As some of you may know, I have covered the London and area classical music scene for more than a decade, writing regular music columns for several different publications over the years: Scene, ArtScape, The Beat, and most recently Eat Drink.
And as my deadline approached this month, I once again found myself wanting to bang my head on my computer screen. Why? Because several sources were simply not responding to interview requests.
As a freelance classical musician turned freelance writer, I’ve been on both sides of the divide. I know that artists live busy lives and often juggle multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I know that most arts organizations can’t afford to splash out on expensive advertising campaigns. And I’ve heard the complaints about the lack of news coverage given to local arts events.
I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush. Some arts organizations are fantastic to work with. Others, not so much. This blog is directed towards those in the second category, as well as anyone looking to see your name – and news – in print.
Have a website, and keep it up to date
In 2016, there’s really no excuse not to have a decent website. Whether you’re an individual performer or a larger ensemble, it’s simply an investment that you can’t afford not to make.
It’s equally important to keep the information current, and to ensure that it’s accurate. Don’t forget to include contact information. (And if your website uses a contact form, make sure it actually reaches an inbox that someone checks!)
Friendly tip: Websites like Eventbrite now make it easy for anybody to sell tickets online. If you’ve got an upcoming concert, why not set up an account and link it to your own site?
Make a media list, and keep it up to date
Pay attention to who is covering the arts in your area, and make a media list. Don’t rely on generic info@ email addresses – who knows where they go? Try to find contact information for the individual reporters.
Friendly tip: Most newspaper websites list individual contact information…you just have to find it. Try scrolling to the very, very, very bottom of the Home Page. That’s where they like to hide the link to the Contact Us page. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to ask for a reporter’s contact information.
Then, when you’ve got an upcoming event, let the media know. A formal news release is great, but a friendly email with some key information can also do the trick.
Give enough lead time and understand the news cycle
It’s the first week of October, and I just filed my November / December Classical Beat column. I’ll soon start working on a story that won’t be published until Spring 2017. That’s why it’s so important to get your information up on your website as soon as possible. I can’t cover your upcoming concert if my story was filed last week.
Having said that, most newspapers will only cover your event the day of, or if you’re lucky, the day before. Same goes for radio and television.
Respond to interview requests
There’s nothing worse than sending out interview requests and leaving phone messages that are never returned. (Other than finally hearing back two weeks after the story has been submitted.)
We’re all busy…but please respond quickly so we can find a mutually-convenient time to chat. If an email interview works better, just let me know and I’ll send my questions along. Please don’t make me chase you, or have to stalk you on Facebook….
Have the list of repertoire ready, as well as the names of any special guests. If you’ve got bios, send them along. High resolution photographs? Even better!
Take some time to think about what you’d like the public to know about your event. If you think you’ll be nervous during the interview, jot down some notes. If the reporter doesn’t ask about something important, just go ahead and tell them. And if you go blank and forget a crucial detail, send a follow-up email.
If you’re an artist, or part of an arts organization, what challenges do you face getting the word out?
Nicole Laidler is a London, Ontario based freelance writer and copywriter and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.