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#2 extract from ‘Musicpreneur – The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music’ - Nov 29, 2014

How to get heard above the noise

picture A lack of critical knowledge prevents most talented musicians from making music their career. That’s according to in-demand creative consultant, author and occasional HitQuarters contributor Aaron Bethune, whose highly recommended new book Musicpreneur – The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music aims to help musicians find the tools, information, mindset and approach they need to get heard above the noise and build a successful career in music.

For the second in an exclusive four part extract series in-demand creative consultant Aaron Bethune argues that music PR trumps advertising in terms of attracting attention, highlights the importance of having a good “story” and offers a wealth of tips on what you can do to get heard above the noise.


“Without publicity a terrible thing happens … NOTHING!”
—P.T. Barnum

Public relations (PR) ensures the world knows you exist, learns your story, hears your music, is aware of your tour, finds out about your products … More specifically, it is the voice that communicates directly with the media and the people who can impact your career.

PR Vs Advertising

PR has always stood apart from advertising. Now more than ever, paying for expensive advertising in the hopes of “buying” quality, trust or reputation is less effective than having good PR. Thanks to Google reviews and all the tools of web 2.0 (the new age of web technology and applications), people can share their feelings and experiences of products, services, live shows and almost anything else as they are experiencing them. The internet has added an element of transparency that means the consumer is the voice of quality control. With all the outlets available to express opinions and experiences, word can travel at breakneck speeds. So spending money on advertising to be the “best pizza place in town” or the “Greatest Rock Band Alive” doesn’t mean much—ultimately it is going to be what word on the street (and now online) says is the best and the greatest. The good thing is that the word does spread and the internet makes “far and wide” take on a whole new meaning. The power of word of mouth has moved to the next level!

You have to sound good in writing!

With a wealth of tools available to us to promote our music and our brands, how we use them is key to our online and offline success. The most used technique to promote ourselves is writing. For this reason, it is important to know how to sound equally outstanding in writing and music.

“No matter how brilliant a website’s design, no matter how elegant its navigation, sooner or later visitors will decide whether to take action because of something they read.”—Brad Shorr

Keep in mind that when you submit your music to people, they read what you write before they listen to the music. So the music has absolutely no weight in creating interest and impact with your first impression. Think about that. Unless someone heard you playing live, or on radio or TV, perhaps, your music is not going to be the first impression!

I can’t begin to estimate the number of press releases, bios, even emails and voicemails that I get from bands, and the majority all have the same spiel. They’ve been playing since childhood, when they play as a band it’s magical, they are charting on ReverbNation and can I check out their music and somehow help them out …

When you get a ton of submissions you would be surprised at how few have great stories that engage you and consequently both create intrigue to check out the music and make it obvious how to promote that music.

When a band’s pitch has the engaging qualities of a story, by the time you get to the music the songs have added emotional value. No matter who you are pitching to, in order to stand out and give a reason for people to pay attention you need to have a story that sets you apart.


Storytelling is a primal form of communication. It has traditionally been a way of passing on knowledge, lessons, events and experi¬ences from generation to generation. Stories are the threads that tie us to ancient traditions, legends, myths, even symbols, and they con¬nect us to a larger self and universal truths. Through stories we can experience extreme situations and intense emotions with a safety net.

Think of how easily we can remember stories from our childhood, yet how difficult it is to remember a statistic or piece of data we read about this week. If you want to sell something—whether music, merch or yourself—you have to do it within the context of storytelling. Achieving true engagement happens when you wrap your products in a story, helping consumers to accept them organically into their lives and to share the story as if it were their own. If you approach your career, band, brand, content and so on from a storyteller’s perspec¬tive you have the ability to spread it far and wide.

Much like your songs and live show, you need to develop your artist story. It takes practice. Learn to tell it in a way that is engaging and easily spread by others. Your story will make it clear to newspapers why they should feature you, give radio a reason to play you, and so on. Your story will set you apart, add another dimension to your brand and give greater emotional connection to your music.

Your story should be unique. It should set you apart. We are all dif¬ferent, so your story should be too! Once you have developed it, your story should be incorporated into everything you do, especially your PR. In interviews, always bring the answers back around to help tell it. By clearly communicating your story, you will help spread it further than you can ever imagine.

Be Creative

Find ways to creatively get your story told in the media without going the route of advertising. Reviews, articles, interviews and the like are always more organic ways of introducing your music and career to an audience than paid ads.
Local media are always looking for good stories and relevant local content to publish. You would be surprised at how many bands will never approach the media because they don’t think the media would be interested. There are also just as many bands that do approach the media but expect the media to be the ones to come up with the story. The fact is that if you can present an engaging story and you reach out to the right people, you will be pleasantly surprised with the result.

Ideas, reminders and considerations

• Be sure to submit your live dates and press release to all relevant local media. This should include local papers and radio stations as well as magazines and e-zines. Often the person who books the venue you are playing can provide local media contacts.

• Be sure to look into college papers and radio stations too. Get in touch with student unions so you can get connected with people who are influential with the student body. There are bands whose careers have been made on college radio and campus tours—think Dave Matthews and the Tragically Hip.

• Look into local charities, local businesses and so on that are potential fits for your show and brand. Consider co-branding for a show and give yourself more angles to approach the media with.

• Present different angles for interviews. Contact the entertain¬ment editor of a relevant publication with an interesting story on how the artwork for your new album came about and why it is newsworthy. An image of the album as well as a story that creates intrigue around the music is always more effective than paying for an ad that features the album art.

• Think outside the box. I worked with a band that had inspired an artist friend to create a cartoon based on the band. The cartoon became part of the album artwork, the website, the merch, the stage set-up … Because of the concept, we approached the local paper with a comic strip. This was fitting for the band’s brand and was able to generate intrigue and consequently traffic to the band’s website. The artistic twist opened up promotion of the band in the art world too!

• Look for new and unexpected ways to be interviewed. Identify influential people in the markets you are touring in by using the online tools we have discussed previously. Ask if they would interview you before you tour through their towns. You can do many things with the interview, including featuring it on your blog, submitting it to the local paper and putting it up on your website. You will create a connection with an influential local person who will have actively become involved in your career. This adds another important influencer to help spread your story. It can even make for an interesting interview to submit to e-zines and print media, especially if the person interviewing you has an interesting story too.

• Write your story as a mini-saga. No more and no fewer than fifty words. Learning to condense your story in a way that can be transmitted in a short email or phone call is extremely important. No one wants to wade through an essay to understand why they should interview or feature you.

• Reverse the roles. Interview a local (to your tour route) enter¬tainment editor at a paper, publication or blog, or even a radio music director, and feature it on your blog or website. Everyone likes their turn in the spotlight and often the people who are used to doing the interviewing don’t get interviewed themselves. This can be the start of building a relationship and ultimately result in features, mentions, interviews, spins and so on in the future when you tour through town. Plant the seed and watch it grow!

• You need to build relationships early on. The more relationships you make in the industry, the more likely you are to “make it.” To be a good publicist you need to know a lot of people and have the gift of the gab. As in the preceding point, you have to find ways to connect with influential people without making it about your music. Shine the light on them; give more than you ask for!

• Don’t just think music media! Just because you are promoting your music career doesn’t mean you need to promote yourself like every other musician, in all the same places musicians pro¬mote themselves. At the end of the day, do you want to promote yourself to other musicians or to your Super Fans? If members of your fan base all share the common love of yoga, then research how companies whose primary clients are yoga lovers handle their PR. How are they promoting themselves? What media are they appearing in? How are they connecting with their audience? Is there an opportunity to approach them for co-branding or cross-promotion?

• Make your news release search-engine-friendly using Google keywords and Google Trends.

• Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. People don’t do this enough. That said, there is a fine line between being professional and being a pain in the ass. Whenever you contact somebody for the first time, ask when and how would be the best way to follow up. As an example, I get so many emails a day that older emails can get lost at the bottom of the list as new ones come in. When somebody follows up I appreciate it because that person goes back to the top of the list. Also, musicians seem to be notoriously bad at following up and consequently miss many opportunities!

Read on…

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