Getting online press coverage

When you release an album, an EP, a music video, or have an important show event coming up that your fans should know about, as well as future fans and industry people, it is important to get coverage! In addition to promotion by you the press is very important for awareness. Online exposure especially, since that’s where most people get their news nowadays. There are many outlets all over the country and all over the world who do reviews, features, premieres, and interviews on indie artists and bands. There are also plenty of people online who are interested in listening, watching & reading about music stories, discovery get new artists or hearing about tours from known and unknown artists. Many magazines and newspapers have the majority of their stories available online now, whether they still print physically or not, and a lot of them now have their own music blogs.

IMG_9202.PNG

Things to get press coverage for:

⁃Important upcoming shows, tours, charity events, free events or appearances

⁃New album, New EP, or New single

⁃New music video

⁃Any important news item regarding your band/music

-Reviews

-New Tour dates

IMG_9200.PNG

The most important thing about getting press is: LEAD TIME & PLANNING!

*Tip & Examples: Let’s say you have an EP coming out in two months but no shows booked. Consider booking a release show near or on the EP release date. You could offer a local music blog a new song off the EP as a premiere on their site before it comes out. That way, the blogger can promote and mention your EP and your show to hype your audience and get people ready for the new music.

After your release, consider shooting a music video for a single. You could reach out to a local music blogger for a premiere. They can also mention your local show dates in the post… or you could consider approaching a national music blog for the premiere or online magazine for a review. If you have a tour coming up, you could tie it in with that as well! The ideas are endless.

IMG_9204.PNG

When pitching to online press, it’s important to keep in mind how to reach out properly:

⁃Send an e-mail to the official e-mail of the site or blog - usually listed in the “Contact” section on a website or will have a spot for “Submissions.”

⁃Address the interviewer or individual who is covering your story in a polite manner, and send all the important info in a very clear, concise and organized way.

-Keep the subject simple - or think of some clever wordings for your subject lines.

⁃Send your pitch 2-3 months in advance (This is just a suggestion as 5 weeks is a typical deadline for physical press, but online will vary site to site).

⁃If you don’t receive a response in a week-ten days, try following up.

⁃Keep in mind the audience of the blog/site/press you are reaching out to, would this audience appropriately suit your sound/vibe?

-Tip: The Hype Machine (http://hypem.com) is a great site that collects articles and you can search bands you think you sound like and find the related blogs that might be a great fit to contact.

⁃Reach out to press in the area you are from, or the place you play the most, and if you have any shows coming up in other areas, reach out to press there too!

-Reach out to national and international sites for interviews, features and reviews too.

⁃If one site is doing a feature for a new music video, or a premiere of a song, sometimes you can only limit this to one for the “Official Feature” of it. Ask if it is unclear - or if it’s possible to get multiple outlets to cover the same thing if it’s offering different things. This will vary and most blogs like to be the FIRST & THE ONLY ONE TO PREMIERE IT.

⁃Once you get a feature or any sort of coverage on a blog, be sure to promote it! Thank the person who worked on the press for you - fans will love to read all about it and share it with their friends.

-The difference between a “Feature,” “Premiere,”and “Review”

A “Feature” is an article or blurb devoted to the treatment of a particular work for promotional purposes.

A “Premiere” is the FIRST showing of a piece of work, usually includes some notes on the work from the writer.

A “Review” is a publication with critical articles about a piece of work.

-Tip: if you or your band has some money saved you can consider paying and hiring a PR company who already has relationships with blogs and magazines. That way you have a professional (who does this every day) helping you. Both ways work though and just because you hire a Publicist unfortunately things are not guaranteed.

IMG_9201.PNG

Typically a publicity campaign can run from $500-2500+ a month and can get more expensive the more high profile the outlets you’re going after. If you’re ever unsure ask the PR Company or publicist to provide a list of clients or ask around to any friends whom may have worked with companies to get feedback.

Tip: Where to search for press outlets, try google searching ‘the city’ your playing and ‘magazine‘, ‘Music Magazine’, ‘Music Blog’ or ‘news paper’ (example: Los Angeles Music Blog’. Recommended Site:http://www.abyznewslinks.com/ (this site lists news media outlets by city & state). 

IMG_9203.PNG

Merch (physical and digital)

Before you even consider going on the road touring, you might want to consider asking yourself who are you and what is your product? Aside from your amazing live show, what are you supporting? What is the product you’re selling? If you want to expand your fanbase and your connection to them -  both show goers and fans on social media, you will want to have something to sell that they can buy. Once you start touring it’s going to be a MUST - especially because selling your merch product will help pay and sustain your life on the road. Your merch is so important!

Merch is the music recorded onto CDs, vinyl, or cassettes that represent your brand. It’s download cards, t-shirts with your band or name, buttons, stickers and other thoughtful items with your art and logo. Things that someone who enjoys your music would want to purchase and bring home with them. At shows there will usually always (with the exception of some benefit shows) be a spot for you to sell your merch. If there isn’t, bring a table and make your own! Or at the venue ask someone who works there where you can set up your merch.

IMG_9081.JPG

When it comes to creating merch, think about what would make the most sense for your band to sell. Do you have songs and have they been recorded? Putting them into a physical form would probably generate sales! Along with having your music easily accessible for sale in the digital form online (via digital distribution that can be released through Tunecore or CDBaby or http://Bandcamp.com for example). Shirts are another important part of merch displays as people love wearing them and buying new ones. Sometimes even if a person doesn’t know your music but the design is cool and it translates to them, they will buy it! If you have a band logo or image that represents your music, or even a saying, or a drawing, consider putting this on your product. You can screenprint, find local shirt printing companies, or even paint your own that you can sell (suggested price is somewhere between $10 and $20). You can even look into wholesale shirt companies to buy them in bulk at a cheaper price per unit.

*tip: the fashion / merchandise districts in cities often have wholesale t-shirt businesses. They might even work with local screen printers too, that they can put you intouch! Even consider going to thrift stores & getting cheap one-off tees & printing on them.

Think of some clever items that you could sell that wouldn’t be necessarily expected. Sometimes this can generate a lot of interest from people stopping by your merch table. Think: necklaces, bracelets, lighters, scarves, bigger buttons, patches, bags, sunglasses, hats, one of kind jackets etc.

FullSizeRender.jpg

*Tip: It is also helpful to have some form of merch that everyone can grab for free - in most cases this is either a sticker or a small button. These items don’t cost too much money to make, and everyone loves something free.

Once you’ve got a few physical merch items to sell, consider making an online merch store so people can order products online and have them shipped when there not able to make it to your shows. This is not difficult to set up!

*Tip: Squarespace.com offers great sites that you can customize and add a commerce section to. Facebook also offers a section on Music Pages and there are also a lot of other independent companies where you can sell merch. Once you have a site displaying your products, making posts about your online store can generate more sales and interest. Making one of kind or limited edition merch items can also get people excited to buy something that is unique and rare!

FullSizeRender.jpg

Helpful Tips:

-cost of a one color design t-shirt run of 32-40 shirts could cost you between $250-300. Sometimes there’s an additional screen fee for t-shirts added in the cost or on top of costs usually running $15-30

-cost of vinyl could run 200 LPs for close to $2000 & cost of 100 tapes could cost close to $200

-Some suggested for sale pricing (depending on design & cost to make): Buttons ($1-$5), Stickers (free or $1-5), CDS ($5-15), Tapes ($5-10), Vinyl ($20-30), 7” ($5-10), One of kind items $25-100 (like a jacket or bag), patches ($1-5)

⁃Keep your merch in line with your image, colors, and sound

⁃Keep an inventory of your merch so you know what you have and if you’ll need more

⁃Make note of the most popular items, and restock once it gets low

⁃When you’re setting up merch at a show, keep in mind other bands have merch too, so don’t take up all the space!

⁃Don’t be afraid to push your merch - at the end of the day, merch is what fuels and funds a lot of bands

⁃Don’t always go the cheapest way out if you don’t have to - invest in quality shirts and items, and people will be more likely interested

⁃Charge more than what it costs you to make the merch

⁃Keep the merch organized and know where everything is, where each size shirt is, so it makes selling quicker and easier

⁃Don’t leave vinyl in a hot car! They WILL warp

⁃If your vinyl does warp, consider making arts and crafts with it that you can sell (clocks, bowls, hats, be creative!)

http://www.printrunner.com & http://www.stickerguy.com are great and cheap for quality stickers in bulk of various sizes and shapes

-http://www.halfpricebuttons.com offers great custom button

-http://www.hollywooddisc.com offers great pricing on CD manufacturing

-http://www.rainborecords.com for vinyl

-Bringing your own lights or lamps for your merch display is always a good idea! (wireless is always easier)

FullSizeRender.jpg

Setting Up a Release

After playing some local shows, establishing yourself on social media, telling all your friends and new fans about your band or project, then planning recording, going into the studio, and finishing your first recording, (Single, EP or Full Length) you are probably ready to release some material! Even if you haven’t played out live yet and no one knows about the project you’ve been writing for or practicing with - releasing a song could be a great way to let everybody know about it as these days (depending on genre & direction) there are dozens of ways, both traditional and new school, to release material.

Whether it’s a single, an EP, or a full length album, the process could be looked at the same. You have the material, shows, you’re building your name and your image / music brand, and the object is to line up all the pieces so they work together. Getting the order of tasks so they start building and continue the building momentum is key! We’ll go over a few ideas in this post - Though keep in mind these ideas aren’t the only ways to do a release.

Before you release a song or an album (EP or LP), you’ll have to do some preparation and planning. Setting up a release is a lot like recording pre-production, but on a different front - time-line, social media, content, online promotion, digital distribution, and coordinating with numerous people. It’s pretty much thinking in terms of a musical “to do” list in order to get your newly recorded song(s) out into the world - and letting people know about it!

IMG_7279.JPG

Before setting up a release you could ask yourself these questions regarding the material itself:

⁃ do you feel really proud of the song(s), the direction, and want to share it?

*you will be the one pitching and promoting the material regardless if you hire someone to help with PR, Marketing or Radio promo (you want believe in it 1000%)

⁃ is it representative of you and what your sound is?

*make sure before you release music that the image and the music represents you in the best way

⁃ has your music gone over really well live, and has it gotten a good crowd reaction?

⁃ is it sounding tight between you and your bandmates when you play these songs live together?

- did you pick the right songs for a release?

*Ex. If you recorded 5 or 6 songs or even 3 but 2 don’t feel right (maybe a couple have a different vibe direction than the others or the performance isn’t as good as it could be) don’t release them yet do a single or a smaller EP of only your best work!

*No filler!! These days there are so many artists, so many songs and so much content overloaded online that it is important to remember if you work really hard on your songs and what you do it will show and eventually pay off. The cream rises to the top!

Once you have decided on the amount of songs, preparing your album/single artwork would be the next step (or could happen simultaneously).

- will your music be a digital release, physical release, or both?

*this is a big factor because of art design and manufacturing, as well as budget!

Digital Art - you will most likely only need a cover for the single or album, and a few different versions of the art that you could use for online promotion.

(Example: Social media promo pics, including posts ‘coming soon’ & ‘out now’ and cover photos)

Digital Distribution - there are many digital ways to release music, here’s a few:

Tunecore, CD Baby (these sites distribute your songs to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify & many others for a small yearly fee & will send you money monthly)

Others: BandCamp, SoundCloud (Free streaming)

Physical Art - This is more costly but imperative if you’re a live band so people can buy your CDs at shows as well as online.

*you’ll need to decide on a design (pocket, plastic case with insert, fold out, 8 panel, there are many options, and at different prices) but you’ll need to figure out your budget by researching companies to find out how much printing is, how many they can produce for your budget, and how long it will take to manufacture. You’ll also need to get templates from the manufacturer (often you download these from their site, for digital the distributor usually states the requirements)

*check out http://www.discmakers.com and http://www.hollywooddisc.com for free quotes and prices.

You will also need to get your ISRC codes from your masterer - or these can be created by the online distribution outlet you choose as they will make them for you.

*ISRC codes are used to track sales and if you have them you will enter them in a form when you’re signing up to distribute your music.

With this information you can start figuring out a release date, timeline, as well as accounting/budget (art, manufacturing, distribution etc)

IMG_7281.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

Here comes coordination and timing! The most important part!

- you’ll want to give yourself a good window of time to create the product (once you have the finished songs you’ll need to make a deadline with the graphic designer you’re working with and line up the time it will take for printing or online distribution)

- promote the product before its release

- release the product

- sell the product

- promote the product consistently thereafter

Giving yourself a large window of time will give you a deadline to get it done, it will generate excitement about the release, and will give you ample time to prepare.

Let’s say your window of time is 5 or 6 months for a record (with the suggestion of a minimum of 8-6 weeks for a single). Your deadline, or day of release is at the end of that time frame (release day for new music is Friday).

Additionally, if you have some extra budget, you can consider independently hiring out a company to do a collage and/or specialty radio campaign (typically radio campaigns start 4-8 weeks ahead of release), most campaign companies will have you print up an additional 100-200 physical CDs that they will mail to radio stations (or you will, depending on the budget) to you’ll have to account for additional costs. If you’re doing this, getting you’re music to the campaign people at least 6-8 weeks ahead of time (depending on length) before the release is super important. Coordinating with the organizers of the campaign at this time is imperative.

IMG_7277.JPG

You can also consider hiring a PR company to pitch your music to blogs, media outlets, magazines, newspapers, and TV. There are many PR companies both big and small. Typically a PR campaign runs $1000+ a month. At a minimum, most companies like to start working a release 6-4 weeks before (sometimes more depending on the release as well as company or campaign length).

If you don’t have a budget but have time and a good work ethic, you can do your own PR (which we’ll go over in another future post!). But typically news and media outlets need time in advance for printing, featuring and/or premiering (of course not all online music blogs are the same but this is a general time frame) are 4-6 weeks.

A few check list items for you or your band in preparing for the release (5-2 months ahead of time) you will:

- make a budget / keep track of your expenses and know how much you have to put into your music

- set up and ready artwork idea/find a graphic designer

- set up distribution

- consider coordinating and setting up a release show in your home town

- make an online posting plan (telling your fans and friends that a new release is on its way - tell them what day it’s coming out)

- create and share cohesive artwork to go along with the release on all your social networks, get people involved through social media in a creative way

- set up PR and Radio campaigns - or If you’re doing it own your own, put the song or record up on a private soundcloud link that will be used for sharing with blogs/newspapers/media outlets/reviewers as well as other industry people a couple months before the release to help generate interest.

- share the reviews/features/premieres/response online that you get from the campaign to further excite your audience (this is a huge part of momentum and activity) and use it as online posting content.

⁃ consider making a list of Spotify playlists you want to pitch the song to once it’s out

- consider making a music video for your most popular live song (or if you haven’t played live, consider getting some feedback on what your strongest song is) that you can release around the time of the album release to build excitement and activity!

*Tips: you can try to get premiere for the video, or after the song has been released consider doing a video release show.

Other factors and tips for a new release to take into consideration are:

⁃ make sure, just like the music, that the album/single artwork is strong and matches you/your band.

- maybe consider a new photoshoot / art direction for a release theme which can be tied into marketing.

(For example, say you have a single called ‘Red Rose.’ Maybe you and your bandmates could do a photo shoot and wear all red colors near a rose garden. Maybe for building up for the release you could do social media pictures of red roses in different locations! Or live, wear these outfits. Whatever it is be creative and true to you!)

- sign up with a songwriters society (ASCAP or BMI, SESAC* *is invite only) and register your song or songs so you can get paid when your song is played on the radio.

- sign up for soundexchange.com and register your song or songs so you can get paid for online streaming.

Setting up a release successfully comes down to preparation, promoting your product, and finding the right outlets to help keep pushing it forward. You can pay lots of money for companies to do this work, but you can also do it yourself! Believe in the work you’re putting out and tell everybody about it! Setting it up with ample time to prepare for promotion and to generate more response and hype is going to be integral and well worth the wait!

IMG_7280.JPG

Setting up your social media sites

Being an artist in this day and age is surely not what it was decades ago or even just a few years ago. As we know, the internet is now where the main focus is. It’s a constant changing world of it’s own, spouting out new forms of social media platforms and new avenues of connection all the time. These doors are opening up avenues for artists and fans alike allowing us to grow our brand and art quickly, with a plethora of new ways every day to reach large groups of people everywhere all at once.

It’s pretty crazy how we can now find a venue’s name, address, and contact info within minutes. We can even research our dream producer, label, and sometimes find the right contact e-mail or Facebook profile to reach them. We can and should use these avenues to their fullest potential! All it takes is just a bit of understanding of the different platforms and methods to get the most out of them. Just like learning your instrument - social media and marketing today is an instrumental tool to help your music brand be successful.

Anyone reading this is probably already familiar (to an extent) with Youtube, Instagram, Spotify, Facebook Live, and Twitter. These are just a handful of the main sites that are constantly growing with the times and allowing artists to reach their fans, and fans to reach their favorite artists. These sites are all free and all have space for images, bios, content, and direct ways to connect with potential fans, bookers, industry people, and other bands and artists (of every level).

When setting up one’s Profile page for any of these sites it’s important to take time to provide good content for the core page. Posts aside, make sure the profile and cover photo are representative of the band. Consider branding your image across all platforms too so it becomes something signature and it’s how people recognize you. People see these first, so make them stand out. Having a good bio is important, and on Facebook it can be lengthier than Twitter or Instagram. Describe who you are and what you sound like. Add your contact info and links to your other sites to cross promote where it makes sense. When you’re first building, try connecting with other bands, people &/or brands online who you like by liking posts and interacting through your page. If you want to maximize your reach and effort then always post your shows and publish event pages through the music page to bring people there. Invite people and let them know you care about who you are and what you do! Take advantage of the apps within the page - you can set up your own merch store, you can import your upcoming shows, you can promote important posts for just $5 to reach more fans, etc. Make sure you invite all your friends to like the page so they can stay updated!

Twitter and Instagram are a bit simpler than facebook, focusing more on the postings rather than the core music page. So make sure your posts are relevant to what you’re doing and are strong. Keep people updated and keep them engaged - this is the main goal! Post often but don’t overdo it. If it helps, consider making a weekly schedule to plan out the time you spend doing posts and communicating online. If you have a lot going on in you or your bands schedules this is helpful as well as finding a natural rhythm to when people are engaging.

The use of hashtags on a post can reach people far and beyond. Users can now follow specific hashtags, so be specific with them in choosing them. Social media platforms work hand in hand as well. When you sponsor a post on facebook, and you link your instagram or twitter account, the sponsored post goes out to your followers who are within the demographics you set, and this can double, or triple its viewership.

That direct artist to fan contact is what helps us build a grassroots fan base to something far beyond that, when people are interested in the upcoming shows, new releases, live photos, and happenings.

Having a place to go to see all the news and upcoming events from an artist one follows is extremely important. Having multiple places to go and see different, new, exciting things will keep people engaged. It’s important to keep these sites current, relevant, and cohesive. Contact with your fans can build tenfold when you maximize an incredible live show and quality music with your image and activity online.

Having all the pieces is a lot of work, but your activity online can really boost your career as an artist!

Tips:

-Be present on all main social media sites, and post differing content, (videos, live videos, pictures, press shots, event pages, posters, etc.)

-Keep all sites current - When something isn’t up to date, the fans will know

-Be conscious of the time of of day you’re posting and what time gets the most reactions

-Keep your pictures clear and high quality, don’t just post for the sake of posting

-Connect with other bands and artists as much as you can through your music pages

-Respond if you can to your fans if they reach out to you on these sites!

IMG_5985.JPG
IMG_5986.JPG

Press Photos

Press photos are a must when establishing your band online and elsewhere. We live in such a visual day and age, and they matter now more than ever. Press photos give your audience an idea about your music. They should excite listeners about hearing your songs and should represent you and your sound as closely as they can.

Last week we talked about image - this image that you’ve created for yourself will carry over into your social media and all marketing (online & off), which often includes press photos. No matter what level you’re at, blogs, podcasts, radio, contests, labels, PR, social media sites, and venues will use your photos for promotion and a whole lot more! Even pitching your band for particular things will often require one. Your fans will recognize you by these photos as well.

So where do you begin? First, think - what do you want to come across through your look? Intensity? Chaos? Peacefulness? Friendliness? Frustration? Openness? Color? Clean cut? Distress? Glamour? Beauty? Seduction? What is your music about? Be the visual for your sound so people don’t get confused! Make it clear and cohesive. This visual will last and evolve as you do - whether it is a live shot by a professional photographer or a photoshoot somewhere. Be mindful of the whole frame - what is the background? What is the vibe? Does it match your music? Try to get creative & think beyond cliche (think more than railroad tracks, brick walls, etc. - expand!) Be inspired but also original and be sure to capture your true essence. If it’s not right the first time… Do it again!

You will want various shots to choose from and fresh ones to use to keep your audience engaged (they will be used for different content: social media to post over time or online marketing/building, cd covers & merch items, fliers, posters, various press and profile pictures). Use shots that are relevant to you now. Your images and press materials should be cohesive and relevant with your current album cycle.

Photo Tips:

- look at your favorite bands or artists in CDs, Magazines & Books. What makes their image connect with you and why do you connect with their music immediately? Look at everything! (background, wardrobe, stance, angle, emotion, etc.)

- look at the most successful bands & artists (regardless of if they’re a favorite of yours or not). How does their image correlate with their music?

- Look at Art, Fashion, History & beyond music.

Example: The Beatles, Adam Ant, and Freddie Mercury have all worn military jackets - that image is so implanted in our minds that when some of us see that jacket elsewhere we may think of them.

Other examples: Think about some classic 70’s harder-edged bands. Their music was slightly darker but still accessible - most of the successful ones wore mostly black and were even influenced by historical things or religious symbols. (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin) or even think of 90’s/2000’s contemporary Marilyn Manson. He mixed his image with these aspects and make up - similarly to 60’s/70’s artist Alice Cooper. Both Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson could’ve been influenced by flamboyant women wearing make up in the 1600’s, as well as classic clown make up.

- If you’re inspired by other artists, be inspired but also try to do something that’s not exactly the same and expand on the idea! Meaning, bring something else in visually because people want to connect with you! They already have that other artist :)

New bands:

Consider doing shoots where you make direct eye contact with the camera since people are just getting to know you! Consider waiting on the sunglasses unless it’s your thing/part of your image. People can connect a great deal by looking into your eyes. That’s where a lot of the emotion is!

Side note: If you’re going to use a live shot that someone took - always be sure to credit them. They are artists just like you! This goes for when using a shot someone else took for your social media posts, magazine write-ups, newspaper articles, posters, etc. Communicate with the photographer about their rate for non-watermark photos if you need something without a watermark to use online.

Lastly, don’t settle for a lousy photo just to have one up! A lot of times aspiring photographers need subjects to shoot - and a lot of times it’s for free or for a low cost. There is no excuse to having lousy photos! You can even set up your own camera on a tripod, find a location, and take a press shot. You are worth it. If you want people to take the time to experience your work - take the time so you can give them something great. Create something beautiful, powerful, inspirational, and something that will last the test of time! Why wouldn’t you?

FullSizeRender.jpg