A Little Elbow Grease & Professionalism Go A Long Way – How I Went From A Nobody To Slightly Less Of A Nobody
Ever since I released my first album Sleep Therapy, I have steadily maintained a constant flow of press. This of course is great for me as an artist and the goal of every individual who releases music. To keep your name out there in a relevant way is very important today, especially in Hip-Hop where artist’s careers are completely disposable from the fan’s and media’s perspective.
Over the past few months I have been contacted by several artists to help them with their specific causes based on the successes that I have had. Creating promotional materials for people is something that I enjoy. My resources are limited because I am not a graphic designer, but what I am able to do doesn’t suck and it gets slightly better with every project that I’m given.
However, I don’t have some magical secret recipe for success. What I do have is the model of what I followed after trial and error and you know what? I’m going to share it with you right here, right now. Being able to do stuff for you is crucial in today’s immediate gratification society and it’s always a benefit to have things done in your own time and not having to rely on another’s.
With that in mind, here is what I did:
Press Release/Bio Page – You are an artist that nobody has probably heard of before and you want that to change. You have all kinds of good stuff to say but you just don’t know how to arrange it. Let me start off by saying this: Keep it simple, stupid.
When sending out music to people who have no idea who you are, all they want is quick hits of information that they can gloss over very quickly. An in depth look at the structure of your album does not belong on this ONE SHEET page.
Answer these questions, but do it in a very concise way: Who are you? What is this? Why did you do this? What are your influences? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you have any legitimate accolades? Note – Your homie saying you’re dope doesn’t count…I’m talking about actual print articles, significant blog posts about you, or real achievements.
Add a picture or two and your contact information, make it look appealing but NOT busy, and you have your page finished. If it takes you more than 30 minutes to put this together, you are trying way too hard. I think it took me and Jank One about 20 minutes to do my first bio page and that was because we got obsessed with the font my name was going to be in. I will even show you what it looks like. Blam!
Music – The presentation of your music is actually something that is very crucial to whether or not you get listened to…or not. This is something that I have failed at many times so I am glad that I can cut through that BS to give you what I believe is the best way to get heard.
There is this belief that bloggers and writers are lazy and that they won’t listen to your music. This is a lie…for some. There are a lot of bloggers out there who really love digging through new music. It gives them either A.) Something new to bitch about and call worthless. B.) A gem that they rather enjoy and might not have had the time to come across in other ways.
Now whether or not they like your music isn’t guaranteed by this process so if they do listen and hate you, it’s your fault and not mine.
Let’s be real. Bloggers like to stream. They don’t have to use up space on their computers and there are a good amount of bloggers that write during their “9 to 5” so they might not be able to download your music to begin with due to the firewalls or threat of being fired. I think the vast majority of people have moved away from Myspace and you might get laughed at for having a Myspace as your singular resource for them.
Imeem is dead and Purevolume is not really on anybody’s mind. I highly recommend Bandcamp.
Bandcamp is a great resource that is pretty easy to use. It takes a long time to upload your music because it has to be in .wav form but the payoff is pretty fantastic. With Bandcamp you can just stream your music, make it available for download, or even make it available for purchase. Also, if you make your music available for download, the person who is DLing your ish can choose how they want to DL it (mp3, m4a, wav, etc.). If that isn’t awesome, then I don’t know what is.
It is very possible that you, the artist, do not have a decent picture of yourself. I have seen a lot of the pictures that people circulate around the web of themselves and those Photoshop jawns are pretty damn ridiculous. I know that not everybody has access to a decent camera or a person with a decent eye but you need to try to find somebody who can snap a decent photo of your head in decent lighting. Maybe a nice upper body shot would work.
Putting Together Your Email – When you are going through to find the contact information of the blogs that you want to send your music to you will notice, as I did, that many in the blogosphere use Gmail. It is because of this that I recommend you use Gmail if you don’t already have an account. I used Yahoo! and didn’t really have problems but after establishing a relationship with several of the bloggers, they suggested to me that I switch to Gmail.
When putting together the body of your email you want it to be short and concise just like the bio page but you don’t want to essentially put the same information in the body of the email. I personalized the emails as best as I could. Sometimes you can find these people’s names and other times you just get their handles. Go with whatever they provide.
Yes, I am steering you away from doing a mass mailing because nobody knows who you are and it’s very likely that the email will just go into their spam boxes as a result of you BCC’ing everybody. Note – If you ever do mass email something out and you DON’T BCC the contacts, you are committing a large email etiquette sin.
I introduced myself, told them where I was from and what I was doing emailing them. I provided the links to stream and download the music and I suggested some “focus” tracks. I concluded the email professionally, and that was that.
I attached my press/bio page, the album cover, and picture and left it at that. It really doesn’t sound that bad, does it? One thing you should make sure you do it keep it classy. You are formally introducing yourself so saying stuff like “dis be dat hot banger you been dreamin about on the real…straight banger from the street! it’s a NuMbeR 1 hit in the StrEEtz!” is completely counter-productive and hell, anybody with an education would avoid that shit like the plague.
Lastly, have a good subject line and not something like “This is the hottest shit you’ll ever hear!” because it probably isn’t. Since I’m from Milwaukee, a town not known for Hip-Hop, I used that fact in my subject line to try to gain some interest. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t, but it was probably less annoying than claiming to be the hottest shit ever heard.
Get Your Resources
Both Vibe and XXL have compiled lists of what they consider to be the top Hip-Hop blogs so that is a place you can start, but you need to know that since those lists are out, everybody is hitting them up constantly. There are lots of blogs that didn’t make either of those lists that have dedicated readers and talented writers…or simply people that aspire to make those lists and are hungry for any new music they can get their hands on.
Also, believe it or not, Twitter is an insanely helpful tool for networking. Some bloggers on Twitter appreciate getting to know the person before the music, some people will check you out if you send a link over, and others will curse your name. It’s hard to know who feels which way about what, but at the end of the day the majority of them are ok with you as a person so I suggest being a real person and not just some spammer or link tweeter.
You just have to remember that they don’t owe you anything so if they tell you to fuck off and that they hate you, just leave them alone and go elsewhere. They get hundreds of emails a day/links sent to them on Twitter…so you have to understand that they get bogged down.
Emailing – Now, I have already suggested that you stay away from doing the mass mailing stuff because there is a high chance you’ll just end up in the spam box so dedicate a little time one evening and send them out. It is entirely possible that you won’t hear anything back from anybody so give it a few days and then re-send. I suggest one more email a few days after this as well. Bloggers get bogged down as I pointed out so they may have not seen it. If they have seen it and they didn’t hit you back, they’ve probably marked you as spam already. This should go without saying, but if you did get a response from somebody…don’t send them that 2nd and 3rd wave.
In all honestly, I think my return rate was about 10% after I got done with my 3 waves of emails, when I first introduced myself. It’s not a good percentage, but it is a start.
In Conclusion – Well, that’s it. That is what I did in a very detailed description. It’s obviously something that you can do yourself with a little time and effort. However, I want this to be a discussion so what worked for you? What didn’t work for you? I’m not guaranteeing anything with the process I just wrote about so maybe you can guarantee something with yours (not likely…but maybe).
Let us know.
-The Digital One