by Alex Cosper (11/18/12, revised 3/18/14)
Musical reviews are like gold for the indie artist. The widest exposure an indie artist gets besides live festivals and college airplay is usually reviews in indie publications. Instead of trying to spend a lot of effort to get the attention of major media outlets, it's a better strategy to develop a relationship with various popular music bloggers. You should also think about tapping into other stories bloggers are covering besides music. If your music supports some kind of cause it can get mentioned by the press, which finds out a lot of information sent to them directly from artists and music organizations.
What many bloggers are looking to write about is music that's unique that relates to the modern world and can be easily described. Cutting edge bloggers would rather avoid bands that sound like a thousand other bands they've already written about. So figure out what your album is about. If there's a story that ties all the songs together, that's interesting content for writers, who also like to write about songs that expand thinking or vision in some way. If the music fails to tell any kind of story it may get lost in the stack of hundreds of other albums that never get heard because they didn't stand out somehow.
If the music is exceptionally innovative and it gains word of mouth promotion, writers will want to cover it because it makes them look smart to talk about smart music. A lot of indie artists tend to put out music that either sounds like a zillion other bands or music that is so dull or outside the mainstream that no one wants to talk about it. The local press wants to tell an interesting story and not just about someone who's trying to fit the latest style.
Even though we have advanced toward a quick and convenient digital age, a lot of reviewers will specifically ask for hard copy CDs. A serious artist who interacts with the media will want to develop an electronic press kit that can be emailed to writers. If they ask for a CD and you can't afford it, consider burning your own CD from your computer. Make sure that the file is compatible with their specifications (WAV is still universal).
One of the best online blogs that helps expose new indie artists is Pitchfork, which even started having big live indie festivals in Chicago. Pitchfork helps a band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sell thousands of CDs of their self-released album in 2005. Ryan Schreiber launched a website called Turntable in 1995. The following year he migrated from Minneapolis to Chicago and changed the name of the site to Pitchfork. The online publication reviews indie albums and rates them on a scale of 0-10. Indie acts that Pitchfork have helped expose include Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Interpol and Broken Social Scene.
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