Get the attention of the people you want to hear your music without making them hate your band and smash the block button.
Hi Coolmusicblogger, we are big fans of your show, CoolmusicbloggerTV. Every Wednesday we make sure to listen on YouTube because we like the metal you play. Please find enclosed our new single, which we hope you will give a lot of free publicity. Yours truly, a band you never want to hear from again.
You’ve just released some music. Or you’re about to. You’re super excited about it, because you should be. It’s an exciting thing. Since you’re a smart indie musician, you’ve followed along with our free music release plan guide or you’re enrolled in Academy, learning from some very smart music marketers. Now, you want to get your song on playlists and blogs. That makes sense. But, before you download this awesome contact sheet we made, there are two things we want you to understand:
1) At simpl., we spend a lot of time explaining to people the difference between good playlisting and bad playlisting. Many of the musicians in our free online community, The Green Room, ask about playlists. The long and short of it is: do NOT rely on playlisting services. Ever. Find your own playlists and follow our best practices for auditing BS playlists.
Red flags in a playlist include:
- Variance in playlist followers (i.e you check Chartmetric.com and the playlist lost 1500 followers on a Tuesday and then on Wednesday gained 2000). See example below and you’ll see what we mean…
- You literally can’t find the curator ANYWHERE. If the curator’s profile has no image or when you search their user name all you get is a Spotify profile and no website, blog etc. that seems preeetttty sketch.
- Payola. Just no. If they are asking for money, not only is this against Spotify’s Terms of Service, but no legitimate playlist will explicitly ask you for money in exchange for a playlist add. (note – services like SubmitHub and PlaylistPush are based on reviews – the money you pay does not guarantee a placement, which is why they can charge you $ in exchange for a review.
- Any site that offers guarantees or set prices (i.e “5000 streams for $5”) is all bullshit. No one can guarantee ANYTHING in the music industry (unless, it is artificial 🤷)
2) There is a right way and a wrong way to reach out to music bloggers and playlist editors. In our example above, we showed you a shitty outreach email. Most of the time, your outreach will be ‘cold’ – the contact has no idea who you are. That matters, because relationships and attitude matter. Below, we’re going to talk about some of the things you need to know before you start, and principles you need to follow for the highest change of success.
Things to know before sending a cold outreach email:
1) Nobody owes you a gosh darn thing. It’s crazy how many artists and PR people miss this important detail. Something being important to you doesn’t make it important for everyone. Imagine a stranger walking up to you in the mall and demanding you buy them something because they really want it. How would you feel? Probably annoyed, and probably like you’re going to ignore that person forever.
Don’t be like that.
Humility and connection will do far more for your outreach than entitlement.
“I’m both a digital marketing strategist and the host of a music podcast, so I have a pretty keen sense of what makes a good pitch email. Bands and promoters that message us like we owe them something or should be grateful to hear from them get blocked pretty quick. At the end of the day, we’re human beings with emotions and day jobs, and we don’t want to deal with jerks. I’m more likely to respond to someone who takes the time to listen to the show, understand us, and show some understanding of the work it takes to field and respond to tons of bands.” – Bryce Lokken
2) You need a hook. One question that good marketers and entrepreneurs ask themselves is ‘who cares?’ This question isn’t meant to discourage, but it IS meant to serve as a reality check. There is a core group of people who care when an indie band releases music, especially in the early days: the friends and family, and the band itself. Sometimes, that’s it. Outside of said group, nobody has great a reason to care until you give them one. So, you need a hook. In the world of public relations, which is more or less what cold email outreach is, a hook is defined as a way of presenting your news or story that will stimulate interest from your chosen media audience. In the case of reaching out to a blogger, they’re especially looking for a hook, because they need a hook for their own audience when they post a review or story.
What’s an example of a hook?
To guide us, we can reference Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion. For those who aren’t marketing nerds and unfamiliar with Cialdini, it’s pretty simple: he said that there are six ways we can influence people to do what we want.
That list, with simple overviews, is:
- Social Proof – We are wired to like things other people like. It’s why we’re generally more willing to listen to a song on YouTube with 100,000 plays than one with 1,000 plays.
- Liking – We want to support those who we like and get along with. Easy to understand.
- Authority – We listen to subject matter experts and are more influenced by their opinions and instructions.
- Consistency – We are more likely to be influenced by those who are consistent in their interactions with us, whatever those may be.
- Reciprocity – We are more likely to be influenced by those who give us something, which is why nonprofits send you those little label things. They make more in the long run.
- Scarcity – We respond to cues about limited supplies of stuff, because our brains are used to prioritizing the gathering of resources that are scarce first.
- Also, Tribalism has been brought up as #7, but let’s not talk about that.
Which of those make good hooks for outreach? That’s up for you to decide. Every situation is different. A band with a lot of money, for example, might be able to send gifts to influential people – a hat, a mug, whatever. A band that’s recently won an award can use that authority to be taken a little more seriously. A band that writes in, politely, every time a single drops may be noticed over time due to their consistency. Be creative. The same principles can also apply to your advertising as you think about messaging that will get you more engaged clicks.
Hooks can also be driven by an emotional connection. An example of an emotional hook is Architects’ first album cycle after the death of founding guitarist Tom Searle. To be clear, we aren’t suggesting that Architects leveraged a tragedy for any benefit to themselves. But, as you can probably imagine, their outreach cycle for Holy Hell, the album following Searle’s death, would be vastly different than the previous album. People can resonate with loss, and telling that story in outreach emails would have naturally made their contacts pay more attention.
3) It’s going to kind of suck. If you’re a small act and get a response rate of ten percent – that is, one person replying out of ten cold emails sent – then it’s time to pop the champagne. Mentally prepare for that. The best bands will reach out periodically, at a relevant interval like a new album release, music video drop, or something actually massive. Even the most hardened and grumpy contact will at least appreciate your consistency, and maybe that consistency will eventually win you a response as you grow. Keep your chin up, don’t get discouraged, and remember it’s all part of the process.
This is also one of the reasons with the team at simpl. is always encouraging new bands to develop a proper music release strategy and advertising plan. Not only will it help you reach relevant people while you’re grinding away on the free promotion via bloggers and playlists, but it will also help you look more legit. Which do you think sounds better to a music blogger: we have 100 monthly listeners, or we have 1000 monthly listeners? If you’ve learned to market your music correctly, that 10x increase may be cheaper and easier than you think.
Here’s a completely free list of music industry contacts we’ve gathered.
By downloading it, you solemnly agree to not send a shitty email, not spam people, and not be a jerk. Violators will be punished by having all of their guitars replaced by BC Rich Warlocks, unless you like those. Then you’re getting a Strat.
If you scrolled this far to find the sheet and didn’t read the whole thing, we encourage you to scroll back and do that, because it’s a good read and we mention cool marketing terms that will make you sound very smart at band practice.
Click below to download the contact sheet, a release checklist + more in our FREE guide “Get Your Music Heard.”
If you’re a musician looking to improve your marketing, grow your fanbase, and get noticed by the people you want to be noticing you, we can help.
simpl. offers a program called Academy, where our founder and ace music marketer Anthony Pacheco guides artists through next-level promotions and helps bands grow.
“I’ve been a musician for over a decade. I never really knew how to do the business side. And I didn’t need to when I was younger. I was in the mix and getting shows fairly often. As I’ve grown I’ve lost a bit of touch with the community and have struggled with how to grow. Academy has helped me in various ways. I have more clarity around my goals, am more focused on steps I can take to build community with other musicians and to build my fan base!” – Matthew Torres