When it comes to getting press and attention for your projects there are no absolutely strict rules and creativity and thinking outside the box can really help, that said, there are guidelines that can help you get an idea of how publications and writers operate so you can be as helpful as possible to them when submitting your work.
Whether you have a release on the horizon, or are considering one in the future, you can start putting things in place now to have the best chance of getting as many people to hear about your release as possible, it’s never too early to start thinking about press.
Alongside this little guide remember to be yourself, show some personality and make it clear you have a genuine care for what you do, as well as what those around you are doing.
1. Planning and research is key
The most useful piece of advice I can give, when it comes to getting your music heard by right people is: research. It’s also one of the areas that it’s easy to neglect because it can seem like such a daunting task. I don’t mean just have a look around and find some blogs, or writers that like music, I mean find the people that might resonate with your work and find out how to contact them.
The most effective way to do this is to pick a track/album or two released in the last couple of months and just google the hell out of it. Find out who wrote about it, and what they wrote (review, track post etc), make a note, and look for their contacts. Most sites will have contact details on their ‘about’ page, many writers will have their email in their twitter bio’s and if you still can’t find a contact, ask. A quick DM saying, “I really like your writing/playlists/posts and would love to send you a track” is more than okay. Be polite, be professional and most of all don’t send the track over DM.
If it still seems overwhelming then set some limits - eg. I want to identify 15 sites/writers that are a good fit for my music. You’ll do much better sending 15 personalised and well thought out emails to writers than 400 from a list you’ve picked up somewhere. Want to prepare for a release in the future even if you don’t have anything coming out right now? Get following some publications on socials to get familiar with them and their writers, Clash, Gal-dem, Notion, The Line of Best Fit, Crack and of course my site London in Stereo are all a good place to start.
2. Timing is everything
While you plan out who you want to contact you should plan out your timings for contacting too. Every site works differently and some will be upfront for how far in advance they want to hear music, often depending on whether it’s an album/EP or single.
Albums/EPs for review - print outlets need them 6-10 weeks in advance (if your album is coming out at the end of the month, you do need to send it out earlier). For online 6-4 weeks is totally fine. That said, if you find a new outlet that might work for you and it’s a smaller lead up, don’t be afraid to send it over anyway.
Singles/tracks - Now this can really vary from place to place, but generally give them a heads up a couple of weeks in advance, then get in contact again when it’s actually out and you have links to all platforms. This will help the writer have some flexibility on what they want to do and also provide a nice reminder that your release is out, it’s easy to get lost in someone’s inbox so definitely make sure you do follow up.
Chasing - It’s totally okay to follow up an email with a polite check in but there are some guidelines, I would say chase no one email more than twice more. If they haven’t replied on the 3rd then it’s best to leave it. I’ve had professional PR’s chase me more than 11 times in a single thread and I can tell you it doesn’t make me want to listen to what they’re sending any more. For singles/tracks ideally get in touch 1-2 weeks before, then follow up on the actual day it’s out and again a few days later. You can follow up again/in a fresh email if you have a new video for the track or something else. Generally just try and be respectful of people’s time while making sure you give yourself the best chance of being heard.
Generally for an album, once you’ve got the announcement that it’s coming out (6-10 weeks in advance as above) you can follow with 2 or 3 tracks that would be singles. For an EP I would expect a maximum of two tracks to be the focus of the campaign. That said, people are experimenting with the way they release bodies of work (doing things like releasing a track a week, only releasing it fully as a body of work) which is great, but do make sure your best tracks get a chance to shine.
3. A good email gets results.
There’s no magic formula for what will get your email read and paid attention to, Sometimes just a nice simple note, sent to the right person with clear links and information can be the right thing, again, showing you know who the person is and respect their publication will always help (flattery will get you everywhere as long as it’s dished out with care).
Start from the top down:
Email Subject - make it clear what you have, don’t just say ‘new music submission’. New Track/New album, act name, maybe where you’re from, any key info that might get their attention (eg. the names of collaborators or producers that are well known)
Personal note - Keep it short and sweet, I get, no exaggeration, more than 400 emails a day of new music, I go through it all, but I don’t have time to read loads of information, I need it to get to me quickly and be easy to understand.
Links - Make sure the links are clear - and up front, I can’t search through a block of text to find the link to your track, plus I’m more likely to stick it on while I read it if I can find the link easily at the top. Make sure your music is easy to listen to, not everyone uses spotify, not everyone uses apple music etc. Give a range of options (using a linktree or something similar) if you want, but everyone can play soundcloud or youtube links.
Headline info - give me the basic information in a couple of sentences. When is it out, who’s on it, what else makes it noteable (that can even be “produced in a bedroom studio”, it doesn’t have to be something huge), maybe who it sounds like if you want to include that too. Big yourself up, had plays on radio? Let me know. Had someone else say something great about your track? Make sure it’s clear, these things really help.
Biography - Once you’ve highlighted your main info about the release who you are, you can include a more general bio for sure, this comes in more useful when people are actually writing about you to get a background and fill in some context around your music, so don’t stress about it too much. Tell your story, give your inspiration but the more important thing is to have your key, headline info clear above this.
4. An image says a thousand words
Imagery/press shots don’t get talked about as much as how you describe yourself in your email/biography but I would argue they say even more, and say it even more quickly.
Make sure you really think about your imagery, and what it’s communicating about you and your music, people will draw conclusions on whether or not you’re for them based on this. What colours are you using? What background do you have? What mood are you communicating in your photo? It doesn’t have to be on a big budget, it just has to represent you in a way you’re happy with. Again research can really help with this, whether it’s catching the light to give you a blissed out warm feeling like the Jessy Lanza photo below, or getting a candid moment in bright clothing to give a fun and free feeling like this cover of London in Stereo - it’s really important to reflect your personality and music in the elements that surround it to make sure it all fits together as a collection of work.
If you’re not sure how to do this, there are a few things that can help, firstly, start saving presshots you like, to be able to have a look through for inspiration. Secondly ask those around you what descriptive words they would use for your music and think about imagery that goes with that.
Also think about the way your image will be used, you need to have landscape and portrait options - for online landscape is most important, it makes things much easier if I already have an image I can use rather than needing to request a new one.
5. Be specific, know what you’re asking for.
This point is similar to the first point about research in this list but I felt it deserved to be highlighted by itself. One of the best things you can do when getting in touch with a publication is be specific about what you want from them. It’s fine to say “I have a new track or album” but if you can say “I would love to be reviewed by this site (make sure they do reviews!), I think [this specific writer] would enjoy my record based on their previous review of ____”, then as an editor I might just forward it to that writer to have a listen to it.
It’s important to look outside of reviews too, when looking at sites that might cover your music, look at the type of articles they do, and whether they have ongoing playlists and what they might be called. If you can get in touch and say “Hey I’d really love to do this particular feature” - for instance we have features called In Five and In Short on London in Stereo - then I’m much more likely to consider you for that feature than if you just send the track. Not only are you helping direct your work to your desired outcome but you’re also showing knowledge and care for the place you’re pitching to. That can go a long way.
6. Getting Playlisted.
One of the questions I get most often is “How can we get on spotify playlists?”, again there’s no simple answer but there are things that can help make sure you do.
Firstly, find ones that work for you, on the about page of other acts spotify pages you’ll see “Discovered On” which lists 5 playlists that the act is included on, take a look at a few of those and see who is running these playlists, often they will be related to publications. Make a note of the name and again, ask specifically to be considered for that playlist when getting in touch with the person who runs it. Also search the publications you like on Spotify, find their profiles and look at what playlists they run.
Another important point is to make sure you’re sending your track over for addition to playlists when it’s available on the platform (eg. actually up on spotify) - It’s hard to remember to add stuff a couple of weeks after you’re told about it, but if it’s right there and available on the platform then you might just pop it in.
Spotify run their own editorial lists themselves - and don’t like to be pitched to by artists in general, however they love to see artists curating their own playlists and sharing them, they really take notice of your activity on the platform. There’s no reason not to create a playlist of music you’re enjoying, encourage your fans to follow it and tag the other bands in the playlist too, you never know they might just do the same for you.
7. Word of mouth is your best tool
As much as you absolutely should be pitching and getting in touch with people who might like your music, don’t forget to use the people who already like what you do; your actual fans. They’re the most important part of getting noticed so use them the best you can.
There are lots of inventive ways to get your audience to post about your music, whether it’s giving them a fun TikTok challenge, creating some great imagery for them to share, asking them to share their favourite track or just telling them how much it means to you when they repost it, and replying to them when they do.
Social media posts (especially on stories/TikTok and Twitter) disappear really quickly so don’t be afraid to post multiple times on these social networks, trying to mix up how you use your track, and generally show your audience you appreciate them, because having that active network is the best way to get the attention of others and build a community around what you do.
Overall and through all of this just remember; be yourself, research and get organised. Make sure what you’re putting out there reflects the way you want to be seen.
Writer: Jess Partridge is the founder and editor of In Stereo group with magazines in London, Bristol and Berlin, alongside this she's a freelance events and projects manager for the likes of PRS Foundation's Keychange and Annie Mac Presents.
@jesspartridge on twitter.