You work hard to create great music with professional production quality, but you need to promote your music far and wide if you want to build an audience and loyal fan base. However, you don’t need a massive marketing budget and a PR firm to handle your campaigns, because these days it’s easier than ever before to promote your music yourself. You will need to do research, create press kits, and get in touch with editors and DJs directly—and of course, be organized, patient, and realistic.
In this article we focus on online promotions, and we’ll go over writing your press release and cover letters, researching and gathering contacts, and planning and organizing your campaigns. It may seem daunting at first, but you can develop a successful campaign when you know how to approach each step of promoting your music to online magazines and music blogs, as well as DJs, podcast hosts, and playlist curators. You’ll also be able to promote your music at a comfortable pace.
With each element of your campaign, you need to keep in mind who your recipient is, and what you can provide to them. To begin with, your press kit is developed to provide an editor or reviewer everything they need to create content for their readers. Your press release is not intended to be an advertisement, so you should avoid lofty statements of praise and write in clear, straight-forward language. Not all music websites will publish your press release, but the ones who might are looking for well written and interesting news copy that can easily be shared with their own audience. Therefore, your press release can be enthusiastic about your upcoming music release, but you cannot speak for the editor by including opinion in your press release.
Even though you’ll send your press release to contacts other than editors, you need to think of them first when creating the document. First and foremost, your file needs to be in text format. A PDF can be useful as flyers, but most editors will completely ignore PDF submissions, because text file press releases make their work so much easier. The whole purpose of news copy is to be copied, and this goes back to the perspective of what you can provide to the contact you send your release to.
If you search online to learn how to format your press release, you’ll find many different examples and see that some formats are better suited for news copy regarding events. Your press release needs to be in text file format to enable the recipient to easily copy the information for their publication. How you format your press release itself may vary according to your needs and style.
Here is an example of a press release format. Click on the image for a larger view, and save the image if you want to use it as a format guideline. I did my best to write paragraphs of the general length you should aim for in the body of your press release. The body contains 226 words, and I aim for releases to be 200 to 300 words in the body—from the headline to the boiler plate (the section after your press release, where you can add more information.) The information you choose to share in the boiler plate might be longer than the example I created, that was intended to fit on one page for screenshot purposes.
Writing your press release is the “hardest” part of setting up your campaign. After proof reading and checking your spelling several times, the next stage is to upload your press kit to Dropbox or Google Drive (some contacts do not accept any other file sharing methods.) Organizing your press kit with sub-folders also makes things easier for recipients. Your press release and the ISRC and UPC details for your new music release can go in one folder, cover art in one, and promotional photos in another sub-folder. In the main folder, we include a readme.txt file stating that the contents of the kit are for use by press/media only, and include credit for the photographer(s) whose work is included in the kit. By separating your kit with sub-folders, recipients can quickly access all the information they need without searching through folder contents they might not use in their media.
Create a different folder for the audio files in your Dropbox or Google Drive, and provide a link to it in your press release. Having your audio separate means you can send just the tracks to DJs, radio stations, and show hosts. Include sub-folders in your audio folder, and provide both mp3 and wav formats for your music. Include the cover art and a text file containing the track titles and their ISRC details, along with the UPC for your new release.
Collecting and researching contacts is your next task, and something you’ll always be doing as you continue promoting your work online—whenever you spot a potential promotion contact or site, make note of it immediately. A spreadsheet can help you organize contacts by type, such as music blogs and online magazines, DJs, radio stations and hosts, podcasts, and playlist curators. Target contacts who specialize in your music genre, and those who cover indie or up-and-coming artists. You should also target those who focus on your region’s music scene—especially if you do live performances.
When your new release will be out in two weeks or less, start reaching out to your contacts. DO NOT send mass emails to all your contacts at once. You should write a personalized cover letter email, or message in an email form on a website, and include the link for your press kit in the message (for DJs and show hosts, send them the link to your audio files’ folder on Dropbox or Google Drive.)
This is why your research is vital. Address the recipient by name whenever possible, or say something about their site, show or podcast in your message. This personal touch makes a real difference! Do not send singles to websites that only review or publish news about albums, but do contact playlist curators and hosts who can give your single more exposure.
You’ll need to be patient and realistic about your campaign. Some contacts will reject you—never let that deter you, but simply move their information to another file (or spreadsheet section) for tracking rejections, so you wont accidentally send them future press kits. Do not immediately give up on a contact who doesn’t respond to your submission—hold onto their details in case they were swamped when you sent your message, and send them your next press kit in the future. Evaluate the results of a particular contact if they don’t respond to three of your music releases in a row.
Writing to every applicable contact when you promote your new release does take time and effort, but it’s truly worthwhile. Put as much time as you can into your promotion campaign prior to the release of your single or album to get as much exposure as possible, but don’t stop there. Continue promoting your music everywhere you can, and spend at least 30 minutes a day searching for new contacts to try, or writing emails/filling in submission forms on websites. At this pace, you can easily promote your music yourself, and grow your audience organically.
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September 10, 2019