It's that time of year again, when every blog, magazine, newspaper, and guy with a tumblr publishes their favorite albums of the year, and music fans get do debate who's right and who's wrong.
There has been a lot of confusion and frustration in Minneapolis lately about what music does or does not get covered by our local media, especially in relation to hip hop.
Here's my opinion on local year end lists, local music coverage, and the local musicians that it affects.
First off, these lists are usually the opinion of one person. You're allowed to disagree with them. Just because music critics have a platform to share their opinions, doesn't make them any more valid than yours or mine. So, don't take year-end lists too seriously, especially when it comes to their inclusion of hip hop. Also, year-end lists tend to heavily favor albums that come out later in the year. If your album came out in February or March, it's less likely to be featured.
Keep in mind, you can be successful with little to no local press. Artists like Mod Sun for instance, have built a huge local and national following without the support of local press. However, having your album included on the year-end list of bigger publications can definitely help boost your sales, show offers, etc. So, if you're wondering why your album (or your favorite rapper's album) wasn't included on your favorite publication's year-end list, here are some things you can do about it.
A publication's year end list is going to consist of projects they've covered throughout the year. If your album hasn't been previously covered by a certain publication, you're not going to show up on their list. There's a good chance they aren't even aware of your project. You need to be building relationships with press throughout the year, and whenever you have a big project.
Before you contact press:
First, make sure you have a quality product. That includes the following:
a. Get your music professionally recorded, mixed and mastered.
b. Have a quality designer do your artwork. Have that same designer do your one sheet. Make sure your one-sheet has all your contact info on it. Social media, website, booking contact, press contact, etc.
c. WRITE A GOOD BIO. If you can't, have someone write it for you.
d. Have a professional photographer shoot your press photos. Make sure you have hi-res versions of them readily available.
Once you're certain you're presenting the best product you possibly can, start reaching out to press. Keep in mind that some (print) publications need 2-3 months lead time. If you hit them up a week before your album comes out, you'll be out of luck.
How do you go about contacting press?
Unless you already have a substantial buzz, press is not going to reach out to you. You must seek them out. There are a variety of ways to do this, and the best way is going to be a little bit different for each publication.
a. Most blogs have a contact section, and many will have clear directions on how they prefer to receive music. Read this and follow it carefully. Many blogs will simply delete submissions that don't follow their guidelines.
If they do not have directions on how to submit music, send them an email. Be polite, introduce yourself. Call them by their name if you know it.
SEND A SEPARATE, PERSONAL EMAIL TO EACH BLOG YOU CONTACT. Yes, I know this takes longer and sucks way more than bccing everyone on one email, but you will have much greater success.
DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING TO AN EMAIL UNLESS YOU SPECIFICALLY TOLD TO. Send a link to a streaming version of your music. Soundcloud is good.
b. If you're contacting print publications (Star Tribune, City Pages, Vita.mn, etc), find out who their music writers are. More specifically, find out who covers the type of music you make. For example, at the Star Tribune, Tom Horgen likes and listens to hip hop. At City Pages, Jack Spencer is your guy.
Find this person's email address (usually available on their website) and follow the same rules as above. Introduce yourself and your project, offer a link to hear some of your music. If you don't hear back in a week, it's okay to follow up.
How do you get press to actually pay attention to your project?
a. Have an interesting story. Simply stating that you're releasing a new album/single/music video is not enough. Writers get hit up about thousands of projects every year. What makes yours worth writing about? Their main goal is to attract readers. Writing about the 500th rap record to come out this year probably isn't going to accomplish that.
b. Write a good press release, or find someone to write one for you. Many publications (especially blogs) will simply reprint part of your press release when they post your music.
c. Get to actually know some of the writers in town. Writers are much more likely to open an email from someone they know. Introduce yourself if you see them at a show. Buy them a drink.
At the same time, don't abuse good relationships. Only hit them up about projects you think they'll actually be interested in. Don't overwhelm them with emails about every single thing you're doing.
d. Be punctual. Don't take a week to respond to an email. Don't keep someone waiting on your press photos. If you land an interview, for god's sake, show up on time.
e. Thank the writers and publications that actually take the time to cover your project. Send a thank you email and link to their article on your website/twitter/facebook. In addition to just being a nice thing to do, this also makes it much more likely that they'll cover your next project.
Don't get discouraged if a certain publication doesn't cover your project.
Keep sending them music. I sent music to 2DopeBoyz for years before they ever posted any of it. I now have a good enough relationship with them that they'll post pretty much anything I send.
Just because a publication doesn't cover your current project, doesn't mean they won't cover your future projects. Be (politely) persistent.
I can't guarantee that doing these things will get more coverage for your record, but if you follow all these steps and still aren't getting any attention, the problem probably lies elsewhere.