JENNINGS: Tips on coverage for musical acts big and small

Contributed photoNice publicity photos such as this one from Artpark favorite Brit Floyd help columnists and others properly promote upcoming shows.

During a recent conversation with a friend about his new business venture he mentioned in passing that “it would be great to have an article in the newspaper.” I reminded him I write mostly about music-related topics, and that his business had nothing to do with music.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking about authoring an article for musicians or venues that want a newspaper particle written, and how the process usually works. While this may not apply to every columnist, I am sure you will find some useful tips.

The easiest columns to write are previews for upcoming regional shows for national acts. Every major act has a publicist, and usually they are the ones that reach out for advance press. On one occasion I did have a national act call me directly, Don McLean, who is best known for the song “American Pie.”

When there are a lot of shows on the calendar, there may not be enough room for a preview. One of the more frustrating things that happens is when publicists reach out after my deadline.

If you are a regional artist or promoter, the best way to get advance press is to reach out as soon as the show is announced and check to see when the writer’s deadline is for a preview. Sometimes I have interviewed an artist two months before a show and then write the preview 2 weeks before the show, which gives fans ample time to purchase tickets. Waiting until the last minute might mean that other show previews will take precedent.

Even though I have a huge music collection, I am not familiar with every artist and/or genre, so I rely on the artists or publicists to send off some music. If I don’t have any music, or if I am just sent a link to a website with 30 second samples or poorly shot cell phone videos, I am not going to preview your show.

If you are a regional act, I understand that there may not be any money in the budget for a polished electronic press kit, but I highly recommend writing a concise and professional bio. Include a little background on where you are from, your influences and if you have opened for any national acts, you should name them. When an artist is just starting out, that can be tricky, but even if there isn’t a long and impressive resume, a good narrative will give you an edge.

One thing that regional artists often overlook is the importance of a professional photograph. There are freelance photographers that you can get to shoot your gig and your publicity photo. I am amazed at how many times artists tell me they do not have a photo to send me, and then they send me a cell phone selfie.

While there is no guarantee these strategies will get you press coverage, they are things that will also help you land better shows. We live in a region filled with incredibly talented musicians, so all your communications need to have a professional appearance.


Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.

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