Want to promote your music but don’t have the budget to hire a music publicist? With the average cost of a music PR campaign starting at £1,000, not everyone can afford to hire an agency, but that’s okay, there are still promotional methods you can use without having to hire a music publicist and having those relationships they have with the industry tastemakers in order to get your music on blogs and publications.
This article is going to be a step by step guide to running your own music PR campaign without the need for using music PR companies, breaking down the different media outlets you can push out to, how to hit out to them and what you need to do to really start creating a buzz around your release, all without spending a penny. Running your own PR campaign can be a super lengthy process, forcing you to do tedious jobs but it definitely comes with rewards, so be sure to set aside enough time to commit to promoting your record and follow our guide.
Preparation for the release
It may sound ridiculous but before anything else, make sure the release is a strong enough standard. Take your time to write, record and get the track mastered so it’s at the best quality it can be. Once you’ve got a piece of music you’re proud of, you need to start collecting all the assets you’ll need to push it out.
Music PR companies will not take on a project if the music is not at a high enough standard, therefore the media are used to receiving high quality music, so don’t waste your time if you don’t think this is the best your music can possibly be.
Below is a list of everything you must have before even thinking about releasing:
1. High resolution images of the band
Hire a photographer, even if this is a friend or a university student that is trying to add to their portfolio. You need a photographer with a good quality camera to have around 5-10 high resolution images which suit your music genre, style and image. These are essential for getting online coverage as it can be what catches a journalist’s eye and is also what will be used in any online features, so you want it to be representative of you as an artist.
2. Single/Album artwork
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you definitely need it again for online coverage. The artwork needs to represent your style of music and who you are as an artist. It will also be used on all digital platforms such as Spotify, and can be what persuades someone to stream your track from the millions of others.
3. A release date
Choose a release date for your track and make sure you stick to it. This is what all media outlets will run with so if you change it last minute, you will not only have confused fans but a load of press that’s incorrect. Get the release date booked in with your distributor as soon as you’ve sorted it so you can tick it off your to do list early on and not have to worry last minute about getting it onto the different platforms. Release dates usually fall on a Friday so choose a Friday that is a month or so away, this way you’ll have time to work on your PR campaign in the run up.
4. Private SoundCloud link
Once the track is ready, upload it as a private SoundCloud link. This is the easiest way for tastemakers to stream the release before it’s live. Some artists make the mistake of sending a download link or attaching the mp3, but nobody has the time and effort to download a track and then listen, so make sure it’s SoundCloud you focus on and send in your pitch.
Writing the press release
Writing your press release is pretty similar to writing your band biography but this time around you need to make it more focused around this specific release. The most important thing to remember when writing your press release is that you’re trying to persuade the person to listen to your track against thousands of others so it’s essential you keep it precise yet creative.
We know how difficult it is to write a press release, especially when writing your own, it’s similar to writing a CV and sometimes you don’t know where to start. The easiest starting point is to bullet point some key factors such as who you are, what you’re releasing, your musical history, career highlights and what you’ll be doing next e.g. touring.
The first paragraph of your press release is the most important as if it’s not engaging, no one will read on and you’ve completely wasted your time sending it and their time reading it. The first line should be something catchy such as “With over 3 million Spotify streams, indie rock band … return with ….”. Obviously not every band has the credentials to have something like that as their hook, but you can still make it interesting, using past press or support slots to engage the reader.
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the actual body of the email, showing the headline is the make or break. I’ve found writing the full press release before the headline helps as you have worked out what the most important points are already, so you can use these to work out the headline and use that for the subject bar. Make it powerful, using an active voice rather than passive.
For example, ‘After securing over 3 million Spotify streams on debut single, [insert band name] return with [insert song title]’ carries more weight than simply ‘[insert band name] return with new single [insert song title’].
Have the release date (sounds stupid but many forget)
Include images of the band but also the artwork
Add your social media links
Have the private SoundCloud link
Include contact details
Make it super long, no one will read it
Make it too cliché (a good exercise for this one is to swap another artists name in and see if it’d still be fitting)
Waffle on. Many artists start giving their musical background in depth but if it’s not interesting or impactful to where you are right now, cut it out
Be cocky. No one wants to read why a band with <1000 Spotify streams are the next Fleetwood Mac
Use stupid fonts and colours
Now that you’ve got all the assets ready, you need to start your campaign around your release with some online promotion. The internet has opened up endless possibilities to promote your music, making it easier than ever for artists to secure online coverage. This needs to start prior to the actual release date as you need to give the journalists time to write and upload the feature, plus no one wants to run an article about an old track.
Which sites to reach out to?
You need to choose the sites you pitch to carefully as if you start bombarding blogs that don’t even cover your genre, they’re going to get pissed and the music industry is a small world, so you don’t want that! Firstly, start looking into other bands that are a similar level to you, see what online coverage they’ve secured and if those sites are relevant for you.
Then you can start looking for genre specific blog, you can find these via a simple Google or social media search. Again, don’t just start sending out willy nilly, look into each site, what sort of bands they cover and think carefully about whether you’d suit their site.
Also look into your geographical links, if you’re from Scotland then target Scottish music blogs. You can do this with tour dates too, so you confirm regional press around your gigs.
The final area you can focus on is angle led sites. These can be anything that has a niche, examples of this include female guitarist blogs, mental health sites and gay publications. If you feel your angle fits into any niche, approach these areas saying why you’re relevant and what you’re approaching them for. Often, these sites have large readership so can be very beneficial for building online presences and overall fanbase.
How to pitch to online blogs
You have all the correct assets you need to pitch to online blogs, plus you’ve found the sites you want to hit out to, but how do you approach them?
Submit Hub: One of the easiest methods for getting your music in front of journalists is SubmitHub, plus many bloggers use it as their form of income so you’re also helping out a fellow music industry buddy. SubmitHub is a simple submission page where you can submit your single to different blogs and they give you feedback. Sounds fantastic right? The catch is you have to pay, not much but still a fee. We highly recommend SubmitHub for emerging artists and artists that don’t use music publicists as it’s a simple way to connect with journalists without having a relationship with them already. Also, some sites only take submission via SubmitHub so sometimes it’s a necessity if you’ve got your heart set on a certain blog. SubmitHub works with many different streaming links but most blogs prefer SoundCloud so copy and paste it into the form and fill in the correct details and you could be featured on multiple blogs with a click of a button.
Now to the real pitching, this is where your press release comes in handy. You’ve got a list of sites you want to pitch to and you’ve collected all the right email address (more about that below). Now you need to make sure you’re sending them something that a) they’re going to open and b) they’re going to actually read. Each email has to be personalised and cannot be some mass mail out. Get your press release and copy and paste it into the email. Never attach anything like the MP3, high res images or the press release as a word document as journalists don’t have the patience to download attachments and won’t be happy if you’re taking up all of their storage with your 8MB MP3s.
Once you’ve copy and pasted the press release in, you need to actually write the body of the email. Below is a simple format you can use, which will be above your press release:
“Hi [insert name],
Hope you’re well? I’m [insert name] from [insert band name] and we were hoping to get your thoughts on our upcoming single [insert song title] for your blog, which you can stream here [insert SoundCloud link]”
From here you need to start getting the most important and interesting parts of your press release e.g. who you’ve supported, who your influencers are and any previous press. You can also make this part more personal to the publication e.g. “we saw you covered [insert band name] who we supported last month…”
To finish your email, make sure the journalist knows what you want from them.
“I would love to hear your thoughts on the single for a feature or review and we also have tour dates at the bottom of the press release, which I’m happy to organise press passes for.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
If you really want to capture the journalist’s attention, show that you’ve read their previous work or that you’re a fan of their blog e.g. “after reading your review of The Hunna, I thought I’d reach out as we have a pretty similar style.” This not only shows that you’ve read their previous work, but it also gives them an indication of what your sound is like, so they’ll know whether it’s worth them taking the time to listen.
Although time consuming, it will likely convert to success, so it’s worth taking the time. If the journalist doesn’t come back to you after a few weeks, send a polite follow up email, asking if they’ve had a chance to check it out yet. Chances are that if they don’t respond to a follow up email, they’re not interested so don’t be the needy artist that bugs them on email, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, just try again next time.
Bonus Tip: Know what a premiere is! When you’re talking about a premiere, this doesn’t mean a feature that runs before release date. A premiere is an exclusive that a blog runs that hasn’t run anywhere else, this usually being a track or music video. Don’t pitch for a premiere if the track is already out or has run on other blogs, it’s infuriating for journalists to read!
How to get the right journalist and their email addresses?
Now you know which blogs to target and how to pitch to them, you need to work out how to get their email address and if it’s a larger publication, which journalist to approach.
Many lower level blogs have a generic Gmail style email address listed on their site, which is always easy for you to find and then send them your press release. However, there are many sites that won’t have a contact address or form listed on their site, this is where you need to start digging.
1. Free Email Search Tools
There are two ways of being able to locate the best music blogger’s email addresses. Most companies use a set formula for their email address, so once you can find one employee’s email address you can guess the formula. For example, is may be the first letter of their first name following by their surname.
You may also find their email address which has already been posted somewhere online. There are fantastic tools which do this all for you such as Hunter.io. This is a powerful tool used by many music PR companies which will scout the internet for the person’s email address. If it is unable to find the address, it will give you a prediction based upon other people’s email address who work at the company.
2. Previous work
Use your influencers and bands similar to yourselves to find journalists that you think will like your music. If you have an indie rock style, look at who may have covered up and coming indie rock bands like No Hot Ashes recently and email them with one of our suggested templates above.
Bonus Tip: If you want to find recent features on a similar artist, Google the artist, select tools and then past week as shown below:
If you can’t find a journalist through a simple Google search or anywhere on socials, give LinkedIn a go. Quite often you’ll find a journalist through LinkedIn and if you keep yours up to date with your music, music industry news and other things you find interesting, the journalist may connect with you. From here, find their email address and drop them a line.
4. Using a Hook
A hook is something that makes you stand out from others, something that other bands haven’t got and what can potentially get you in the major online publications. You’ll find that this is where most music PR agencies succeed but you can have just as much success if you’re creative and push to the right areas.
Major online sites receive thousands of emails per day with the same “This is my band’s new release, it’s really good, listen to it” junk so you need to have a hook that makes you stand out and be news worthy. Think about how your band is different – this could be how you came together, how you play your instruments or what your latest release is based around.
Examples of hooks that we’ve used to gain national coverage in areas such as Metro, London Evening Standard and We Plug Good Music are…
- What it was like to support The Who
- Making UK indie rock great again
- Tackling inequality in the music industry by working with blind musicians for a musical project
- Being endorsed by Christian Fuchs
Each angle is entirely different, and you can’t always tell which will get picked up by the media so be creative and test a few out. If you worked with a major name, try that, if you’re working with a clothing line, give that a go. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed as any hook can be a potential way in.
If you use all these tips, you will begin to create a list of journalists who you know give feedback on your music and if they gave a positive review, like your music. Make sure to create a database of these contacts so you can use them again for your next release and keep building relationships.
Radio plugging is a whole other story compared to online promotion, with it being highly competitive and national radio stations having limited shows that play out emerging artists. This is why radio pluggers charge so much as you’re paying for the relationships they’ve formed with producers over the years, which you yourself can’t always gain.
Although it’s difficult, it’s possible so don’t be disheartened, you just have to start low. Use the email format you’ve already created for online promotion with the pitch and the press release copy and pasted below but this time have a link to download the track. In your online promotion pitch, you may be pitching a full EP or Album but with radio, you only need to pitch one track so don’t send a link to a full album as producers don’t have the time to listen to the full thing to work out which track is their favourite. The single which you choose to run with needs to be a radio edit, so no swearing and around 3:30mins, definitely not longer than 4mins. The radio station will need the MP3 if they want to air the single but whatever you do, don’t attach the MP3! Use either Dropbox or WeTransfer to give them the option to download the track and have the MP3 titled correctly ‘[insert band name] – [insert song title].mp3’.
Start with pitching to regional radio stations before anything else. If you’re from Cambridge, look into Cam 105 and see if you can find an email to send your music to them (refer to ‘How to get the right journalist and their email addresses’ as this works similarly for producers/presenters). As well as regional radio, look into hospital, student and online stations to build up your portfolio of plays.
As soon as you have your finished track and release date sorted, add the MP3 to Amazing Tunes and BBC Introducing. These uploaders are the perfect gateway to national radio play, with Amazing Radio supporting emerging artists and BBC Introducing working as a springboard to BBC Radio 2, 6 Music and even 1. If your track is picked up by either Amazing Radio or BBC Introducing, you’ll be notified by email, so you can listen in to it being played on air.
The major advantage of BBC Introducing is the leads it gives you to the national BBCs. If the track is picked up well on your local BBC, you may find that it’s aired on Tom Robinson’s BBC Radio 6 Music show – The BBC Introducing Mixtape. If it isn’t picked up naturally, you can always send it via Fresh On The Net but read through the submission process carefully –http://freshonthenet.co.uk/send/
Some people prefer to send or receive physical copies, but this is becoming less and less prevalent, with more stations receiving the majority of their submissions in digital format. Not only is it quicker, it’s a lot cheaper.
For artists releasing music in 2018, getting your music on Spotify playlists is one of the key elements to not just success on Spotify but for success in your music career. You can read our ultimate guide on getting your music on Spotify playlists here – https://www.burstimo.com/single-post/Official-Spotify-Playlists-guide