Getting the attention of music reviewers can be almost as difficult as breaking into a bank - and let's face it - sometimes far less profitable. But a good review is worth its weight in gold. So how does one go about getting reviewers to give your particular package the time of day? I receive quite a few of these packages myself so while I'm no expert, I do have a few suggestions:
BE POLITE WHEN MAKING A FIRST CONTACT:
This may sound like it's too obvious to mention, but trust me - if you contact a potential reviewer by demanding their submissions address because you are simply the best thing that has happened to music since the microphone and the reviewer would be out of his or her mind to pass you up, you're likely to be disappointed at the response you receive. Sure, every artist deserves a chance. But you're biasing a reviewer against you right from the start if you use that tactic. Reviewers despise being taken for granted. Never assume you *deserve* a review - ASK for one.
Your initial contact should be polite and brief. A simple, "Hello, my name is (so and so) and I'm interested in a possible review in your (publication/web site). Would you be able to supply me with the proper contact information so that I can send you my CD?" will be kindly received. Even if it takes the reviewer a little while to get back to you - whether it's by regular mail, e-mail or through the feedback form of a web site - their reply will usually be helpful.
One last word on the subject of "first contact": PLEASE don't send an e-mail with your web site address and only a "Check this out!" line for clarification. You don't want to know how much spam e-mail I receive in a day and messages like that simply make me feel as if I'm being asked to check out the latest in cheesy porn. I delete such messages on sight and I honestly don't know many reviewers who pay them any attention either.
LEAVE THE KITCHEN SINK AT HOME:
Your package should include an intro letter that addresses the reviewer by name whenever possible, a bio that's hopefully no more than a page long, a CD (CDs are the preferred medium these days. I'm afraid you're kidding yourself if you think otherwise), no more than three reviews in other publications and/or web sites, and that's about IT. Pictures are nice but they don't really matter as far as most publications are concerned. If a publication requires further material, you'll be contacted for it. Frankly, for myself, I'd rather give other reviews a complete miss. I rarely pay attention to them. I prefer to make up my own mind rather than read others' opinions before I've even had a chance to listen to the music myself. But I think that's really dependent on the type of publication you're sending your package to. Some publications and/or web sites might feel that favorable reviews elsewhere lend more credibility to the artist - which is one of the reasons you'd be asking for another review in the first place, right? Just because I disagree with that sentiment, doesn't mean that all reviewers will feel as I do. However, keep in mind that if you include too much, you run the risk of it all being ignored. After all, it's the MUSIC that really counts.
That said, the presentation of the CD itself is probably the most important element of your package. It's that CD that will give the reviewer his/her opening impression of your music - and (unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) your professionalism. That doesn't mean you have to have spend thousands of dollars on your presentation, a huge CD insert, a gorgeous color cover, etc. That just means that your "look" should be consistent. Some of the packages that impress me the most are the ones that have an actual design in mind carried through from the CD to the stationery the cover letter is printed on and further. If you're not getting a professional printing of anything, a color inkjet printer creating your own letterhead along with a similarly designed CD covering sticker, will work quite nicely. Simplicity is often the best way to go. Above all, avoid sending in a blank, recordable CD with black marker written on it. Your contact information should be on both the CD and the insert and/or cover. No matter *what* you do, make sure your contact information is easy to find. The insert certainly doesn't need to be in color but there should *be* one if at all possible. The insert is the perfect place to put contact information, credits (the reviewer is often fascinated by who did and wrote what, I know *I* am!), anecdotal information, etc. - the things that make you special and different from the other folks the reviewer will be listening to.
I know what you're thinking. "Why not just include that stuff on a separate sheet of paper inside the package?" Well, for the same reason that your contact information NEEDS to be on the disc itself: the reviewer may not actually be taking all of your package around with him/her (in fact, it's pretty unlikely!). The CD might become separated from the rest of your package and for that reason, you want it to be able to stand on its own as a professional piece of work, whether it retains its case or not. You want the reviewer to be able to contact you from that CD alone.
AS A RECAP:
Things to send in your package:
- A brief cover letter addressing the reviewer by name (a MUST)
- A bio (1 page!)
- A CD (tapes are a thing of the past, folks!) - preferably with an insert of some kind.
- Up to 3 reviews if you really feel you need them (try to keep this on one or two pages)
- Keep the "look" simple and professional. You don't have to spend a lot of money to accomplish this!
- Make sure your contact information is on EVERYTHING.
Keep in mind that if your CD itself is a nice little package all on its own including inserts, you may not need the bio or the reviews and could probably get away with just sending in the CD and a cover letter. If you have a web site and include the url to that site in your cover letter, the reviewer can find out tons more information on you should they wish to. As mentioned earlier, sometimes simple is best.
I don't mean to say that you shouldn't ever re-contact the reviewer. Not at all. Remind the reviewer you're around! Just don't do it every day. Wait a couple of weeks between contacts. Reviewers have a lot of demands upon their time and are frequently several weeks - or even *months*! - behind in their reviews depending on the publication(s) they write for.
I mentioned that once before, didn't I? Probably because I consider it to be very important. The way in which you treat people will reflect upon your professionalism even more so than the look of your CD. It takes years to build up a good reputation and only a few minutes to completely destroy it. As with anything in the music business, you never know when someone you were kind to will be in a position to return that kindness. It's all about relationships. Make sure you're the sort of person who fosters good ones and it'll all come back to you.
How does this relate to tips about getting reviews? Above all, try to be pleasant. It may not seem like much, but believe me - the reviewer appreciates it a great deal. Don't demand to know why your CD wasn't chosen for a review and/or spotlight if you are told that it wasn't - not unless you actually want to hear what the reviewer has to say. And if that reviewer *does* let you know why, don't bad mouth him/her for telling you. You asked! I prefer not to review CDs that haven't impressed me, for whatever reason. I don't like the idea of putting up a lukewarm (or even BAD) review on a web site where people can be referring to it forever. I don't feel that's fair to the artist. In other words, if I'm not giving you a review, don't consider it a rejection. Consider it a kindness. Move on and keep in contact with the reviewer. It might be that a future release of yours will be better received.
I hope these hints have helped. Meanwhile, good luck with your music!