Here at Angry Metal Guy we receive a lot of e-mail. I, being the aforementioned Angry Metal Guy, am the person who checks that mail and reads through different variations on how people try to get me to listen to their band. This means that I have, in fact, gained some perspective on the process (to say the least) and I’d like to offer independent bands some helpful advice in order to better have their music paid attention to. Trust me, I’ve got 420 e-mails sitting unread in my inbox right now: you want to make sure that your e-mail is the one I open. Which leads me to my first (and primary) point, actually:
Work Through a PR Firm: Now, I normally don’t encourage anyone to deal with PR. People who do PR are generally the scum of the earth. Well, except for the people who do PR in metal, at which point, they are a very useful link between a reviewer and a number of independent releases. Do not underestimate what having someone doing your press work for you will do for you. I have discovered plenty of bands through PR firms that I probably would never have listened to otherwise and more importantly because PR firms use smart strategies, even if I miss one of their e-mails (highly likely, think 420 unread emails), I still have access to the promo material with your pictures, your bio and so forth. Yes, PR firms cost money: but then again, they save you time and they garner (from anecdotal experience) way more attention than you’d ever get for yourselves.
However, not everyone is loaded. Some bands are local bands without much money who invest their time in getting someone with a name to produce their material, or in really snazzy artwork. Your priorities are priorities (though, frankly, if you’re doing either of those two things, the above advice stands), but then…
Have A Plan: One of the things that a PR firm should do for you is plan your strategy for getting your music out there to the world. This plan should basically be set up three months ahead of time and should be followed accordingly. At the beginning of this plan you should have a bio. Preferably a well-written bio that isn’t much longer than a paragraph (or maybe two). Then, you’re going to want to have promotional photos that you package with high quality mp3s in a zip file. This can be sent to a digital promotional tool like Haulix or iPool (but if you’ve got the money for that, why not use a PR firm?), but another strategy is to just start assembling a mailing list. Do not abuse this mailing list. The more e-mails you send out, the less likely I become to read them. But when you’re ready to start sending out your promotional material (roughly two months ahead of time for print magazines and roughly a month ahead of time for blogs and zines), you can hit up these mailing lists and distribute your material.
Send Access to Promos Immediately: I don’t want to have to e-mail with you in order to get your promos, particularly when you’re sending me a review request. Don’t “kindly request” reviews of me (and on a side note, don’t request that I interview your band): just send me the damn link! As an independent band in a virtual flood of independent bands, your approach really does make all the difference. Me receiving a two sentences with a release date of your material and a link to your album and promotional material equals 2 minutes of work for me, and therefore a lot more likely that you’ll get a review in the long run.
Bloggers and Magazines Owe You Nothing: I think it is best, particularly if you’re not using a PR firm, to expect that less than half of all the e-mails you send will ever get read. These people owe you nothing and getting cranky at them gets you nowhere. The best thing to do is to send a follow up e-mail, in a couple of lines of clear language, asking them if they could tell you whether or not they plan on reviewing your material.
Another thing that’s important to remember for the grand scheme of things is that reviewers are doing you a service by reviewing your material (and sometimes, they’re doing you a service by not reviewing your material, Amaranthe had the misfortune of having my review of their last record as their first hit on Google for quite some time). Most websites advertise, and all of them want to be more popular than they are. And so reviewing the material of underground bands is often times a mission of reviewers, but it’s never a strategy for success. Reviews of your material may get to the people who are always looking for good, new material, but most people will never read the reviews. This is a sad reality, but it’s also the reality.
Finally: I’ve probably missed some things, but these are general words of wisdom to live by. Plan, plan, plan and put your damn money into it. If you have invested your life into your project, invest the extra cash it costs to make sure that people actually hear your music and take you seriously. If you follow these easy tips, you’ll probably get a lot more reviews than if you send me a YouTube clip of your latest project with an e-mail that is filled with apologies, misspellings and no punctuation at all. Just sayin’.