5 Ways To Get Music Publicity For Your Band
Music publicity is one of the critical elements of music promotion and helps you tell fans your human interest story. If you are like most new bands, you are looking to promote one track, a music video, or maybe an EP. You definitely need the publicity to direct traffic, but what’s the best way to go about it? In this post, I’ll give you specific examples and bring in Alternative Press founder Mike Shea to help drive these points home. We’ll help you understand what is realistic, and how you can do it by yourself or with a limited music publicity budget.
Let’s use a self released EP for an example. Your street date is November 10th, and your digital pre-order and first instant grat track are going up on September 22nd. You also have a music video ready to launch on that same day. This is going to be a big day, and you need as many eyes and ears on it as possible. To this point you haven’t had much notable press, television, or radio, and most of your mentions have been concert listings, show previews, or brief mentions. You are not signed to a label, and have a small but eager fan base built mostly on social media and YouTube. Be prepared. You want to have that story ready and published the same day you launch the first single. Offer the premiere exclusively to a press outlet.
1. Have A Story Ready To Publish
If you have the budget for a publicist – great, but these 5 tips for getting music publicity on your own can be put to use in either case. It starts with a story to tell, and then using that as a way to introduce yourself to different media outlets. Before you can start to attract national outlets it helps to build a few local, regional, or non-music press features. Be realistic about the types of features you are aiming for. One and two page features are usually reserved for kicking off an album cycle after a band has had some smaller introductory features. If there has been rapid growth in a band’s following recently, then that’s a reason for an outlet to do a long form feature.
There may not be a big story to tell about the EP itself or your young music career. If this is the case, focus on how you are unique. Music publicity doesn’t have to be all about the music. Perhaps members of your band have a non-music related story that is interesting. Or maybe you work with a charity or are activists for a cause.
Stay on Message
Staying on message means, wherever you are keep reinforcing your story and what is important to your band. On stage, at the merch table, in the press, on social media, and everywhere – stay on message. Press is not only about traffic and an eye-catching headline. Beneath the headline, you need to spread the true message of your band. Hook readers in with a strong reason to check out your band, then stay on message and bring out your band’s unique story. Something different from other bands that maybe readers have never considered before.
2. Use “Write For Us” Searches To Submit Your Band For Press
Google Search Technique
There is a simple Google technique for finding media outlets that are looking for press submissions. Many press outlets run on small budgets and don’t have a lot of time to spend publishing articles. They might need to publish 3 or 4 stories a day. You can make their lives easier by coming to them with a story that is complete and ready for publishing. Use this technique and find tons of ways to take your story and turn it into a press feature and publicity.
Try putting these into a Google Search. Check out the results, then play with the search filters to find more.
- music blog “write for us”
- Extreme sports blog “contribute”
- Video game news “write for us”
- Fitness blog “guest post”
Don’t spam these people. Read their content, find topics that are relevant, and customize your story and pitch for that outlet.
Here is an example of one called Artist Uprising:
I used this technique to get mentioned in some music industry press on IPWatchdog.com
3. Look Beyond the Normal Outlets
Dig Into Each Member’s Story
The big goal is to tell the story of the band and why it’s important. But to get there you need to chip away and build interest in other ways. Each member of the band has their own story, and in those stories you are sure to find some stuff of interest. Go outside the normal music press outlets and a combination of special interests and music to land press features.
Side Door Features
Pick a specific issue or interest and pitch it. These might not tie directly into the fanbase you are looking for, but they will give you a history with press, and you can use these when pitching for larger national press outlets.
- Vegetarian or Vegan
- You have an upcoming audio engineer in the band and a recording media outlet provides a double opportunity to plug the band and EP release.
- Gamer in the band
- Filmmaker or Artist in the band.
- Charities, Food banks, positive social causes.
- Someone in the band is into working out and fitness, so the side targets become fitness media outlets.
4. Start Locally Before going straight to National Outlets
Local TV, newspapers, and university press are great ways to build your press history and to get some practice before approaching the larger national or international stage. After getting a few of these under your belt, you’ll have more to offer to national press. National press wants to see that you have social proof and are worthy of their time and space. Having a resume of media coverage and publicity will go a long way to getting featured. You’ll also be much more well prepared for when you get confirmation for a big national look.
Use Your Personal Networks
We often overlook our personal connections. Block off an hour and go through your cell phone contacts and pick out people that could possibly help you get music publicity. Post on your personal social media accounts “Who Do I Know That is a Writer, Vlogger, or Podcaster?” Turn those replies into press for your new release.
Collaborate with Locals
Dig into your local community and connect with people and organizations in other areas of interest and collaborate. These collaborations make for great local or regional stories. At the same time they add depth to your band’s brand and naturally build your story. Some examples are collaborations with:
- Film Students & Local Filmmakers
- Painters and Fine Artists
- Beer Breweries
- Sports Teams & Athletes
- Local Charities
5. Go Direct To the Influencers
Learn the top influencers, tastemakers, and journalists on a national level. Follow them on social media, and get to know what their interests are. Find common ground and present them with a story about it. Offer them an exclusive announcement. Again, use your personal networks to make these connections.
Ready To Pitch
I’ve put pitching at the bottom, because I want you to understand all of the options and the preparation necessary to land music publicity. If you are looking to hire a publicist to pitch for you, I have more information about hiring a publicist on this article How To Break Into The Music Industry.
Before the step by step to pitching, read these very insightful responses to a few questions I asked Mike Shea.
Q&A with Mike Shea, Founder of Alternative Press
QUESTION: Can you give an example of a band that has pitched you or Alternative Press directly with success?
ANSWER: The Maine has been one band that has been the most pro-active and outside-the-box thinking that I can think of in quite a long time. Tim Kirch is the manager for the band but his brother, Pat Kirch, the drummer for the group, is always in contact with me- bouncing ideas around in a call or over a dinner. Sometimes they’re content related and other times they’re promotional or long-term partnership concepts. We’ve worked a lot with The Maine because of their direct interaction with us and I have found that those artists that are more stand-offish and have their management (or publicist) be the contact, as it would be traditionally, it doesn’t always work as well. I get singers texting me photos for us to run our social accounts in the middle of the night all the time because they know that they are ultimately responsible for their band’s success. It’s the old adage, no one is going to care as much about your project than you.
I think it’s pretty much a mistake for an artist, specifically a rising artist, to not have a direct relationship with someone of note at any media outlet. There are so many pieces of content that people in media need to develop, produce and release daily it’s not even funny anymore. So that ability to sit down and breathe and think, “How can we stop this content treadmill for a minute and think of something more unique and engaging with an artist?” When artists reach out with concepts for content with the media brand, it really helps out a lot.
Smart artists will figure out their upcoming tour, record release or whatever it is and determine in advance those media outlets that they want to work with on developing their project. They’ll dice up exclusive content for each site and then go pitch it to them. Media outlets love the word “exclusive” and if that’s what you can bring them content-wise, that’ll get you at least a conversation. – Mike Shea – Alternative Press
QUESTION: Was there anything about these artists approaches that you appreciated, and any best practices or tips for bands wanting to pitch a press outlet directly?
ANSWER: – The one thing we’re quickly growing sick of is this concept that we owe artists covers. It’s a crazy world out there anymore. Artists that normally would sell a lot of magazines just don’t anymore and they don’t accept that news very well. So now their publicist comes back and says, “Okay, it’s a cover story or you’re not talking to them at all.” Meanwhile, that same artist is doing online interview after online interview everywhere else. But we HAVE to give them a cover if we even want to get them on the phone at all. It’s just ridiculous. All it does is destroy the relationship with that artist. To be honest, more times than not, the artist has no idea that their team is making these sorts of threats. Which is another reason why artists should never take their hands off the wheel of their own career. Bad management can destroy your relationship with the press and you’ll have no idea what happened.
As far as working directly with the media, I would just be real with them. Kissing ass comes across just as such and every single editor has heard the usual lines of “You’re the only media outlet we care about/follow/have read since in the womb…” Be yourself and be human. Offer exclusive content. Don’t threaten them. Make the content unique and useful too. A photo series of shots from your recent show that look like any other show on the planet won’t do so good but if it’s a slideshow of documentary-style photos of the band in Russia for the very first time, it could be very cool.
Also, if you’re a smaller, more unknown band, be patient. You’re going to need that hook somehow to get the editor’s attention. I have found smarter artists putting in the subject header the “sounds like” sort of descriptions of their sound to make it easier for me to categorize them. Something like, “Green Day meets The Cure, rising Denver band’s first video exclusive for AP!” Treat your first approaches to the press like a first date. First appearances are everything. – Mike Shea – Alternative Press
Tips for Pitching – Step By Step
- When pitching news or album review, use a press release with a very brief and personal intro in your email.
- If pitching a feature story (not news), follow the steps below. Remember press releases are for news, pitches are for features/stories.
- Offer an exclusive to the press outlet you are pitching for. A song premiere, a video premiere, a photo or tour journal, or a big announcement.
- Know the outlet you are pitching and their style. Customize your pitches, don’t spam.
- Pitch specific stories with suggested headlines and an excerpt of the first paragraph.
- Write it as if it were going to be published, and put a lot of preparation into it.
- Show them that you’ve already done most of the work for them. They’re looking to save time and will appreciate this.
- Make sure your story stands out. Be a little controversial or against the grain if the content allows for it and it’s genuine. The more intriguing the story, the better chance you have of getting the feature.
- To stand out, come up with combinations of interesting topics that all of your band members can discuss. Talking about songwriting, recording, and touring overdone in music publicity and boring.
- If there will be an interview, rehearse for it. Have your talking points prepared. It never goes according to plan so don’t get frazzled when they change course on you. Be prepared.
Well that was some amazing advice from Mike. Thanks Mike! He’s given you plenty of takeaways that you can put to use. One last bit of advice would be to “play the long game”. Don’t expect to introduce yourself one day, and have that turn into a feature right away. In music publicity build lasting relationships over time, and let things happen more naturally. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.
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