Top tips for artists on how to PR themselves online

Read an essential guide on how to promote your music on the web by Doug Hall, online PR specialist and PR for Imelda May...


When it comes to promoting you and your music online, it can be a challenge for new acts to cut through.

So we went to Doug Hall, a leading music publicist with more than a decade of experience in the industry, for his advice.

Specialising in online publicity early in his career Doug initially worked with high profile acts such as The Rolling Stones at LD Communications before forming his own consultancy D Digital PR in 2014. Since the launch of his company, he has gone on to represent a range of both emerging artists and high profile acts including Gregory Porter, The Lumineers, Alison Krauss and Imelda May (pictured above). Visit his website for more information on Doug and read his top tips here…

Be a spy

When you are starting out, the best way to promote yourself is to keep an eye on the competition. Pick an artist who you think is similar to you musically and research what coverage they're achieving across media - websites, blogs, newspapers and what they are doing on social media. You don’t want to copy their campaign exactly but if a writer at a publication is writing about them, and their music is similar to yours, then chances are, they might like your music too - so worth reaching out! Set up Google alerts. Download Tweet Deck or Hootsuite and follow your favourtite blogs and artists and keep track of what they're up to!

Are you ready? 

Getting your assets together before you start promoting yourself is key as you are not going to get very far if you’re not ready. Is the music finished? Mixed and mastered? Are you releasing it officially through iTunes, DSPs (Apple, Spotify etc) - as you’ll need time to set that up? Have you got images for promo - photos as well as artwork? Do you have any live shows booked to promote the releases? Do you have enough going on to talk about?

Timing is everything and best to wait until you have your ducks in a row before reaching out to media."

Get your story straight

This is the most painful question to ask a musician. What do you sound like? But when pitching your music you must always address this. What style is it? Production references? Who are your influences? Writers always need some point of reference to get them interested. Make sure they are original and don’t feel too generic.

What’s often even more important than the music, is your story. Music writers can’t just write about your music - they need the story behind it. Figure out your story and tell it, briefly in chronological order.

There are two key things to focus on.

Your musical back story. What has happened in your life and career that is interesting and sets you apart from everyone else and relates to your music? Perhaps it’s why are you making music? Have you had any hardships in life that inspired your music and lyrics? Are you part of a new music scene? Are you mixing something old with something new…

Timing… journalists are always asking - why now? What buzz have you got going on that will mean you connect with their readers and their feature shows they are ahead of the curve and now is the time to write about you… you need to show you are becoming successful. Sending a list of previous feature reviews/features is useful… Who are your champions? Are there any other acts that are into you and have supported you on social media? Do you have a significant amount of plays on Spotify/YouTube etc - anything that can paint a picture of a band on the rise and that the time to get on the board the bus is now, will help . Of course, this can be chicken and egg. Success comes with press and to get press you need success. At the very least you can control your story and make sure you have a great pitch. 

Keep it brief

First, do your research and make sure you’re hitting up the right person and they like your kind of music. Also know what you want them to do … Do you want them to premiere a new track or video? Write a review for you? Do an interview? Include you in a live session?

Only when you are confident that you’ve got the right journalist/blog who is into your kind of music should you reach out." 

Make the email polite and brief (the email note should be 100-200 words max but shorter if possible). Your note (pitch) should have a very brief paragraph summary with all the relevant detail about your project and make sure you include things like release dates, what is exciting about your story, why now and what is different and exciting about your music. Make sure you include a link to new music/video to check out? One good quote/ link to a press feature is great if possible … Then below that… you put more detail, in case they want to read more... This is the press release… Its everything you put in your pitch email but expanded with more detail. You can find lots of examples online.. There’s an art to writing one, but a few basics. A press release is always announcing something… XXX releases new album… XXX drop new video XXX… You need to make sure you have a headline, a quote from you about the project, detail like release date, label, live dates etc and most importantly make sure you emphasise how you music is distinct and what your story is…

Balance persistence with being a pain

All PRs get this wrong at some point and bands and artists are the same as the art of publicity is to know when you are being persistent and when you are being a pain. Journalists/bloggers get literally hundreds of emails every day. Most of them completely irrelevant and sent on mass. They obviously get frustrated when they feel like they are being bombarded by mass emails or too many follow up emails that they feel irrelevant. So send them a personal email.

A polite follow up email is fine if you don’t get a response after a week, but on email three or four you are pushing it, so you need to ask yourself if its time to move on…"  

Often no response is a no. There are so many opportunities out there, don't flog a dead horse. If you are going back to them, don't just resend the previous email. Instead, add something new! 

Try Submit Hub or hire a PR

If your feeling like you want some additional support - Another option is a service called Submit Hub which helps you send your music to individual blogs on mass based on genre/style etc. it has a free tier but you can also pay for feedback from bloggers who may then decide to post your music on their blog or put it in a playlist. It cost between $1-3 per blog but they have to respond to get the money and it can be a good way of getting the ball rolling for independent artists, although some feedback can be brutally honest.

Finally you can also consider hiring a publicist. It really is the best way to achieve publicity - journalists will take your music more seriously and they have a network of contacts they work with regularly who will have their ear and listen to things they send their way…

If you're hiring a PR company, make sure they have a plan in place and are passionate about your music. If you get the sense they just want the business, then hold on...  it's a big expense and it can be hit and miss so make sure you're backing the right horse!

Good luck! 

Visit for more information. 

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by Doug Hall,
December 8, 2017
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