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Why the Media Needs You as Much as You Need Them

by Bob Baker

Are you ready to transform yourself into a music media darling? Are you interested in generating feature stories on your band and reviews of your CD through online music magazines, newsletters and music news sites? With this article, I hope to deliver a primer on music PR -- an overview of how the media works and how you fit into it. My goal is for you to look at the media in a fresh light -- not as an adversary that needs to be conquered, but as an ally that can help connect you with new fans, as long as you help the media connect with their audiences as well.

Music publicity is something you should use in combination with other marketing avenues. Even if you already publish your own promotional e-zine, distribute free MP3 files, exchange links with relevant sites, network through discussion forums and generate considerable word of mouth, you should still allow time for online publicity. Getting covered by the media stokes the fire created by your other promotional efforts and draws even more people to your music.

Online publicity can be obtained any number of ways, including the following:

  • Being interviewed in an e-zine that is directly aligned with your musical niche
  • Having your CD reviewed in a popular music column on a web site that specializes in your genre
  • Appearing on a web page that highlights hot, new acts on a site frequented by your potential fans
  • Being profiled by a columnist who writes about your musical style for a number of online magazines
  • Getting a short mention in an e-mail newsletter with a huge list of subscribers, many of whom are potential fans

Destroying the Media Myth

Many people think of the media as being an impenetrable fortress. Folks who feel this way have the impression that to get covered in a newspaper, magazine or trade publication -- online or off -- you have to be part of a secret club or have some inside connection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people who have a negative attitude toward the music press either have never dealt with the media, expected too much too soon when they did publicize themselves or simply took the wrong approach when communicating with editors and writers.

Before the Internet became all the rage, there were already many thousands of music publications in existence -- everything from major magazines to mimeographed fanzines. The rapid expansion of cyberspace only served to quadruple the number of media sources in existence. Most established print publications now have an online presence and often feature distinct news stories that appear only on the Internet. Also, the low cost of entry has allowed a multitude of would-be music editors and writers to create their own online news outlets.

Why the Media Needs You

These countless publications each have audiences that are hungry for information related to the musical subject of the publication. Editors, writers, illustrators, photographers and designers -- many of whom are overworked and underpaid -- decide what information their audiences are most interested in and do their best to deliver it. In other words, media people have space to fill. They need quality content to keep readers happy. To write new reviews, articles and recommendations on a regular basis, they need a steady stream of ideas. The easier those ideas are to implement, the better their chances of being used.

It's been estimated that more than 80 percent of what we read in print and online publications is "planted." No, that doesn't necessarily mean that stories are covered because of government conspiracies or because bigwigs slip money under the table (although you can certainly argue that major-label ad revenues have an effect on what's covered in the press). News stories are frequently suggested by public relations firms, freelance publicists and everyday people who simply contact the media with interesting article ideas.

No Media Outlet Is an Island

For 10 years, I published and served as managing editor of my own music magazine in St. Louis, MO. As much as I tried to get out and see bands perform live and stay up to date on developments in the music industry, I couldn't possible be everywhere and know everything at all times. I often relied on the recommendations of others when making decisions on what bands and topics to cover.

Sometimes one of my writers would come to me with a story concept or a press kit from a new band would catch my eye; at other times, speaking with someone at a concert or on the phone would spark an idea. I didn't manage my magazine from within an enclosed fortress and neither do most of the editors, writers, columnists and reviewers you'll be contacting. They need people just like you to give them ideas and information they can use to serve their audiences.

Become a Music PR Resource

Take a look through several music articles and news stories online right now. Rarely are these stories only about things, such as products, services, events, companies and so on. Most good articles have a human element. Especially when it comes to covering musical acts. The personality and image of the artist and what he or she stands for play a key role in determining how newsworthy an act is.

Shouldn't you be someone who journalists turn to when they need a quote or example of someone involved in your area of music-making?

Bottom line: Think about your attitude toward the press, and how you can position yourself as a helpful resource instead of a just another musician looking for a publicity handout.

Bob Baker is the author of "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook," "Unleash the Artist Within" and "Branding Yourself Online." He also publishes TheBuzzFactor.com, a web site and e-zine that have been delivering marketing tips and inspirational messages to music people of all kinds since 1995. Get your FREE subscription to Bob's e-zine by visiting http://TheBuzzFactor.com today.

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