‘It’s so important that independent artists not only secure more coverage, but secure the coverage that is right for them.’
This month, Listen to Discover will have been going 4 years, and in that time we have been lucky enough to receive thousands of requests for coverage. Sometimes it’s been directly from an artist or their manager, and at other times it’s been from PR companies. If I were to do a very crude calculation I reckon the split would be around 30% vs. 10% vs. 60% respectively. For other sites it may be different, very different in some cases, but the commonality to be assured of across all of them is that inboxes will regularly overflow, leading to the odd request getting missed first time, and perhaps even the first follow-up. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what this means, we will get to that in part two.
Now to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t generally mind the follow-up element too much. As noted, when the inbox overflows, things can get missed, and we would sooner have another chance at discovering an artist or track that truly stands out than to never know it existed.
As the past few months have gone by, a fast expansion has happened here at Listen to Discover, and almost without realising it has become a team. A team that rather wonderfully consists of enthusiastic new journalists keen to be involved as much as possible. And it has transformed the site completely. Each one brings their own approach to tracks, their own voice to the features they create, and ultimately each one enables us to showcase a wider range of artists. But even with that in place, and the much bigger teams that I know exist at other online publications, not every artist that contacts a site will be featured.
There are, however, a few things that have become apparent over those aforementioned four years that I genuinely believe will help independent artists secure more coverage, and most importantly, the right coverage. So here is part one Listen to Discover’s guide to help independent artists achieve just that.
Know about the site you are contacting.
Even doing the most low level of glances across a site will give you an idea of what they cover. For us, the about page provides an overview, while looking at a few reviews will highlight the range of styles we feature. Most, if not all sites will have a similar format with some blurb about what genres they showcase and what they don’t. I understand that time is finite, especially if your release date is less than 3 weeks away, but these few minutes will tell you whether the site is the right fit for you. You should also apply the same technique to their corresponding social media accounts.
The initial approach.
Right, so you’ve now chosen who you are going to contact, now to work out how. Linking back in with the glances you’ve done, you should have also found a preferred submission method. Again for us, it’s the request coverage link. But unlike the commonality of about pages, there can be huge variations here. Some will have an email address, others may have a submission form, and others may have an upload track section.
In addition to this, you may find that a site only accepts coverage requests via places such as Musosoup, Submithub, and HumanHuman. Each site will have a reason for their chosen approach, so I won’t discuss the pros and cons of each contact method here. However, be aware that some will charge, so establish this from the start when deciding what works best for you.
‘Treat the wait between asking for coverage and getting a response as part
of the process, not as a reflection of your release.’
Engaging with the site.
Once you’ve decided who you want to contact for coverage, and you know the initial approach method, you’re ready to get in touch with them. Before you do though, have a plan for what you will say, and work out how you will say it. A good place to start is by referencing something you’ve seen on the chosen site, and why you think you may be a good fit. Maybe even quote which reviewer wrote the article. If someone has recommended the site to you, let them know this too. It may seem like a small thing, but this more personal approach will show you’ve put some thought into choosing them, help build a relationship, and make you stand out among the crowd. Oh, and make sure you get the site name correct, otherwise it’s a bit like applying for a job at the wrong company.
Pleasantries now done, it’s time to provide the key information about your release. This isn’t the life story of the track, or yourself – that to an extent can covered later on, and in the press release (see below). Instead, I’m meaning the type of release, how you want to be referred to, the name of the track, and the release date. If it’s a debut include that too. Coincidentally that is also the order we use when contacting review sites for artists we represent, and the format I notice the most from others. Why is it so effective? Because it says everything that’s needed, and helps the site know timescales immediately.
‘Errors can and do happen, so if you do nothing else, check that your links work, and then check them again.’
Here’s where you can expand a bit more, but do so in relation to where you are at in your career and the release. If this is your debut release, talk about why you chose this track to break into the music world with. There is normally a very good reason. If it’s a follow-up to a previous one – or one that features a released single – say it. Then expand further, talking about the path to the release, and what you believe it to say about you as an artist. These help the reviewer build a picture.
Those of you who have multiple releases to date, or even just one, may well have a few quotes from previous coverage or comments from radio play. If you do, include a few, choosing the ones that say the most about your music. These aren’t expected, more of an added bonus, so don’t panic if you don’t have these.
On top of these things, you may want to mention other aspects, but always consider why you are including the information. If it isn’t relevant, don’t put it in. Your aim here is to really grab the attention of the potential reviewer. For me, it’s when an artist talks about the musical and non-musical influences around a release and their creative processes. The more ‘out-there’ the better in my opinion. Remember though that it’s a crowded, fast-moving place, so work out what sets you apart, and keep it brief, but detailed. Writing down everything you consider important about the release and then highlighting the three or four words/phrases that leap out at you can really help with this.
Getting the type of coverage
Most sites, the one you’ve chosen included, will accept a whole range of coverage requests – right from track shares through to combined features, so state what you are after. Frequently, this will simply be a list which is perfectly acceptable in the industry, but ensure it includes the types of coverage you know the site does. As an aside, you may want to relate back to a feature you saw on the site again. It’s much less important here, but still a nice touch.