If I have one piece of advice for aspiring musicians sending out their music to reviewers it is to try to think about your hook, or your “angle” to help paint a picture of what your music is about. Put yourself in the journalist’s seat and consider what would be “newsworthy” for them to be able to write up 400 words or more about your music. Sometimes, even if I might like something it is hard for me to find a way to pull a story together. So, an album might sit around a bit until I have that “ah ha” moment.
The best music publicists are pretty keen about finding a “hook” for their story. Sadly, those good thinkers are far and few between the standard faire cookie-cutter PR folks. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against cookie cutting from time to time. Sometimes you need to just get the news out as quickly as possible. I get it. On the other side of my business life, I’ve spent the lion’s share of my professional communications career publicizing and marketing consumer and professional electronics products as well as related entertainment technologies — from video games to high tech toys to even some not-so-high-tech gizmos ’n gadgets. So I understand the process intimately.
If you even just send out a “media alert” with the core messages bulleted out and your news-hook front and center, that can make a world of difference in getting people to pay attention to what you are doing (or trying to do!). This can work even for presently-obscure, up-and-coming or returning-from-retirement, no-hit-wonder artists.
Heck, I’ve struggled at times figuring out a reason to write about artists or bands I really generally like. But just to say that ‘Joe Comeback Drops New Collection of Heartfelt Easy Listening Death Metal Love Songs On New Album Elevator Music Shaft Of Life’ probably isn’t enough to make this fly…
Ok, maybe that might make me read the release and give it a spin but … I think you get the idea….
I understand this process also as a performing musician. I’ve made hard mistakes myself even when I thought we had everything buttoned up. In the late ‘90s and early 00s, I had a great band going (called “ing”) and we made some fine music which I’m still proud of to this day.
We almost broke out to that “next level” before band member dramas sabotaged our momentum just as our best album was being released. Yet as good as we were, in retrospect I still wonder if we didn’t yet have quite enough of that other thing going on to get us to that other place musicians dream about.
I actually had one internationally renown and respected music journalist I met tell me bluntly (paraphrased) ‘I love your album but I can’t write about it.’ We’re still friends and I get it. We didn’t have enough of that “there there” thing going on to where the person could justify writing about us. It wasn’t enough that we’d recorded a great album in the same studio where Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison had recorded, a recording which was produced by a terrific engineer who worked with groups like Garbage and such. It wasn’t enough that we had a growing following in our area. It was cool that we’d opened for some bigger name artists but even that didn’t add too much to our big picture story. We’d even had the good fortune to have a Billboard writer who liked our music write the liner notes for our second album (thanks again Dave!).
As a still new band, we probably still needed something more… that bigger hook to help us stand out. We had great songs… but it needed some sort of magic to not only make reporters want to listen but also be able to write about it without raising the eyebrows of their editors. Honestly, we almost had that bigger hook about to happen just as the band imploded. It was a bummer that took me a while to get over, gotta say.
But all that doesn’t stop me from keeping going at making music mind you — I write my songs because I love doing it and because (in the spirit of Robert Fripp) the songs present themselves to me. At some point when I send out my press materials to other writers to consider, I’ll no doubt have to figure what my new angle is and where it fits in. I’ll need a hook.
What’s your hook?