A brief promotional guide for (metal) musicians.
I get it. You’re a musician and don’t want to think about promotional bullshit. You would rather write riffs than emails. But I’ve seen too many cool bands put out badass records and then do everything wrong when it comes to getting people to listen. I want to help.
I’m no promotional mastermind, just a lowly freelance writer who’s seen enough of music journalism’s back end to know that too many of my friends and acquaintances are fucking it up. This isn’t some trash fire guide to make it big. I just want people to hear your shit. You work too hard to throw your music into the void and cross your fingers.
Pay for promotion. If you can scrounge up the cash, pay a promotion company to push your music. It will save you from writing dozens of emails begging your favorite magazines and blogs for a premiere or review. Promo companies typically push specific styles of music; editors and writers are well aware of that. Do I read emails from that person with all the shitty alternative rock bands on their promo roster? Not so much. But emails I get from someone like Earsplit, who pushes sludge, grindcore, and all that good ugly shit? You bet your ass. Here are a few promo companies to look into. Hit up people who work with bands you like and respect.
Reach out for premieres. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the album review is dead, but I do think it’s easier for bands to secure premiere spots than reviews. People tend to click on premieres more. It’s generally less work for writers to do a premiere than a full album review. When you solicit publications, put the song or record up for private streaming on Bandcamp or SoundCloud and include a link in your email. No one wants to download mp3 or .wav files. Here are a few publications to hit up for premieres:
Write better emails. Unless you’re Guns N’ Roses, people don’t care about your detailed band biography; nor do they want a long-winded explanation of the thematic complexities of your record. I recommend including the following in your emails to writers and magazines:
- A short intro that provides style/genre of music and release date.
- A sentence about similar bands to provide a frame of reference. Follow that with a sentence or two about your band that includes how long you’ve been around and where you’re from.
- A link (private or public) to listen to your stuff on SoundCloud or Bandcamp.
- Whether you’re looking for a premiere or review. Specify which one.
- A one-two sentence conclusion that says how much you respect [insert name of publication]. Brownie points for a brief mention about liking a specific piece from the magazine, especially if the person wrote it.
Be smart about who you pester. This probably goes without saying, but don’t solicit an indie folk magazine with eviscerating death metal, and vice versa. Contact magazines and writers who cover music in a similar arena. Twitter is your friend if you’re looking for writers’ contact info.
Set up a release schedule and keep it fluid. I know, you have the artwork and masters and just want to put out your album. Don’t. Lay out a tentative release date and decide when you should start reaching out for premieres. Try to get an individual song or two out a few weeks before you have someone premiere the full record. If you’re putting out your record without label support, let the release date change according to what a magazine can do. It’s easier for you to wait a bit longer than it is for an editor to jam your album into their publication schedule at a moment’s notice.
- Ask for a premiere a week before your record drops.
- Follow up with a writer or magazine more than once.
- Argue with someone if they decline to cover your music.
I obviously can’t guarantee that following my advice will help. But it won’t hurt.