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How To Build Relationships With Journalists For Your DIY Band

Posted on the 30 June 2018 by Indiemusicpromo @urbandisavirus

My background comes from music journalism. I did this for years before I ever made a buck off the industry or even made a buck from my writing. It gave me a unique look behind the scenes though, and it also taught me how bands should act around the people who are tastemakers and how they can build relationships that grow and end up being meaningful. There are bands who were cool to me when I was like 17 and this whole adventure was just getting rolling and who I am able to help now. Meanwhile there are others who were dicks who have lost themselves a potential ally. As a band it doesn't matter if an individual journalist is going to get successful or not because odds are, if nothing else, they know people and bands. Journalists have generally got no real connection to the scene either so they have no problem talking shit or throwing people under the bus. That's a scary thought I know but it's part of the struggle.

First off - always try to have a goodie bag for the journalist or some sort of thing for them to take home. This doesn't matter how big they are. I still have a copy of the Agalloch record Don Anderson dedicated to me when I was 20 because I was doing a feature on him. He gave it to me right off the bat, and it both showed me that Don was an incredibly generous guy, but also predisposed me to being extremely supportive of him in an interview that came during a tricky part of his career. I am forever grateful to him for that record and he set the tone for an interesting and emotional interview. Think about it - you give the journalist something cool and they go home. No matter what they are probably going to be looking at what you gave them as they prepare to write about you. If they have something sick then they are automatically going to be predisposed to want to help you out no matter how your interaction was. It builds a bridge that can pay dividends for years on end.

On this note buy the journalist food and drinks This one always seemed fairly obvious to me but not a lot of people seem to get it. Think about it though, if you're paying at least five hundred bucks for a PR campaign and this dude has showed up to write about you, what's another ten bucks? Again, you want to build a bridge in order to solidify a relationship such that the journalist will probably cover you next time you come to town regardless of if you have PR or not.­ These relationships are meant to be over the long term and it is important to invest some money into them. If you aren't bringing value to the table then what's the fucking point of it all anyway? Sure some journalists are kind of wieners and you can get a vibe right away. Don't feel obligated to help those people, but you get what I'm trying to say on a macro scale. You want to position yourselves as a band of the people who respect what journalists bring to the table.

Remember, most rock journalists just want to live out their Almost Famous fantasy and meet the rock stars. At the end of the day, even if you never see a journalist again, they will probably tell all their friends about how you treated them, good or bad. Not only that but they will also probably talk to your publicist about it. While publicists generally take the bands side since a lot of so called journalists are idiots you don't want a ton of people talking shit. That will eventually come back to haunt you and it will be up to you to step back, chill out and make sure you don't get stuck with your dick in a mulberry bush. It's important to treat these people with respect not just because they are people but because they have the potential to make you seem well liked or not. If you can't ensure that with people who want to like you and want to discover new bands how are you ever going to have long term success?

Journalists are trying to get a unique and personal look into the band. You need to do your best to make them feel like they are getting that. If they don't ask good questions then you need to give them good answers. This is one of the hardest parts of being in a band, because again a lot of journalists are idiots and the ones who are not idiots are frequently just so incredibly busy that they don't necessarily have the time to come up with good questions. Some can shoot from the hip pretty damn well, but frequently you will find yourself battling the same set of 10-20 questions that we can all rattle off by heart. As you get successful you will talk about how your band formed so many times it will drive you up a fucking wall. Don't let that get to you, these guys are often just starting out, but they are paying you attention and you need to really make a point of respecting and appreciating them for that. That's not something that comes every day or to every band.

I'm not going to lie. A lot of this article is probably driven by youthful nostalgia and a desire not just to have been treated better but to have not been such an idiot when I was a younger man. I feel though that the way I was treated shaped my life and shaped how I interact with people. Some of my best friends followed these rules and notions and it lead to relationships that will last even if I quit music. Other bands have been burned because when I reached out the hand they turned the other way. That's okay. I probably deserved it. I'm just extremely grateful to those who made an effort and allowed me to be shaped into who I am today.


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