Julia Rogers is the Editor in Chief of MusicianCoaching.com. She is a classically-trained musician, published author, journalist and music writer. She also writes about business strategy, social media and emerging technology for corporate clients, including The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and American Express. She was previously a grant writer and development/marketing strategist for several New York City-based non-profit Arts organizations and has written business development materials and produced online media for a variety of small technology companies. As a songwriter, cellist, bassist, singer and pianist, Julia plays out regularly in New York City in various original projects. She has been working with MusicianCoaching.com since 2009.
Because I write so many bios for “DIY” artists, I invest a lot of my time helping people discover how to tell their compelling stories and define the specific qualities of their music and personalities that make each of them different from every other musician out there. Something interesting I have realized as I take people through the challenging self-discovery process is that a lot of artists, at all stages of their careers share a common issue: They are reluctant to celebrate their accomplishments. And they often feel uncomfortable announcing even the major milestones – like EP releases, show and tour announcements, notable press interviews, etc. – that are the product of their hard work as they invest in their growth and development.
Part of this mental and emotional block artists experience is based on crises of confidence that are understandable given the saturation of the modern music market and the fact that the world trains all of us (thankfully) to be modest and realistic about our place in it: “Why is what I do important when there are so many other people basically doing the same thing?” But as someone who aspires to truly make a living making music, the pull to avoid inviting fans and potential fans to applaud your successes and join you on your long and winding journey is also the result of simply not knowing which of your plot twists are newsworthy.
Last year, I wrote an article about how musicians can get the attention of music journalists writing for blogs, magazines, journals and other publications and inspire them to invest in the story of their on-going evolution. Despite all the wonderful online free marketing and PR tools that are available to you as an artist and all the chances you have to engage meaningfully with the press and your fans, sometimes when you have a major milestone to announce in your career, you need a formal press release.
Even if you are not reluctant to announce your accomplishments and are sharing your story on a regular basis through Facebook, Twitter and email newsletters, as well as through your music and compelling live shows, sometimes all this engagement is not enough. As I have repeated many times to artists I work with and in the articles I have written about communication and marketing, just throwing some tracks up on Facebook, expressing your excitement on Twitter about a track you recorded or emailing your mp3s to someone at Pitchfork with a subject line that basically begs an editor, “Listen to my music” will not make you the darling of blogs, podcasts, online music communities, music websites and magazines … nor will it get you to Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall or the Grammys. And, yes, you really do need to go beyond your current fan base and get the attention of media “influencers” in order to forge ahead successfully.
When you are managing your own career without the help of a PR firm, you must think like an entrepreneur and build marketing strategies that not only show you are a professional, but also drum up excitement about your music and your unique “You, Inc.” brand. And to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to figure out stunning ways to call attention to your bright, newsworthy items as an artist through press releases.
Once you’ve found that exciting item, shout about it! Hiring a professional, experienced press release writer to put together your announcement for you is a great way to capture the moment objectively. But when you are a self-funded music entrepreneur, hiring out is not always an option. Below are 6 tips to help you craft an eye-catching, personal press release that can act as a compliment to your on-going marketing strategy.
- Understand the purpose of a press release. A press release is a written statement to the media that announces a news item, such as a scheduled event (a live show, a record store appearance, a radio performance and interview, etc.), an award or the release of a new “product” (a single, an EP or a full-length album). Some people also use press releases as a way to generate a feature story, because writers, reporters, bloggers and other press people are more likely to consider a full-length story on a band if they first see a formal press release.Many consider press releases to be part of “old fashioned” PR strategies, but when used in conjunction with technology-based promotional strategies, a well-written press release acts as strong support for the other elements of an artist’s press kit and overall marketing campaign. It provides yet another way for you to tell your story as a musician and enrich your brand by shedding light on the fact that you are in motion, proactively putting yourself and your music out into the world and working hard to hone your craft.
- Your press release should have laser focus. The best press releases are short and to the point. The headline needs to go beyond the mundane “Artist Plays Guitar on Stage in Front of People” and provide some juicy detail without being overly clever. (Here is an example of a headline I recently wrote for a pop/country artist releasing her debut album: “Homegrown Pop Singer/Songwriter Kelly Campbell Releases Sweet Therapy EP.”) Also, the first short paragraph – the “summary” – of the most compelling press releases is not more than three sentences long. These sentences need to draw readers in and keep their eyes moving down the page while still expressing all the very specific details about what has happened or will happen.To stick to the “short and sweet” rule, only announce multiple events within the same press release if they relate directly to each other – for example, an EP release combined with an official release party or an extended regional or national tour.
- Cut the “BS.” Use real, meaningful language in your press release – not lofty, empty “BS” that you think will sound impressive – to describe your event. Using big words and industry terms, name dropping or otherwise “padding” your release to convince others that what you are doing is important is just going to make you look like an amateur.Even major PR firms – especially those that churn out a lot of press releases – can fall into the pattern of just “going through the motions” and plugging in information, forgetting that while press releases do follow a set format, there is still a lot of room for creativity and meaningful “audience” interaction within that format. The gist of the two most commonly-made announcements in press releases are “Band Releases Record” and “Band Plays Show(s).” The ability to tell an absorbing story about events that happen often in the music industry within the parameters of the press release format is certainly a challenge. But your job is to grab the attention of and provide something valuable to those that will read hundreds, if not thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of press releases in their lifetime, so you simply must.
- Freshen up your bio. Your biographical information is an incredibly important part of every press release, but resist the urge to just directly copy a section from your professional bio verbatim. (And if you do not have a professional bio, please read this article before you even think about writing a press release!) Add a few special details to your artist bio section that offer readers a new spin on you and your music. For example, if you are releasing an EP, you can provide a bit of insight into your songwriting and recording process, which will make people feel more personally connected to you and also compel them to want to buy your music, come to your live shows and interact with you.
- Gather strong press quotes. Press quotes provide essential third-party endorsement of you. Of course, you may very well be sending out a press release because no one has ever formally reviewed your music (aka, you have no quotes), and you want to get people to talk and write about you. Often a very exciting and objectively-written bio can make up for lack of quotes about your band. However, also consider reaching out to popular local bands and musicians you have collaborated with on shows or other projects and ask them to jot down a few thoughts about you and your music, or about the experience of playing with you live and then include the best one or two as quotables for your press release.
- Rally around your press release. As with anything else you put out into the world – whether new music, a new website or live performances – your press release will not magically get attention just by existing. You need to rally around it with engaging email and social media interaction. Many musicians use services like PRWeb, expecting that they will pay the fee and the press release will get read by fans and everyone else they want to reach.Services like PRWeb act as tools to help your press release filter through some of the other meaningless noise that shows up in Web searches for the type of music you play. But they cannot provide the genuinely sincere touches that you provide when you energetically write about your event on Facebook and Twitter and respond personally to the excitement of champions for your music. Even when your press release finds a permanent home on the Internet, you need to keep momentum going in the weeks prior to your notable show or album release by reaching out to your fans regularly and sending personal emails to those journalists and music industry professionals that will be thrilled to be among the first to discover you.
So, what about you is newsworthy enough to warrant a press release? The truth is, almost anything you do or that happens to you; you just have to put a spin on the happening that expresses why people should care. Of course, you are not going to formally alert the media the first time your band gets through a song without stopping, every time your band’s drummer shows up for rehearsal on time, or when you finally get more than 10 people to show up at one of your gigs. But you can and should announce anything that really gets you revved up about playing music – especially those memorable events that give fans and potential fans the opportunity to experience your excitement right alongside you.