I have been working at a radio station for a couple of years, during which I have been involved in a bit of everything: social media, technical maintenance, playlists and rotation, writing content, hosting and producing my own show, and probably more things that I’m forgetting.
I’m by no means an expert, but seeing how things work behind the scenes I have some simple advice to give to any artists and bands looking to approach radio stations and other media outlets (like television, magazines, and blogs). These bits of advice actually serve a dual purpose: while they should help with your promotional campaign (increasing your chances of getting noticed and getting some attention), several of these points are also to make life easier for whoever’s at the receiving end of your promotional campaign. The easier you make the jobs of those at the receiving end, the better their impression of you and your music will be. If it’s a hassle to download your latest tune or finding a usable press picture of you or your band, they might not bother, moving on to the next candidate instead.
First thing’s first. You need to have a webpage about yourself or your band. It should contain information about who you are, a few pictures (which can be freely used and distributed by media, and ideally both staged and live pictures), and links to all your social media channels. Remember to include contact information on your site, like an e-mail address you can be reached at.
Going somewhere to get interviewed? Bring merchandise, if you have any. Tote bags and coffee cups with your artist or band name are great, or other functional and reusable items. Chances are they will see some actual use and serve as subtle reminders of you and your music. I’ve seen this happen several times. Bringing one or more copies of your album doesn’t hurt either, if you have spares. They might get integrated into the studio’s collection, or find a home with someone else working there (and these are generally the people you want to be aware of- and have easy access to your music).
E-mail everyone about your new release. Don’t limit yourself to the big, obvious choices. Try to do some research, find the e-mail addresses of smaller radio stations, magazines, and blogs. Maybe there’s a local news show on TV?
If you have the capacity, send them all physical letters and include a physical copy of your new release. Yes, some outlets might hate getting mail (and if they explicitly state on their website that they don’t want mail, respect that wish), but it does force them to be exposed to your music in a more direct way and increases your chances of being noticed. E-mails are easily ignored and forgotten, but an actual press-release and CD on your desk might stay around for a while and serve as a reminder.
Make your music easily downloadable. When e-mailing, include a link to a Dropbox folder (or similar) where your release can be downloaded. Make sure they’re available to download as both compressed mp3s and uncompressed WAVs. Also make sure to tag the mp3s correctly (you wouldn’t believe how many leave their mp3s untagged, creating more work for those who will have to manually write in all the information for anything that goes into rotation or into any other kind of music database). In the download folder you could also include a PDF version of your press release, a higher resolution version of your cover art, and maybe a couple of bonus press pictures.
Unless requested specifically to do so, don’t share the folder directly with whatever e-mail address you’re writing to through whatever built-in sharing feature might be available, which Dropbox and Google Drive offer. Instead, just send a link that can be accessed by anyone who has the link. It’s a lot easier. The e-mail address you’re trying to share the folder with might not have a Dropbox-account, or the music might need to be accessed by someone else who also works there. While it might give you more control of who has access, it makes the whole process more cumbersome.
Also include a link to somewhere your release can be streamed. Being able to listen instantly to a release can be convenient, not having to download individual music tracks (which you have to remember where you saved, and they take up space). Dropbox sort of works for streaming, as they have an integrated music player, but Soundcloud or Bandcamp are even better. But be sure you do this in addition to making your music easily available for download, not instead of. Sometimes downloading is better, other times streaming, so offer both.
Are you getting interviewed on the air, or getting a feature piece in a music blog? Great! Now promote the heck out of it. Tag the outlet, share any of its relevant posts. Try getting a few exclusive pictures if it requires travelling somewhere (like to a studio). Post the pictures on your Facebook page. The outlet usually appreciates the social media attention, and your fans and friends will likely find it exciting too.
Finally, keep your expectations low and appreciate each success. You’ve gotten an interview in a magazine or a song on the radio, but that’s no time to rest on your laurels. Unless you’re one of the very few and very lucky bands or artists who manage to break through into the mainstream, chances are you will have to keep promoting and fighting for attention, for every single, EP, and album release.