A while ago, I had a conversation with a client looking to launch a music video for his latest single. The video was fantastic — the client collaborated with a talented filmmaker friend and ended up with a music video that, quality-wise, wouldn’t have been out of place on early ’80s MTV.
The client’s question to me: how can I get this video placed on a prominent music website or blog where most eyes can see it? The client then lamented that he didn’t have a budget to spend on a publicist, a familiar tale.
I explained to the client that he is capable of taking matters into his own hands, finding potential outlets for his video, and contacting the appropriate people. The quick steps:
- Find a few sites you’d like to cover your music, ones that include similar music already.
- Go through the website and find articles or reviews for music just like yours. Make note of the writers.
- Find how to contact those writers. Many sites supply the contact info for the writers. If not, a simple search should locate the writer on, say, Twitter or Linkedin.
- Reach out to each writer. Make it a personal note. Not a pasted email. Mention the review or article that you saw and that you liked it, and that your music is similar. Would the writer want to check it out? Supply a link.
Music writers receive dozens of emails each day, asking them to listen to music. The overwhelming majority — if not all on some days — of these emails are pasted rather than personalized, Often the recipient’s address is BCC’ed among dozens of others (or even CC’ed, yikes).
In the steps above, the thinking is that a musician who has done their homework, has targeted the writer for their musical preference, and is complimentary will stand out and be a breath of fresh air. There’s no guarantee the reviewer will check out the music, but the chance is far greater.
However, after telling the artist how to approach writers and be his own publicist, he gave the response that I hear way too often: “Yeah, that’s cool, but I don’t have the time to do that.”
We’re not talking about a full-fledged publicity campaign. I’m just asking for the recording artist to look at a few sites he’d like to be on and then contact a handful of writers. I can’t imagine this taking more than a few hours. Isn’t the artist’s music video — or music, really — worth putting in a few hours?
My first reaction is that this isn’t someone with whom I should be working. This musician’s not dedicated to his craft if he won’t invest a few hours of research and networking. He can’t be serious about his music career. Is he a hobbyist? I don’t work with hobbyists.
But I can dig further into the artist’s mindset and understand there might be a fear of not doing a good job. And the fear of rejection. What if the writer emails back, “this is terrible.” The feeling of rejection is even worse, as this is a writer that the artist knows is into similar styles of music. What is the writer (i.e., the expert) hearing that the artist isn’t? Was the artist an imposter all along?
This episode has me thinking of why some artists won’t network and do publicity on their own. As I showed above, it’s easy to do, and the contacts become valuable when directly cultivated by the artist. Instead, most artists opt for services or pay high fees to publicists. Could the publicist serve as a barrier, protecting the artist from negative feedback and discouraging words? “Turns out the release isn’t a fit for that magazine” is probably the worst news the artist will ever receive from the publicist.
I’ve always thought that the main reason artists enlist music publicists is for their networks and connections, and the wise artist can find these on his or her own. But now I understand what else I’m asking from the artist: be ready for rejection, the direct criticism of your heartfelt work, and the potential strengthening of that imposter’s syndrome. Most writers won’t respond — we know this — but there is the chance for a harsh dismissal by an expert. We could forgive even the most thick-skinned artist for hesitation.