Last updated on May 18th, 2023
Musicians: whether it feels this way or not, opportunities to be seen and heard are all around you. I would know – I happen to run an independent music publication, a podcast, and an event production company. So, when Luke and I divided up the articles for our “10 People Musicians Need on Their Side” series, I laid claim to the “Media Supporter” archetype right away.
What I didn’t want to do, though, is just have this be an op-ed about all of the things I look for when considering whether to feature an artist or their music. So, I received an assist from a couple of my peers in the industry for their takes on what they’re looking for, where they find new music, and other tips and tricks that will help you identify the right opportunities.
As a tip: you may also find some helpful tips from your artist peers on Muze who have landed feature opportunities. Sign up today and get connected!
First of all – are there outlets that cater to independent artists?
The answer is yes! Many passionate individuals from all corners of the world have blogs, podcasts, magazines, and more that feature the songs and stories that aren’t always covered by the mainstream media.
Not only that, but many of these outlets are more than happy to give you a professional at-bat. Paul Howard is the founder of Music Mecca, an online publication which works with individual artists, PR agencies, management companies, labels, and so on. Music Mecca and its team of contributors review music, cover events and festivals, and more – with quality storytelling at the heart of its mission.
“We try to produce articles in a fun, informative, and off the beaten path kind of way,” Howard said. “Our niche is non-mainstream artists. Despite the world we live in of instant gratification and absorbing things in six second videos, we try to keep the craft of quality writing alive.”
It’s more inviting, of course, to feature music that truly makes your heart sing. Taylor Berryman, host of The Poptimist podcast, began the show to feature the artists and musicians he loves. Since then, his platform has expanded to feature entrepreneurs and mental health professionals – however, music has always been its heartbeat.
“I scour every corner of the internet and Nashville to find music I connect with,” Berryman said.
Although their methods of content delivery differ, both The Poptimist and Music Mecca share a key similarity: by putting in years of hard work, artists have begun to take notice, and submit their work for a chance to be featured.
“Many find us,” Howard noted. “We’ve worked really hard to build our foundation over the years, and with each article we build our presence. We also like to look through Nashville Scene – as we have a focus on Nashville artists – and find artists that way.”
But, as Berryman notes, sometimes nothing beats hitting the streets – both digital and real-life – to make new music discoveries – and connections.
“It can be anywhere, from hearing them out at places like The 5 Spot or The East Room; hearing about new music from friends, or even TikTok or Instagram,” Berryman said.
Do all indie music outlets cater to all genres?
Short answer: no. There are media outlets that will hone their focus on the genres about which they are most passionate or knowledgeable. However, being an independent music journalist always leaves room for flexibility, based on the submission – and the overall connection between the journalist and artist.
“(We feature) all kinds as far as genre, but we cater to instrument-driven music and lyrically-focused songwriters,” Howard said. “Americana, country, indie rock, rock and roll, and some pop. The artists range from just putting out debut singles, to putting out their 15th album. Our main thing is making sure they have some semblance of an established presence – and that the songs are at least OK.”
Berryman adds, “Most artists on The Poptimist are in the rock, indie, or alternative genres, but I am open to all. Recently, I had Joey Canyon on. He’s a country artist. He seemed like a hustler, and I really admire that.”
No matter the type of music, one thing is for sure: the passion for storytelling that fuels many independent media outlets means that artists would be best to connect to their own stories before submitting. For some, authenticity can make or break an artist’s chance of being featured.
“You can hear if someone means what they are singing about,” Berryman said. “All too often, artists in Nashville are playing music to be ‘successful.’ I want the people who have a deep need to make music – whether or not someone is listening.”
What NOT to do
For as many ways that artists can connect to press opportunities, there are also ways that they can take themselves out of the running to be featured. As Howard noted earlier, an established presence is important for media consideration. However, it is often what an artist does with that presence – i.e.; using their platform to support those who have supported them – that builds strong relationships and counts toward future collaboration.
“You’d be surprised how often people ask to come on the show, but don’t share it,” Berryman said. “My show will continue to grow when the artists share it with their fanbase.”
In addition, an artist’s willingness to offer mutual support is a big indicator of their willingness to build genuine relationships within the community.
“Don’t be disingenuous,” Berryman said.
Author’s note: Personally speaking, “what NOT to do” is my favorite part of the submission process to discuss. So, I’ve offered some of my own tips of what not to do below. Some may seem innocent enough, but may ultimately be the reason why you’re not getting the features and placements you so desire.
Do NOT present your work without confidence!I once had somebody end a submission email with, “I think (my song) sounds OK. Sorry if it sucks.” This planted the wrong seed in my mind, and led me to check out other submissions presented with pride.
Do NOT engage in unprofessional behavior – especially in public!
- Social media arguments may help you get things off your chest in the short-term, but ultimately, they do more harm for your reptuation than good.
- Also, be sure to handle rejection well. It happens! If you begin to find yourself taking a rejection personally, take the opportunity to pause and reflect. This may also be a good time to go back and make sure that everything you are submitting is the best that it can be.
- Above all else, be courteous, respectful, and accommodating, as much as possible.
Do NOT be sloppy!Time + effort = opportunities. You owe it to yourself and your dream to make everything you put out the best that it can be.
Do NOT be somebody else!There’s often a thin line between being influenced by an artist and emulating that artist. As a rule of thumb, every new iteration of the same thing will have diminishing returns. Take your influences and put your own spin on them – otherwise, you risk being labeled a copy of somebody more established.
Do NOT give people extra work!If there are certain guidelines you must follow to be considered for an opportunity, be sure to follow them. These are busy people receiving TONS of inquiries. The more ingredients you give them, the better the finished meal will be. Be the artist who will go the extra mile!
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