How To Get Your Music Posted On Websites
A step-by-step guide
Story by Naomi Zeichner and Rahim Wright – April 12 2017
A couple months ago, I got an email asking how much it would cost for someone to get their music posted on this site. The email bummed me out. It wasn’t the first of its kind, but it was spammy, and wrong. Like most sites, The FADER does run some paid posts, sponsored by brand partners, which are marked as such. But The FADER would never, and has never, accepted payment in exchange for editorial coverage.
And I would know: I started working at The FADER in 2010, and I’ve written thousands of posts for the site. Over those years, I’ve seen how frustrating pitching music premieres can be — for artists, publicists, writers, and editors alike. Things work differently from site to site, and artists who are just starting out, or don’t have money to pay for publicity, often get the short end of the stick. Even so, I’ve premiered a ton of music that I care about, in partnership with all kinds of people — not just ones who work with major labels, or big PR firms.
One of the people I’ve worked with most is Rahim Wright, a managing partner of 740 Project, a digital-focused agency that helped break Migos, Kevin Gates, Kiiara, and NBA YoungBoy online. (I’m not sure, but I think we met first through a cold email about premiering the “Bando” video, which I paid attention to because I was excited about Migos.) I called Rahim up to help me create this guide, because the way I think about premieres now was shaped in part by our work together.
This guide for pitching is based on my own experience, Rahim’s perspective, and how things work at The FADER. It is not a definitive bible, and it applies specifically to premieres — not all the other types of stories that The FADER does. But I hope it might help make the pitching process more transparent for both artists and people who work for them, so that everyone involved might better understand why premieres exist, who they benefit, and what some paths to success look like.
First, understand some basic history of the music blogging landscape.
The FADER was a magazine before the rise of MP3 blogs. MP3 blogs offered up a curated bouquet of free downloads, usually determined by the taste of whoever was running them. They helped break lots of artists in the early 2000s, and they influenced what other music sites, including The FADER’s, eventually became.
When thefader.com was starting out, a majority of the posts on the site centered around songs. A lot of them were just big pop songs that FADER editors had something interesting to say about. But others were exclusives, or premieres: tracks that were only posted on The FADER, and nowhere else. With a premiere, the artist would benefit from a FADER co-sign and the visibility of FADER’s platform. FADER would benefit by defining itself as a tastemaker, and being the place you had to click to hear some great new music.
Today, while lots of music-focused sites still post premieres, that practice is not as central as it once was. That’s in part because of how the music business has changed. Platforms for file-sharing like Hulkshare and MegaUpload are pretty much extinct. Even independent artists have access to major streaming platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL, and sometimes, there are incentives (like exposure, and promotion) for artists to release a song on one or all of those platforms before sharing it anywhere else. Artists are also better than ever before at promoting themselves directly to their fans with social media. And over time, music-focused sites like The FADER have expanded the way they cover music, and their coverage of topics outside of music.
Learn what people mean when they say ‘premiere’.
At The FADER, when we talk about a premiere, we’re talking about a post where The FADER will embed and write about a song, video, or project that has not previously been released anywhere else. If something is a premiere, it appears on The FADER before appearing anywhere else on the internet, and appears only on The FADER for an agreed-upon amount of time — usually about half of a business day. To optimize its visibility, The FADER and the artists involved agree to give a premiere promotion, on social media, in email blasts, or with homepage placement. To make it useful and interesting to readers and fans, a premiere should also have information that’s not available elsewhere — like a quote from the artist, insight from the writer, or details about an upcoming release.
A song that’s already been released can totally be pitched to a site for coverage, but it’s not accurate to pitch it as a premiere or exclusive, and doing that might sour your relationship with writers or editors. “Don’t pitch for a premiere if the song is up already,” Rahim said. “There’s this misconception, like, ‘Oh this came out, but it didn’t really get pushed, so we should get a premiere!” And I’m like, “Bro, no, no, no!” You’re gonna gun yourself down, you know?”
Figure out what a premiere can do for you, and what it can do for a website.
Websites are businesses, and often posts that perform best are ones that offer insight into a broader trend through reporting or criticism, or ones that take on general news and pop culture. Premieres are desirable for music sites now as unique stories, that other sites won’t also be covering in the same way. A premiere is most beneficial for an artist and a website when something is a pure exclusive, and you’re both driving an audience to one place where it will attract the most attention. Offering a premiere is also a way to build a relationship, if you hope to continue working with that outlet in the future.
If you don’t have the option to offer up something as a premiere, there’s still lots of ways to connect with a publisher and do cool things together. There are a couple premieres I look back on and feel really proud of (Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” video, lol), but my best work has always been stories I dreamed up and put into motion proactively, like cover profiles, columns, or quick writeups of released songs I wanted to amplify. That said, it’s good to understand that asking a site to post already-released music puts them in less of a newsmaking role and more of a promotional role. If you’re pitching something that’s already out, you can expect that a site may want some kind of incentive that’s not exclusivity to make the post valuable for them, whether that’s a never-before-heard story about your song, or having a really engaged audience that you’ll promote the site to.
Now, do research about the places and people you can pitch.
You’ll have the most success pitching if you’re working with a platform that aligns with your goals. “Different sites suit different genres,” Rahim said. “Take a look at the music that sites post. There’s a vibe on each space. Think about it like like this — I love Chief Keef, but I wouldn’t approach the program director of a pop station to start playing Chief Keef. So if you have a video, take a look at its aesthetics and ask yourself, “Does this fit in with this site?”
Individual writers have their own vibes too, and you’ll get the most mileage out of your premiere if you find one that cares about what you’re doing. “You can say, ‘Hey, I’m pop, and I’m noticing this person writes a lot of pop posts,’” Rahim said. “Then you can choose the person who’s the best fit to write about you.” Hiring a publicist who has relationships with writers and publications might help you navigate this process and connect with the right people. But even when someone else is reaching out and pitching on your behalf, doing your own research is a smart move.
Once you know who or where you want to pitch, be strategic about how you get in touch.
Writers and editors can be hard to start a conversation with; they get a ton of emails, work on deadlines, and probably get hit up for a lot of favors. To establish a relationship of trust, make it your goal to find the place where they prefer to correspond, and respect their privacy. “Go to your target site and check out who’s been posting music similar to yours. Then go to their writer page, and see if their work email or Twitter is listed there,” Rahim suggested. “If you can’t get their email, try to find a third party — like another writer, or a publicist who’s a friend of theirs — who can ask to connect you.” If you can’t find someone on email, Twitter can be a good option. “DON’T spam people with your music links. Don’t hit editors in their DMs if you don’t know them,” Rahim said. “Just follow them and engage with them! If you play the long game, you can actually build a meaningful online relationship with them and they’ll follow you back on their own accord. And then your music will naturally end up on their timeline.”
In the years I’ve worked online, I have chosen to keep my Twitter and Instagram profiles public, and to not make my work or personal email information public. That means to find new music, I’ve depended on my own research, people who already know my work email address, and people I trust to share my work email address with others. For me, that’s worked out OK — for almost a decade, I’ve responded to dozens of premiere requests every single day. I am most likely to respond positively to a request if it is brief and informative, about an artist I am interested in, or if it comes from a person I have worked with successfully in the past.
I am less likely to respond positively to a request if it is not written directly to me, if I have more urgent work priorities, if the request arrives at night or on the weekend, or if I know I’m not interested in the artist in question. I never respond to premiere request emails that are sent to my personal email address, my personal telephone number, or my DMs. I also don’t respond to links sent on Twitter without context. At best, I find those requests ineffective. At worst — like when I get multiple calls late at night from a number I don’t know — I find them personally invasive.
Once you have someone on the line, make sure you feel good about the thing you’re pitching.
“You want editors and potential new fans to know that you take your music seriously,” Rahim said. “Don’t just put anything out. Make sure the music is mixed properly and that everything reflects the way you want to be seen. Make sure it’s your best presentation.”
Then, make it easy for people to hear and consider your music.
“Know what a private link is — a private but shareable link,” Rahim said. “Nobody really wants to download a song to hear it, so you need to have a private, streamable link that doesn’t have 1000 plays on it already because you’ve been passing it around to your homeboys. Have a clean one.” If your premiere pitch is accepted, familiarize yourself with embed codes, so that you can provide a private embed that the writer can use in their post. (Embeds change all the time, but these days, we often premiere music using private SoundCloud embeds and unlisted YouTube embeds. Vevo embeds can be customized to only play on one site and are popular with some major labels, but are sometimes buggy, especially for mobile readers.)
Come correct with your art.
It’s likely that potential new fans will see the art that accompanies a premiere post before they read your name, or hear your song. “It’s gonna be on the thumbnail, you know? It’s like a book, you have to design your art like they design covers for books on a bookshelf,” Rahim said. “If someone’s never heard of you before, what’s gonna make them go, ‘I wanna read that’, or ‘I wanna click that?’”
As you prepare to pitch, “have some professional, or at least some super clear, photos of yourself,” Rahim suggested. If you’re commissioning cover art for a song or project, invest in it. “It doesn’t need to be a Kanye West cover, but you can do something that’s simple but also dope.” Make sure all the images you send over with a pitch are hi-res, but small enough to attach in an email. (Around 1000 pixels wide is usually a safe range.)
When I premiere something, I like to have multiple art options to choose from, so I can build the best post possible. Usually, I prefer to use a photo portrait of the artist for the thumbnail image that travels with a post on social media, and to also share cover art (or video GIFs) within the post itself. Portraits with no text are typically easier to crop into different shapes for various thumbnail sizes, and cover art is typically square, with text on it. Generally, having a square art option is a plus: “Make sure you have a square image, in case you get featured on Instagram,” Rahim said.
Over email, be personal, pithy, and professional.
“We’re living in a Twitter age,” Rahim said. “Get your point across and make it make sense. You want your email to stand out, but you don’t want it to be over the top. Lead with what you think will be most appealing. Like, if the song features someone who has been on the site before, you can lead with that in the subject line, because you know there’s an audience for it.”
Make sure your pitch tells a story, with evidence and context.
Help writers understand what’s special about you, and why readers will care. If you’re a new artist, share basic information about yourself, or links to your social media. Then answer bigger questions, Rahim said. “Do you have a great backstory? Did your previous song get a bajillion views on YouTube? Did Kylie Jenner play your song on her Snapchat? Did your producer or videographer have a previous notable placement? Do you have a feature from a big artist? Are you killing it in your hometown with shows? If so, send an Instagram clip that proves it.” Then, flesh out what’s interesting about the particular song or video you’re pitching. “Provide legible quotes,” Rahim said. “Share something that’s interesting about what the song is, or how it came together. It’s dope for readers to have a meaningful perspective on your work.”
Give writers time to consider your request, and make a great post about you.
To get a great premiere, send your request at least 3-5 business days ahead of when you’d like the post to be published. If there’s a day you’re aiming for a post to go up, say when it is, and if you’re flexible, make that clear. That way, an editor has time to figure out how it will fit into their schedule, and has time to prepare a post that will actually make you look good. And if they decline your pitch, you have time to offer it up elsewhere. If you’re not hearing back, check in, but only after a full day has passed, and not too many times. “If it’s not working out, don’t keep knocking on the same door,” Rahim said. “Or wait 90 days or something, and get back to them with an improved pitch.”
I know many of my colleagues prefer an initial premiere request to include just basic information like a listening link, so they can see if something clicks before hearing more details. Personally, I prefer for a premiere to take just a few emails to execute, from start to finish, so I appreciate when someone minimizes the amount of back and forth by sharing as much information with me in their initial email as possible. It’s unreasonable to assume a premiere pitch will be accepted just because it was well put together. But when someone sends me everything I’ll need to build a post, it makes it easier for me to efficiently fit that post into my work schedule.
If your pitch is declined, or goes unanswered, it’s not the end of the world.
Don’t assume anyone is out to get you, has a vendetta against you, or won’t give you a shot in the future. And remember that editorial coverage isn’t the only way to build a following. “Don’t be scared to go directly to the fans,” Rahim said. If you find an audience and connect with them, you’ll have a larger story to tell. Good publications will notice.
Ultimately, remember that nothing is promised. Have faith, and don’t give up.
In the long run, a good attitude is your career’s best security. “Drop that sense of entitlement,” Rahim said. “It’s not even guaranteed that the email will be opened. If you’re not getting through to the people you want to get through to, maybe try a different place, or just push forward. Don’t wait, and do what you gotta do! If you’re doing things right, the people that need to see that are going to end up seeing it. You have to just keep working. Someone is paying attention to you even if they’re not. The right people will find you.”
content from FADER magazine