A flash of red stands out against a field of white. This photograph illustrates a basic concept: if you want to get noticed in 2022, you’ll have to catch the eye ~ or in this case, the ear. The musical landscape is changing fast, and with so many artists competing for attention, it helps to have an edge. This updated article provides practical advice that may help musicians and labels to be noticed in a crowded field.
The music industry is in a constant state of flux. It helps to know a few basic things: 1) Labels provide an edge, but are only as effective as their publicity; 2) The majority of music purchases are digital, so customers interact with them digitally; and 3) There is more music on the market now than ever before.
We feel that we have become experts in this field, simply because we receive so many submissions and review so few. For every album we review, there are nineteen more that go unreviewed. But they don’t go unheard, nor do the emails go unread. Some just stand out. So we’ll begin with the initial contact and the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
The Initial Contact
Decide how you’d like to be perceived: professional or amateur, friendly or flippant, organized or disheveled. Ask yourself if you would click on a link in an email that had no other words! If you’d like a personal response, then send a personal inquiry. Mention the name of the recipient. Follow the directions on the contact page. Provide the necessary links, including a brief description. Keep in mind that most sites have plenty of stuff to review without having to Google you to find out who you are or what you sound like. Make it as easy as possible to make a decision regarding the music. If you don’t read the directions carefully, the people on the site will not read your emails carefully; it’s that simple.
How to Get Noticed in 2022: The Easy Way
Some labels are proud of the fact that they release music with generic covers, in order to “let the music do the talking,” and some feature no art at all. The problem is that few people are ever going to click on these covers to get to the music. The same is true of home artists who decide to use some blurry nature photo for their ambient release or use “ironically bad” hand-drawn cartoons. Remember, most people are buying music online, and while they may see hundreds of covers in a week, they are not going to play samples of hundreds of albums. A good cover attracts potential listeners, who say, “I wonder what this album sounds like!” Our annual Best Album Covers article, from which the above image is taken, provides examples of eye-catching imagery. Most people have phones with cameras; if all else fails, take a hundred snapshots and ask your friends which one is the best; or choose one from your old family scrapbook.
Type matters. Certain fonts are trending for a while (Comic Sans) but become dated. Helvetica has become a not-very-inside joke, the subject of a book and film. Typography can send a message as clearly as art. The DIY image to the left is from an album that won’t be out until March, but we’ve already noticed it. For more on font, pick up a copy of Simon Garfield’s excellent treatise, Just My Type.
Concept albums attract attention. For example: “A dance piece inspired by Australian wildfires” or “A tribute to the artist’s father, incarcerated in a war camp,” or “a pair of albums recorded in the harsh conditions of an Antarctic winter.” If these sound familiar, it’s because each of them appeared on one or more of our year-end charts. Conversely, some overused and unoriginal concepts include dreams, nostalgia, life, and “a soundtrack to a movie that has never been made.” The more specific, the better.
Lead with your best track.
Check the Soundcloud album play statistics: the first track gets the most clicks. If the first track doesn’t make a good impression, listeners won’t move on to the next. It’s not fair, but it’s human nature. If you hide your best work, few people will ever hear it.
Provide advance notice.
Have you seen our News page? Or read any of our seasonal previews? The first contains samples of 50-100 upcoming releases, while the second can hold as many as 450. These artists and labels were proactive, and their reward was free publicity. When an artist or label holds back samples, or announces a release only on release date, they hurt their own chances of coverage ~ like releasing a movie without a trailer.
Do not release albums in December, unless you’ve done the above and sent out early publicity. Everyone is busy, labels and websites are on vacation, and releasing an album in December is like shouting into the wind. Many artists and labels do this anyway, and write, “We know you’re busy, but …” Why not give yourself the best possible chance of being noticed?
How to Get Noticed in 2022: The Hard Way
It’s hard to be original without straying so far off the beaten path that no one will follow. Keep in mind that most original music builds on what has come before; artists don’t need to reinvent the playbook. In fact, some of the most original sounding music in 2021 combined new instrumentation with pre-existing sources. Lea Bertucci combined bass clarinet with field recordings; bela introduced Korean Nongak music to a new audience; Jacob Cooper & Steven Bradshaw dissected a pop song released during the last pandemic to offer meaning during the current pandemic. Each new element stood out.
Do what others do, but better.
There will always be a place for music that is played well. Rutger Hoedemaekers’ 2021 homage to Jóhann Jóhannsson featured the Budapest Art Orchestra, and little could stand in its way. Eartheater turned her vocal dance album into an instrumental drone album. Godspeed continued to be Godspeed. Most of the eligible music we receive is good, and many people write that their music “is a perfect fit for our site.” In terms of genre and general quality, they are usually correct ~ but being good is no longer good enough. While we receive dozens of ambient albums a week, no one buys that many.
Finally, be friendly and patient.
Most reviewers don’t make money writing reviews. They volunteer simply because they love music. Every reviewer wishes they could review more. No review site likes to see a release go unreviewed. And yet, they do, and they will. On the other side of the equation, most recording artists don’t make much (or any) money. They dream of a day when this can become their profession. But they, too, do what they do out of love for their art. Few people are able to buy all the music they want, or even listen to all the music they would like to hear. We’re all in this together. Make music because it inspires you ~ we’ll review music when it inspires us, when we have the time, and when our children aren’t sick and our workloads are light. We appreciate what you do, even when we don’t review you, so please appreciate us in return!
Wishing you wonderful sounds in the new year! (Richard Allen)