15 Do's and Don'ts of Promoting Music from Industry Professionals
When you’re an independent musician, you’re constantly learning how to climb the ranks. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades: your own manager, booking agent, social media coordinator, and publicist. Though each role has its challenges, it’s often the last one -- PR efforts -- that boasts a ton of meticulous tasks and details. From crafting the perfect pitch to building an EPK to following up, it’s virtually impossible to know it all and get everything right. We want to make it just a little bit easier for you to get your music out there, so we spoke to 15 industry folks (from publicist Christian Müller to Saddle Creek record label owner Robb Nansel) about their do’s and don’ts of promoting music. Most of these insights relate to doing your research, believing in your work, and saying thank you, all seemingly obvious takes that you might accidentally glaze over if you’re not thinking strategically and creatively about promoting your work. Take it from the professionals -- they know what they’re talking about.
#1 by Ryan Barham
Founder of music blog Spectral Nights
Do your research
Check that the website you are approaching covers the kind of music you make. Double-check that you’re referencing the right person (and make sure you’ve spelled the name correctly) and if you must send a block group message, please make sure you BCC. We’re all working towards the same goal -- respect is key.
Why follow Ryan: Ryan runs Spectral Nights music blog and was featured as The Guardian’s Blog of the Week in December 2013. Find Spectral Nights on Facebook and follow Ryan on Twitter at @Rarham or @spectralnights.
#2 by Glenn Morrow
Co-founder of Bar/None Records
Don't send WAV files or attachments
that need to be downloaded unless you get a request from the label or music supervisor that they are looking for a specific robust format.
Why follow Glenn: Glenn was the frontman of New Jersey-based power-pop group The Individualists before becoming the leader of Bar/None Records, a label boasting a roster that includes legends like El Ten Eleven, The Front Bottoms, They Might Be Giants, and more. Find Bar/None on Facebook and hear Glenn’s most recent album here.
#3 by Abby Adams
Do brand yourself in a way that feels genuine to you
Don't let someone else (i.e. your manager, rep, or marketing director) do it entirely independently for you.
Why follow Abby: In addition to being a pop singer-songwriter, Abby has also worked doing digital marketing and administrative efforts for Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, 5Towns Records, and Sneak Attack Media. Connect with Abby on her website
#4 by Matt Carson
Publicist at Auteur Research
Don't send an artist inquiry...
...without also sending unreleased future music links and previous highlights.
Why follow Matt: In 2012, Matt founded his own artist-focused music management company, Exhale Music Group, before joining the team at music PR company Auteur Research as a publicist and project manager pitching artists including Lo Lo, Jade The Moon, and more. Follow Matt on Twitter.
#5 by Christian Müller
Publicist at Pon’t Danic Music
Do try to think about strategies or ideas about how to grab someone's attention
Try to think outside the box: what would make a blogger or editor click on your email, check out your music, reply to you, and feature your music? Maybe an interesting subject line, personal email content, no big attachments, etc. Experiment with your approaches, try to be unconventional and be different. It may take a while, but never give up on trying!
Why follow Christian: Christian has been dabbling in the music sphere for years, employed by music blogs, A&R companies, and booking agencies before settling last year into his role as marketing coordinator and publicist with Berlin-based record label Pon’t Danic. Connect with the label on Facebook and Instagram.
#6 by Adam Reeve
Founder of Sounds Good Blog
Don’t keep things brief
Sending a submission comprised of random Soundcloud links isn't gonna cut it -- tell me who you are!
Why follow Adam: The warm and hilarious Adam created his one-man music blog, Sounds Good, just two years ago and already boasts nearly 1,400 subscribers eager to hear what Adam has to say about new music all over the world. Follow Adam’s antics on Twitter and Instagram.
#7 by Sofie Mikhaylova
A&R at Biblioteka Records
Do talk about your goals and what you want
Are you looking for digital releases? To be part of a compilation album? Want one of our artists to do a remix of your track? Need a label to help with physical distribution? These are all different aspects of the music industry and change the way we consider submissions. We need to know what you want before we agree to work with you, because maybe you'll want something that our label just isn't equipped to do -- and though we can't help, we can try to introduce you to somebody who can.
Why follow Sofie: Hardworking and eloquent, Sofie is a force in the digital and social media marketing world, but she also keeps things running at Biblioteka, a Toronto-based record label specializing in supporting electronic, instrumental projects. Connect with Sofie on Twitter and get caught up on Biblioteka’s roster here.
#8 by Ilya Sitnikov
Founder of music blog IHeartNoise
Don't threaten bloggers or website editors...
...if your review doesn't appear soon enough -- this completely ruins your chances for any future communication.
Why follow Ilya: Ilya is a web developer with a passion for music who launched his blog, IHeartNoise, a decade ago. He updates it regularly and is constantly on top of music news, plus it has morphed into a record label as well. Connect with him on Twitter and read his music journalism here.
Do your best to engage with blogs on social media
Τry to show that you are equally invested in the blog's success as much as your own. Never lose sight of the fact that music is a communal event and even something as simple as a like or a follow can show your commitment to growing their community. [In addition to that], show them your true self! If you're a goofy extrovert who likes to engage in dialogue, do so! Blogs want to see the "real" you, not the artifice you're trying so desperately to sell.
Why follow Jonathan: Making pop-tronic beats under his production moniker UNBLOOM, Jonathan’s not doing what everybody else is. He maintains an engaging, supportive social presence while surprising with his music. Plus, Earmilk premiered his single “Chances” earlier this year, so he’s got the accolades to prove it. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his work on SoundCloud.
#10 by Ciarra Fragale
Don’t sell yourself short
If you're anything like me, you have a hard time speaking highly of yourself, but the thing to understand when you're pitching your music is that, essentially, you are pitching yourself. Why sell yourself short? Confidence goes a long way in this industry.
Why follow Ciarra: Ciarra is a New York based singer-songwriter who treats her music work as the business it is. You can connect with Ciarra on Twitter and listen to her pretty folk gems on her website.
#11 by Dan McCurry
Management and publicity at ClassPet
Do yourself a favor and set realistic expectations
If this is the first song you've ever released, don't expect it to be on the homepage of Rolling Stone. Not saying it couldn't happen but it's highly unlikely – and if you're making that your focus, you're going to miss the important steps along the way. Start by tackling what you know you can do successfully and make sure that involves putting some sort of actual plan in place. Look at bands you follow for good examples of what to include and not include in your plan. Aim for steady growth and do the work.
Why follow Dan: Frontman of the late indie-rock band Run Dan Run, Dan has since worked to foster a creative music community in Charleston, SC. He now works doing artist management and publicity efforts for ClassPet. Stay tuned on new projects here.
#12 by Abby Jeffers
Owner of music blog Indientry
Don’t just pitch your music blindly to an outlet
Do your research and figure out what they request in a pitch (press kit, links to social media, or a bio, for example) and whether or not your music is actually a good fit for their site. Our inboxes are constantly refilling, and it’s refreshing to find someone who puts effort into an email.
Why follow Abby: Young music journalist Abby launched her Columbus-based music blog, Indientry, a few years ago and has since built a solid team and enthusiastic community of music lovers she fosters through reviews, interviews, and the site’s social presence. Connect with her on Instagram and follow Indientry on Twitter.
#13 by Luke Pettican
Writer for Atwood Magazine
Do say thank you
Crafting a thank you message that recognises the time and thought that a writer has put into their work not only makes you a decent human being but also heightens the possibility of receiving further coverage in the future. This summer I received an incredibly thoughtful and breathtakingly appreciative message from one of my favorite artists after I covered their debut EP. It felt truly amazing to receive that message and it inspired me to write while also chipping away at some of the self-doubt and anxieties that I was facing at the time.
Why follow Luke: Luke has been racking up editorials for a few years now. He is a staff writer for online music publication Atwood Magazine and has written countless articles for Hidden Herd and Popped Music. You can connect with him on Twitter and read his work here.
#14 by Sarah Bennett
Publicist at The Press House
Don’t wait until the last minute to hire a publicist
We need months (at least three) to plan and can help you with more than you think -- your team and your timing being two of the most important.
Why follow Sarah: Nashville-based music publicist and journalist Sarah has burst onto the music scene as a reliable, passionate creative. In addition to her work as an editorial writer for Paste Magazine, she is now a publicist for music PR firm The Press House. Connect with Sarah on her website and learn more about The Press House here.
#15 by Robb Nansel
Founder of Saddle Creek Records
Do believe in what you’re doing
Authenticity goes a long way -- and the opposite is obvious.
Why follow Robb: As a legendary Omaha musician and co-founder of Saddle Creek Records, Robb has fostered the releases (and careers) of big names like Bright Eyes, Hop Along, Rilo Kiley, and more. In fact, Robb is so busy juggling his prolific contributions to the industry that this “do” wasn’t exactly traditional -- he offered to answer a specific question we might have, so the above quote was born out of MusicNGear asking him what his main piece of advice to independent artists might be. We’re pretty damn grateful he shared his fleeting wisdom. Keep up with Saddle Creek’s talented roster on their website.
From the mouths of music masterminds themselves, promoting your music can be as easy as you are passionate about it. Next time you shoot off a couple emails to your favorite publications for coverage, keep these points in mind. Trust yourself and your music. You got this.