This post was originally featured on Sonicbids.
For an independent musician, scoring coverage in a media outlet may seem like the well-earned reward in a long cycle of pitching and waiting, good fortune, or a combination of both. But with the right mindset, it’s actually just the start of a potentially long-term professional connection. Some bands hire publicists to develop and maintain their relationships with the press, but others who are in the early stages of their careers (or otherwise not ready to make that type of financial commitment) can make use of these five effective strategies to stay on journalists’ radars long after the first coverage is in the bag.
This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but most bands working their own PR don’t reach out to journalists after coverage has run. Those who don’t are missing out on a prime opportunity for a repeat performance. If someone dug your music enough to write something nice about it this time around, there’s a decent chance they will dig your future projects too.
Another thing to remember is that journalism can take many forms, and many journalists contribute to a number of outlets, so unless you hear otherwise, consider that conversation still open. For example, if someone recently reviewed your latest album for one publication, perhaps they would consider pitching a concert preview at another title when you hit their town on your next tour.
The aforementioned tip only works as long as you keep your cool and use common sense. Shout-outs should be brief and personable, and preferably over email or a professional social media page. (As Rachel Bailey wrote in a previous Ask a Music Journalist column,never, ever hound a music writer on a personal social media account.) Some bands sendannual or biannual emails to keep writers informed, even if they are between major projects, while others get in touch in advance of time-sensitive events like tour announcements or video releases. If you don’t hear back, a polite follow-up is totally okay and even expected, but don’t be that guy who attacks inboxes like flies attack roadkill. You and your music will get written off, forever.
A standard PR move is to invite journalists who have recently covered you to your next show in their town. If they do make it out, though, make sure to say hi if you’ve already met, or introduce yourself if you haven’t. Networking can be one of life’s most uncomfortable experiences ever, but just remind yourself that a) you’re both music fans, so you have some common ground for conversation, and b) they came out to see you. In any case, the benefits of positive human interaction can’t be overstated, and a simple, “Hey, what’s up?” will make almost anyone remember you long after your digital album streamer has expired or you’ve moved on to a new band. Like the email example noted above, pushiness and insincerity will backfire here as well. Be yourself, be friendly, and check your ego at the door.
I can’t stress enough that just because a journalist or editor who has covered you in the past doesn’t pick up on your current tour or record cycle doesn’t mean they have forgotten your band, or that they hate your new music. Often the decision to cover or not cover comes down to things like timing, staff availability, or maintaining a balanced content schedule. (For instance, you could be one of several groups in a similar genre with a new release that particular week, and there’s only room for one band spotlight.) Having a little patience and keeping up with your regular, not-overly-aggressive contact schedule can yield great results down the line.
For any artist, independent or otherwise, even the closest ties with members of the music press are tenuous from a critical perspective. So although you may have mountains of clips filled with praise for your first record, you can’t afford to get too comfortable. Really, the best way to keep those media relationships strong after scoring those first reviews is to continue to focus on crafting quality songs and delivering amazing performances.
Jamie Ludwig is a veteran music writer and editor who has worked in various facets of the music industry. She is currently the editorial director of ChicagoMusic.org, a not-for-profit website focused on regional and touring music of all genres; a contributor to Noisey (Vice) and Wondering Sound, among other titles; and has spoken on a number of industry panels.