As music journalists, we come into contact with every industry stereotype imaginable. From the most humble rockstars to the divas to the wannabe music bloggers and the overly confident promoters — we've seen them all. It's tempting to feel cheated when you pour so much of your energy into creating something and feel like the results go overlooked. But the best way to make sure you and your music are getting the attention they deserve is to make sure you're doing the most you can to make it happen, which sometimes just means not shooting yourself in the foot. Here are some tips on how to give your band a leg up publicity-wise:
Know the platform you want to be featured in.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say that they don’t know why their local publications aren’t writing about them. So what's the secret? Simply put: READ. Most publications have a general flavor to their posts, so if you spend a few minutes reading articles from the section you would like to be featured in, you'll get a good idea of what types of stories said publication looks to write.
It also doesn’t hurt to check into the writers themselves — you might be surprised to find that certain writers prefer specific types of stories or genres that you might fit into. Once you find that preferred writer or platform, pitch yourself. You really don’t have anything to lose.
Know how to sell yourself.
This seems pretty obvious, but it needs to be addressed. For example, if you’re asked about your influences and you decide to spout off a few trendy bands (ex. the Cure, the Misfits, the Rolling Stones) without actually knowing anything about them, be prepared for some wild and crazy follow-up questions like: "What's your favorite album?" And if you're not sure about the answer, don't try to save it by making something up (ex. "Oh, I don't know. The third or the fourth one. Whichever one 'Wonderwall' is on.") It won't end well. Being clear, concise and honest will get you everywhere when pitching yourself or navigating your way through an interview.
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Realistically though, bullshitting and flattery are a part of the game. But if you don't know what you're talking about, what was supposed to be a clear-cut interview could quickly morph into the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric Reading Scandal of '08.
Stop tagging everyone in every. Single. Flyer. You post.
This is one of the most obnoxious trends in social media right now. The inescapable usage of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has simplified promoting, and by sticking with online ads you're likely going to save a bundle. But just because you spent an hour in Photoshop, creating yet another tricked out digital flyer, that doesn't mean all [insert number of internet friends] of your social connections want that showing up in their tagged photos, on top of getting excessive invites. On the real, tagging people in every post leaves a bad taste in people's mouths.
Sure, it might make you more memorable. Sure, it’s going to increase awareness of your event. But at the end of the day, you’re going to be known as That Guy I Just Deleted from Facebook.
Put yourself out there before saying we suck for ignoring you.
Accusations like that are immature and whiny. Most writers are looking for a good story, regardless of where it’s physically located. So if the publication you're interested in isn't writing about you, give them a reason to. If you think your story is newsworthy, roll the dice and shoot an email/tweet/carrier pigeon/et cetera to the writer or publication of your choice. If it doesn't work or you don't get the response you're looking for, don’t give up. Pay attention to the stories that are getting written and start thinking about ways to market yourself to that particular publication. Oh, and if you're pitching yourself to a writer or publication, saying that their coverage sucks and your music is better maybe isn't the strongest way to start things off.
Don’t assume your time is more valuable than others'.
Nobody likes a diva. Showing up on time, prepared and ready to go is super important. But we're all human and we get it; life happens. Just make sure you communicate with the people involved in the interview and give them as much warning as possible if something’s not going to go down on time. This is a pretty basic indicator of respect that will go a long way. Both parties have to make the time to see each other, so don't act like you don't give a shit about the effort on the other end.
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Like in any walk of life, word gets around too. Journalists, photographers, promoters and the like move in the same circles and talk to each other about their experiences. If something comes up (i.e., you're sick, exhausted, running late, etc.) it is completely okay to ask to reschedule. Rescheduling is a helluva lot better than showing up and alienating whatever networking connections you thought you had.
Don't ask to see the article or photos before they're published.
No. Just, no. Not only is this super insulting to a writer, but it will also come off as entitled and annoying. The folks covering your band aren't being paid by you or your PR team, they're paid by an established, credible publication that values journalism ethics and the ability to tell a well-rounded, fact-checked story. Just know, going into any interview or event, that unless expressly stated somewhere in a media release that you have writers or photographers sign beforehand, you will not have any say in the editing, creation, design or publication of the article in question. Having your story written entails a certain level of trust in the work said writer will do.
At the end of the day, the relationship between an artist and the media is a symbiotic one. You have your art, we have ours and the two go hand in hand. We want to write and we love finding inspiration in new artists or even new angles on familiar artists. Sometimes the pool of new music is a deep one — especially in a booming scene like DFW. So, take it upon yourself to stand out from the crowd. If you want that attention bad enough, be proactive and reach for it. Who knows? You might be surprised at what happens when you stop expecting everyone to take notice just because and start creating that awareness for yourself.