TL;DR: You should really read the whole post. Yes, it’s long, but you’re asking us to put literally dozens of hours into giving you free advertising. Seems like a fair trade off, no?
But if you’re that lazy, then here’s the gist of it because you’ll probably send me a fucking email regardless of whether you read it or not: 1: Send full-length albums and send them 4-8 weeks prior to release. We most likely won’t review EPs or old albums, and the closer to release the less likely it will be reviewed; 2: Send us downloads directly and send them as 320 kb/s mp3s or lossless files (WAV, FLAC or ALAC preferred), include a bio, release dates, etc.; 3: Distribute with the help of Bandcamp; 4: It will all go a lot better with the help of a competent PR firm. 5: The likelihood your emails get read is inversely correlated with the number you send.
AngryMetalGuy.com is a popular blog. We receive hundreds of thousands of hits every month and we continue to grow at a rate that I find difficult to believe. Our readership spans the globe and continue to grow. The only countries we have never received hits from are Chad, Morocco and, to my great disappointment, North Korea. For no profit at all—actually, we run at a loss—we produced 835 posts (that’s 667,499 words) in 2017. That’s an insane amount of writing that we produce in our free time. The vast majority of those were music reviews, because none of us has the patience or desire to be part of the Metal News machine, we’re all too lazy to do feature pieces, and we love reviewing music. On top of that, the posts we produced last year had high engagement. We had an average of 46 comments on every single post, and we all know that people put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the stuff we love. Just ask Wilderun, Lör and Trials. If I do say so myself, we’re pretty fucking awesome.
With the hundreds of thousands of eyes on reviews that we get every month, a review here (especially a good one) will get you heard.1 And I know it’s tough to get noticed. I recently deleted 28,000 emails that were so far out of date that they weren’t even worth opening. Certain PR firms send literally hundreds of emails every week (staaaahp!). This means that for you to get seen, you have to fucking work at it. If I’m receiving hundreds of emails a week, why will I give yours more than 30 seconds? I mean, how can you compete with the fact that some hip hop guy’s PR guy was informed personally by the rapper himself to direct promo of his latest record to AngryMetalGuy.com?2
Work with a PR Firm: Working with a PR firm is a smart business decision. It lends you a certain amount of credibility. But more importantly, it lands us promo in our boxes without us ever having to look at the email at all. Instead, it ends up in different snazzy accounts that give us access to the data, a one-sheet with your release information on it, and that’s it, you end up in Ye Olde Promo Pile hoping that Steel Druhm will focus his ape-ish gaze upon you between shots of tequila and rum cask ales. The downside is that PR firms cost money. But then again, they save you time and they gather (from anecdotal experience) way more attention than you’d probably get yourself. Even if some are more effective than others.
But let’s say that’s not an option. Then…
Have a Plan: A PR firm should help you plan your strategy. They should know when to get a promo to print magazines and what the likelihood that you’ll receive a review is. This plan should be set up at least three months ahead of time and should be followed accordingly. At the beginning of this plan you should have a well-written bio that’s not much longer than a paragraph.3 Then you’re going to want to have promotional photos (artsy photos with no faces earn you unicorns) and a package with 320 kb/s CBR mp3s (anything less than 256 kb/s VBR mp3s is considered to be rude). In fact, you should probably send us lossless files. Once you have those resources in place, put them in a nice zip file, clearly label when the record releases and get a mailing list ready.
Then start sending out emails. Remember, that the number of emails you send out is inversely proportional to the likelihood that they get read. DO NOT ABUSE YOUR MAILING LIST. But when you’re ready to start sending out promotional material (roughly 3 months ahead of time for print magazines, two months ahead for AngryMetalGuy.com and one month ahead for regular blogs and zines), you can hit up these mailing lists to distribute your material.
Use Bandcamp: One of the best ways to distribute your music, and have it for sale later on, is via Bandcamp. One of the best zines in the biz is Metal Bandcamp, and the community surrounding Bandcamp is amazing. You can set up quite a lot of what you set up there and people can stream your music (or not) as you please. You can easily sell your merch there, and we frequently embed links to Bandcamp streams on our site. If you’re not using Bandcamp, you’re missing out on one of the best tools for the independent musician.
Send Downloads of 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! (Or the damn Yum code from Bandcamp!) Don’t send me your album on fucking Spotify! If you’re not willing to part with copies of files that cost literally nothing to reproduce, then don’t expect that we’ll listen to your record. As an independent band in a flood of independent bands, your approach really does make all the difference. Send me a link with a release date and a link to your material and bio, and it’s two minutes of work for me. Remember that I do this for free. The more work you make me do to get the only ‘payment’ I get out of this—free music I may not like—the less likely I am to do that work. Because…
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 be read. These people owe you nothing and badgering folks 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 many people will not read reviews of your record because they’ve never heard of you. This is a sad reality, but it’s also the reality.
Two More Points: Due to the fact that we receive a vast sum of promotional material that we cannot even count, it behooves you to keep two things in mind. First, we rarely review EPs and we almost definitely won’t review your EP. Second, send us your stuff not-much-later than a month ahead of time or the likelihood that you will get reviewed is pretty much non-existent. This isn’t to say that it won’t happen; we will occasionally grab stuff from the bin that’s been out and put in the Unsigned Band Rodeo. But, y’know, don’t bet your life on it or anything, because I’d hate to be responsible for anymore deaths.
Finally: I’ve probably missed some things, but these are general words of wisdom by which you should live. 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’.
- It will get seen. Or it may get a Photoshopped unicorn or become an inside joke, but hey… ↩
- This is not a joke, by the way. I just got this email last week. I should have saved it, because it was fucking hilarious. ↩
- If it’s longer, make sure that it is written like a journalist would write it. All the really important information up top, with the increasing details and quotes the further down you get. ↩