Music PR is broken. The awesome ease of email has combined with the awesome ease of self-publishing audio to produce a far-from-awesome spampocalypse of valueless promotional information. These emails flood the inboxes of recipients and occlude the occasional actually useful and valuable email. Below is some advice when sharing your music for promotional purposes via email, some specifics about sending music to this website (disquiet.com), and a somewhat vile but not valueless metaphor:
Part 1: What Not to Do
Don’t expect to hear back.
Don’t send 1,000 words of backstory.
If you put a giant picture of the album cover or the musician(s) at the top of the email, it likely pushes everything “below the fold,” and thus risks the recipient not scrolling down to read what the music is actually like, or clicking on a link to hear it. Don’t do this.
Don’t send a “follow-up” email. Trust that a non-reply is evidence of a lack of interest or lack of time (these aren’t the same thing).
If you don’t describe what the music is like, you risk someone not clicking on a link to hear it.
If you make the music download-only, you risk someone on a phone will never get around to downloading it when they’re back at their laptop. Have a streaming option.
Definitely don’t send a second follow-up email (that is, don’t send a third email).
Feel free to “watermark” your audio files, but don’t be surprised if it decimates the percentage of recipients who elect to pay attention to them.
If you start your email with the recipient’s name, and it’s an automated email to a list, you’re feigning familiarity. That’s unnecessary, and frankly contrary to the intimacy of listening that you’re trying to encourage.
Don’t begin the email with “I love your [blog, magazine, writing]” if you don’t mean it.
Don’t attach audio files. They’re big and slow. Link to them (via Dropbox, etc.).
Part 2: What to Do
Keep the communication brief.
Describe the music.
Provide (briefly) some context for the audio: why, how, when, and/or where you made it.
Provide as many different ways to listen as possible. And put as few obstacles between your email and those links as possible.
Part 3: When Submitting Music to Disquiet.com
When I’ve received way too many emails from a human-seeming email account (not from what’s clearly an automated service aiming for maximizing recipients), I sometimes send back a reply. I have a few variations in a file titled “cut-and-paste.txt” and they get tweaked as time passes. Here’s the one I most frequently send out:
Hi. This isn’t up my alley. Too pop for me.
For context: I focus on ambient music, experimental electronic music, contemporary classical, instrumental hip-hop, sound art, and other vaguely related things, related to the extent that the use of technology feels exploratory, intentional — and I must admit I write about virtually nothing with an intelligible vocal.
I should also mention: I get hundreds of inbound emails about music every weekday, and so I rarely respond. I do listen constantly, and when I find something I want to write about, I write about it. I’m a horrible correspondent.
Part 4: A Somewhat Kafka-esque Conundrum
I’ll put this bit at the end, because it’s gross, and yet informative. When I lived in Brooklyn, before moving to California, home was a nice building that, despite being nice, was popular with the cockroach crowd. There was one bathroom in the apartment I shared with some friends, and it was through the kitchen. If you needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you had to walk through the kitchen. When you turned the light on, the floor of the kitchen would seem to shudder, and then what was in fact a lot of cockroaches would flee. Which is to say, getting to the email I want to read means, on a daily basis, getting through the cockroach equivalent of email. Don’t be a cockroach.