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You wouldn't know the music business was in crisis from the number of press releases Blogcritics receives every day. Unfortunately, far too many of them aren't doing their subjects any good.

Language Matters in Life and Business: Press Release Purgatory

decapitated press releaseTaylor Swift aside, the music business is in crisis. “Free fall” might not be too strong a metaphor for sales figures.

You wouldn’t know it, though, from the number of press releases Blogcritics receives. Every weekday hundreds of announcements flood our inbox trumpeting concert schedules, music festivals, label signings, and countless releases of new albums, EPs, singles, and videos from artists famous and obscure, North American and international, label-signed and independent, old, new, and in-between.

Because of the sheer quantity, we can spare only scant seconds to look at each press release. That’s why titles and first paragraphs are so important, especially for unknown artists trying to shoulder their way into the consciousness of the press. Above all, we need to spot a clear descriptive phrase for the music.

The effulgence and variety of creativity resulting in this storm of press releases is also what can make it hard to encapsulate in a few words what a new artist is all about. A lot of artists hate to have their music pigeonholed into one neat genre or another, and in many cases they’re justified.

But that just means whoever writes the press release needs to try harder.

Here’s one whose title gets it right: “Melodic, eclectic pop-rock act The Blue Dolphins release the fourteen track Come On!” We immediately know how the band styles its music and that the release is a full album. Never mind that there should be a hyphen between “fourteen” and “track.” The essential info is right there.

Here’s another: “Soul/hip-hop group Dirty Revival celebrate release of their debut, self-titled full-length.” Again, the style of music is clearly stated, as is the fact that it’s a full-length album, and we’re informed that it’s a debut so we shouldn’t be surprised if we’ve never heard of the act.

It works for singles too: “jazz, gospel and classic soul inform alto singer and piano player Dawn Oberg’s new single ‘Salvation Army Santa’ feat. Mike Rinta on trombone.” Capitalization failures aside, it would be hard to get much clearer than that title.

But there are all too many whose titles give no help at all. “Audio Submission: Phixx Cravin – Werewolf.” Are we getting an audio download? A stream? An offer of a CD? What type of music does Phixx Cravin make, if “Phixx Cravin” is even the name of the group –maybe the name is “Werewolf,” although that’s more likely the name of the album. Or is it a single? Sorry, no time for this!

But at least with this one we get clarification down in the text: “Vancouver, BC’s own Phixx Cravin paying homage to the ‘The Best of Folklore the Worst of Nightmares’ with his latest single ‘Werewolf.’ Other press releases are mysteries through and through. One titled “The Tunnel Beat for” (?) simply reads “Another one!, lets go” with contact information, track credits, and this: “If you talking music, let’s do somethin’ bout it!”

Huh?

Most annoying and ineffective of all are the press releases that begin with a long narrative about the genesis of the act or the album, lengthy paragraphs completely meaningless to someone (us) who’s never heard of the artist. And if you do scan through it searching for a descriptive phrase for the music, more half the time you never find it.

taylor swift 1989One recent press release was titled merely “Little Strange.” Again, huh? It turns out that isn’t even the name of the band. And the press release doesn’t describe the music until the fifth paragraph of text, far beyond what we have time to read unless something much higher up has caught our attention.

Finally, you wouldn’t believe how many press releases we get titled simply, “For Immediate Release.”

It’s Public Relations 101: Get the key facts in front of the reader immediately. Title. First paragraph. Simple. It’s not quantum theory. It’s just good sense. If you want to get something into any market, and especially a frightfully crowded one like music, your language has to be clear and to the point. People who don’t know who you are don’t have time to read your long narrative, or to go searching for a key needle-in-a-haystack phrase explaining what your product is. You’re not promoting Taylor Swift.

Or if you are, you’re not reading this.

 

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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