Press is a Tool for Musicians, Not a Destination

Working at the Jackson Free Press, I get quite a few emails from local and national musicians, authors and artists requesting press coverage.

That is to be expected—we are a newspaper, after all—and I’m actually grateful for those emails. For one, I’m a fan of the new and the interesting, from music to literature to theater. Finding out about the unfamiliar can be rewarding in itself.

For another thing, those emails also serve a practical purpose, of course, in that they tell me things I might otherwise have forgotten or not known about at all. The reality of any creative endeavor is that, as much as the JFP tries to stay on top of the Mississippi arts scene, we just won’t know about everything that occurs.

As the editor of the music section, now also the paper’s associate editor, I have dealt with many musicians, management teams and press agents, which has taught me quite a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the world of press coverage.

Although I’ll be focusing on music since this is the JFP Music Blog, know that what I’m saying applies to most types of artists looking to further their reach and make the most of print and web media. Also, know that I can be wrong. I mean, I won’t be wrong in totality, but I may be wrong for you. There is truly no single “right way” to promote your artistry. The one rule of promotion is, if it keeps working, keep doing it.

The big idea for today is this: Press coverage is not your destination; it is a tool. And the thing about tools is that you have to use them.

Say that the Jackson Free Press features you, the artist, in an article. What is your next step? If your answer is anywhere along the lines of, “Sit back and let the new fans roll in,” then you’re doing it wrong.

To start off, let’s acknowledge that getting press isn’t a snap. As an (occasionally) touring musician, I can say for certain that press coverage is a privilege and not a right. Even if you have a well-written, succinct story pitch about yourself and make sure it ends up in the right person’s inbox with plenty of time to work out a story, it may not happen.

I’m sure your music is wonderful, and I’m a firm believer that, if you’re passionate about your art, then there will be an audience that feels the same. But there is just so much content that you have to find ways to stand above the rest.

So how do you improve your odds? Well, the easiest way would be to give that person a reason to cover you next time. Think of it this way: If you want to be in the news, be newsworthy. There are a few solid approaches for doing that.

Find creative ways to get attention when you’re playing shows or releasing new music. Offer to play a free acoustic set at a Boys & Girls Club in the town you travel to. Host a scavenger hunt for fans in your hometown. Try to come up with activities that are quirky, fun and engaging.

I will say that the old adage of “any press is good press” is false. Doing something crass or crazy might attract eyes in the short term, but it doesn’t take long for that to turn into active disdain not just for your art but for you.

Simpler than that is making the most of coverage when you get it. Just because someone finally agrees to feature you on a radio show, review your latest release or write a story about your band doesn’t mean that you can rest on your laurels. In fact, get off those laurels, you. Go do some work.

As with most things, it can be useful to notice what successful artists do. How many singers or bands that you follow have sponsored Facebook or Instagram posts advertising a big article about them? Probably most, if not all. You should do the same, at least to some extent.

Always repost and share any coverage that you get because: A.) it is only effective if people actually see it, and B.) it gives other media sources more incentive to cover you.

Just as you are trying to get the word out about your creation, newspapers and other media are trying to get the word out about theirs. If you can get 100 people to share a quick “thank you” and link to a blog post about your music, you can bet that another blog will want to tap into that reservoir.