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How To Build And Use A Strong Promotion List When You’re Just Starting Out

One of the first things you should be doing, which should even precede promotion of your music, is building a promo contact list.

What I mean is a list of your musical acquaintances who you may wish to send promo material or pre-release stuff to. Bloggers, DJs, friends, podcasters, playlisters and so on.

It’s something you can start doing now – you just need something to keep track of people’s information in.

I like to use a good old-fashioned spreadsheet, since it allows me to add lots of useful columns (and to export certain columns for emailing people), but you may find some other handy system or database to use. You could build up contacts in an online platform or your email address book. Whatever works for you

The columns in my list are:

  • Name (separate columns for both first and last if I can get them)
  • Alias / DJ / Producer name
  • Type of contact (Radio show host, DJ, producer, blogger, youtube channel, journalist, label owner etc)
  • Any additional type (most people do lots of things!)
  • Affiliation (AKA, who do they DJ, write or blog for, or what radio station do they play on)
  • Email address
  • Any additional email address (some people have more than one)
  • Amount of Subscribers (for Youtube and Soundcloud channels)
  • Notes (there will invariably be notes like preferred genres, specific subject lines, links to release forms and so on)

You may also want to add columns for:

  • URL (of label, blog, channel etc)
  • Genres (if you’re intending on spanning more than one)
  • Postal address (if required)

Now you have a system for collecting the details of those you intend on targeting with promotion, both now and possibly in the future.

This will become your little black book – your treasure trove of contact info.

You will need to make sure to keep it up to date, and stay on top of what people are up to.

Now, to fill it…

You will invariably have one or two contacts already I expect – friends, people you’ve met, or those you know of online, so that’s a good start, but where do you go from there?

Well this is where you need to start analysing.

  • Who are your intended audience?
  • Where are they visiting online and what sort of things do they like?
  • Who are your competitors and where do they get featured?
  • Who is supporting the music you associate yourself with?

All of these questions, and loads more will allow you to start to build a database of people and places that may be supportive of the music you’re promoting.

Do not just get a “top 100 blogs” list and harvest the email addresses. This is going to be a total waste of time. They may be popular, but they could be posting totally different things to your music – and you can guarantee they get so much email that you’ll never be able to get through to them.

Don’t be afraid to start a little smaller than the top 10 blogs in your genre. Lots of smaller blogs have a core following, and if they are genre specific, then you find that they often have a more dedicated audience than those posting a more varied range of styles. I know for example, a blog on dub-techno is more likely to get me some interest and fans than a blog that covers techno of all styles, since someone into dark or hard techno may not be into dub-techno. You get the idea.

Once you have found some places, you’re going to want to start building relationships.

Building Relationships: The Key To Successful Music Promotion

Promotion is one of the areas of releasing your own and other people’s music that can be hugely frustrating, and the key to getting it right is spending the time, and building relationships.

Only you know the best market for your music. Most people tend to target a mix of the following:

  • Journalists (who may write for a number of publications/blogs)
  • DJs (both radio hosts and touring DJs who release mixtapes & podcasts)
  • Bloggers (who will have their online audience eager to hear recommendations)
  • Music news websites (well respected portals that people visit every day)
  • YouTube channels and Soundcloud channels (bit of a wildcard here, but actually a very viable option nowadays)
  • Fellow producers (having some solid quotes from a highly respected producer may up the chances of someone checking your tracks)

There are stacks of options for promotion, endless possibilities in fact.

One of the most effective ways to promote your music via all these options is to build relationships. This isn’t difficult, it just takes time.

Relationships?

Instead of just taking the shotgun approach to promo, taking longer to get to know the people you’re targeting with promotion may be more effort, but in the long-run it will prove far, far more valuable.

Think, for a second about any time you’ve wanted to promote something (or even get something special sorted out).

You might have a friend who says “oh, I know somebody who can hook us up!” or “my uncle works at XYZ Co. He can probably help us out” or “I’ve been speaking to this guy who writes for Blah-mag. Maybe he will hook us up!”.

What have all of these things got in common?

They’re based on relationships.

You never hear someone boasting “Well I’ll send it to the general press-release email address at Resident Adviser, they’re bound to pick it up!

Why not?

Because everyone knows that everyone else is also sending to that email address. RA have only got so much time, and they’re more likely to pick news that is immediately apparent and relevant to their audience, than taking a chance on some chump they’ve never heard of.

Beating the PR Company

The other battle you have on your hands is that many of the bigger PR companies have already been building these relationships for years.

You can pay them to speak to their people at Resident Adviser, XLR8R, Fact Mag or wherever you want to get featured, and they have a track-record of getting through with relevant music, or you can try by yourself.

Feels like a futile endeavour right?

That’s because you’re not building relationships.

Imagine somebody you’ve never met before approached you and offered you some ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, whatever. Your favourite brand and flavour.

At the very least you’d hesitate and you’d have all sorts of questions running through your mind.

Who is this creep?” “What do they want?” “Why are they giving me ice cream?

You’d likely hesitate, and I dare say you’d be reluctant to tuck in.

Now imagine your good friend offered you the same.

You’d surely take it. “Aw, thanks bro. My favourite flavour, how did you know?!

Relationships.

Yes, it’s a crude analogy. I get that, but the sentiment is what I’m getting at.

You can’t email a respected journalist with your music straight off the bat and expect them to check it out and be super-enthusiastic about it immediately.

It may happen – don’t get me wrong. It’s more likely though that your email message might get marked as “to check” and then weeks later, after all of the journalist’s friends have recommended their own bits and bobs, your message will get filed away or worse, deleted and you can’t do anything about it.

What you can do, however is build up a relationship with this journalist.

How To Build Those Relationships

Find out where they write, and get acquainted with their work.

What do they like? What do they hate? How do they phrase their appreciation or negative remarks?

Can you comment on their work? Maybe you can make an impression there. It’s a start. Your name might become a bit more familiar.

Maybe you can give them a casual heads-up about a release you rate. Not something you need reviewed, or something you want feedback on – just something they may like.

Maybe they’re on Twitter or Facebook. Two more places you can follow them and check out what sort of thing they post.

Can you interact without being creepy? Comments, likes and the usual sort of thing you’d do with your mates.

Over time you may start to get responses, you may even get a reply to an email. It’s not always about music either – do they post pictures of food on Instagram, or nice bits of design on Pinterest? Can you add to the conversation?

There are a myriad of ways you can connect with someone without being needy, desperate for a review or becoming a kiss-ass. Just try to think “if this was my good friend, would I be acting like this?”

Transitioning Into Promoting Your Music

After a while, you’ll start to feel like there is a good chance you can get through to the journalist.

Give it a shot.

Again, keep it casual. Hit them with a suggestion. Maybe there’s a track of yours you think they’ll like – try sending over a link and ask them if they’re feeling that sort of stuff.

Hey {Name},

I’ve been following your updates lately, and I noticed you’re into {Artist Name}’s stuff. I’m a big fan of theirs too. I find their stuff pretty inspirational.

I actually have a couple of tracks I think you’d probably enjoy, and it would be great if you had a couple of minutes to give them a quick listen and let me know what you think.

You can stream them on Soundcloud here, or download them as mp3s here.

Thanks for your time!

{Name}, (Artist Name)

What I’m getting at here is try not to just barge right in with your entire album, requesting they spend an hour listening to it and more time reviewing it. That’s a big commitment, even for your best mate!

Ultimately you need to take weeks, months or longer to build up these relationships with enough people in order to make your own promotion efforts worthwhile.

This is why promotion is a long-game.

It’s a constant relationship building exercise. It’s not about an occasional scatter-gun email shot to 500 contacts you don’t know.

Sure, if you throw enough crap at a wall, something will eventually stick – but you don’t know where, nor how messy it’ll be.

You can do better than that!

Promo is about carefully curated messages to the 10 people that you know can help you out with a review, because you know their preference, you have spoken to them before (maybe even met them in person) and they feel like they’re helping you out!

This may seem like lots of work, but let’s be honest: You get as much out of something as you put in. As an old manager of mine used to say: “Shit in; shit out.”

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This blog was taken from my course Successful Self Releasing: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Music Out There.

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Super helpful and well presented content with a significant amount of value backed with authority.

Martin Torres, Mariana Records