Recently a discussion heated up on Facebook among music writers and other industry folks: what NOT to say when talking to a reporter. The roundtable that resulted offered some helpful takeaways for anyone in the music business seeking press coverage.
It all started as a would-be PSA by one writer: “Please don’t ask some version of, ‘Would you have interest in supporting this artist/song/album/show?'”
Others quickly chimed in:
“I don’t care for the ‘help promote this show’ angle either. They can buy an ad in my publication for that. ‘Help tell this band/album’s intriguing story’ (assuming there is one, and it really is intriguing) is what gets my attention.”
“‘We’d love your help promoting this show’ is the same as asking for support. Not the writer’s job, per se. We all know writing a preview story is essentially helping to promote a show, but it’s a legit story about an upcoming event, not doing someone’s promo work for them.”
“ACTIVE WRITING, PEOPLE! GET TO THE ASK ASAP!”
“My antenna goes up when I hear the words ‘partnership’ and ‘opportunity.'”
“I so agree…I know we have a symbiotic relationship with publicists, but ‘support’ implies that we are somehow part of the team, which we are not.”
“Helping promote your artist is not our job. Take heart; that means if we’re giving them attention we and/or who we review for find what they’re worthy of attention in a crowded world. And then— since we do not work for you, or them— if we praise what they’ve done, you have reason to believe we mean it.”
How would the reporter prefer being approached?
“Our album comes out _____ and we’re playing _______. Would love it if you were moved to write something about the record around the time of that show.”
A little more of the writer’s perspective:
“My cherished colleague _______ changed the arts-reviewing landscape in [that city] by holding all theater groups to high standards. She never said the cast worked really hard, or gave it their best, if they stank. People complained, a lot, but she held her ground.
My thought as a daily music reporter was that if I wrote about a musician or act, it was going to be someone good. Unless I was reviewing a major act who stank up the joint, I usually didn’t have a lot of time to diss acts. [B]ringing the act to the attention of readers of a good-sized daily was plenty supportive.”