I recently had the privilege of catching up with Ty White. Ty runs Sum The Greater, a music blog and direct-to-fan marketing company out of San Francisco. He spent two years managing Artist Services at Topspin and has since dedicated himself to helping small bands build actionable fan bases. A few weeks ago Ty posted some excellent and specific advice in an online discussion about how artists should try to get their music featured and reviewed on music blogs. We liked it so much that we asked him if he would turn it into a blog post for our members and visitors. Definitely an important topic for artists that are looking to get more exposure, whether you do it yourself or through a PR service.
I'm in a bit of a unique position as both a marketer and music blogger, but I hope (and expect) more marketers will follow my lead -- blogging about your favorite music is a great way to build brand identity, introduce yourself and your brand to your favorite artists, and, most importantly, eat your own dogfood.
It's the eating your own dogfood part I want to hit on today. The communication between artists (or, more often, their PR representatives) and bloggers today is abysmal. I talk with artists weekly who are pissed at their PR firms for taking their money and not delivering any blog hits. On the flip side, bloggers detest opening their email for fear of another run of spammy, impersonal blasts infiltrating their inboxes and wasting their time.
Ultimately it's a problem of communication -- bloggers expect to be hit with the personal touch that the web and word-of-mouth marketing have made possible (or, arguably, required), while PR agents rest on the laurels of having thebiggest (read: most impersonal) "list" they can. The disconnect creates a problem like two parties trying to communicate in two different languages (hint: being on the receiving end of the sale, it's the blogger's language that wins).
I thought the best way to start approaching this problem would be through analysis of two real-world emails from artists to bloggers. I've altered them both to appear to be from the same person (one of my clients) for the sake of comparison, but they are both real-life emails pitching bloggers on a post.
The first hit my inbox a few weeks ago and struck me not because it's particularly good or bad, but because it does a lot of things right and yet misses entirely because of a couple seemingly small factors:
My name is Jim and I’m an indie-singer songwriter. I’m based in San Francisco, but I’m known in 57 countries and am building up a wide fan base.
I’m writing because I saw your site and enjoyed reading some of your reviews.
I have a new LP out called "Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" and I think that you and your readers would like it. "Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" has been described as a mix of Elliot Smith and Grandaddy. It has the perfect balance of songs – from those that are ideal for sitting back and relaxing, to those that make you want to get up and dance.
We’re offering it for free while Modest Mouse is on tour this summer. I know time is scarce, but if you could give it a review, I’d love to read it. Even if it’s negative, I really respect your taste, and would be interested to hear what you think.
If you would like a cd or a t-shirt, please shoot me a size and address and I'll get one out to you. If you prefer, you can listen to my LP for
free on my site.
A few links to check out:
Download “Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" here: http://allsmilesmusic.com/download
MySpace: MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/allsmilesmusic
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/allsmilesmusic
- Sent from "the artist" - the intent is right, but the quotes signify that it's not actually successful in convincing me it's from the artist, and thus you'll see a corresponding negative point below
- Spirit of "I saw your site and enjoyed reading some of your reviews" - again, right idea, but fails in execution (boy, that's a nice thing to say to...every blogger out there...so why me?)
- Links to other reviews - while many bloggers won't admit it, we're all interested in what our peers think. However, I would show an excerpted quote from each instead of just linking -- show me that they thought it was good without my having to click through and find out what they said.
- Offer of a CD or t-shirt - bloggers also like free stuff -- getting a 7" in the mail from Beloved Rogue reminded me to post a second song from them -- but don't emphasize free merch ahead of telling the blogger how to listen to the music
- Impersonal - while it's signed by the artist and comes from what sort of appears to be his personal email (the name field on the email was the equivalent of "AllSmilesMusic.com" -- how do I know that is actually Jim and not his management?), it doesn't address me or my site with any sort of personalization. If you want me to listen, tell me why you thought *I* would like your music (what other music have I posted that you like or associate with? had you ever seen my blog before today? BE HONEST! All the crappy PR blasts have turned bloggers into finely-tuned BS-sniffing machines).
- Link organization and calls-to-action - The whole email is about getting me to listen, but never explicitly tells me where to listen. Should I assume it's on the homepage since that's the first link? Honestly, my first instinct is to go to the download link (where there actually isn't a stream), but I shy away from that because I don't want to clutter my machine with music that I might hate. I want a taste first. And what is the purpose of the MySpace and YouTube links? Is there something I'm supposed to look at there? Or do you just want me to include them in a post? Be as specific in your calls-to-action as possible.
Now for an example of an e-mail with similar intentions and structure, but is personalized and organized more effectively:
Dear Chris and Gorilla Vs Bear,
My name is Jim Fairchild. As a bit of background, I spent over a decade in Grandaddy and now tour with Modest Mouse. I was turned on to you guys by my friend Scottie Diablo a while back and I dig what you do. In particular I was stoked to hear about Vega and Neon Indian early on from you guys. And then Cults!
Anyway, I'm writing to let you know about another project I work on when not doing stuff with Modest Mouse. It's called All Smiles and it's mainly me and Joe Plummer (one of the Modest Mouse drummers) with a wider ranging cast of characters as are near and necessary.
While I'm away from home this Summer, I've decided to try and turn more people on to our latest album Oh For The Getting and Not Letting Go. By giving it away for free in exchange for an email address. We've been working on a bunch of new stuff, with the thought we'll get a new album and EP done by the end of the year. More home spun affairs this time. But I'd like more people to be familiar with what has preceded it when that happens.
If you haven't checked it out, you can either stream and download it at allsmilesmusic.com or use these to download:
Full Album: http://t.opsp.in/IUHE
"I Was Never The One" MP3: http://t.opsp.in/IV1a
"Foxes In The Furnace" MP3: http://t.opsp.in/IV1b
Okay Chris. I hope you enjoy the album. If you do decide to post something about it, I'd really appreciate if you'd include the widget that lets folks download it, the code is down at the bottom.
Take good care and thanks for your time.
(code goes here...)
Sure, the grammatical structure may be a bit awkward and imperfect, but that's how Jim writes (and talks) and it helps his personality shine through. Note what is done properly here:
- Personal background - answers "why I might care" off the bat, and points to real-world examples of why the music would be a fit on the blog (he's inspired by the music they post)
- Quickly gets to the point - no frills, elaborate bio, or page-long story of the inspiration for the record -- this can all be posted on a press page for those who care to dig deeper, but don't waste the blogger's time up front
- Direct links to the most relevant content - stream or download the record, or download two suggestions of singles (a suggestion of a starting point for listening is always good)
- Soft ask to embed widget - this was actually Jim's move, to move the widget code to after the sign-off, and I love it -- it keeps the entire body of the letter personal while still including the ever-important code
Remember, bloggers are often combing through hundreds of emails a day, and 99+% of the time won't even listen if you don't catch their attention. The way to do so takes a little more time and effort than your traditional PR blasts -- it requires a personal touch. If you want them to be interested in you, you need to show interest in them. I guarantee you, though, thatif you put the same amount of time into sending 10-20 really good emails to the right people, it will be infinitely more valuable than sending a slightly less personalized email to a much larger group (1 hit out of 20 is still far better than 0 hits out of 2000).
Bloggers can and should be one of your most valuable allies, but you have to learn to speak their language. Put yourself in their shoes and think "why would I be interested in posting about this artist?" Then write with that in mind.
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