A Quick List of Do’s and Don’ts
[Editor’s note – at Performer, we receive countless CDs each month, and even more digital submissions. And as advocates for DIY and indie artists, we believe in honesty. We’d rather not sugarcoat topics for our readers, even if it means some things you might not want to hear. That’s the reason behind this particular article; as members of the press, we want to help you achieve your goals in the most effective ways possible. We don’t want you to waste your time (and the time of others) in fruitless (and sometimes irritating) follow up campaigns. So forgive the blunt nature of some of our comments, but we hope you appreciate us speaking with you on the level. We’re artists ourselves, and as such, want you to understand where we’re coming from.
Keep in mind that this is written primarily for DIY and indie bands, and not necessarily for publicists. A good publicist will already have trusted relationships with press that will allow them to break some of these rules when following up on their clients’ releases. Sorry, that’s just the way it is in this business. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for years of relationship building.]
As musicians, almost all of us have been told that we have to “follow up” on submissions and press mailings if we want to see results. This is great, but what does it actually mean? Following up means more than just checking to see if someone received your information; it is about making a connection.
If you have sent your information to a publication/label/club/festival looking for coverage/booking/etc., you are likely aware that they are receiving information from literally hundreds of other artists. It is important to follow up after sending your information, but it is even more important to do so in a constructive (and concise) way. Here are some do’s and don’ts for following up:
DON’T: Simply check to see if they got it. For all intents and purposes, the postal system works just fine. If you mailed a press kit and/or CD to someone, trust that they received it. Same for digital submissions. Sending an email saying, “Hi, this is so-and-so from [band], I’m just following up to see if you got the package I sent you.” is not a useful communication and will likely be disregarded. Your recipient is probably very busy, and this type of message provides no compelling reason for them to reply to you.
DO: Make a connection. Make your follow up a meaningful communication for the recipient. If you have sent your press kit with information about a new release, then take it a step further with your follow up message. For example, if you have sent a copy of your new album to a publication, send an email letting them know about your CD release party – better yet, send them a pair of tickets if they’re local. Offer to hand out free copies of their magazine and stickers at the event, or to hang a stage banner with their logo on it at your show. Maybe you took a unique approach in the recording of the album, or you tried a new model for funding the project – these are great things to mention as possible story ideas that could lead to coverage. Let the publication know about these ideas in your follow up. Remember that their objective is to publish engaging content, so make the connection as to how you can provide that for them.
DON’T: Ask a million questions at once. If your email reads like this, you are wasting your time on follow up: “Hi, this is so-and-so from [band]. I’m following up on the CD I sent you last week. Did you receive it? Did you listen to it? Did you like it? Are you going to review it? Do you need anything else from me?” Asking this many questions is probably going to get your email deleted. First, a week is too soon to follow up. Allow at least two weeks before following up. Second, if they are going to cover your music (and especially if they are interested in interviewing you), they will likely let you know. This method can come across as inexperienced and somewhat desperate. Rather than asking a lot of questions, try to answer their questions.
DO: Tell your recipient what’s in it for THEM. One of the key ways to make your follow up effective is to answer the recipient’s question: “What’s in it for me?” A publication is likely asking this to themselves when reading your follow up or considering possible story leads. Again, give the recipient a persuasive reason to reply to you – and be concise about it. Having a compelling story angle specific to their readership (and even better, professional, hi-res photos ready to go) is a much quicker way to get press attention. Know their focus, and appeal to that. Approaching a magazine with coverage that’s way outside of their scope is a waste of everyone’s time. The point is to have something of value that the recipient will find desirable. YOUR desires do not impact them, so telling them that you want a review, an interview, a gig, etc. is not going to make them want to interact with you. THEIR desires are the key – so give them a reason to get back to you, and your follow up efforts will not be in vain.
Ultimately, the key to effective follow up is remembering to look at the situation from the other party’s point-of-view. Instead of focusing on what you want to GET from the relationship, think about what you can OFFER; then, communicate that offering clearly and concisely. A one-line story pitch is far more easily digestible than a five-page essay.
-Pamela Ricci is an artist manager and consumer marketing manager in the Boston area.