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MUSIC BUSINESS ARTICLES
Writing A Press Release
Press & Publicity 
by Billy Tweedie
 
 
Madonna, Cher, Billy Joel, Elton John - just some of the acts who
generate pages of press coverage in newspapers, music magazines and in
fanzines every month. But how do they do it? Most big names have a press
agent, plugger and record label with a well-oiled publicity and
promotional machine designed to get maximum exposure for their artists.
So what do you have to do if you haven't got a label or professional
help behind you? This feature aims to provide some useful advice to help
you develop a DIY approach to the media. Even without big money and a 
press agent, there are many ways to play the media game and get results. 
This article looks at one area of press campaigns - the press or news release - 
and gives advice on how to write your own press releases by following 
a few simple rules. 
 
 
  1. Getting started -
  2. Writing a Press Release -
  3. Guidelines - 
  4. Presentation & Timing -
  5. What happens to my press release -
  6. 10 Golden Rules- 
  7. Specimen press release
 

What's the Story?

Press and media coverage is essential for any band that wants to build a
regional or national profile. But where do you start? First you need to
consider some basic questions:

  - Has my band got anything worth telling the media? Wait until you've
got something of interest to shout about, such as a world wide tour, a
new single or album, a major showcase gig, or an interesting news story
about one of the band members.

  - Which media do you want to target? e.g. radio, television, magazines
and/or newspapers. Do you want to target local or national media or
both? Its obviously common sense to build up an initial buzz in local
papers / radio / television or in the regional magazines before moving
onto national publications or radio.

Try to develop a strategy or plan for your press work so you can build
up your profile over time. There are many different forms of press
coverage including:-

      features
      interviews
      reviews of albums 1 singles (and demos)
      live reviews
 
It's also worth thinking about advertising if you've got a budget -
this could include buying block adverts in local media or in national
magazines to advertise a CD, tour dates or gigs. Think about how your
press campaign fits together and builds up buzz over time.
 
One of the first things you should do is build up an up-to-date press
list comprising the names of journalists and news teams at local
newspapers, arts and music magazines and producers/journalists at radio
and television stations. Start to add national contacts such as music
magazines and radio. Don't forget to add local and national fanzines
addresses for demo and album reviews......
 
Don't forget to update your contacts list over time.
One of the cheapest and easiest ways of raising your profile in the
media is the press release. You should aim to send these out at regular
intervals to inform the media about what you're doing. Use them every
month or every few months.
 
What exactly is a Press Release?

The press release is one of the main ways in which newsworthy
information is picked up by journalists on news teams at newspapers,
radio and TV stations. It is essentially a one page information sheet
containing newsworthy information. A press release is usually about 250
words in length. It is generally divided into four or five short
paragraphs and finished with with information on who to contact for more
detailed information.
 
Some labels and publicists use a variation on the press release called a
'news update'. Other variations include the 'listings release', which
can simply be a list of gig or tour dates (with details of venue, date,
ticket price, venue phone number, contact person, etc) with or without a
short introduction/pre-amble about the band/the tour/the tie-in release
of the single, etc. As most listings magazines offer a free service,
this is a very effective 'free' advertising vehicle.
 
Don't be daunted by the prospect of writing a press release. Try to
convey the essential information in a clear and well presented way. The
journalists who use your release will almost certainly re-write it and
change it to suit their style although some may use certain paragraphs
verbatim. Think of the press release like an inverted triangle with the
most important information at the
beginning.                                          
 

Some Basic Guidelines....

Selling the News Value..... Put in a headline. Ask yourself if it is
punchy and exciting? Put a verb in it. The introduction (or first
paragraph) should grab the reader's attention.  Does the introduction
tell the five 'W's?

      WHO  e.g. the band
      WHAT  e.g. the tour or gig
      WHERE  e.g the Riverside or other venue
      WHEN  e.g. 25th November 2003
      WHY  e.g. Exposure Showcase series.

The facts should be in descending order of interest. The first
paragraph should contain essential info, whilst the last should comprise
the least important facts. Use national hooks if applicable.
 
Putting Your Message Across

Keep it clear and simple.
Use clear language and short sentences (no more than 20 words or so).
Avoid jargon (especially technical jargon unless you're sending the
press release to a guitar magazine or music technology publication).
Don't use acronyms (e.g. F.C.A.M.P.) unless you explain them in full
elsewhere (e.g. Florida Community Arts & Music Project (F.C.A.M.P.)).
Avoid tired cliches! Ask yourself 'will the layman understand' what you
are on about? Use news hooks where appropriate e.g. 'local band gets
national interest' for a local paper. Use the celebrity or 'star factor'
if you've got it e.g. Sting opens Pittsburgh Showcase gig of local
bands!
 
Think about what is Newsworthy local interest / national interest
visual appeal exclusivity human interest a new angle on a running story
the status/profile of the performers novelty value/uniqueness
readership interest links to current music trends links to a major event
such as a festival or showcase controversy. Once you've mastered the 
basics, you could go one step further. Consider writing different press 
releases for different audiences. For example, you could write 
one general version for music magazines and a second more 
general version for local newspapers. Another option is to 
write one version for local media such as radio and
music mags.
 
It's common sense but press releases should be typed not hand written.
Generally you should use wide margins so journalists and sub-editors can
write notes or instructions. Make it look as professional as possible -
use headed notepaper where possible. Use your own design of paper with
your band logo if possible - or colored paper if you want the news 
release to stand out. If you music use more than one page, 
write on page numbers, and add 'MORE' on the
bottom and 'ENDS' on the last page.
 
Think if you need to send anything else with the press release e.g. a
demo tape/CD, photographs, list of tour dates, band biog, etc. Keep it
simple though.
 
Time your press release carefully. Most monthlies work a month in
advance whilst weekly papers and radio programmes will also have
deadlines. Work in advance if you're targeting these outlets. Also try
and avoid clashing your press releases with other BIG musical events
which are guaranteed to get press coverage such as a major rock festival
(unless you're part of them) and major releases by other local/national
artists. Don't send out press releases and then go on holiday the next
day if your names is down as a contact person for more information.
Always ensure that someone is available to take any follow-up press
enquires. Any caller should be able to reach you or a substitute person
within 20 minutes.
 
What Next?  

Once you've sent out your press releases(s), you may decide
to follow up with a phone call to cheek if any further information is
needed. This is not essential but can be useful if you have not seen any
coverage of your news story. Don't piss off the journalist by being over
insistent. Be credible and don't over sell your self, e.g. don't over
hype the band. Follow up initial press releases with 'updates' if
appropriate. For example you can 'flag-up' the dates and times of a
general event and then follow-up with more detailed information nearer
the time. Remember to have follow-up material such as photos and demos
to hand.
 
Embargoes

Another device is the 'embargo'. This enables you to write NOT FOR
PUBLICATION BEFORE 8AM ON 11th JANUARY 2003 at the top of the release.
Why use it? It lets you warn the media about a major event so they can
prepare for it. It also allows for a bigger surprise on the day of
release, and prevents rivalry between media to 'scoop' a story.
Embargoes should be used only occasionally and only for major stories.
  
What happens to my Press Release?

Once it arrives on the news team's desk, your press release will be
marked up as either 'high priority', 'possible' or it may even be
rejected. Journalists are under no obligation to print your story.
Remember they probably receive dozens of other press releases  each
day/week and there is always intense competition for space in papers or
on the airwaves. That said, some news media are crying out for
newsworthy information particularly specialist music magazines,
University mags, fanzines and community radio. Build up a good
relationship with press contacts, find out which journalists might be
interested in what you are doing and keep them posted. Always keep a
promise. If a journalist rings for additional information and you
promise a demo, biog or photograph, make sure you send it straight away.
This is particularly important where a journalist has a deadline to
meet. Having a good picture can also raise the priority attached to any
story....
 
Sorted for Press and Media

Trying to get coverage without the benefit of a press agent or publicist
is hard work but it can be very successful if you're prepared to give it
some thought and time. Of course it's easier to get local coverage than
national press (where well-paid publicists are vying for space for major
artists). Make sure you're sorted for press coverage, it could make a  
world of difference between obscurity and wider  recognition!
 
10 Golden Rules of Press Releases

Make the Press Release tell an interesting story with a news angle
Use a bold headline and give a date at the top corner
Don't use jargon, long words and sentences or rambling paragraphs
Use the first paragraph to SELL the story and give out essential
	information
Stress key points such as dates of gigs, events and other important
	information
Keep the press releases tight and snappy - no more than one to
	one-and-a-half pages.....
Think of your target media and audience - what angle will interest them?
	e.g. a local news story / a business angle/ music or arts angle / human
	interest story / promising new band.
Where appropriate, send a photograph to accompany your press release
Use quotes where possible
Always give a telephone number(s) and day-time contact name(s) &
	number(s).
 
 
Other Material To Accompany Press Releases

Think about other material to accompany your press releases. If you're
promoting a new demo or CD, don't forget to send a copy together with a
photograph in the case of printed media) . If you're trying to secure a
live radio session, you'll need to send an introductory cassette as a 'listening copy'. 
If you get a favorable reaction and a producer wants to play your material, 
he/she may ask you to come in for a live session or they may want to 
play your stuff. In the latter case you'll need to provide a DAT, reel to reel, 
vinyl or CD copy as radio stations don't generally play cassettes. 
Another important piece of information to include is a band biog 
(see below).
 
Writing Band biogs - 10 practical tips

1 Make it look good.
Make it look professional. There's no rules although more unusual (and
striking shapes and sizes) are fine providing the text is readable and
clear. Consider photocopying or printing your biog up onto colored
paper  to make it stand out OR use some graphics and photographs to
brighten it up. Don't use your aunty's best lined note paper or write
the biog on the back of a torn-off bit of paper (it does happen!).

2 Don't forget to include:
Contact names and phone numbers (daytime and evening)

3 Keep it brief. Preferably one page.

4 Give an idea of the band's style of music. 
Give a broad idea of what the band sound like e.g. psychedelic, 
thrashy, atmospheric. Don't say 'our favorite bands and influences are 
Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin and Oasis' (even if they are) 
- it sounds amateurish!

5 Avoid totally boring information on the line-up changes. 
E.g. your last five drummers.

6 Include information about your profile and track record. 
E.g. touring, showcases, etc.

7 Include a discography 1 demography listing recent releases.

8 Include info on important gigs and showcases the band have played.

9 Mention any record company interest or publishing deals.

10 Be imaginative! Try not to start 'Formed in 1994 .....' 
Make it lively and snappy.Include details of the band's image, 
media appearances (TV/ radio) and press quotes.
 
Brainstorming Ideas

If you're stuck for ideas try 'brainstorming' by writing down:-
10 adjectives that describe the band's music and image, e.g. mellow,
atmospheric, full-on, intense, aggressive, powerpop, energetic, cultish,
underground, commercial; A list of 5 or 6 things 'that you never knew 
about band X', e.g. guitarist Steve played in the original line-up of Blur, 
the band got their name from a brand of cleaning fluid, etc.
 

                   (Specimen Press Release)
 
                             
------  PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION----------
 
Bright Stars of East Music Shine in International Rock Competition
  
	The Shining, one of Pittsburgh's best young rock bands
  struck a chord this week when they scooped a national music
  award. The band took the top prize at the prestigious 'In The
  City' international music convention in Dayton, Ohio. Previous
  winners included Oasis, who went on to achieve
  Worldwide success.
 
  The band beat off fierce competition from over eighty up and
  coming artists from across the globe. The competition final saw
  The Shining playing a scorching set of high octane indie-rock
  in front of a panel of music industry judges.
  Talking about their success The Shining's guitarist Sharon
  Green said:-

  "We're very excited about our success at 'in The City'. We're
  hoping that it will provide a springboard to landing a record
  deal with a major record label.
  We're already getting interest from several companies and
  we'll be recording some demos for a major publisher in the
  near future".
 
  The Shining have been attracting national interest since the
  release of their debut single 'Shine' on their own Shine On
  label. 
 
	The single has already received airplay on ZXG Radio. 
 	A CD album is due for release later  this year.
 
  The future looks bright for The Shining who could become the
  hottest stars to emerge from the Pittsburgh popular music
  scene for years. Shooting stars indeed!
 
  For further information Please contact:-
  Sarah Grant on 412 xxxxxxx Peter Lays on 412 zzzzzzz


written by Billy Tweedie 2001 
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