In our time as a music website, Essentially Pop has worked with many amazing artists and bands, and we’ve found that, be it a new artist or an established one trying something a bit different, not everyone gets a fair bite of the cherry when it comes to reviews and publicity.
Given this, we’ve put together some fairly obvious, but vital advice for those seeking to gain exposure for their material in the music press, and some general advice for those just starting out.
First off, we suggest you always check out a blog or magazine or website before you approach them for a review, or before submitting material. Not all blogs are created equally. If they are giving scathing or sarcastic reviews to other artists, take heed. This could be how your hard work is mocked in future editions.
If a blog seems “too cool for school”, it might be wise to avoid it. Such blogs have a very narrow field of vision, and if you don’t fit into their idea of what is “good music”, then you will be, at best, dismissed, and or worst, humiliated and vilified. Remember that this actually is no reflection at all on the quality of your work. What it actually is, is a mirror to the writer’s inability to appreciate anything outside their own personal preferences.
It’s not restricted to blogs. One of the biggest culprits of this is a UK music magazine, whose narrow minded and sneery approach, along with a refusal to move with the times, has recently seen its readership drop so low that the once top selling magazine now struggles to give copies away. This should be evidence enough that this form of outdated musical snobbery not only offends the artists, but also alienates great swathes of the music buying public, who for the most part just want to know what’s currently available, and aren’t interested in having someone else’s opinions foisted upon them.
So, in order to get the best from the vast array of music media out there, always check style and content, who writes for them, are they open to new music, are they fair and unbiased in their reviews, and do you feel comfortable reading their assessment of the work of other artists?
If you are happy with the answer to all these questions, then, and only then, should you think about submitting your latest masterpiece.
Things have changed in the music industry. No longer do the big labels hold sway. Yes, they do still maintain a stranglehold over the charts, but discerning music lovers know this for what it is: a false indicator of what is actually out there, and rather actually a picture of whose record company has been able to submit the winning bid to reach the number one position that week. So our second point is, don’t worry about charts. Of course, it’s nice to get a number one on whatever chart, in whatever category or country; a number one is still a number one; but in the end, it doesn’t mean anything. So rather than chase charts, hone your skills and find your own lane. As it was said in ‘Field Of Dreams’, the 1989 Kevin Costner film, “If you build it, he will come”. Build your style, and he (the fans) will come. In our recent interview, Vanessa Forero said exactly that in response to the question, “Do you have any advice for artists looking at getting into music professionally?” :
Find your edge. Copying is good to grow your tools and learn some music ropes from artists that know a thing or two, but imitation should never be your goal. Keep your eyes open for the lane that only you can fill. Write only the music that you can write. And stop being so damn serious about it! Just breathe in it.
Having creative control over your own work is also very important. You don’t want to be signing a record deal only to discover that the record company wants you to change everything about you, to take away your identity. We spoke to Edward Grimes from Jedward last year and asked him how important it was to for them have creative control over their work:
I think it’s always good to do it yourself, even if we had the biggest record deal ever we’d still want to be a hundred percent in control, and have input into the situation, but even if we were in a different situation, we’d still always be rocking it, because – you know, we’ve been in the business six years, we know what our fans want, we know what the sound is. We’re always on trend. We know what needs to be out there.
Don’t be afraid to try something different. Yes, your fans are important, but in order to stay relevant in music, it’s vital to change, or else you become a pantomime character. Cases in point include David Bowie and Madonna, who would frequently reinvent themselves. Friends of EP, The Rising, recently went from being an all-male outfit to having a female lead singer. We spoke to their new vocalist, Chantelle McAteer and asked her what that was like stepping out for the first time in front of The Rising’s audience:
I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely terrified of what the current fans might have thought. But, they have taken to the new female impact very positively and have embraced the different dynamic that I bring to the new and existing songs. For me, C2C was the best reaction I could have hoped for, the reception was amazing and it just felt so natural, as if I’d been part of the band for years. We had fans singing along to the new songs (which no-one has heard before) after one chorus. So that really got us pretty pumped onstage. After the end of our set people were coming up to us saying that they really enjoyed the show and asked for autographs, which is one thing I had never expected and I’m pretty sure I could get used to it.
There’s plenty more we could say about all this, but the most important thing we can say is, be yourself, and don’t be too concerned about the opinions of others. Sure, not everyone’s going to like you or your music, but that’s what it’s like being human, everyone is different. Stay true to yourself, find your own lane, and the fans will come.
In summary, obviously not everyone’s work is “amazing”, and constructive criticism is vital if an artist is to develop. But music, like art, is subjective, and nothing is without some merit or appeal to somebody. Encouragement is equally vital, and nothing is without some merit that can, and should be noted.