After 5 years of writing music reviews for the Muse’s Muse, I’ve recently noticed a decline in the number of artist related submissions that I receive.
The number of submissions sent by artist managers, publicists, marketing firms, and PR agents has increased.
What does it all mean?
To me it says several things: First, fewer artists recognize the value of having a reputable source make a professional evaluation of their work, and secondly, many of those who do still recognize the value of music reviews are using third parties more frequently to obtain them.
Few can argue with the mass influence of a positive review in industry respected trade publications such as Billboard, Rolling Stone, Spin, or Music Connection. These are the tastemakers of the industry and a favorable review in any one of them can impact music sales.
But the vast majority of music artists won’t (not that they can’t) get their music reviewed in such publications because they simply don’t try to get this coveted exposure. That’s unfortunate – especially when the music artists in question are actually deserving of it.
Increasingly, more artists are developing the pervasive attitude which says…”Since I have a MySpace page or an iTunes account, what’s the point in having someone write about it when my fans can just listen to my music, draw their own conclusions, and buy the track(s) they want? Who cares about the opinion of some music critic?”
That thought process is understandable, but it’s also shortsighted.
Landing a review is a lot like getting a movie or restaurant recommendation; it gives you a lead to explore and alerts you to something that exists which you may like. Just the mere act of recommending something is an endorsement. If enough reviewers endorse your song or project, their reviews can – and will – break down the barriers to resistance that we all have when it comes to trying something new.
If you can get your music reviewed in the aforementioned trade publications (publications that appeal to those who work in the music industry), consumer and lifestyle publications (GQ, US Weekly, People), and Internet sites (like the Muse’s Muse), you will also plant the seeds for future publicity efforts such as interviews and feature stories.
While reviews may vary in terms of quality, length and depth, the real strength for you is in numbers; the number of reviews that speak positively of your single or project. Gather enough of these “opinions” and they become consensus.
They don’t have to be rave reviews; they just need to be redundant in stressing your USPs (unique selling points).
Reviews should give your existing and potential fans the very incentive they need to go to MySpace or iTunes and get one step closer to making a purchasing decision…which by the way, is the end objective, right?
With regard to hiring third party professionals (publicists, marketing firms, and PR agents) to obtain reviews for you, I can testify that many of these professionals do not put much forethought into who they send your music to. They operate from a media contact list and send your music to whomever’s name gets put into their database – regardless of whether they are an appropriate reviewer for your genre and style of music.
On the occasions when I receive submissions such as a CD with a photo of a hillbilly holding a banjo, I just throw it into the trash. Ditto for the Weird Al Yankovic looking fella wearing a polka dot suit and holding an accordion. It shows that the PR firm or person does not know who I am and that my niche as a reviewer is high-end, commercial, mainstream, chart-topping, radio-friendly music that both the industry and music lovers will appreciate.
If you are the hillbilly or the Weird Al Yankovic looking fella I just used as an example, no offense to you; your music is just not the kind of music I review. Your PR agent (who you paid to have me throw away your CD) should know that through conducting research on me which is readily and abundantly available on over a dozen Google pages.
Reviews can also transform your promotional packages into valuable press kits which can be used to help you get gigs. When booking agents start to see press clippings from reviewers who they trust, they become more receptive to the artists.
As you can see, reviews are more than just words and opinions that are written about your music. If those words are used positively, and those opinions carry clout, they can be powerful marketing tools that can open doors and create new opportunities that enable music artists to flourish in all of their endeavors.