One of the keys to writing – in any discipline – is to know your audience. When you’re submitting your press kit to writers, obviously you’re not going to know everything there is to know about every writer that you contact. I don’t pretend to speak for all writers, but I will tell you some things that are a real turnoff for me. And maybe these tips will help you know your audience just a little better when you start sending out your press kit.
• Get to the point. Let’s face it. This is a good idea no matter what you’re writing. This is a particularly good idea when it comes to music journalists because we receive a lot of music pitches. With that in mind, what do you think happens with the band that writes a 12- or 13-paragraph pitch (trust me, I’ve seen them) about why the journalist should listen to and cover the band’s music? If you guessed that those long pitches get relegated to second (or later) thoughts, you’re correct. Let’s just say that I receive 12-15 music pitches a day, which is not out of the realm of possibility. I don’t want to have to read a novella about every band. Your pitch should be limited in length. Four or five paragraphs should be enough. If you have a hard time making your point in that limited amount of space, I know a writer you can hire to help you out.
• You don’t get extra points for using big words. Before you jump to any conclusions, I’m not saying that music journalists aren’t smart. Nor am I saying that there is no time or place for those $100 words. What I am saying with this one is that you are not writing this for a college composition professor. In other words, you don’t have to write it like you would a college essay. I have seen the words amorphous and ephemeral (among others) in music pitches. You know how I said that I receive lots of music? Well, I don’t want to run for my dictionary with every music pitch that I read. Give me a real description of your music without using words that would make your college professor beam with pride.
• Make it easy for the writer. I’m not saying you have to pander to music journalists and make things simple for them. However, when you send a pitch about your music, you’re basically sending your resume. So just like when you send a resume for a job, you don’t want to waste the time of the recipient. Making it simple means that we are more likely to listen to your music. Here’s what I mean specifically by making it simple: make your pitch a one-stop shop. Give a brief intro to your band. Then do one of the following. Either include a full-length song or video in your message or provide a link where the writer can hear more than a 30-second sample of your music. Yes, music journalists are busy people, but a 30-second sample of a song is like giving someone two bites of an entree. Any musician can make music that sounds good for 30 seconds (although many don’t). For me to judge whether I want to write about your music, I need at least one full song. If I like that one, I’ll seek out another one. Or an entire album. The point is that I don’t want to go scouring the web looking for your tunes, nor do I want to go to iTunes and hear just a sample of your music. So make it easy and include one in your pitch.
So there you have it: a brief guide to knowing your audience when you start to reach out to music journalists. When all else fails, just remember that acronym KISS: Keep it simple, Slick.