How to: Get journalists to notice you
Place your music in the correct media
There are unwritten laws for almost everything. Including for how to make it easier to get noticed by the press – which is very important! If you appear in the media, you don’t just reach a new audience, but you also gain street cred. Of course, if you’re with a label or a promo agency, you have people by your side who will do most of the press work for you. But this does not necessarily mean that you will regularly appear in blogs or that your face will appear smiling from the front of a major newspaper.
However, don’t go thinking that no promo agency means no chance. It just means it’s time for DIY. And this can work very well – because we’re here to help! Coming across relevant, fresh and unique isn’t solely down to being charming, having an Instagram channel or your music itself. “Strategy” is the magic word. A little courage and self-confidence won’t go amiss too! For the optimal strategy, you first need the answers the following questions:
- What is the best time to call journalists?
- Why does the lead time play a crucial role?
- How do you get names of real journalists so as to have an ace up your sleeve?
- And last but not least: what do you have to sell?
Work out the appropriate lead time:
Each publication needs its own lead time. This is related to obtaining information about you and, of course, the respective editorial deadline. How frequently a publication appears is an indication of how far in advance you need to send a sample. Here are a few rough guidelines for you:
- For daily media, plan 2 weeks’ lead time.
- For monthly media, plan 8 weeks’ lead time.
- For quarterly media or magazines, plan ¾ of a year lead time (yes, 9 months!).
- For radio, of course, it depends on how often the programme is broadcast per month; it’s best to plan a 4-6-week lead time.
- For online media, plan at least a few weeks’ lead time. Especially for small blogs, you should bear in mind that these are mostly run by music lovers voluntarily.
These lead times are also an indicator of how often editorial meetings take place where the topics which will be included in the next issue are determined. For daily media, you can assume that these meetings occur every day. And for weekly media, you can assume a weekly meeting. Monthly media usually have a cycle of two meetings per month. As a general rule, the meetings take place at the beginning of the week (Monday, Tuesday) in the morning. Of course, you can’t make a blanket assumption that all editors work this way, but it is a common enough trend to make it a good assumption to work with.
When is the best time to reach journalists by phone?
In the morning between 10:00-12:00 is a virtual certainty for reaching the journalist of your choice. This is the time they will most likely be available to talk. After then, it’s lunch break and the time window (especially in terms of daily media for print, online or radio) closes again. In the afternoon, the articles for the coming day have to be finalised because the editorial deadline is approaching.
By the way: calling always makes a bigger impact than e-mailing. Looking to have a personal conversation is always a more effective idea. Of course, not every journalist is open to telephone calls, but it is definitely worth trying.
Which publication is right for you and your music?
What’s best is what you like. Simply because you believe that it fits you. Get in touch with somewhere where you would like to read, hear or see something about yourself. That is why it is good to have read the newspaper you’re thinking of contacting, or to have listened to the radio show you would like to be featured in.
Also be aware of your target group. The youth station Radio Fritz, for example, has an entirely different target group than its immediate neighbour radio station in Potsdam, Radio1. Radio1 is more suited to adults. Getting to know the publication well is essential, otherwise you may well be wasting both your time and the journalist’s time.
Find the right journalist
In the media, music is generally filed under “culture”. If you have chosen a publication, you will find the name of the author under the article. The ‘About Us’ page on the website can also provide information about who is responsible for “culture”. If you’re lucky, this is where you’ll find the e-mail address of your contact. If don’t have any luck this way, get in contact with the publication’s head office and have them put you through to the secretary of the culture or music editor. You should already have the name of the author and if not, ask which editor is responsible for reviewing releases or making event announcements. Of course, you’ll need to know in advance how you’re going to rouse their interest. So make sure you’re well-prepared for this phone call.
The story: be prepared!
For obvious reasons, playing live is a non-starter right now, so you need to be a bit more inventive. It would be nice if you could send the journalist a hook from your new release – something catchy. Clearly, new music is all well and good, but be exciting! Ask yourself what might interest the journalist. Perhaps you have a headline in mind, you can tell them? Is there a story behind your release? Perhaps you started with an interesting collaboration with a better-known artist, or the content of your song touches on an issue relevant for today – such as the climate, gender or social issues – which you can use to generate interest? Are you on Patreon or do you have a crowdfunding campaign underway? Everything can be important, but focus on a particularly succinct topic. If you have all of this, the rest is just fine-tuning.
Ask yourself whether you can send a mastered version of your release and current photos? Is your bio updated and is your press kit up-to-date? Yes? Well then it’s time to get started. Good luck!