Loyd Van Horn
"Yeah, but who is going to listen?"
Another one of those quirky little bits about being a musician is our relationship with the media.
Every cool musician that today dogs the media, says they hate interview or doesn't care what the music press says about them, at one point was desperate for at least that first press clipping. An album review, an article/interview, an in-studio performance and interview on radio....until you have something in your press kit, are you even really doing anything?
I have been on both sides of this spectrum. I have been the media guy doing the interviews. Lining up to get bands in studio or in my newspaper. I have engineered in-studio performances and lined up phone interviews with bands. Now as a musician trying to get press, I am taking some of what I learned all of those years ago and applying it to my own practices.
The key to a success in this quid pro quo arrangement is who is the one in control? Is the media outlet in control? Are they the gatekeepers that determine who, when and where an act gets noticed? Even in today's dynamic, media attention plays an important role in the evolution of a musician. It gives an air of authenticity and relevance to a band or artist.
Why isn't the artist in control? They have the product that people want, and in many cases, the media outlet approaches YOU asking for inclusion in their work. Why should I be so quick to jump at that chance? Is your audience my audience? Will your readers "get" my music? Will your viewers feel comfortable and at home in one of my gigs?
It really is a two way street. We need them as much as they need us. However, the problem is there is way more of us than there is them....so ultimately, we have to get creative to get their attention. If you are an established act with either label support or a huge underground following in your area, this should be easy. They probably noticed you before you even lifted your head to type that first email to them.
For the rest of us that are trying to establish our name, our brand and create our following, you have to help them help you.
One technique that I have found that works is providing the media outlet an angle or two:
- Don't forget your hometown newspapers or TV/radio....they love a 'local talent makes good" story and it also increases your fan base to people who already know you.
- What sets you apart? For me, I am a one-man store, I do all of my own work and I have a day job. That is an angle that is interesting, though not as uncommon as it used to be.
- New album or big performance coming up? Are you opening for a national act at Madison Square Garden? Are you about to release a new album? In studio now with a famous producer? This business is all about networking, who you know and who they know. It can be awkward, but a well-timed name drop can open a door quicker than just about anything else you do.
- Don't be afraid to pump up your brand a bit. I will throw in "one or Charleston's hottest up and coming songwriters' into my press releases as it adds that credibility to why people need to pay attention. And, at the end of the day, who is to say I am not exactly that?
- What is your brand? What is your thing? All of us that got into the music business did it for a reason. What was that reason? Did you want to be the next Beatles? The next Kanye? The next Tom Petty? The next Imogen Heap? Whatever your angle that you feel sets you apart for audiences, that is what you need to push in your media. This goes beyond the music to how you dress for gigs and photoshoots, the way you talk in your interviews, the way you carry yourself on stage. Remember, you are the product. As artists, we absolutely HATE to think of our work in such a manner, but it is true. Unless you are truly just making music for yourself and never trying to put it out on the market, you are a product. That doesn't mean you have to have a slcik, corporate appearance - stay true to yourself. But remember that what you present visibly and audibly are what make people decide if they are on board or not.
This week, I did a lot of media reach out. Some responses came back, quite a few didn't. That's OK, I will continue to push, reaching back out to those same media outlets with new angles, new ideas and new reasons to pay attention.
What are you doing to get noticed? How do you get people to listen to what you have to say? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments section, below, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Until next time,