Listen up, Brooklyn musicians. Confucius once said, “Play and be seen, listen and be blogged about.” Just kidding. Seriously, though, you’ve mastered your instrument, put together a band, landed a sweet pad in Brooklyn, hell, you might even be playing some shows… but how do you get people to know about all this? You’re going to need your band blogged about. Getting on popular listings websites is frustrating, dirty work that requires cunning, patience and grit. It’s not like the movies and it’s not about right place/right time: The record label talent scout/benefactor character will not be sitting in the back of the room at that open mic you worked so hard to prepare for. What does it take? We talked to a few music-world pros and got the inside scoop on getting your band out there.
Let’s just start by making one thing clear (and this is hardly a secret): Snarky Brooklyn music critics aren’t financially better off than Brooklyn’s struggling musicians. Bloggers have overcrowded inboxes and underpaid invoices, usually work multiple hectic jobs, and aren’t really concerned with an impersonal email review request. Follow these tips, warnings and piece of advice, and you just might get your “in.”
Know the blog
Take it from Nicole Wasilewicz, Senior Music Editor at FREEWilliamsburg: “I get hundreds of emails a day, so subject lines are important.” Also, “Be sure to pay attention to what kind of musical demographic the website focuses on… cater to your specific market.”
Start small (but, of course, starting’s the rub)
Then there’s this somewhat-less-than-thrilling advice from *Josh, an overworked editor at a prominent music website: “The best thing to do is make friends with bloggers and guilt them into covering you.” But, and here’s the rub, “If a band isn’t already on the writer’s radar and hasn’t been in at least one medium-sized blog, the writer’s mind gets trapped into thinking that it must be some mainstream bullshit that a PR person is trying to push on them. There’s a trickle-up thing: Really small blogs love combing through everything first, and then slightly bigger blogs notice, then eventually places like Brooklyn Vegan or Gorilla vs. Bear give it a shot.”
*Ralph, a music publicist, confirms the trickle-up: “It’s like a feedback loop. I’ll listen to your music if you’re featured on a blog like Brooklyn Vegan. It’s a lot to sift through. Think about how many bands are so shitty.”
But *Jennifer, a Digital PR Manager at a top independent record label, adds: “It’s best not to waste your time and get your hopes up about receiving a response. New bands should [instead] work hard to get recommended, at finding an ‘in’ with someone who can take them there and who is listened to. Harass one very important person.”
Also… be nice
Nicole says optimism and tact are key: “There are so many people—from bloggers, to booking agents, promoters, venues, publicists, managers, etc.—that are constantly looking for something new. The hardest part is making us pay attention to you. You know who people in the music industry love to give press to? Musicians who are not only talented, but also humble and nice and capable of holding a conversation. I tend to be extra happy to promote a band that isn’t pretentious as f*ck. Ultimately, just play as many shows you can and don’t be an asshole.”
Learn the system
Is it what you know or who? A little of both. From *Jennifer, the indie-label PR manager: “When you’re a musician… it’s never what you know, it’s who you know.” But, from Nicole: “Learn as much as you can about the way the music industry works. The more you know, the less likely you are to get taken advantage of.”
To round the tips out, Nicole’s got a couple of helpful snippets: 1) “Hang out at Manhattan Inn. There are always a million music people in the room.” And 2) Go retro when you submit. “Vinyl and cassettes will always get played by me.”
So, now that you know where you stand with the pros, here are the nuts and bolts of sending your stuff to a few prominent outlets:
First, from Oh My Rockness, the event-listing newsletter where you receive emails when favorite artists are about to be in town. The contact for New York City shows is email@example.com. In the site’s FAQ, the staff’s line on how they pick recommended shows and artists is “That’s easy. We ask the Magic 8 Ball. The Ball always knows.” More here from their mostly-helpful ‘About’ section.
The quote from Oh My Rockness’ FAQ is rather telling: Many events listings websites and music blogs refuse to even offer up the information. Brooklyn Vegan, for example, has no FAQ. They say “The best way to contact us is via email” (firstname.lastname@example.org). FREEWilliamsburg has a similar FAQ-less approach, and directs all listings queries to email@example.com.
From album-review website Stereogum, it’s a blunt “maybe” to giving your record a listen, and bands may submit (no attachments) to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact the editorial staff at MOG at email@example.com and Pitchfork offers some unconcerned vagueness in their FAQ: News and press releases can be directed towards firstname.lastname@example.org, but if you have to snail mail recordings to the main office… in Chicago.
And for the kitchen sink of music blogs, you can submit music for consideration to Tiny Mix Tapes at email@example.com, while Pop Matters, like Pitchfork, insists they prefer snail mail, again to Illinois.
*Names have been changed
Do you have more tips? Success stories? Cautionary tales? Share them in the comments!