The Localist: How to Submit Music to a Blog
Many musicians who are just starting to put music out inevitably run into the solid brick wall of trying to promote it. This invariably leads them to look up e-mail addresses of bloggers, music journalists and editors, and send out an e-mail requesting some sort of publicity – usually in the form of a premiere or a review. However, musicians almost always send out pitches that cause music writers to hit the DELETE button, so I’m providing this information as a basic set of guidelines to help musicians understand how to craft pitch e-mails. A few caveats:
Over the past few years, there has been a trend of reputable self-professed indie music outlets limiting their music writing to artists who belong to “preferred publicists” and “preferred labels”. Much of this is done under the guise of thinning out a deluge of music submissions to make it manageable for the music writers. But, in all honesty, there are quite a few independent solo bloggers who manage to write about a wide variety of independent music every year, without these restrictions, and all on their own. There is, relatedly, a long-existing but possibly increasing trend of reputable indie outlets that ask for the buying of ad placements as an inducement to getting publication. As a result, you should know that your chances of getting through to even indie music outlets is hampered from the get go, unless you happen to be on a “preferred label” or happen to pay a “preferred publicist” (whose rates generally run in the $X-thousand-per-month ballpark).
You should also understand that the premiere staff and the review staff at an outlet are oftentimes two different groups of people. If you are trying to get a song premiered as a kind of preview to an EP or LP release, you should make sure you are sending it to the right person. If you are trying to get an EP or LP reviewed, it is often a different group of people who are doing those reviews. Make sure you know what it is that you’re asking for, and don’t assume that because you are contacting an outlet for a premiere, that it will somehow be in consideration for a review. For the purposes of this post, I will just be talking about general guidelines for submitting content for a premiere.
Of course, most musicians don’t have thousands of dollars laying around to pay a publicist, and in any case, it always helps to understand how to write a pitch e-mail, even if you already have a publicist.
Essentially, the general guideline is that you need to not waste the music journalist’s time. You do this by providing all of the information that a music journalist needs to write about you, in as succinct an e-mail as is possible.
- Have a release date. Usually the song or video is promotion for an upcoming EP or LP release. You should let them know when the release date for that EP or LP is.
- Provide music or video in the form of a streaming link – unless they explicitly ask for it in another format. Not only do music writers not want to gunk up their hard drives with files. But they need a streaming link in order to post a premiere. Maybe you have privacy concerns? If so, Soundcloud and many other sites have streaming links that can be password protected (until the date of the premiere, of course).
- Provide a press kit. A music writer is not going to want to have to Google information about you online. You need to present information about you as an artist – biography / list of accomplishments / music description / press quotes – so that the music writer can draft a quick write up with as little effort as possible. Note that your goal here is not to try and convince the writer to write good things about you with your poetic description of your band. (That never works). Your goal is to give the writer information about you, so they can draft an informative blurb about you as efficiently as possible. To make this succinct, you can provide this information in the form of a link to a press kit that you have online.
- Provide a press photo. A music writer is not going to want to have to Google pictures of you and deal with possible copyright issues related to publishing a photo from an unknown source. Provide them with a photo that they can use without running into any trouble.
- Provide a short paragraph/comment with your take on what the song or video submission is about. In more recent years, outlets are incorporating musician commentary into premieres, essentially because it saves a lot of time that they’d have to take to analyze the submission from scratch.
- Relatedly, it isn’t necessary, but provide a lyric sheet if you can. Sometimes music writers will want to engage in a bit more analysis of the submission. Providing a lyric sheet makes this a lot easier for them, and also eliminates the possibility that they’ll misquote your lyrics.
- Provide (1)-(6) as succinctly as possible and at the very beginning of the e-mail. In fact, you shouldn’t say anything much outside of these things. No elaborate introductory paragraphs. No long flowery descriptions about the type of music you make. No shaggy dog stories about how you wound up e-mailing them. No sob stories about how you aren’t catching any breaks. Get to the point, and provide the writer with all the information they need, as quickly as possible, to make a decision about whether to write about you, and what they will write.
Of course, as noted, pitching to publications has become more difficult with every passing year. So, be prepared for a lot of non-responses and rejections.
Good luck! And don’t overlook submitting your music to lesser known and bona fide independent publications. I always say it, and it’s definitely true, but an honest, glowing and well-written line from an independent blogger is worth more than a premiere in a major outlet that contains no usable quotable material. Don’t discount the value of having an independent blogger in your corner.
The Localist is a column focusing on issues relating to aspiring local musicians in New York City. In his free time, the author performs as St. Lenox. St. Lenox’s most recent record, “Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love” was placed on Best Albums lists at Pop Matters and AllMusic. AllMusic credits St. Lenox with “some of the most unique and unconventionally thrilling pop music in the late 2010s.”