Published Sep 26, 2009The interhole, with its staggering array of retail, distribution, promotional and marketing opportunities, can be a band's best friend. Add to it the digital press, with everything from established print media brands online (such as Exclaim!) to a zillion-and-one music blogs, and you've hit the band promotion jackpot.
There are essentially two kinds of blogs out there: one is really an online magazine (e.g. Pitchfork), and the other is a true blog ― a web log chronicling someone's personal interests and opinions. Both are great places for you to get reviewed, promoted and heard, but it's the plethora of personal blogs that are our subject today, since they are more numerous, more accessible, and potentially more valuable to your promotional efforts.
Why so? Whether actual or digital, word-of-mouth advertising is unassailably the best way to get your gospel spread. A conversation among friends has a personal element that makes a recommendation more trustworthy. The best music blogs are the ones that have that same pal-to-pal currency ― often, they are written and published by a person (perhaps someone Malcolm Gladwell would call a "maven") who connects to a lot of different elements in a scene. That connectedness is the essence of what makes a music blog valuable. Bringing a blog onside is like making friends with a season-ticket holder.
The most important thing to remember about most music blogs is that their publishers generally don't make any money. They do what they do out of passion for music. Chromewaves (www.chromewaves.net) is one of Canada's longest-running music blogs. "The goal of what I do is to keep myself entertained," says publisher Frank Yang. "Since almost nobody does this as a full-time thing, it needs to be manageable. For me, it's important to stay motivated and find new stuff that I enjoy and to help get the word out." Now that he's contacted daily by hordes of artists, publicists and labels, Yang says he's even more focused on sticking to covering only what he truly likes. "In the last few years it's become difficult to justify spending time on stuff that I don't actually care about."
Making friends with music bloggers could turn into promotional gold. So start local. I write this almost every month, because it bears repeating: you are trying to build a loyal fan base and the best place to start this is right where you live. Local blogs are going to be more receptive to your promotional efforts because chances are you have some personal connection. They are the best place for contests and ticket giveaways.
Second, know your market. That means researching the blogs that are most likely to be receptive to the kind of music you do; by extension, these blogs have the most simpatico audience. Next, explore the site and see if you can identify what kind of coverage and content this blogger likes to get into. Ideally, you'll be able to put together a pitch that adheres to the blog's format. Have a story to tell.
Most music blogs are used to dealing with publicists and labels, but they can be receptive to getting a pitch directly from an artist. Pay attention to the "Contact" information on the blog masthead, and never use Facebook or IM to try to get your foot in the door. "[When they do that] I feel like I am on the spot and I want to just tell them to go away. I want to reserve the right to ignore you if I choose. Getting right in someone's face is kind of verboten," says Yang, who admits that getting his attention is sometimes "the luck of the draw. Sometimes I'll be browsing emails and I'll click through to a Myspace page... I once tried archiving but I never went back to it because there's a constant wave of material. So it's timing and it's luck."
Bloggers are more likely to be receptive to your pitch if you have something to offer, like a new track to stream or download, or a video premiere. New stuff brings traffic, and blogs love it when you bring them traffic. Does it have to be exclusive? "It's only exclusive for about two seconds ― until some other blog picks it up. That's just how it goes. The word 'exclusive' is hilarious to me. But I'll do it if it works with what I am doing, but if it's something I am not familiar with, I have and will continue to pass because I do have to write something to go along with it," says Yang.
A last note: many bloggers sell banner space and by all means this is a decent way to spend your marketing money. Just don't expect your buying ads to turn into editorial. As music fans foremost, most bloggers are fierce about separating church and state ― and the ones that don't, lose their credibility fast enough. In blog world as in music world, credibility is king.
Frequently Asked Questions
We gave an exclusive track to a local blog and it got reposted to a bunch of other blogs. Now the original blogger wants us to get it taken down from all the other blogs. Legally, do we have to?
If you signed an agreement guaranteeing that the track would be exclusive to that blog, then you are probably bound to ask the copycat blogs to take it down. But you can't make them, so if they don't remove it, you just have to hope the original blogger has a heart and lets it ride. Having it copied elsewhere probably doesn't hurt.
This one blog put our song on a zip compilation download that they're giving away. We never agreed to that. What can we do?
By all means contact the blog and tell them to take it down. Let them know they are out of line. If they refuse, you can threaten to sue but chances are you'd never be able to follow through, so think hard about what's better for you in the long run: depending on the blog, the promo from the download might be worthwhile.
My former band-mates posted a horrible track that I'm singing on, that I totally hate, on the band's MySpace page. It was an ugly split and now they won't take it down. Can I force them?
It's always best to work this stuff out amicably. But if that's not possible you can get in touch with MySpace and tell them the track is being used without your consent. If you can convince them you have some copyright ownership, MySpace might then pull the track down.