Getting music talked about is one way of growing audience. More people talking helps spread the word.
Album reviews are a large part of getting people talk. In addition, album reviews stick around awhile so they become part of a larger, longer narrative of the kind of work you do.
I Care if You Listen has a great article on reviews. It’s very much worth a read.
I write reviews for my local radio station and have served time as a music journalist in the past. Here are some quick thoughts on what you can do:
- Some radio still depends on physical disks. Even a home-burned CD-R will be more likely to get in rotation than an email with a download link. Especially for New Music/Avant stuff, DJs know the score and aren’t going to hold it against you that there isn’t fancy packaging.
- The press release with info about musicians, composers, and other relevant items is useful. Use it. Stay focused on the current album, but help build context. The laundry list paragraph of everyone you ever played with, everywhere you performed etc isn’t so useful. But the relevant stuff is.
- If you have upcoming performances in the geo of the reviewer definitely let them know. This might get you on a different rotation if DJs can tell people that a show is coming up.
- If your music is cross-over–fits well in a couple categories–send a copy to the music director of each genre it fits in. At my own station there are often disks that we get into Jazz that could easily run in the International or Avant/Classical shelves and it just comes down to who checks the mail as to where the music goes.
- If you have lyrics that break FCC violations please note it large and clear on the album cover as well as in the press release. Stations aren’t prudes, but they get put out of business by getting on the bad side of FCC violations.
- Only release your music digitally on Soundcloud or Bandcamp? The link there is no good to us unless we can download. While I personally do actually purchase stuff and put it in my radio station sometimes, I don’t know many others that do. If you want radio play, the media needs to get to us easy. That means a CD, CD-R, or a download. We’re not likely to stream MP3s over the air or log into soundcloud to stream from your channel in the middle of a show.
- The only stuff that gets reviewed is what ends up in the hands of the music director. Know which music director it should go to and get it there.
The main thing to keep in mind is that reviewers, just like audiences, are inundated with music. More music appears every day than a single person could listen to in a lifetime. This is a daunting situation for people who want to be heard.
Work on making the process quick and easy for reviewers and when they have a chance to either spend 30 minutes doing someone else’s album or can spend 10 minutes doing yours you’ll get the review.
I know, your music takes time to get into, the pieces are longer than 10 minutes, it benefits from repeat listening. Most of reviewers aren’t going to give you the time your music deserves. That’s just the way way it is.
But if those reviewers write about you, then real audience members might. That’s the end goal here.
The other way
A different, and completely acceptable approach, is to take the time you would’ve spent making your review material easy for reviewers and invest that time in finding the specific reviewers who will love your work and building meaningful relationships with them over time. This will probably take more of your time than the other way. But it’s totally acceptable as well.
This means reading all of their reviews. Commenting on their posts. Interacting with them in the ways that you can. Feeding them leads that have nothing to do with your own work but are useful for the writer. And doing all of this over time. When it’s time for you to release then hopefully they will review your work.
That’s a more “normal” PR sort of approach.