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If you are an artist or band starting out, magazines and online publications are an important media channel to consider as part of your single/album release plan. The reality for the majority of artists releasing their debut, is that they don’t have budget to spend on Music PR and Plugging. The vast majority of innovative and disruptive artists are DIY artists who create and manage their own work and are working with small budgets. There is so much you can do on your own to get your music heard if you have the right tools and a plan.

As we mentioned in our previous blog, the world has changed with the evolution of digital media, but music journalism is far from dead and still offers value and opportunities for artists and bands. Walk into any independent café/bar in any major city and you will find free print music and arts publications that are working to support their local arts and music scene. In Brighton, we have the likes of Viva Brighton, Brighton’s Finest, XYZ Magazine and BN1 Magazine who are championing and supporting the local arts and music scene. Apart from the free print publications, there is a diverse range of UK wide print & online magazines re-populating the landscape that are genre and niche-oriented. The vast majority of these magazines want to hear new music and are open to direct submissions  from new artists and bands. These magazines are independent in spirit and want to champion independent music and artists.

Our key piece of advice is to ensure you approach your release with a clear plan. If you are not ready then don’t rush. The music journey is a long one and good things take a little longer. You need to be resilient. Learn, Collaborate and Grow. Get in touch with our team in Brighton if you would like to set up a consultation to discuss how we can help you on your music journey or join us at one of our regular Open Days.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, before you consider releasing your music to the wider world, make sure to spend time developing your craft. The next step is to spend time developing a Professional EPK (Electronic Press Kit).

If you are releasing a single (don't consider releasing an album until  you are selling out your local 150 cap venue and have established a solid social media following - at that stage consider approaching an indie label) your campaign should start 6 weeks before the release date. We would advise you to send your music to a minimum of 10-15 blogs, magazines, radio stations etc  each week in this build up period.

Some of the online and print publications listed below are genre specific (e.g Hard Rock Hell are not likely to publish a story about a folk singer-songwriter and it works the other way for fRoots) so make sure to double check the genre of each publication.

Music publications that want to hear your music:

The Line of Best Fit
Submit your music here

I-D Magazine
Submit your music here

Music Republic Magazine
Submit your music here

The Quietus
Submit your music here

Hard Rock Hell Mag
Submit your music here

Maverick Magazine
Submit your music here

Folk Radio
Submit your music here

Source Magazine Brighton
Submit your music here

Brighton’s Finest
Submit your music here

The Wire Magazine
Submit your music here

Hot Press Magazine
Submit your music here

fRoots
Submit your music here

Clash Magazine
Submit your music here

B3SCI
Submit your music here

 

 

Ok. It can’t be denied that traditional journalism, particularly print, has been greatly affected by the rise of new media. Music journalism hasn’t been immune to those changes. New media, using the internet, can source content from non-traditional sources and operate on different models. E.g. bloggers and influencers who bypass traditional publishers and platforms to build up followings and leverage advertising for revenue, rather than relying on the old-school models of employed and freelance journalists.  We’ve looked at parallel developments in independent music publishing and direct-to-fan marketing and distribution.

Consumers can access music journalism online from bloggers’ own sites, from music journalism and media websites, they can listen to podcasts, or watch vlogs on YouTube and the like. Often such content is free to access, and supported by advertising. Sometimes there may be subscriptions or paywalls.

There’s no denying that there has been a steady, progressive decline in music press circulation. That trend has claimed some major scalps, including the iconic NME which does continue successfully online but closed down as a print in March 2018, despite valiantly attempting to adapt by becoming a free magazine, supported by advertising and advertorial content.

Various hammers nailed NME’s coffin shut, including changing demographics and market, an ageing (and thus dwindling) readership, weakening influence and rep, and falling circulation. The final print issue came out on 9th March 2018.

When NME’s once-mighty cadaver hit the forest floor, some pundits and punters saw it as a sign of the end times for print music journalism. But if you look around, especially in the aftermath, you’ll find a diverse, thriving and healthy menagerie that’s repopulating the landscape. Walk into W.H. Smith, or large newsagent, and you’ll find shelves filled by dozens of titles; far more than was the case in the heyday of NME, Melody and Sound et al.

Now these latterday titles may have lower circulations than the giants of yesteryear, which used to command circulations in the hundreds of thousands, but there’s more diversity, often because these new titles are more genre- and niche-oriented. Arguably, NME’s demise was in part a failure to adapt to the new, more segmented and specialised marketplace; instead, it continued to try to pitch to a general audience, being everything to everyone, but sadly failing to hook loyal purchasers and subscribers as the more-specialised titles have done. Even going to the free price model wasn’t enough to save NME’s print form, despite the brand’s iconic standing.

So what strategies and tactics ARE working in today’s brave new world of print music journalism? First off, adapting to expectations of smaller circulations, such as thousands or tens of thousands than hundreds of thousands; also to more competitive markets, with competing titles, both in print and online, including free content. In order to survive and prosper, publishers and titles need to be lean, lowering overheads and using smaller teams. In terms of focus and content, they need to identify core specialisms.  In terms of writing, prints tend to benefit by offering quality, long-form journalism, with engaging writing style and depth, to set them apart from the more ‘disposable’ acres of free content online.

Established old school titles like Mojo are working to avoid NME’s fate by adapting and evolving. John Mulvey, for instance, editor of the 63,000 per month-selling title (stats from Bauer Media) believes that music press has to realise that they are now specialist publications, not mainstream ones. He’s also worked to add coverage of newer artists into the magazine’s remit, so whilst the ongoing stories of veteran rock and pop artists, traditionally favoured by Mojo’s readers, continues, new performers, material and trends also gets reported on.

The WaterBear interviews

As usual, we’ve gone out into the field to ask for first-hand, expert insider insights and advice.

Our first interviewee is Jonni Davis, Head Honcho of Hard Rock Hell, a.k.a. HRH: Europe’s most successful residential festival provider. HRH incorporates its own in-house media arms, including HRH Mag, HRH Radio and HRH TV. HRH Press also provides access to these straight-to-fan channels. They’re actively using multiple media and channels of communication, and (as Jonni tells us) are far from ready to write off print media and journalism.

Our second interview is with Christian Brown, editor of Maverick Magazine: The leading independent country magazine and website. Based in Kent, in the UK, and dedicated to country, folk, Americana, bluegrass & roots music, Maverick has published for over 13 years and puts out 6 issues a year, with over 20,000 circulation in UK, USA and Scandinavia.

WB: How do you see the current state of play of print music journalism and press? What’s the landscape like and how does your title fit into it?

Jonni Davis: Some say print has had its time: it hasn’t; it has just evolved, and funnily enough the fans know exactly what they want. HRH Mag was created by fan demand, as well as frustration from what was currently available.”

Christian Brown:  “Generally speaking, very positive. I firmly believe there will always be a place for print based music magazines, so long as they are meaningful. For example, you can pick up an old copy of Q and the features inside will still be as interesting to read now as they were then. Given that Maverick is also bi-monthly, that’s the goal we’re trying to achieve.”

WB:    How does print music journalism and publication differ from the online equivalents or alternatives? What advantages does it offer over its online competitors, such as bloggers, websites etc?

Jonni Davis: News travels fast. If it’s hot, it should be put out via a ‘push notification’ strategy and not be put in a mag that will be 4/6 weeks out of date, even before it’s printed. Mags are about creativity: thinking out the box and delivering stories that are not available elsewhere.

Christian Brown:  “It’s having something physically in your hands that you can read. Something that you can put down and pick up again with ease, rather than scrambling around to find a link on a website homepage that could be pushed down a fair way due to new content being uploaded. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with digital - NME for example have (very) successfully rebranded themselves online and it’s working out brilliantly for them, but people will never get tired of being able to hold something. Especially at a time where people are looking to cut down on their phone screen time, so having something in print form is a good alternative!”

WB:    How would you describe the relationship between print and online music journalism? Are they bound to be rivals or competitors, or can they complement or enhance each other? How does your title, for instance, make use of the web and social media?

Jonni Davis:  “It can have too much red tape, which end totally tangles up and takes away the parallel creativity and vision. That’s why I’ve got Print, Online, app, Radio ‘n’ TV working to the same agenda and timeline.”

Christian Brown:  “It needs to be strong and I would say that it is at this present moment. Competition is always healthy as it spurs you on to do better with your platforms. At Maverick, we make sure every upload is tweeted out and put on Facebook with the topic of the story tagged in the post and if that’s retweeted/shared by them, it really helps us with traction etc. We also make sure that with every gig we go to, an image is to be put on Instagram and that every picture we get with an artist goes up as well. As always, more could be done, but it’s something we’re working on.” 

WB:    What makes a music newspaper or magazine relevant, appealing and successful today?

Jonni Davis:  Talk to your fans. Understand them, then go above and beyond to stimulate and excite. It’s not rocket science!”

Christian Brown:  Honestly, not having it too accessible. Take NME as an example - in its heyday, it was probably the most important magazine in the UK. If a band/artist was on the cover, they were guaranteed Radio 1 coverage and at a time where we couldn’t discover things so easily at our fingertips, a weekly magazine was a godsend.

 “It’s no coincidence their downfall came at a time where social media/online was on the up and for a magazine so broad in their coverage, perhaps the writing was on the wall. Kerrang thrive as a weekly mag because the genre they cover is quite specific, whereas s had fingers in many pies and while that was a fantastic thing, it ultimately played a part in how things panned out for them.

 “I personally believe being bi-monthly is the best approach for a print-based music mag - people will pick it up six times a year if they like it, they probably won’t 52 times. It makes it more appealing having six issues a year as well, as what’s inside the mag gains more relevance and appeal on the basis it isn’t going to be forgotten about in a week.” 

 WB: We’ve seen several iconic titles like NME fold or pull out of the print market, but smaller, more niche-titles have appeared on the shelves and are selling. What’s your take on the niche-market model for print music titles?

Jonni Davis:  The model has changed and boutique stories are the beauty of a niche market, hence why they sell: they have the fan affinity and reward their loyalty by giving them what they want.”

Christian Brown:  “I think it’s great and I hope those fledging titles stick around and are passed down by today’s generation to tomorrow’s. So long as brilliant content is being produced, they have a chance. Our title is aimed primarily at country music, but also Americana - so you could say those are niche genres in the UK, despite their rapidly growing popularity in the country. Mainstream titles will do well if the content is there - a front cover with a major mainstream star is always going to shift magazines if it’s done right.” 

WB: Do you believe that that print music journalism will have to continue to change in order to survive and prosper? If so, how can it best do so?

Jonni Davis:  “Absolutely! But more importantly, in 5th gear, no time for prisoners: ‘Ready, aim, Fire!” is the currency!”

Christian Brown:  “I don’t think it necessarily needs to change as such - more to adapt as and when required in the future. People have been saying for years that print is dying etc, but we still live in a time where print publications in the music world are thriving due to how they’ve adapted with the times, not shoved things into your face on a regular basis, and reward those who choose to pick the mag up with the content inside.”

WB: How important is it for an artist or band to be getting coverage in print music media? What can they gain from it, especially what can they gain that they can’t get from other outlets?

Jonni Davis:  If it’s done from a new angle and not the same context, like all good stories, it can really help a fan connect with the tone and personality of the band and the individual. We shouldn’t have to wait for the autobiography when they are dead.”

Christian Brown:  “I would still say an awful lot. Cover stories are still a huge deal and the written feature element goes a long way as well as it’s far more interesting than a generic Q+A. Generally speaking, the ones who buy magazines are the ones who consider themselves to be core members of whatever genre the mag sits in, so to be introduced to that crowd is big for a band/artist.”

WB: What kinds of thing are you looking for that’s help get the band or their stories on your RADAR?

Jonni Davis:  “Anything out of the box, strong personalities, common sense, cool image, signature sound and a great big set of balls.”

Christian Brown:  “New releases, press releases, upcoming releases and tour dates are the big ones as you can see who is currently super relevant and who will be in a few months. These are the main things.”

WB: What’s your advice for someone wanting to make a career in music journalism? What are the best moves to make?

Jonni Davis: It’s changing that fast that I feel any individual should express their style from their own perspective via their own site/blog and then, if it fits the mag’s strategy and vision, they fuse together.”

WB: Do you cultivate contacts and long-term relationships with agents, PR specialists etc? How might an aspiring music pro go about building up such contacts and relationships? What are the good things to do? What mistakes do people make?

Jonni Davis: It’s always good to keep all your doors open and networking professionally can only help broaden your musical spectrum. It’s only after your first few meeting you’ll find out who talks any real sense.”

WB: The Guardian reported that new music prints are proving successful by adopting business models with lower overheads and smaller teams. What’s your opinion about that kind of leaner model?

Jonni Davis:Absolutely! HRH has a HUGE audience; our mag is free and high quality; its reach is ruthless, it’s curated by the fans and delivered with the HRH tone and personality. We have managed to make it work and it’s expanding every few months. All about the fan, band and market affinity.”

Conclusion

Thanks to both Jonni Davis and Christian Brown for their informed and valuable insights, and for the success stories of their respective publications, disproving the naysayer for print’s prospects. Proof that print music journalism still has a bright future, from which artists and bands can benefit.

The world’s changed, but print music journalism is far from dead and still offers value and opportunities for artists and bands. Jason Tanz, editor at large for Wired magazine put it this way: “…the answer is not to pine for the days when a handful of publications defined the limits of public discourse. That’s never coming back, and we shouldn’t want it to. Instead, smart news operations… are finding new ways to listen and respond to their audiences—rather than just telling people what to think.” (Wired magazine)

We’ll start by listing what you need to put in an electronic press kit. These days, electronic press kits (often called EPKs) are the way to go. Digital material can be easily modified, updated or tailored. EPKs are low-cost to create. There are no physical documents to be printed or other media to be recorded/burned. This means your package can be hosted and quickly distributed over the ‘Net, email and social media, at little or no cost, which makes it an extremely cost-effective and efficient. In order to assemble a killer EPK (which is not a robot from Terminator, before you get the wrong idea!) you’ll need some strategy, & then you’ll need to create and assemble the materials that deliver it.

(1) Strategy: the big secret

You need to create a unique selling point and persuasive, engaging appeal for you, your band and your brand. Something that stands out amidst the crowd, and appeals to your target audience and market. Give this some thought. Work out what you’re about and tell YOUR story.

Effective marketing creates emotional involvement and attachment. Heart, not logic, drives fandom and sales. Early advertisers, like coca-cola & soap powder manufacturers, believed that facts were the key: what’s the product, where can you get it, what does it cost, and suchlike. Wrong! What effective advertisers found out was that feelings are key. Making people like and care is more important than shunting info.

Remember this when putting together a press kit and sending it out! Two proverbs sum this up:
• The better you understand the lock, the easier it is to make a key.
• You may like strawberries, but when you go fishing, put worms on the hook

The importance of this can’t be understated!. Think of it from the point of view of the person or people you’re pitching to. What’s your message to them? What will be of interest to them? What’s in it for them? What will engage their interest? And what will make them care?. Linked to this, pay attention to the way you use branding, presentation & marketing to evoke emotion. Your logo and visual identity needs to be well-matched to the brand, for instance. How will your visuals, your look, your photo and artwork set you apart from the crowd? What will they say to your target audience?

(2) Where to host your EPK and how to invite access to it

The basic options are:
1. To store the EPK & its materials in online cloud storage
2. To store the EPK & its materials as part of your website
3. To send the EPK out via email

Option #1: Cloud Storage
EPKs are often best kept in online cloud storage, such as Dropbox and Haulix etc.
Dropbox Plus, for example, gives you 1TB of storage for £7.99 a month/£79 a year, and the Professional package offers additional services. www.dropbox.com. You can upload photos, documents (e.g. PDF files), photos, music tracks (e.g. high quality 320 kbps MP3s) and video clips into Dropbox etc. then share a private link via email to the material with whoever you want to access it. Other cloud storage providers are of course available. Haulix, for instance, offers a platform for storing and giving permitted contacts access to watermarked promos of tracks, albums and videos, in a variety of packages.

Option #2: Including Your EPK on Your Band’s Website
It’s good idea to include a version (typically a subset) of your EPK on your own website. There are several ways to do this, e.g. making the page public; making it public, but not linking to it directly from the website’s main pages (requiring a specific link). Alternatively, you can make it private and password protect it. Directing people to the version of the EPK on your website rather than the cloud-hosted version also increases traffic to your website. Video material is also very important, as mentioned below, and it’s a good idea to have a tab or section on your website which is easily accessible by someone looking at your EPK on the site

(3) Content: what to include in your EPK folder?

Keep the content of your press kit up to date too, especially updating it with new releases, press quotes, accolades and award etc. Also keep info on the band’s line-up up to date. It’s embarrassing for you and the journalist to find out that they’re written up a piece on your band, mentioning members who’ve left, moved on or been fired, for instance!

A. Documents (in PDF format)
A.1 Biog of the Band (PDF)
Write up a current biog (and keep it up to date). Magazines, onlines, newspapers and radio will all want a full biog from you. If they are directed to your socials/website and there’s not much info about you, this can be off-putting for someone wanting to write about you. Help them help you!
Be clear and provide the important info upfront. “If you don’t name the band members and I have to go on a fact finding mission etc. (especially where studio or touring line ups differ), then I lose interest and move on!” warns Adrian Hextall (My Global Mind). Sometimes a good idea, especially if you’re struggling to write your own story is to go direct to a music journalist who will do this for you. They often understand better than anyone else what press are looking for and can help create something engaging and on point.

A.2 Press releases (PDF)
Press releases are particularly important for new track and album releases, tour announcements, getting the band’s achievements, accolades and awards out there, and there’s an art to writing effective pressers (which we’ll cover in a later blog). Always have the press release available in word too. This makes it easier for press to cut and paste when featuring your news on their site.

A.3 Press quote sheet (PDF)
A single page, containing choice pull quotes. Short and sweet. 1 or 2 sentences only. Include source info and links to the reviews, articles or onlines. Go for attention-grabbing wording, high praise, and also the weight and authority of the reviewer or publication. N.B. Help the journalists etc. by providing useful information, interesting content, and make it clear why your band, release etc. is newsworthy. Adrian Hextall of My Global Mind looks for “2-3 paras from the band about what a release means to them” and “2-3 paras from the PR about why we should care about the band.”

B. Visuals: High-Res Band Photos and Artwork
Provide good quality, useful photos and visuals. Adrian Hextall looks for band to provide “4-5 promo photos in hi-res that we can use/chop down as needed to fit an article on the page.” Make photos and artwork available digitally and make sure all production credits and contact details are available. Make sure you include photographer credits if needed. We can’t stress enough how important good quality images are! Sometimes this can make the difference as to whether a magazine will feature you or not! Print magazines will insist on hi-res, so make sure you have these ready to go. When sending the photo’ to press you MUST provide high-res images, preferably 300dpi no less than 600px (though this may vary from site to site). Make sure the file names are clear, intuitive and self-explanatory. Journalists don’t want to plough through files named ‘photo 1674’ etc. Use hi-res, uncompressed file formats, e.g. JPG and send the band logo as an extra file in PNG format.

It’s good practice to avoid sending photos and artwork as attachments. Some press get funny about you clogging up their inbox with attachments. Look around for alternative ways of sending or providing access to press assets: there are many around, such as Dropbox and Haulix. Also (& this is important!) Be creative! Time and time again bands submit overdone, cliché shots, like the band standing in front of a wall, the band standing in a line, etc. Stand out!
Also, look through a photographer’s portfolio before you spend money on a photo session. Photographers can’t work miracles: they can only work with what they are given, so think carefully about the band’s image. Is it coherent? You might want to think about a stylist before a photoshoot, and make sure you’re all in sync before the shoot.

Key Graphics & Visuals checklist
• Band photos
• Live performance phots
• Album cover art
• Your band logo

C. Media Materials
N.B. Check that the track names, artist and other metadata are complete and correct for the tracks and clips you host, share and distribute.

C1. A promo video (more advice on shooting, editing and pitching this in a later blog).
C2. A separate folder containing high-quality downloadable MP3s
C3. 20 kbps MP3s are good quality. Use these rather than 128 kbps, which are lower quality and equivalent to radio play.

N.B. Various means of hosting, sharing, streaming and distributing tracks, albums and video are available, with various forms of access control and tracking to deter and prevent piracy, such as passwords and watermarking. These platforms and approaches can be used as part of your EPK. Some bands are happy to host HQ copies of their material on Dropbox, Haulix etc; others restrict access to snippet on platforms like Amazon or iTunes; streaming on Soundcloud etc; links to YouTube videos. Alternatively, you can stream and host on your own website. In the words of Terri Chapman of Rock People Management: “So many EPKs pass through my inbox on a weekly basis, If you are going to take the time to put one together then make sure it stands out from the rest. High resolution photos must be used. Make it as easy as possible for the viewer to find your links, videos and music. Include the band’s highlights of the year too, and press quotes really help, as do album reviews. What are your plans for the next 12months? We would also love to see that you have ambition and a plan. Those, for me, are some key ingredients for a great EPK.”

Huge thanks to Terri Chapman from Rock People Management and Adrian Hextall (My Global Mind) for contributing to this Blog.

The majority of exciting artists shaking up the music industry are DIY – self releasing on their own labels or working with small independent labels. This means they are in full control of their music and are not relying on the out-dated major label / corporate models to get their music heard.

If you are undertaking any release it is important to have a marketing plan in place. Submitting your music to respected music blogs should be one element of that plan. If your skill set does not include business and marketing then you need to either learn or collaborate with people who have the knowledge that you need.

At WaterBear, the college of music, developing business, marketing, release planning and collaboration skills are a key part of our BA (Hons) degree and Masters programmes. We always recommend that if you’re missing a skill that is a key requirement for you to succeed then you need to invest the time to learn, up-skill and join the dots. This extends to perhaps the less stimulating elements such as your marketing and business planning skills. So many new artists and bands fail as they put 95% of their time and energy into the creative process and give no time to their business/marketing plan.

In the coming weeks we will have more marketing and business/release planning tips so make sure to follow us on FB and subscribe to our YouTube Channel. Also, check out our previous blogs and YouTube videos for advice and tips which will help you to develop your plan.

As with our previous blog about festival applications, we recommend that you do not submit your music to the blogs listed below until you are happy that your music is ready, you are clear on your audience, you have developed your image, have a professional EPK (electronic press kit) ready to go and a plan in place for other activity (e.g live shows, social media plan etc). Note: In next weeks blog we will be looking at how to make a pro EPK.

The music blogs below want to hear your newest tracks, so avoid sending a SoundCloud link that was up-loaded in 2018 or earlier.

I hope this advice helps you with your release plan. As per our last blog, remember - "There is no such thing as overnight success". Be resilient, collaborate, experiment, learn, work hard and always remember - enjoy the journey!

Music blogs that want to hear your music:

www.stereofox.com/contact/
Genre: Not specific

www.indiemusichome.com/contact/
Genre: Indie/alternative

www.louderthanwar.com/contact/
Genre: Punk/ Metal / Rock

www.thelineofbestfit.com/contact
Genre: Alternative / Indie

www.hearya.com/contact-us/
Genre: Indie / Rock / Folk /Pop

www.indie88.com/submit-your-music/
Genre: Indie / Rock / Alternative

www.tinymixtapes.com/
Genre: All

www.gorillavsbear.net
Genre: All

www.velvetindependent.com/about/
Genre: Electronic

www.wolfinasuit.com/submit-music/
Genre: Indie Pop & Rock

www.weallwantsomeone.org/contact-me/

Genre: All

www.purplemelonmu.com/contact/

Genre: Pop

www.iheardawhisper.com

Genre: Electronic

www.drunkenwerewolf.com

Genre: All

www.theunsignedguide.com/spotlight

Genre: All

www.pitchfork.com/contact/ 

Genre: All

www.weraveyou.com/promotion

Genre: Mainly dance & electronic

https://giglist.com/contact

Genre: All

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Email: [email protected]

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