‘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 still aren’t sure what this means, we will get to that very soon.
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 two of Listen to Discover’s guide to help independent artists achieve just that.
Having now successfully drawn in your reviewer or chosen site, they should be thinking: ‘Yeah, I want to hear this track.’ Then they’ll go to your audio link, press play and almost immediately start to make a decision in regard to coverage. Note that if using an upload site, this part of the process works in a slightly different way, with some actually letting you know how far into a track they clicked off it! Either way, while everything mentioned so far is important, there is nothing more important than ensuring this file or link is of industry quality and playable.
In terms of submissions for airplay, ensure where profanity/offensive language or topics appear, that there is a clean version of your track. This is especially key if you are uploading to BBC Introducing and wanting to gain coverage through them. Aside from this, any track that you are wanting a reviewer/site to cover should have a working link. Errors can and do happen – which is why if I discover a link isn’t right I will let the artist know, even if we are later unable to cover them – but this is far from ideal. This small error can have huge impact, especially if your release is out in less than the aforementioned three weeks, so spend time checking it is correct, and then check again.
‘Referencing a feature- or a reviewer – that you’ve seen on your chosen site
will help you stand out among the crowd.’
Exactly like the track itself, make sure any social links – including Spotify and YouTube etc – are going to the places you want them to. In some ways, an error here is more inconvenient than a disaster, but unless you happen to be part of the exclusive club where social media handles are the same everywhere, this can be time-consuming for your potential reviewer. Social media is a huge part of building your profile as an artist, so whether you have one or multiple accounts include them. A lot of sites will also use the links you provide to ‘link-out’ to your accounts when a post is live, so as before, check the links, and then check them again.
Now you know all the details you want to include are in place, you now need to decide if you will attach a press release, an EPK, additional media, or nothing else. Each of these approaches – baring the last one which I will get to – have a real purpose above and beyond what would be in the body of your coverage request. This may seem like extra work, but you can, to an extent re-use what you’ve already created, and you know all the links work.
The first of these options – a press release – will give you an opportunity to expand much further on the points you’ve made already, and help you to really put yourself out there. Wherever possible though, make this an interactive PDF rather than putting it below the other information. Not only does this help keep things looking as you want, but it means the body of your request remains concise. Oh, and because this file will be tailored to the release rather than the site, you can use it for every place you contact.
Likewise, setting up an EPK (Electronic Press Kit), will enable you to share a bulk of content to your reviewers in an incredibly efficient and secure way. Unlike the documented press release, there are a whole host of ways to present these – Google Drive folders right through to integrated web pages. Whatever approach you take is up to you, but always balance style and substance evenly, and try wherever possible to include the following:
- The press release (pdf file)
- Streaming link for the track
- A downloadable audio file (wav/mp3)*
- 3 or 4 suitable images of yourself (with who to credit)
- Release artwork (with who to credit)
- Lyric sheets where suitable
*A must for those wanting airplay. Optional for reviewers, but highly beneficial as removes listening restrictions.
If for one reason or another you are unable to create a press release or put together an EPK, the attachment option is the next best thing. It’s not fancy, but simply attaching the track artwork, a couple of other suitable images, and a downloadable audio file still does the job. And on that last option, avoid it wherever possible. All sites will require at least the track artwork, so make sure it is there.
‘Coverage submissions vary across different sites, so establish
what works best for you right from the start.’
Follow-ups and moving forward
Having done everything above, and checked and re-checked everything, you’ll now find yourself pressing send and waiting to hear back. This is both an exciting and potentially anxious making moment. Questions such as: ‘When will I hear back?’ and ‘Will I get featured?’ may come to mind. My advice here is to be patient. As mentioned right at the start, sites will receive numerous daily requests for coverage, and each will have a different way of monitoring these.
In some cases, you may not hear back the same day, or the day after, or the day after that. Keep your cool until around four days after you contacted, and then re-contact. An important note here is that sites may be run by only one reviewer, or be updated in spare time. In these cases, I would recommend adding a day or two at each wait point. This is your follow-up.
Now comes the reality. If you haven’t heard back a few of days later, – again, if the site is run by a sole writer, you will now be at around day eight/nine from initial contact – one of two things are likely to be the case. Either the site/reviewer has decided not to feature your track, or they have flagged it for coverage nearer the release date and not let you know. If this is the case, when your release date is nearing or has arrived you may wish to do a final attempt at getting coverage.
Treat all of this as part of the process, rather than considering it as a reflection on your release, or you as an artist. Most sites don’t want to slate your artistry – a poor review is almost as bad as, if not worse than no coverage at all. Also, a lot of sites may not be able to reply to every request. But trust in what you have created, and rest assured that there will be a site for your release. There is of course the other side of the coin though.
Working with your reviewer
With the site you wanted to be featured on agreeing to cover your release, now your task is to maintain the positive relationship with them. This can take on many forms, and the amount of communication you have will depend on what coverage you are after. In the case of reviews, if you sent an EP or album across, the reviewer may want to confirm which track/s you want covered. Singles are obviously more straight forward. In either case, it’s unlikely that much communication will happen between this answer being received and the release date. However, if you are wanting multiple features with a site, the chain of communication is likely to be much more frequent, and more time-dependent.
As soon as coverage has been decided, work collaboratively with the site and establish when feature will be live. You may, for example, want the interview and the review to be shared on release day, or you may want the former ahead of the other. There are so many variables here, but it’s so important that both you as the artist, and the reviewer that is providing your coverage know what’s what. Keep the communication going, and for the period of your release, and potentially beyond, you will be developing a positive working relationship that benefits all round. Do that successfully, and you’ll already know the sites to contact when your future releases are ready.