I have received a very small amount of nasty grams from folks…which is a blessing. But the ones I have gotten typically come from folks who don’t either get “it” or get what I am trying to do with this particular blog. It’s usually a “hey, why aren’t you writing about me” or “well, f*ck you…you think my lyrics aren’t moving and genius?! I just wrote a song about a train!” Regardless, a little bit can go a long way in the realm of promoting yourself and your music. Most of this is common sense, but sometimes we loose sight of that in the moment of trying to get ourselves out there. And I suppose, different strokes for different folks, but below is what I (the promoter/writer/supporter of independent music) respond to in a positive manner. Lessons learned I do suppose. Take them with a grain of salt and for what they are, an opinion.
1) Know your audience: “Hey, we are a metal band from Mother Russia…check out our new death record”- says the Death Metal band from Russia. “OK, sounds right up my alley”- says LOCAL folk/roots writer from Boston. Enough said. Do your research, be smart.
2) Be courteous: Please and thank you go a long way in my book. It seems like an obvious thing to say ‘thank you’ when asking someone to really take time to listen to your art and provide honest, impartial, and (hopefully) constructive feedback on your work. But hey, let’s face it, a lot of us musician types tend to be ego-maniacs-I mean, we go on a stage and say “listen to me NOW” as an art form and job. So it may not be as obvious to some as it is to others…
3) Be personable: Going back to know your audience…100% transparency here: unless I have a pre-existing relationship with a promoter/promotions company, 98% of the time, I don’t even open the email. A small time writer doesn’t want your BCC’ed, templated email telling them about your release when the email isn’t even coming from you and is being sent to 1,000 other media contacts. Me, I’m a small, one man show here that is trying to shed light on good independent music. It says it all over my mission statement if you took the time to read it. Develop a relationship with people who a) want to help you b) potentially CAN help you. Also…what can you do for the media outlet? Let’s face it, there are a lot of email requests coming in for things. Let’s make it a two way street…have a show coming up you want reviewed, put the reviewer on the list. Be personable, don’t just be an email promotions machine churning stuff out like a Chinese flip flop factory. Make a statement about who you are contacting, “hey, I like the name of the blog, cool that it relates to the MBTA and roots music on it!”. Be a goddamn human!
4) Get to the point, keep it concise: As much as I would love to hear all about every single one of your incredible deep lyrics and how your brother in law is doing in Alaska, everyone else wants the media folks to do that as well. “Bullet point” where you can…keep the email clean, and tell them what you need to in a nice neat package. Think about it from a tweet standpoint, short and sweet. 1. Who are you/what do you? 2. What is coming up/what do you want publicized? 3. How can I help you? 4. Tell me how incredible good looking I am…kidding of course. But the point is to be personable and quickly defined at the same time.
5) Have an open mind: Will every person who listens to your music like it? No, of course not. Does that mean your music sucks and you should quit immediately? No, of course not. Take everything that people give you in the way of feedback as a lesson or something you can build upon. As a general rule, I try my best to only review things that I either thoroughly enjoyed hearing or have something constructively valuable to say about it. I never want to just put out a “holy shit, I hate this songwriter’s music…did they really just rhyme ‘dance’ with ‘dance’!?!” review, ever. I just don’t want Red Line to be a haven for those kinds of feelings. Granted, the world is full of assholes, and some people may simply be jaded, miserable jerks who put you down. But you should know the difference between a “man, this person ‘s music is garbage” and “I thought the vocal work was a bit pitchy, something to perhaps work on and iron out for future recordings. Do vocal exercises, know your range, etc.”. For real. Don’t get angry when you don’t get a 100% positive review or feedback, get better!
6) Follow Up: Don’t get discouraged. Magazines, blogs, radio stations get a TON of submissions. Like, literally, tons and tons of materials. One email doesn’t always make it through the wall of flames. So don’t sit back and just assume they didn’t like it. Gently be a pain in the ass. Trust me, it works and sometimes we need it to really dig in and give your music the attention it deserves. My now favorite songwriter had to bug me with 2 or 3 messages to review his last record, and now I listen to it almost daily.