Remember blogs? Back in the early 00’s blogs were huge! Personal blogs, nature blogs, music blogs, and the list goes on. In fact, music blogs were so prevalent that most indie artists made it big through a favorable review.
These days we’ve become a bit more dependent on social media and streaming services like Spotify for music discovery; but as it goes, blogs are still one of the primary ways music lovers find their music. We just don’t use the word “blog” as much these days.
Call it what you want: an online magazine, a ‘zine’, or a publication. Any way you cut it, it’s a spot on the internet that features music (hopefully yours) and consistently publishes new material.
NPR does it, Paste magazine has one. American Songwriter also posts features daily. And there are thousands (maybe millions) of smaller-sized blogs or online artist hubs.
Why would you want a review?
This might be a no-brainer question, but some people don’t see the value in an online review. You’re still making music right? I mean, somebody has to! I’m sure I don’t need to convince you that you need reviews (since you’re actually reading this), but if you’re gonna put out music, you’re gonna need someone to talk about it. Otherwise your mom and best friend will continue to be your only fans.
There’s just one problem…
As far as I can tell, this (getting reviews) is still the most frustrating part of being a musician. More frustrating than booking a tour, getting a stranger to review your single or album can be the most challenging endeavor.
A good review is like gold. Not only does it look good when someone else is talking about you, but a good review on a great website means exposure to a whole new audience, and makes for a nice addition to your EPK.
So I’ve compiled some tips for you. Ways to work smarter, not harder - and ways to get your foot in the door so you can get your whole album into somebody’s ears.
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Figure out what material you’re pitching
Starting this process can be completely overwhelming. So the first thing you need to do is chop your pie into pieces. First you need to know what you’re pitching. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is my “star” track?
- Do I have a song that is the most playable, or most accessible to listeners?
- Do I have a few top songs that I will pitch depending on who I’m reaching out to?
- Do I have a music video that I want to focus on?
- Do I have a single with an accompanying music video?
In an era of singles and music videos, it can be near impossible to get a writer to listen to your whole album. Plan to promote a single piece of media (a song or video) with an option for them to scope out the full project. Have a few “assets” (as they call it) compiled into your music EPK to pitch and determine what you will send to which publication.
Once you figure out what you want to pitch, here is how you can determine where you want to pitch.
Pitch according to your tour schedule
Like we said: work smarter, not harder. It’s impossible to reach out to every potential reviewer out there. But you can cut the pie into pieces. If you’re playing in Houston, you can focus on Houston reviewers. If you’re touring a bunch of cities on the west coast, you can hit up publications in those cities.
If you’re playing a music festival, see who is covering the festival and ask them for a feature. If your show has an event promoter, hit up the promoter and ask him/her to point you to the right people.
Use your resources. Ask for help from the people who are already connected in the city you’ll be in. It’ll increase your chances of getting a review when the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon becomes 1 degree.
Pitch to publications that have covered your music in the past
Don’t forget your faithful supporters. If someone has covered your music in the past, chances are they’ll cover you again! It might be that the blog they wrote for several years back no longer exists. In that case, they might be writing for a new audience and maybe even a bigger audience. Never hesitate to reach out to your past supporters.
Pitch to publications that have covered your friends’ music
Your friends might just have the hookup! An active email of a reviewer is like liquid gold these days. Don’t forget to ask your friends for their help. If they can recommend a blogger or even initiate a 3-way email, you’re in.
Ask your fans for help
Of course! Your fans! Make that shameless ask. Ask your fans to recommend the blogs and online publications they find new music through. If they like your music, chances are they can suggest online magazines that are a good fit.
And how about you ask your fans to review your album: a simple paragraph and a link to your music website can easily go further than an ‘official’ review. People love a good, solid word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted friend… even on social media.
Think about your genre, your brand, your aesthetic, your audience. If your music caters to Anime lovers, look for genre-specific sites. Creating music that sounds like it's from the 1950’s? Go for a niche blog that features mid-century era music. Trust me, that stuff is out there.
Who says you can’t stay local? Hit up every possible blogger in your city and just go wild! If you can create buzz in your city, that’s half the battle. No matter where the people are, they’ll share your music with their friends. The magic of the internet is that a music review on the east coast can easily equate to a new fan on the west coast.
“But how do I write a pitch?”
“Wait wait wait!” you’re saying. “I know who to pitch to, but I still don’t know how”. In part 2 of this series, we’ll give you practical tips on how to draft the perfect pitch, what to include, what not to include, and how to catch someone’s eye.
Until then, begin compiling a list of your target reviewers.
Joy Ike is a full-time singer/songwriter and artist coach based out of Philadelphia, PA. In her work through Cultivators, she helps artists grow well by casting vision for the big picture while giving attention to the daily challenges of creating and communicating genuine art. With her background in publicity and marketing, Joy is especially passionate about helping independent artists tell a better story through branding, booking, fan-building, and authentically connecting with their audience. Her writing has been shared by ASCAP, BMI, Bandzoogle, Indie on the Move, CD Baby, and several other prominent music industry blogs.
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