Press is a vital part of the rise of nearly any successful band. Unlike grassroots marketing and word-of-mouth, which take a long time to grow and are unlikely to spread outside your local community, well-placed press holds the potential of introducing your music to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of new listeners in one fell swoop. But understanding how to get it is tricky business for anyone who hasn’t navigated the back channels of the publishing industry before.
The first thing you should understand is that newspapers and magazines are made up of a number of different editors who all handle different subjects; it’s not just one person who makes decisions about what that publication will cover. So, say, sending an email to the editor-in-chief asking her publication to cover your band is going to be a waste of time – it’s not her job to pick stories for the music/arts section. For local newspapers, alternative weeklies and any other publication that covers a variety of subjects aside from just music, you’ll want to find the music or arts editor, who likely goes by that title. If you can’t find anyone with that job description, look for the features editor instead.
If you’re contacting a music-specific publication, you’ll need to find the editor who matches up with the kind of coverage you’re looking for: reviews editor, features editor, “best of what’s next” editor, etc.
The easiest way to find this information is by going to the publication’s website and tracking down the “contact” page. This isn’t always the easiest thing to find. Sometimes it’s in the main menu of the website. More often, it’s hiding in small print at the header or footer of the page. Clicking this will likely lead you to a page listing the names and titles of each editor, with a link to their work email address. This is where you’ll want to contact them.
Some sites will simply present you with a contact form, which is more or less a way of sending them an email that’s tough to follow up on or discern the recipient of. In this case, unless you’re trying to contact a big, national publication, you’re probably in better shape tweeting at them to ask for help finding the right person or asking around to see if anyone you know has the appropriate contact information. If you’re in a pinch, use your network. It’s worked for me more times than I can count.
Once you’ve found the right editor, write them an email. Open it with a salutation, but don’t feel like it has to be too formal. Be polite. Use good grammar and punctuation. You’re getting in touch with word nerds, so you’ll ingratiate yourself by showing them enough respect to write complete sentences and capitalize when necessary. Tell them a little bit about your band, what you’re hoping they can do for you, and why they and their readers should care. Provide links within the body of the email to your music, website and any other recent press you think might be relevant. Attach your bio and/or a download of your album. Give them all the information they need in the event that they like what they hear and want to know more. Close with a polite goodbye. Send between Tuesday and Thursday, when editors aren’t playing catch-up after a weekend away from their email or getting antsy on a Friday afternoon.
Follow up a week later with a brief and polite reminder of who you are and why you contacted them in the first place. Then, leave it alone. If you haven’t heard back by a few days after the follow-up email, under no circumstances should you continue reaching out and demanding a yes-or-no response. Trust me, I know how frustrating the silence can be; I pitch my own story ideas to these same editors, and often they don’t have the time or maybe courtesy to get back to me with a simple “no.” Rejection is just part of the package. Swallow it with dignity and try again the next time you have something you think is worthy of attention.
Rachel Bailey got her start writing about music as an editorial intern at Paste magazine in 2010. She once made Andrew W.K. cry in a pedicab, and she's still trying to decide if it was the greatest or most terrible moment of her career so far.