Stop Rehearsing In A Vacuum - to edit

When talking to a friend the other day he was embarrassed that his clothes smelled of the rehearsal room he’d been in all afternoon because it was a“closed space”, and it struck me how solitary and insular music rehearsals can be. Of course this makes sense sonically, but none of the other performing arts are rehearsed in this way and it got me thinking.

Before you reach a certain level, some things are almost inevitable. The soundsystem at the venue itself might (will) be crap. The sound guy probably won’t care about your carefully constructed set. You might not even get a soundcheck and have to beg just for a line check. Your set may be cut short. You won’t be the only act on the bill and the rest might be terrible. Most people in the crowd won’t know your songs or be able to hear your lyrics. The crowd might talk (yell) all the way through your heartfelt acappella. It sounds quite bleak, but in reality, sometimes it can be - I unofficially manage a number of artists who are paying dues, and sometimes they get off stage and feel like crying.

The problem is, to the audience not much of that stuff really matters. Most people cannot tell if the mix or sound system is terrible. They’re not expecting to be able to hear all of your lyrics - the only thing they may fully understand is what you say between songs. They just want to be entertained. Something I often feel at gigs is that musicians forget the obvious difference between being in the studio and being on stage - we can see you. It sounds glib, almost patronizing, but I say it because I come from the opposite end of the performance spectrum as a former dancer, where rehearsal is always either carried out in front of a mirror or an audience, we crave constant feedback and the soundsystem is probably the last thing on our minds. The idea of stepping on stage without that public preparation would terrify me.

Don’t wait until after your gig to ask people for feedback, no one wants you to feel bad about something that has already happened and can’t be changed. Ask some trusted and honest friends to come to your rehearsals, (not the day before your show, weeks before and regularly) so that they can give you some honest feedback about how your performance makes them feel. If possible, get their children to come along, that way you’ll really know if you can hold people’s attention! Ask yourself honestly if your show (not set, show) will make people leave raving about you to their friends no matter how crap the venue and circumstances, because that’s what makes it worthwhile, not the rubbish fee. Think about what you will do in worst case (but probably not that uncommon) scenarios. Once you step on that stage your every moment is a performance and we want you to commit to it and deliver it to us with very ounce of emotion you had when you wrote it and more, (but this time also on a visual level that has to scale), no matter what happens.

I still talk about how they cut the power on Angie Stone at a festival ten years ago after just one song, but we all stayed in the tent in the dark with lighters, singing with her and clapping our way through her set. Or when Slum Village backflipped off the speakers. Or how Lissie’s drummer can sing and play guitar all at the same time. When Matthew Herbert and Eska made the whole Barbican sob. James Brown holding his dancer over his head and being able to do the splits in his 60s. I could go on and on. I imagine you all have amazing gig stories too, but I doubt many of them started “the sound in this venue was amazing…”

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How To Get Featured On A Music Blog


1. The most important thing is to make sure you’re ready. If you send out underdeveloped music you’ve blown the first impression, and bloggers won’t be eager for your next email. Test it out on a few people you trust to be honest with you before sending it out.

2. The story - who are you and why are you and your music exciting? Where are you going? Who are your peers? Work it out, it’s hard but it’s important because if you don’t know then your press release & campaign will probably be vague and ineffective.

3. Research: if you don’t know what kind of press you want, you probably won’t get it so find out - especially before paying someone to get it for you. If doing it yourself, make a shortlist of bloggers you think might genuinely be interested in your music & familiarize yourself with what they post.


4. Presentation is important! Get some great artwork and press shots done (quality videos too if you can), so that before we even listen to your music it's evident that you’re both serious and artistic.

5. If you are sending out links to your music, make sure bloggers can listen online before choosing to download - their hard drives are groaning.

6. The press release: A lot of bloggers are not writers, they’re curators. You need a couple of well-written paragraph which gives some interesting key information about the project, not a two-page press release. Bloggers love quotes and so should you - they get to cut and paste, and you get to talk about the project in your own words to their audience.

The Approach

 7. You don’t have to hire a PR, but if you do make sure they’re credible - do they get thanked by artists and bloggers online? Do they have lots of followers on Twitter/ Facebook (ie do they know a lot of people)? Do they genuinely like your music, because if they don’t you’re just a job they’ll probably do bare minimum work on. Ask to see previous communications they’ve sent out, and try asking artists who get good press who they work with. Remember! The best PR in the world will struggle if your music isn’t ready and your marketing approach is wrong.

8. DIY PR - great for building up contacts you can keep. Make a shortlist of 20 key bloggers you think would genuinely like your work and send them personalised emails. It’s way more effective than sending a blast to 2000 random bloggers, and you won’t just end up in a spam filter.

9. Tip: ask a few key bloggers for their feedback, or pitch to offer exclusives a couple of weeks before your music comes out. 

Following Up

10. A lot of bloggers get hundreds of emails per day. If they don’t reply it’s not personal, and are usually grateful if you send a polite follow-up email or two.

11. Say thank you! It’s amazing what people will do for artists who are grateful and friendly (send your music to other bloggers and influential people for free, put you up if you come to their city, help promote and book you shows…) Bloggers are often people with big on and offline networks and they like to share information - make sure it’s good.

12. Harness data and use it. If you put out a project for free, use Bandcamp, collect email addresses and stay in touch with your mailing list, it’s probably full of bloggers, journalists, DJs and music nerds, not just fans - it’s your PR list. 

What NOT to do

SPAM. Don’t send unidentified links on Twitter, don’t promote yourself on random Facebook walls, don’t send emails people can’t unsubscribe from (use a mailing list provider). They’ll just block you.

Send too much “polyfiller” content: “here’s the EXCLUSIVE behind the scenes clip number 278 of the making of the trailer of the prelude to the mixtape!” - People will stop reading your emails, it’s not exclusive, and when you really have something of worth it will get lost.

Don’t send boring, low-quality content: Youtube clips with still images over your track, you rapping to your camera phone, random MP3s with no artwork or press release - come correct.

Don't slag Bloggers/ blogging off as a whole online then expect their support. They see all. 

Think a lack of support is someone “hating” for no reason, it’s not personal. Bloggers love good music - yours just might not be to their taste. There’s a blogger out there for everyone.




10 Reasons You Should Sack Your PR

Here are 10 reasons you should sack your PR and get a better one. You’re worth it.

They don’t discuss a strategy with you (because they probably don’t have one).

They send out one email blast to hundreds of blogs with no personal approaches or follow ups, when as we all know, one size definitely does not fit all.

They don’t try to secure you exclusives, features or interviews. Half an hour on the front page of Nah Right in exchange for your blood, sweat & tears. Result.

They send your music out at ridiculous times (10pm on a Friday night?! You may as well just put it in the bin).

They send multiple emails to the same press list on the same day (*select all, delete*) 

They don’t report back to you. Hey, you’re only paying them, they’re not your slave. 

They’re on a retainer but don’t try to build you long term press relationships, because as we all know hundreds of short term relationships lead to a life of true fulfillment.

They send out music by anyone who pays them. You, Rebecca Black, Ja Rule - it’s all music after all.

They’re spammers “HEY @kanyewest @pitchfork @sarahpalin COMMENT, LIKE, SHARE, RT THE NEW SONG BY @wackface!!”

They don’t BCC - thus incurring the enduring wrath and hatred of all bloggers for ever and ever amen.


Ask bloggers and journalists for recommendations 

Ask for a proposal and to see previous campaign strategies and successes. 

You can also find someone’s IP address and check it on a database for blacklisting, which at the very least should let you know it’s not worth paying for your work to end up in a spam filter.