emails before they even get opened. The reason for this is that these bands tend to do a lot more wrong than they do right and that makes it really hard for someone like me to want to open up their email and see what they have to offer me. This isn’t a question of elitism – this is a question of knowing how to send a professional looking email and dealing with the knowledge that 99% of bands have no clue how to do this and make their releases actually look good and make sense.
First off is obviously the initial impression of your email. That is to say – if it is overly long then I’m probably just going to think you take yourself to seriously. Of course, if you send just a link with nothing else then I’m not going to click on the link. If you can’t be bothered to send me an actual bio then why should I bother to listen to your music? Even worse is a request to send me music, or asking how I want to have music sent to me. There are a ton of articles about that already, it shouldn’t be my responsibility to teach you that. I want to see something at least a little bit personalized, it’s not hard to find my first name! Music writers just want people to recognize who they are and try to make a good first impression. That’s part of why if your subject line is amateurish then I probably won’t click either. For example if your subject line is “Album for review” then I won’t click. My inbox is FULL of albums to review. If your subject line is “Review Request from Arden & The Wolves (RIYL: Pat Benatar, Vixen, Joan Jett)” then I am far more likely to click. It gives me an idea of the contents of the email, uses proper capitalization and suggests a professional message.
Formatting is key for these emails. After a brief introduction you should be leaping straight into a paragraph long bio with a link to a longer one if needed. You should also provide links to the bands main social media pages, (Especially Facebook!) and where people can go to stream your music. If you try sending downloads then you will be ignored. Sorry. Formatting isn’t just related to the basic content of your email but also how it looks. That’s why I like a service like Haulix, it makes everything look smooth and professional and I know what I’m getting into every time. If you try and send an email on your own it’s a good idea to send it to yourself first to make sure the bio didn’t format weird when you moved it from a word processor to the email. When I see an email that just looks ugly it hardly inspires me to click through. Again – amateurish presentation suggests an amateurish band and nobody has time for that, like I said, there are a hundred other bands knocking down my door.
There’s a lot of more basic stuff that you need to keep an eye out for to. You need to make sure, obviously, that your spelling is on point. Especially because a lot of blogs will just copy and paste a professional looking release. So a typo on your part could lead to typos around the internet. Beyond that you need to make sure that all your links are working and that your photos don’t take up too much space. These things all seem small and unimportant at first, but trust me, they are crucial. This is sort of like how attachments are just an awful clusterfuck that will leave you endlessly frustrated. I know I mentioned this before, but it really deserves emphasis, no one wants to download stuff from a strange email address. You need to keep things like this in mind if you don’t want to inadvertently screw over your band and what you are trying to create.
Keep in mind, not all PR companies do a great job of presentation. You might want to ask a PR company for a sample of what their standard press release/album review request looks like so that you can make sure you are buying into a company that will represent you appropriately. Legitimate PR companies will not hesitate at letting you check out what they have to offer. A lot of PR companies out there have some sloppy ass emails that look disgusting, are hard to pick through and don’t make a whole lot of sense. The worst part is that this isn’t just for bush league PR companies – I’ve seen some pretty big labels, labels that I can guarantee you have heard of, use some godawful emails full of typos. I know it’s tricky not coming off as a control freak – but sometimes you need to, especially when it comes to as something as delicate and as frustrating as PR can be. This is how your band is represented to the press – you don’t want that first crucial impression to be a negative or frustrating one.
So I think it’s clear – PR is a lot trickier than just finding a bunch of emails an sending out links to your Bandcamp. PR is about more than just relationships too – even though that is definitely a big part of it. What PR is about is fighting to create a better tomorrow by raising the beauty and elegance of your pitches, r,eleases and requests. The goal is to create a world where everything looks at least moderately professional and makes it easy for people to want to promote your band and help get people continuing to come out to shows and expanding the role of independent music in our lives. After all – if you’re not helping the scene then you’re only hurting yourself.