Thursday, April 21, 2011

How NOT to get coverage for your concert, part 1

Musicians often write to me asking "how to get coverage" for their concerts. After however-many-years in the music business, even if I can't suggest a foolproof way to do certain things, I sure as hell know a thing or two about how not to do them. So here, in two parts of 12 each, are the top 24 ways NOT to get your concert covered in the media. I'm providing this information because, dear musicians, I love you, I want to help you and it is all for your own good...

1. Do not... send out no invitations, no press releases, no social media, no posters, no advertising. You think that if you build it, they will come? Not if you don't tell them about it, they won't.

2. Do not... send out invitations, press releases, et al, four days in advance telling everyone to 'save the date'. Chances are they'll be booked up. You need to save your own date. So get on the case at least two months ahead.

3. Do not... phone a list of journalists and say "Who do you write for?" Do your research. It's easy - all you need is internet access...

4. Do your press releases as file attachments. Always, always paste them into the main body of the message. If your targets see only "People Give Concert, please read attached", nine out of ten will move straight on to the next of their 700 messages without reading anything at all.

5. Do not... aggressively badger editors about what a staggeringly wonderful opportunity they are missing by not reviewing your concert/interviewing you. They are offered approximately 6009 similar staggeringly wonderful opportunities every day.

6. Do editors dissecting the infelicities of their latest leading article and telling them you can do their job better than they can. They will not love you for it. Besides, if you could do it better than them, you'd be doing it already.

7. Do not...fight the fact that if there's no 'story' then there's no story. To stand a chance of competing in today's climate, you need one. Playing wonderfully is a prerequisite: we imagine fondly that you would not be playing at the Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre or The Sage if you couldn't. So make the most of the story you have and don't whinge about how tragic it is that such things are necessary. Go with it, not against it. If you don't have a story, it's a chance to go and create a good one.

8. Do not...forget that the arts are the creative industries, so you need to be creative. For instance, every young pianist has a list of accolades as long as both arms, but there's a limit to the number of times anyone can listen to (let alone cover) a programme of Bach, Beethoven, the Schumann Symphonic Etudes and the Liszt B minor Sonata and/or Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit without losing the will to live. Play something interesting - Kapustin or Messiaen or whatever; plan a programme around an unusual theme or a historic strand; or make an amazing transcription of your own...

9. Do not...emotionally  blackmail your targets. However worthy your event, covering letters that twist thumbscrews will meet a dim response from stressed-out hacks.

10. Do not... waste other people's time and your own. Choose the right targets. You know the old joke about the musician who went into a shop and asked to buy a violin? "You're a viola player, aren't you?" said the shopkeeper. "Yes - how did you know?" said the surprised musician. "Well, this is a shoe shop..." If you ask classical music journalists to cover your pop gigs, or vice-versa, you are the viola player of PR.

11. Do an evangelist: those are best confined to the St Matthew Passion. If someone does not have the taste for what you're offering, insisting that you can convert them to it is not a great way forward. Find someone favourably disposed instead.

12. Do not...put your apostrophes in the wrong place. Please. Read Eats Shoots and Leaves if you're not sure. DO make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct. And, come to think of it, your facts...