Getting people to review your band or labels music is a major challenge. I know, I play in bands, I run a label. The crux of the issue is that nobody cares about your band! It’s a brutal truth but one you need to hear before going on. Now there’s a lot of reasons for this, and I’m going to try and explore a few of those in this article as well as try to give some advice as to how you can combat this. Now there are similar articles on line, but as a music reviewer and promoter, I feel like I might be in a unique position to try and shed some knowledge on a subject that pisses off a lot of musicians who have difficulty with getting press coverage.
The primary issue is that music reviewers get too damn many promos. I’d say roughly 95% of the emails I receive across all email accounts are media coverage requests. Those don’t count requests via things like Haulix. I get dozens of these things every day, and I’m still pretty small time, I know one friend of mine who gets hundreds! What makes this even more frustrating is that most bands, labels and promotion companies don’t realize how overloaded writers can be and this can make writers less likely to review your stuff. A little bit of sympathy goes a long way, and when a writer is trying to decide what, among hundreds of promos they should cover they are more likely to go with the kind and sympathetic email. Now this isn’t a panacea, but I know if I have time only for a small review, I will definitely go with a more understanding email.
Another big issue that a lot of us face is that we are pressured to get as many views as possible. This means that covering unsigned bands is kind of tough. I may want to cover an unsigned act, but if I don’t get a certain number of views my advertisers might get pissed and then I’m properly screwed, aren’t I? Finding a balance is hard, and I’ve always felt blessed that I can usually get enough views and still cover unsigned acts. But when you’re in a time crunch, bands that are unsigned or not with a promotion company are hard to take note of, but with a little bit of hard work an innovation you can usually combat this!
See, a lot of unsigned bands send me really awful emails asking me for a review, emails that don’t feature any links to social media or music. A good guide to what your emails should look like can be found at Invisible Oranges, I know it’s a metal website, but the recommendations in that article hold true across all genres. Essentially, if you don’t give us all the details we need in the first email there is a very limited desire to message you back. Sure, you might stumble upon a beginning blogger here and there who is just excited to be getting emails from bands, but the majority of writers are jaded and grumpy, you want to make them like you, not leave them wanting to punch the screen. Seriously people, the bare minimum is to send a Facebook link, assuming your bands Facebook page is properly set up this already gives the reviewer a great starting ground.
So what can you do, as someone in a band to get writers to want to cover you? Well, my main piece of advice would be to bite the monetary bullet and hire a promotion company. Here’s the thing though, any half decent promotion company will have a cultivated relationship with bloggers and writers that a band could never even dream of having. That’s part of what you pay for when you hire a promotion company. Sure, it takes hours to send out the personalized emails and whatnot, but the relationship is the most important part.
If you don’t have the money for a promoter there are still a few basic things you can do to help boost the likelihood of getting a review. Asides from putting in all the relevant links and otherwise following the advice of the aforementioned Invisible Oranges article, I think that the number one best thing you can do to improve your chance of getting written about is by referring to the person you are writing about by their first name. It may sound crazy, but I know that for me, as well as many other writers this can be a deciding factor.
Of course assuming you do get a review, the best step forward is to cultivate that relationship. Thank your reviewer profusely (Assuming it’s a positive review) and share there content, not just on your bands Facebook and Twitter pages, but also your personal pages. This will help to continue to win their way in their good graces. If you are able to make a positive impression, use it in the future when it comes time for you to promote another release or tour. If the relationship is truly solid, you can even ask that reviewer to recommend you to their friends. While this might not always happen when it does it can pay off in a big way. By imitating a larger promotion companies tactics on a grassroots level you are also more likely to win the hearts of many writers who identify with their own underground roots.
At the end of the day, the whole system is a little screwy. The reviewers listen to far more music than any sane person should and they write hundreds of articles every year, fundamentally altering their perception of music such that it’s even more difficult to explain it to fans. The whole system is really demented, but in a way that’s kind of what makes this whole thing so fun for me, no matter how hard you work, there’s still problems to be fixed and worked to be done, and as we all know, not nearly enough money to fulfill our dreams. So ride hard, live free, and just be nice to music writers, sure they probably won’t “break” you, but enough good reviews could very well get you onto a decent label, and from there who knows? The world is at your feet!