Unlocking Media Buzz: Mastering the Art of Public Relations
March 06 2024
As you launch and build your career as an artist, promotion is key.
You’ll need to be creative and try to do it as many ways as possible—your website and social media, radio and TV stations, and print and online publications.
With so many artists, streaming their work and vying for attention, getting someone at a media outlet to write an article on your song, EP, album, tour, or event is more challenging than ever before. They get dozens, sometimes hundreds of emails a day from singers, songwriters, publicists, and record labels seeking coverage.
There’s no need to be discouraged, however. Simply get strategic in your approach. Find ways to stand out above the rest.
Highlighting Yourself and Your Music
To get started, step back and look at things from an outsider’s point of view. When your heart and soul is invested in what you’re doing, it’s natural to think everyone should be as interested in your work as you are, but you need to think about what might make it resonate with others. Think about “why” others might enjoy, appreciate, and want to listen to your music.
Those are the things you’ll want to highlight in your press release.
Brainstorm the “stories” behind your music. Get creative and let the ideas flow.
Areas might involve:
- Unique aspects about you
- Your background, where you’re from, how you got started in music
- The creation process of your single, EP, or album
- The producers, musicians, and/or songwriters involved in the project
- The inspiration for a specific song
- How one of your songs or videos went viral
- Your performance or tour with a well-known artist
- How a popular singer took you under his or her wing
- How your song, album, or music video features or honor someone famous or a unique group of people (veterans, your hometown, the blue-collar crowd, etc.)
You’re looking for anything that might appeal to others. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your own creativity.
If you’re from Georgia, a Georgia publication might want to share your story. If you wrote a song that walks the listener through the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a New Orleans magazine might. Or if you time the release around Mardi Gras, even a travel publication might find that fascinating. If your producer worked with Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Beyonce, or someone else recognizable before producing for you, note that in the release. If you have a song that honors veterans and Veterans Day is coming, that might appeal to a host of print and online magazines. There are also genre-specific writers who love doing profile pieces on up-and-coming artists. You can get coverage, if you do a little research.
If nothing comes to mind right away, get someone to mock interview you, asking questions that might generate ideas. You can also Google online music publications to look at angles for stories they’ve covered in the past.
Photos and Bios
As you prepare to reach out to a media outlet, it’s good to have a few things ready beforehand. Those include a bio, a link to your music, and a variety of photos you can provide. You’ll likely include an abbreviated bio in your press release, but a writer might ask for more information or, bare minimum, head to your website to read your biography there. Make sure your website bio notes where you’re from, how you discovered a love for music, when and where you started playing and performing, some of what you’ve done recently, a look at what’s next, and upcoming shows.
Regarding photos, a lot of artists and photographers like to get artsy with poses and that’s okay, but make sure you have a “basic” photo or two, so people can see what you look like. It’s good, too, to include a picture of yourself on stage, or at least with an instrument or microphone in hand. Show yourself doing what you do.
Keep in mind, if you’re pitching a story to a digital outlet, most will require a horizontal photo (wider than tall) for the top of the story near the headline. Vertical or square photos are nice, but for digital you need both (one for the top of the story and at least one within the story itself). If you only send one or two photos initially, make it clear others are available.
Print publications will need high-res photos. You can include a link for downloading or offer to email them if needed. With all photos, include the name of the photographer.
Crafting Your Press Release
One of the easiest-to-read formats involves a headline and photo at the top, followed by information (sometimes in the form of bullet points) touching on elements of when, where, why, and how. Then include a paragraph or two more about you and your music project, with a short bio at the end offering background information.
This format allows the reader to scan and get the basic information, look down and read more, and if interested, have additional facts at the bottom that can help flesh things out if he or she writes a story later.
Headlines are easier to write if you’re already famous, but if you’re not, you’ll need an identifying phrase.
A headline for a story about Garth Brooks opening his new downtown club in Nashville with a live concert can simply read:
Garth Brooks Opens His Nashville Honky Tonk with Live Show on Amazon Prime
However, for a story about relative newcomer Tim Fields, a descriptive phrase in front of his name tells the reader a little more about him.
Rising Country Artist Tim Fields…
Texas Outlaw Singer Tim Fields…
Americana Singer/Songwriter Tim Fields…
You can adjust those identifying phrases for different outlets.
A release with chunky paragraphs and the absence of a strong, clear headline might get tossed out or deleted. Busy people don’t have time to dig down into your copy and figure out what you’re trying to say.
It also shouldn’t be jam-packed or too long. One page usually works, but there are always exceptions. Just make sure you have the most important information up top, then follow with background information and/or additional photos.
It’s always good to include a quote or two. Some media outlets will write directly from what you’ve sent them and use the quote, while others will require an interview to collect a quote of their own. Either way, you’re covered. And preparing quotes ahead of time can give you a guideline of what to say in an actual interview.
Here’s a sample (none of it factual) to give you a basic idea of a possible format to use:
Kentucky Singer/Songwriter Shelly Spence Honors Musical Hero
Loretta Lynn with Upbeat Version of “Coal-Miner’s Daughter”
(photo of Shelly here)
New single out March 3rd
Debut album “Appalachia Roots” set for release in May
Singer/songwriter Shelly Spence grew up inspired by fellow Kentuckian Loretta Lynn, so much so the first three songs she learned on the guitar were “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Blue Kentucky Girl,” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin.” Although she’s now a talented songwriter in her own right, when Spence decided to cut her first full album, she wanted to cover at least one song to pay tribute to the late country superstar.
“Loretta was the first singer I heard as a little girl and the reason I started learning to play the guitar and write my own songs,” Spence recalls. “She wrote songs about real people and real problems and provided the foundation for the kind of artist I wanted to become.”
(This might be a good place to include a link to the song or lyric video.)
Spence’s 12-track album recorded at Nashville Big Records Studio features 11 other songs Spence wrote or co-wrote. Produced by longtime Music Row producer Tom Moore, Appalachia Roots highlights Spence’s powerful voice and songwriting gifts, with each song backed by some of the most experienced musicians in Nashville. The upcoming album follows her three-song EP, My Guitar, My Heart, released in 2021.
(Here, you might want to list the songs and songwriters for all 12 tracks of the album.)
Shelly Spence grew up in Pineville, Kentucky in a close-knit family with three brothers and two sisters, all of whom play music. Her father, Big Al Spence, was a champion fiddle player. By the age of seven, Spence was performing with her family band throughout Eastern Kentucky. After graduating high school, she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. She left after two years to pursue music full-time. She’s a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, and piano and has toured with Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart. Trisha Yearwood, Kelsea Ballerini, and Maggie Rose have recorded her songs.
For interviews, please contact Mindy at Mindy Jones PR. She can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at (555) 555-5555.
As an artist, the mythical Spence (or her PR rep) would certainly contact Kentucky media outlets which might respond due to the Kentucky connection. She could also send it to Nashville and country music outlets given the Loretta Lynn angle. The goal is to highlight as many different elements as possible and target specific publications based on geographic location of the artist and other factors such as, in this case, country music and Loretta Lynn fans.
While everyone would love to shoot for highly recognized national publications, those at the local or regional level can be very helpful to your career. And you’ve got to start somewhere. Thanks to the internet, you can share the link to just about any story with anyone via social media.
One more note, especially when promoting a specific event. Make sure to list the date and times near the top.
Kentucky Singer/Songwriter Shelly Spence Returns Home to Perform at 2024 State Fair in Louisville
Friday, August 30th, 2024
Kentucky Exposition Center
There’s always a question of “how early” to send a release.
If you’re releasing new music and hoping for newspaper or online coverage, several weeks ahead of time is always good to “put it on their radar.” When you send it out early, it allows you the opportunity to “follow up.” Check back the next week, then a week later if you haven’t heard anything.
You don’t want to email incessantly and drive someone crazy, but writers will often make a mental note of an upcoming date and set it aside for later, so it’s okay to circle back around the next week and (possibly) the week after.
To follow up, forward your original email with a note at the top saying you’re “circling back around to see if there’s any interest.”
As a writer, I’ve often agreed to a story or interview after the second or third follow up because by then I’m in a better position to schedule something.
Having said that, two follow-ups to your original email is enough; three is too many.
Other Media Notes and Tips
If you’re an artist with an EP or album and end up putting all of your songs on YouTube (without a music or lyric video), consider varying the graphic you use. If you send an outlet a photo of the same album cover that you use for every song you post on YouTube, a writer might like to include your cover and a couple songs in the story but won’t because it’s repetitive.
Some outlets will respond and tell you they aren’t able to do a story, but many won’t respond at all. Don’t let that deter you from sending them your next release. In time, your name will become more familiar, and you may plant the seed for later fruit. Don’t give up!
You created incredible music, have amazing stories to share, and there are plenty of writers out there waiting to help you do it. It may take a little time, but keep on keeping on. Persistence pays and steady wins the race, in both life and music.
Pam Windsor is a Nashville-based Music Contributor to Forbes.com and freelances for other publications. She has an extensive background in both writing and receiving press releases. Prior to becoming a freelance journalist, she worked as a reporter/producer and newsroom manager in TV news, followed by a stint in media relations.