This is a follow-up to Ty White’s first guest post on Bandzoogle, where he detailed how to compose an e-mail in order to reach bloggers. 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. This time, Ty writes about how music bloggers think, and how to use your mind control skills to further your career (OK, maybe not. But well worth the read).
In the product world of tech companies, as with most marketing departments and agencies, we spend a lot of time creating personas (fictional characters that embody the characteristics prevalent in a given group) for our target audiences. We take time to interview the people we want to use our product and shadow them as they do the tasks that our product might help them do better. The more people we talk to, the more we get a sense of their personalities, their tasks, and their views towards our product and our competitors.
In other words, we do everything we can to put ourselves in the client’s shoes. The same should go for any form of marketing. As Jonathan Franzen writes in Freedom, “There are few things harder to imagine than other people’s conversations about you.” The only way to get closer to imagining what other people will say about you is to understand them better. The best marketers are those who best understand not just the demographics of their target audience, but their personalities, their routines, and their perceptions.
When you’re asking a blogger to post your content, you are marketing to them. As such, it will behoove you to understand more about them. It would be a bit insane to try to create a universal persona for music bloggers, especially in a blog post like this, but there are several commonalities I’ve come across that may be beneficial.
1. Bloggers’ inboxes are usually their worst enemies, and sometimes their best friend
Ask any blogger how many emails they get. Their response will almost certainly be “too many” (perhaps accompanied by a pained groaning noise, or an outburst of hysterical laughter). Sadly, as a result, everyone doing outreach is being punished for the actions of those folks who blast to large lists — very often, bloggers feel like they could delete every email in their inbox and still be very happy with the music they discover and post.
That said, excellent things CAN come from email. I discovered Beloved Rogue, whom I love, after they sent me a very nice and simple note and a link to download their EP. When I wrote back to say I liked “Capital Sense” they asked for my address so they could send a 7’. Three of the last 55 tracks I’ve posted have come from email. It’s not an impossible way to reach bloggers, but if your content isn’t relevant, you’re only making it worse for everyone.
2. Bloggers read other blogs and are friends with other bloggers
Want your music to spread? It will once you’re in with one or two bloggers. Many bloggers won’t admit (or won’t realize) just how often they discover music from each other, but it’s incredibly common.
If you think about bloggers and their tribes, those tribes very often include other bloggers — most bloggers will even post a “blog roll” along the side of their site of other blogs they like and read. This does not mean you should click all the links to those blogs, find contact info, and spam them all. It means you should use the opportunity to research the posts on each of the related sites, find the one or two that are most likely to post your material, and concentrate your outreach there.
3. Bloggers are people and like people
In Almost Famous, legendary music journalist Lester Bangs insists to young William Miller that the worst thing a writer can do is become friends with the band. William, of course, is too excited about the opportunity to hang out with rock stars to heed the advice. In that sense, the majority of bloggers are very much like William — they are fans first, critics second. They would be thrilled to be friends (at least in the Facebook sense) with people whose music they like.
So how do you make friends? By sending impersonal email blasts to them every once in a while and hoping they do something about it? Nope. Friends are established in a variety of ways, but it almost always begins with some commonality — a mutual friend, shared interest, same hometown, take the same bus every day, etc. An introduction from a mutual friend will always be your best route. If you are trying to make a friend solely because you want something from them, you’ve got an uphill battle.
If you can’t get a direct introduction, it’s best to start engaging with them on a casual basis. If they’re blog has comments, comment. If you see a post you like, email them to say so, without pitching your music. Show them that you respect them and have a genuine interest in their brand, then you can make a better pitch.
If you want to go back to the funnel concept (yes, it applies to all parts of marketing and building a brand), you can’t expect a blogger to make the jump from the top of your funnel to the bottom in one fell swoop.
A friend in PR told me recently he wished he could take every blogger out for a beer, but geography doesn’t permit. Your job is to get as close to a direct personal connection as possible without the benefit of geography. It’s hard, no doubt, but it also goes to show once again that trying to reach thousands of blogs at once is horribly inefficient and ineffective (for 99% of bands, at least — of course there are the edge cases, who would get posted all over the internet even if they didn’t do a press release). Creating relationships is more work, but it will lead you to more success as well.
4. The music matters, a lot
At the end of the day, it’s all about the music. You can take into account all of the above and still completely miss if you’re not honest with yourself about whether or not a blogger will like your music (which you’ll hopefully have a better sense for after engaging with their blog for a little while). Creating those personal connections may help get a blogger to listen to your music, but it’s not going to change whether or not they will like it. Quality is hyperefficient, especially when coupled with highly relevant targeting — the better you know your audience, the better you’ll be able to match your audience persona to your target blogger persona.
I’ll continue to post bits and pieces of the blogger persona, but I encourage you to go out and talk to any blogger who will take the time — not to pitch them anything, but to understand how they discover music, what their reactions are to mail in their inboxes, and what makes them tick. Start to build a persona for the people you want to reach, then build a plan for reaching them.
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