Thursday, November 15, 2012

UCC Live Music Society chat: Tips regarding contacting a blogger


There is probably nothing below that hasn't been said before but seeing as I was waffling on about similar at a UCC band-chat recently, I thought it would be rather diligent on my part to summarise. Great fun was had and it was great to be there to listen to Michael Carr (96FM) and Eoin Aherne (Cyprus Avenue) share their wealth of knowledge.
The below tips are, what I believe may come in handy, in helping a new band get their name out there. It's not a route for everyone. When it all comes down to it, it's about having fun, playing great gigs and experimenting with sounds and moods. None of the below should be taken as gospel and definitely not the answer, just a couple of tips that a young band might use if deciding this is more than just a hobby. The main thing is holding on to that enthusiasm, energy and joy of music that you felt when you first picked up a plec or a drumstick.

First things first: get the music right
None of the below means a shit-in-a-bucket unless the necessary blood, sweat and tears have been pumped into practise, gigging and recording. It's no good evading shoddy security and gnawing guard-dogs to place your record into the chubby cigar-toting hand of a major label's CEO if the recording is not worth a damn. Do your time, pay your dues and create something worth promoting in the first place. Then focus on the bureaucratic side of things.

Also keep in mind that once something has been posted to the internet, in most cases it pretty much means it's there forever so be careful; There's no such thing as "just a demo" anymore. First impressions are everything. Once you have that sorted approach everything professionally. If you want to be treated with respect then treat everyone you ever meet (other bands, promoters, venues, radio etc.) with the same respect you feel you deserve. If you act professionally, most will return the courtesy.

Think about it: what am I up to?
Besides the spontaneous onstage antics (personally I love a good stage dive), a certain degree of forethought should be applied to every single decision made as an artist - there's a logical explanation behind why Fleet Foxes and Napalm Death shouldn't tour together, although I would pay good money to experience that double-bill at least once. Ask yourself: why am I contacting so-and-so? what do I hope to achieve by sending out this mail? etc.

Even if you can solo so fast the fretboard sizzles, everyone has to start somewhere. That's where bloggers come in. Firm foundations and momentum can be built by a blogger-created buzz. The way things have gone, national publications and radio have begun to rely on these self-proclaimed critics, at least as a filter process or starting point. When deciding what blogs and ezines to contact, make sure to compile a list of sites that feature music similar to yours. Best start with sites you are already familiar with but make sure to include international blogs on the list; No matter what country it comes from, good music is good music so spread the word as far as possible. Not sure where to start? Check out some of the below aggregators that hold links to thousands various blogs from all around the world.

Examples of blog aggregators:
Bloggers? Sure they do nothing: or do they?
You're probably right but they do happen to dabble in:
  • providing various gig guides and listings
  • reviews
  • interviews
  • exclusive content such as tour diaries and exclusive listens
  • other stuff. For example I'm also a gig promoter, radio show host, podcaster and published freelance music journalist. Many bands contact the blog looking for a review but might end up as a guest on my radio show etc.
  • I'm not saying I'm the best at any of these abilities but it just goes to show that there is a human being on the other end of the email address/comment box that could be able to help in ways other than the obvious.
Most importantly it's bloggers that get word of your band circulating about the internet, eventually spilling over into real life.

I'm all shy now: what should I say?
Now that you have a list of blogs, e-zines, music sites etc. get compiling that email. DO NOT GROUP EMAIL! True that previous statement was a little dramatic as there is nothing specifically wrong with a bulk send-out but bloggers receive dozens if not hundreds of requests from unsigned bands per week. Standing out is key so a personal touch is pretty much a necessity these days. Address the editor/blogger directly and comment on the site. In a sense - charm them. I don't for a second mean lie, I simply mean compliment the blogger (or merely comment) on his/her blog and refer specifically to different posts, reviews, features etc. There must be a reason why you chose the site to contact in the first place so go with that. Target selected sites and go with that. If you must group mail remember to use BCC and still try to use some sort of filter rather than mailing every e-zine in existence.

Getting down to the nitty gritty send on:
  • short bio
  • links to hi-res pics
  • quotes from other blogs/papers/radio etc.
  • links to social media sites such as website, Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • links to bandcamp/soundcloud players. DO NOT SEND mp3s
  • offer to post physical cd. Personally, I still love a physical copy of an album but wait and give me a chance to actually hear your music first. If it's not my cup of tea then it's just a waste of money for you
  • embeddable links or videos. Standard for bandcampsoundcloud and YouTube
  • upcoming gig details
What has become the best method of combining all of the above and saving yourself some time is to set up a shared dropbox folder and stick everything in there: bio in a word doc, pictures, mp3s.

Make sure to spell-check and confirm all links are working etc.

Manners?: Be polite!
Include a bio but refrain from self-praising phrases such as "the greatest band since The Beatles". I admire confidence in bands but this stuff gets my goat. "For your listening pleasure..." is another one. Remember you are sending on your music for someone to make up their own mind on. No bio in the world will make the music sound any better. It may actually do the opposite. An arrogant, self-righteous mail may result in a decent single sounding poor due to the listener simply because the band seem completely up themselves.

Note: most bands who say they are the best band in the city/world usually are not.

Also, do not flood an inbox with follow-up emails. Send one mail. Wait a week or two and then send one follow-up mail. The bigger bloggers (Nialler9, On The Record etc.) may simply not have the time to mention every band in existence. After the second mail, just leave it. Last thing you want is one blogger complaining about a certain band to another blogger. Negative comments spread like wildfire on this interwebby thingamujing.

Is that it?: Nosirreebob. Maintain those contacts!
Whether a blog or e-zine reply, ignore or write a glowing review - the work doesn't stop there. If they don't get back to you - screw them. What do they know? Keep practising, writing songs and playing gigs all the time putting as much thought and work in as humanly possible. All success is relative and bloggers, djs and journalists are merely voicing an opinion. If your music does start to appear on blogs and e-zines take note of who is writing about you, when they are doing it and what has been said. Keep it all documented in a spreadsheet or something so that you are in possession of a document that can help you figure out who your fans and champions are and who is not so keen. Give the exclusives to the blogs that have supported you or simply email the blogs who have voiced positive thoughts towards your band first. Twitter has it's faults but it's a great way to maintain contact and form some sort of camaraderie with bloggers, writers, bands etc.

Brace yourself: not all news is good
Remember, when you send your music out into the world you are allowing all and sundry to pass judgement on your babies. Get them dressed up in the finest Sunday clothes you can manage but eventually you are going to have to drop them off at the school-gate and let them fend for themselves. It's tough to read your pride and joy being tore limb from limb like an unlucky wildebeest calamitously caught in the clutches of a hungry crocodile. Getting a publication to review your work doesn't necessarily mean the review will be favourable. You just got to roll with the punches I'm afraid. Personally, I only post about music that I at least like but mostly love. There are so many great bands out there that the energy is best spent positively rather than negatively.

We're all friends here
Despite my incessant web interaction, I genuinely feel playing a part in your local (and national) community is vital to keep the wheel turning. Go to gigs, meet bands, meet promoters/bloggers/industry folk, buy some records in your local record store, invite bands from other cities to play in yours; Spending hours and days on social networking sites will help the cause but nothing beats putting a face to a name/email. As Michael Carr (96FM/Blue Monkey PR) said last night, "it's a lot tougher to say no to someone in person". Make sure to approach bands that you like and tell them so and do it all from your heart. (I am in no way recommending insincere schmoozing. If you're reading this I hope it's because you love music, gigs, record stores etc.) The more people in "the scene" that get to know your face the more likely they will think of you when booking gigs (as a support for example) and festivals not to mention - dare I say it - the band may turn up at one of your gigs, if out of sheer politeness if nothing else. Also get your ass to paying gigs when possible. Money is tight these days but if people stop paying for gigs, then well known international bands will stop coming. If they stop coming, then the chance to open for your favourite bands may be flung out the window.

If the plan is to release a record without a record company then it's also important that the local record stores know your face or at least that you exist. It's a little cheeky to storm into your hometown record supplier and demand they stock your record, especially when it's your first time ever stepping foot into the store. Record stores are integral to keeping word of mouth spinning. What Albert and Jim in Plugd Records Cork do for the scene is nothing short of incredible. Ray Wingnut runs his own record label with a passion second to none. They all put on gigs in some shape or form. The more often you visit the store the more often you will be on their mind increasing the chance that they will spread the word of your EP or next show.  For a list of record stores in Ireland:

At the end of the day: what the fuck do I know?
None of the above is important in anyway as regards succeeding as a musician. Playing music with your pals is how you do that. It is just a few hints and tips as to go about contacting folks like myself when you are ready to share your songs with the rest of the world.  There is no guaranteed roadmap to success yet all of the above has been tried and tested by countless musicians before you who have been there and done that. If you're going to go down this long and winding road (fab 4 are 50 today - a reference was required), there's no harm in giving your band every possible chance. There's no doubt about it though, to make a go of this game - and boy is it fun - you need to expend a lot of blood, sweat and sacrifice. Now there's a snazzy title for a metal record.

- For a bit more detail and further tips I recommend Nialler9's contribution to First Music Contact


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