Ok, so your songs are written and the tour is booked. Now, how do you get people to come to your show? Tour press is a vital piece of the puzzle. If you don’t have a publicist here’s a quick guide to doing it yourself.
The first thing I like to do is ask the booker for their advice on who to contact. They want the show to be just as successful as you do, they know their local writers/editors best, and will usually be eager to give you their list of important folks to contact.
The internet is also your friend. It’s fairly easy to find out about the alternative weeklies, college papers, community radio stations, etc in every city and they usually list their contact info online. Now, be careful here. No writer wants a huge file (or even an mp3) emailed to them without permission. That will immediately get you ignored and maybe even blacklisted by certain writers.
How you introduce yourself is key. Don’t write a book, be short/sweet but personable, and DO NOT cut and paste your emails and fuck up their name. Tell them who you are, where you’re from, where you’re playing, what day you’re playing, the time and cost of the show, and who you’re playing with. If you’ve got an album, let them know about that and give them a link where they might be able to listen. Be prepared with a couple different press photos (again, don’t send these until they ask) and don’t forget to give the photographer photo credit.
Timing is important. Ideally, you’ll start contacting folks 3–4 weeks before the show date. If you start too early they won’t pay attention and if you start too late the column space will be gone. Don’t over email. If you don’t hear back, you’ll need to follow up, but give it some time. I generally start four weeks out and then follow up weekly when I don’t hear back.
Remember: you’re not always going to get the write up. There are a lot of bands all vying for the same space. Always remain pleasant even if they decline or never respond to your email. I still like to invite the writer or editor out to the show regardless. Maybe they’ll like what they see and write it up next time?
Good luck, have fun, and drive safe!