Posted On: Jun 5, 2018

Six Publicity Mistakes You May Be Making

Not every musician is in a position to have a publicist helping them navigate their media coverage, but there are some do’s and don’ts that all artists/bands should know. Western Canadian Music Award winning publicist Susan Busse highlights six publicity mistakes that artists should never do.

1. Having an entitlement mindset

Sending out publicity pitches can be rough on self esteem...but only if you take non-responsiveness or rejection personally. Great news - you can save yourself a lot of frustration, ego damage, time, and energy by approaching media with the right mindset. Remember that music journalists, TV producers, newspaper editors, blog writers, and any other media people you pitch are just regular people like you and me, with hundreds (ok maybe thousands) of emails sitting in their Inbox. It’s entirely possible they haven’t read your pitch yet, or maybe they read your pitch and are running something else the same week your album comes out, or they’re going on holidays, and haven’t gotten back to you yet, or their mom is sick, or any number of things. So don’t take it personally!

However...do be persistent. Follow up with class, and kindness, and try to approach this with no expectations and a friendly, inquiring, ‘good news’ tone. Do not expect a reply to your voicemail or email. Do not get angry or offended if they don’t get back to you. Just circle back again. Give them a new piece of information or invitation or contest idea, etc, this time. When you do book a story, land an interview, earn an album review, or get a station to play your album, count that as a fist-pumping win. It feels so much better to look at it this way. Trust me.  

2. Only using email

I’m talking to you, Millennials (I’m a Gen X’er so this still comes naturally to me). Yes, many members of the media do prefer email pitches. It’s so much easier to have a look at everything, decide what they want to do, and get back to you on their terms. But...I wouldn’t achieve even close to all of my PR wins without using the good old telephone. It’s my secret weapon. If you don’t get a reply to a couple of emails, call.

3. Making it hard work for the journalist

To the contrary, just keep asking yourself this question in every facet of media communications, from creating your website, social media, drafting your email pitch, creating your EPK, etc: “How can I make it easy for media to cover me?”.  Set up an EPK including your album one sheet, music, press release, images, etc, and send a link instead of emailing large files. Ain’t nobody got time for big email attachments!! Set up a private Soundcloud link so they can stream your album with one click to have a quick listen. Include links to your website and socials. And more. Just keep asking yourself, “How can I make it easy for media to cover me?”.

4. Not knowing your media outlet

Before you send a pitch email, make sure you know what they do and how they like to do it. Pitch appropriately. For example, you’ll look like an amateur and make a bad first impression if you send an email to Canadian Musician Magazine asking for an album review. Whereas that’s exactly what you’ll want to ask Exclaim for...perhaps also to stream your album and/or view. Those pitches go to different people. Research, research, research. Most media outlets have a clear “About” section, and if you spend a few minutes reading their magazine, listening to their radio show, or examining their website, you’ll get the picture. Keep track of all of this in a spreadsheet or database. You’ll need it again and don’t want to have to look it all up every time.

5. Not making a specific request

Don’t. Do. This.

One of my pet peeves, and one of media’s pet peeves, is to receive a general email from an artist or band that goes like this:

“Hi! I just wanted to let ya know we have a new record out...It's been gathering steam in the blogosphere and we're going to radio with it currently. I was hoping to keep this email short but it's hard these days. Hope you're doing well and we'll talk soon...(followed by links to websites, socials, and to stream the album”

This is an email I actually received recently. What do they want from me? Publicity consulting? To potentially work together on a tour? Did they send it to the wrong Susan?  Is it just an FYI? Why? Without context and a specific ask, I had no idea! And I felt a little silly asking because I started wondering if I’d met these people at some point and asked them to let me know when their record came out (I couldn’t remember that and it wasn’t the case anyway).

Ask for what you want. If you’re writing to CBC perhaps you’re asking them to play a song and mention your upcoming show. If you’re writing to Canadian Beats perhaps you’re asking them to debut your upcoming video. If you’re writing to me, maybe you want to hire me for some hourly consulting. Whatever it is you want, be direct about it.

6. Shooting from the hip

However you like to plan your work, do that with your media outlets and outreach, too. Ask yourself, “What would be a home run for me on this project?” And follow a few other artists who are one or two steps ahead of you in the music business in a similar genre. Who reviewed their albums? Who interviewed them? Just the same way you might take inspiration from a fellow musician’s tour routing and venue selection, take inspiration from their media successes.

Get and stay organized, because in the middle of a campaign there’s SO much going on, if you only have 20 minutes to work publicity any given day, you need to know the most important place to spend your time and energy. Make a list (spreadsheet or Word document or database or one of my clients likes to use paper and colour coded tabs and pens) of all the media targets you want to pitch. Organize by geography and/or purpose. And keep notes on where you’re at with each interaction.

If you can avoid these six very common mistakes artists make when first starting to do their own publicity, you’re halfway there. Happy pitching!

Susan Busse is an arts publicist in Saskatoon. She collaborates with Canadian musicians, bands, festivals, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs and her work earned her the 2017 Western Canadian Music Award for “Impact in Music Marketing”. She is available for both full campaigns and hourly consulting on all areas of music marketing.