If ten years in the music industry has taught me one thing it’s this — a press release really can make or break a music journalist’s interest in your music. Period.
While there are many other factors that come into play, so much starts with that initial narrative. In my own experience, as a writer for both my own blog and others, it’s this attention to detail, as well as your ability to play with words and paint a vivid, captivating picture for your reader, that takes a press release from “just OK” to “I’ve got to check these guys out!”
In fact, one of my favorite bands to this day was introduced to me via a press release when I first started my blog a decade ago. It was so cleverly written — not only was the flow of it strong, but it was funny, it took risks, and it paid off. It wasn’t just another vanilla press release — it took the audience into account (quirky, open-minded, and maybe even a little dark in terms of humor) and ran with it. That’s what I want to see in your press release — something highly formatted to your target audience.
In the meantime, here’s what not to do.
Boring, Long Subject Lines
Getting your headline to be something that people actually want to open is not easy. It’s tough to convey exactly what you’re trying to say in so many characters, and be clever, all in the same breath. But it’s the first step of the process, so be sure you’re clear and concise, and focus on the positives.
For instance, if you’re releasing a new album, instead of saying:
“Band X Releases Their Sophomore Album ‘Really Long Name of Album’ After 3 Year Hiatus”
You could try:
“Band X Releases ‘Album Name’; Announces Comeback Tour”
The key is to keep it short, but throw in some intrigue — leave some things unexplained so it prompts an open. You can get into more detail once they’re inside the email.
If your writing is terrible, you probably don’t know that your writing is terrible, so before sending out a mass campaign, you might want to run your copy by a few objective readers. Whether that’s musical people who know your music, people in your network who don’t know your music, or industry folks you might have a decent relationship with, it’s always best to get a second pair of eyes on something this important.
Or, just hire a professional. I know this one seems kind of obvious, but I’ve read a lot of poorly-written press releases and trust me, even the best music won’t be enough to win someone over if they can’t get through your release without yawning, or rolling their eyes.
This is your first impression — make it count.
Listing Every Past Release
It’s one thing to include your most recent release, and maybe even the one before that (although that’s debatable), but after that it gets a little weird. I’ve read press releases that list every release to date — even if that means 5 albums, 10 independent singles, and 2 EPs. It’s unnecessary; it bogs down your press release and makes it feel dense; and beyond that, it’s not information that’s relevant to someone just getting to know you.
Remember, your press release is a snapshot of who you are and what you have going on right now — it doesn’t need to include your full discography and lifetime bio. Save that for your autobiography one day.
You know what kind of press release I don’t want to open? One that has nothing to say. Press releases only really need to be sent when you have something new and exciting to announce, such as a single, an album, or an extensive tour. They aren’t really appropriate for things like your next local show or reminding people that you exist. Those things are great, but they’re better marketed to your social media channels or personal mailing list than to the press.
This one should go without saying, but you definitely don’t want to come off as arrogant. Remember, you’re essentially asking for a favor — for a writer to care enough about you and your music to spend their spare time writing about it. You want to show your personality, but not if your personality is being a jerk.
Really? Come on! No one is going to take you seriously if your press release is full of spelling mistakes and improper grammar. Capitalize “I;” use commas; spell out full words instead of using colloquial terms and abbreviations; remember punctuation — put in some effort. You can’t expect someone to care about pouring their time into finding out who you are and what you’re all about if your press release shows that you couldn’t even be bothered to avoid run-on sentences.
Just Please Don’t Call Your Sound “Unique”
Sure, in a lot of ways your sound probably is unique. But there’s nothing more frustrating than reading a band boast about how they don’t sound like anyone else. You do sound like those that came before you, and it’s okay! References are actually a really good way to help someone new to your music enter into it and listen with an informed ear. I promise, it will only help you pinpoint your target audience more quickly and land more features.
Remember: Speak authentically and don’t be afraid to sound original. If you try to please everyone with this press release, as in life, you will end up pleasing no one. Focus on your target audience, keep it concise, and please, for goodness sake, make sure the writing is top quality… and you’ll be just fine.
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