10 tips to get your album (or song) reviewed

10 tips to get your album (or song) reviewed

If the ques­tion "How do I get an album review?" led you here, then you're in the right place.

Before we start with the "10 tips to get your album (or song) reviewed", you should men­tally walk in the recipient's shoes. With all incom­ing sub­mis­sions, we and oth­er magazines and blogs always only have a few seconds to decide wheth­er the request has poten­tial or not. If we don't find the right keywords in the mail that make us take the next step (listen­ing), the mail ends up in the trash almost unread.

To pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing to you and to increase your chances of being heard and get­ting more vis­ib­il­ity through the press, we have cre­ated the guide "10 tips to get your album (or song) reviewed". Follow this guide and you will have a big advant­age over many oth­er DIY musi­cians and even promo agen­cies and music labels.

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1. Why should I care about getting an album review?

Maybe the first ques­tion that comes to your mind is: "Why should I care about get­ting an album review?". There are more and more DIY musi­cians who don't use the tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing of labels or pro­mo­tion agen­cies. That's some­thing every­one has to decide for them­selves. But if you have decided to take everything into your own hands, then you should also act as pro­fes­sion­ally as pos­sible. To do this, it is import­ant to under­stand the import­ance of a good advert­ising cam­paign with press and reviews.

The benefits of getting a good review at a glance

  • Visibility for new audi­ences (who are not yet your fans).
  • Event organ­isers want to see reviews as a ref­er­ence before booking.
  • Get valu­able review to pro­mote your release on your social channels.
  • Use of testi­mo­ni­al quotes from the ver­dict for own press kit or website.
  • Chance for improve­ment. If sev­er­al reviews point to the same flaw, it is prob­ably worth to improve it next time.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Don't be afraid to get a bad review. Almost no one will pub­licly tear your album apart and give you a bad rat­ing. First, the effort to write a review is too high to make bad air.

Second, giv­ing a bad review doesn't help the band/artist or the read­ers. We, for example, don't pub­lish reviews if the res­ult is below 3 out of 5 stars.

And last, but not least, the magazine or blog is not doing itself any favors, because who wants to be rated by an author who has pre­vi­ously bad­mouthed count­less oth­ers? With such beha­viour, the magazine or blog only digs its own grave. That's why research­ing the right chan­nel is all the more import­ant. More about this in the next point.

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2. Research and find the right channel

In the extraordin­ary case that you haven't been around for ages in the scene where you also make music, you should at least know the major nation­al and inter­na­tion­al magazines and blogs. If you came here, because you are inter­ested in synth pop and oth­er dark­er elec­tron­ic music then check out our art­icle "The best Synthpop web­sites (to dis­cov­er amaz­ing Synthpop music)". Here you will find some inter­est­ing sites and contacts.

Google Trends - Synth Pop
Google Trends search "synth pop" (world­wide, last 5 years)

Google Trends tells you in which coun­tries the search volume for your music genre is high. Find out the right magazines and blogs in these coun­tries as well. Ideally, you should also search in the respect­ive nation­al lan­guage in order to find the web­sites. Take the time to browse through each web­site you find. If you find sim­il­ar music, this could be the right chan­nel for you.

Take this oppor­tun­ity to cre­ate a spread­sheet or mail­ing list with import­ant inform­a­tion about the web­sites you have found: URL, name of the web­site, email address, con­tact per­son, info on the genres, info on the sec­tions of the web­site, etc.…

Pro tip: Use the genre fil­ter on HypeMachine and SubmitHub to find more poten­tial channels!

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3. Do not ask permission

So after the first step, you now have a sol­id list of poten­tial and reput­able (online) magazines and blogs. The first con­tact should be straight to the point and make it as con­veni­ent as pos­sible for the recipient.

So don't make the mis­take of ask­ing in a long (or short) email if you can send music to the music magazine or blog. This is a com­pletely unne­ces­sary step that only cre­ates more work and thus more dis­pleas­ure on the recipient's side. What is also a no-go is to fol­low up and force an answer, as is usu­ally the case with salespeople. If it fits, they will get back to you.

I'm not say­ing you can't ask again after a few days or a week. Maybe the email really did get lost. If you don't hear back, don't be dis­ap­poin­ted and try again with the next release.

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4. The first impression is decisive: Get listened or be deleted

Structure your request in a simple and prac­tic­al way for the recip­i­ent. If the magazine is run­ning well, hun­dreds of emails come in every day. Besides the oth­er activ­it­ies, mails are checked with­in a few seconds to see if they are rel­ev­ant at all.

So if you send an end­less text where the most import­ant inform­a­tion is hid­den in the body text, your mail will cer­tainly end up in the trash without any action. It also hap­pens often enough that links are gen­er­ally miss­ing. Don't ima­gine that the recip­i­ent has time to search for your band or track online. In this case, the con­tact attempt also fails.

How should your email request be structured for an album review?

Keep the sub­ject short and clear. In the case of a review request, for example: "Review request for the album XXX by the synth pop band YYY". Bam, that's it! That's like 5 snappy pieces of inform­a­tion in one short sub­ject line!

Write a short intro­duct­ory sen­tence about you and your band and what your con­cern is. Two short sen­tences are prob­ably also okay (wink smi­ley). Then struc­ture the most import­ant inform­a­tion like a list and use bold so that the read­er can eas­ily recog­nise and per­ceive the information.

A. Most important information about your album/song

Band: Band name
Song/album name: Super song or album name
Release Date: January 1st, 2525 (Consider the lead time)
Music Genre: XXX, YYY, ZZZ
Sounds like: AAA, BBB, CCC
Streaming link: https://bandcamp.com/
Download Link: https://www.google.com/intl/en/drive/
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/

Bonus tip: Read our art­icle "A begin­ners’ SEO guide for musi­cians to rank high on YouTube" to per­form the best pos­sible way on YouTube.

The principle of the inverted pyramid
Image source: Wikipedia

B. Important details

Then you can list the track list, which oth­er artists were involved, on which label it will be released, and so on. Follow the prin­ciple of the inver­ted pyr­am­id in the struc­ture of the inform­a­tion. This is sor­ted by most import­ant inform­a­tion first (top) and then des­cend­ing to details and side notes. If you fol­low this max­im from mar­ket­ing, your chance of being listened to increases enormously.

C. General and background infos

Regarding the side notes: Be spar­ing with your explan­a­tions here. Nobody is inter­ested in how many streams you had with your biggest hit so far, what you were nom­in­ated or awar­ded for and in which fancy stu­dio the song was recor­ded or by which per­son the track was mastered. It might sound bru­tal at first, but it's all about your song or album that needs to be heard now. So don't cre­ate expect­a­tions that you can neither ful­fill nor deliv­er. Believe in yourself!

An ana­logy to illus­trate. Just think of all those trashy movie trail­ers that present them­selves like an expens­ive Hollywood pro­duc­tion: "With the cam­era assist­ant from Star Wars, the act­or from Star Trek (one with a red shirt) and the turtle that used to belong to Tom Hanks!". We all know that this is a really crappy movie without hav­ing seen it, right?

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5. Do physical copies offer more success for an album review?

Physical cop­ies are def­in­itely to be con­sidered more valu­able than a digit­al stream or down­load. However, there is no point in send­ing a phys­ic­al copy in advance to the magazine or blog without being asked if you don't know for sure wheth­er your album will be accep­ted. Save your­self the money and time of send­ing it if you don't even know if the receiv­er will listen to it.

Make a self­less offer instead. Use a note in the first email just before the clos­ing for­mula, such as: "If you like the album, we'll be happy to send you a phys­ic­al copy. Just let us know.".

Pro tip: If your album has received a good review, send a signed phys­ic­al copy to the author as a thank you. Maybe with a few good­ies. This is guar­an­teed not to be for­got­ten so quickly and your next request will def­in­itely have an easi­er time.

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6. The right file format for success

Stick to this list for the down­load link you offer:

  • At best, offer the two com­mon formats MP3 and WAV. The recip­i­ent decides for him­self wheth­er he prefers the qual­ity or down­load time.
  • Do not use exot­ic file formats such as OGG, FLAC or APE.
  • Do not use any spe­cial codecs that the recip­i­ent may not have installed.
  • Make sure that your files are named cleanly and uniquely so that they can be found again later. You nev­er know what the recipient's down­load folder looks like.
  • Make sure that the down­load is pub­licly access­ible dir­ectly via the link, without hav­ing to register first.

Here, too, it is quite clear: Take away every pos­sible hurdle.

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7. When is the right time to request a review?

Request a song review or shout out

There's a say­ing: "The early bird catches the worm!". And this can be applied to the tim­ing of the promo. Shortly after the com­ple­tion of the song or the album, you should already plan the promo here. With one song, this can be done quite quickly. This can be sent out a few days before the release. For reg­u­lar music pod­casts, it is advis­able to plan a little more time. However, more than 2–3 weeks before­hand does not make sense for a song.

Pro tip: We, as well as some music friends from oth­er magazines and blogs, mostly only accept song sub­mis­sions on SubmitHub. If you want to get 100% feed­back, it makes sense to make a premi­um sub­mis­sion here. But there is also an option to sent without any costs. Then the cur­at­or isn't forced to sent a feed­back. It up to you.

Request an album review

For an album, even more lead time is advis­able. The magazines and blogs should have 6–8 weeks to listen the album with all the import­ant inform­a­tion (cov­er art­work, song lyr­ics, theme/concept, guest artists, release date, etc…) in advance. If the cur­at­or or edit­or has the oppor­tun­ity to listen to an album over a few weeks, he/she get into the music much bet­ter and this in turn has a pos­it­ive effect on the rat­ing.

To write a good review we need about 8–12 hours. I think that oth­ers with the same amount of qual­ity also take about the same amount of time. The time has to be planned with a cor­rec­tion loop.

According to stat­ist­ics, a review is best pub­lished about 1 week before the offi­cial release date. The fans are already excited about the new work and get the neces­sary fore­taste through the reviews.

Also con­sider that if the album is already released, very few people will read a review, as the listen­er will be more attrac­ted to listen­ing to a stream. Further you can use the pre-release review to pro­mote your upcom­ing album. This is just one import­ant pro­mo­tion­al point among oth­er bene­fits I have men­tioned in the first step "Why should I care about get­ting a review of my album?".

Pro tip: If you don't want your song or album review to be released uncon­trol­lably before release, simply spe­cify an embargo date (also known as 'news embargo') for the press to adhere to. This way you can con­trol the mar­ket­ing activ­it­ies and get con­cen­trated atten­tion for your release on a pre­defined day.

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8. How much do an album review cost?

Well, there's no gen­er­al answer here. Big magazines that make a good turnover from a print magazine, events and advert­ising con­tracts and can pay sev­er­al edit­ors with it, won't ask for money for a review.

Smaller (online) magazines and blogs that put a lot of work into it and have no turnover from advert­ising or salary from an employ­ment con­tract can ask for smal­ler amounts for a review. On the con­trary, apart from the high expendit­ure of time, it is usu­ally even a loss-mak­ing busi­ness due to host­ing and soft­ware costs. That's pretty unfair for the same work, isn't it?

However, we are not dis­cuss­ing sig­ni­fic­ant amounts in this con­text. Generally, the sum involved falls with­in a cer­tain range, depend­ing on the qual­ity and time invest of the review. This should rather be seen as a small sup­port­ing dona­tion to the magazine or blog. Because 95% of all music web­sites, espe­cially for music niches, do this in their spare time and have reg­u­lar jobs dur­ing the week. But the work is not less valu­able because of that. So it can't be wrong to ask about the costs right away when mak­ing the enquiry. And I can guar­an­tee you that a good review is worth more than burn­ing the money for a Google Ads cam­paign, for example.

The difference between payola and time compensation

A key factor in choos­ing the appro­pri­ate magazine or blog is the tar­get niche. In spe­cial­ised niches that focus on a par­tic­u­lar music genre or sub­cul­ture, the exist­ence of pay­ola, the prac­tice of buy­ing reviews through money or oth­er incent­ives, is rare. Before approach­ing a par­tic­u­lar magazine, I strongly recom­mend that you take a close look at the reviews and art­icles that have already been pub­lished. The nar­row­er and more spe­cif­ic the niche, the less likely it is that fin­an­cial incent­ives will be suc­cess­ful, espe­cially if your music is not a per­fect fit for that niche.

It is import­ant to under­stand that the big pic­ture is cru­cial. If a blog or magazine cov­ers a wide range of music genres, espe­cially main­stream genres like pop, met­al or rap, the like­li­hood of pay­ola prac­tices increases. This does not neces­sar­ily mean that all pub­lic­a­tions in such media are ques­tion­able, but rather that the tempta­tion for some to cross the bound­ar­ies of integ­rity may be greater.

Our inten­tion is by no means to place all blog oper­at­ors or magazine edit­ors under gen­er­al sus­pi­cion or attack. Rather, we want to encour­age people to be care­ful and remain vigil­ant. If you have the impres­sion that the motiv­a­tion behind a review or report­ing is not exclus­ively to sup­port and pro­mote your music, but rather com­mer­cial interests are in the fore­ground, you should pro­ceed with extreme caution.

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9. Spread the album review

You did it and your album got quite a pos­it­ive review. Congratulations. But please don't keep the suc­cess just for your­self. That would be selfish and not very smart. Show good beha­viour and do the fol­low­ing things:

  • Thank the author in a short email for the nice and good review. Everyone is happy to receive a few kind words of thanks.
  • Share the review on all your social chan­nels. This is a win/win situ­ation. You pro­mote your album through the good review and drive traffic to the review page.
  • Create good back­links to the review! Create a back­link to the review on your web­site or if you have a Wikipedia art­icle, do it there too.
  • Send good sig­nals and rate the magazine or blog with 5 stars on Google, Facebook and others.

With these points you invest in the future. This will be seen by the author and remembered as a very pos­it­ive action. The chances for fur­ther reviews, music video post­ings, single releases or even an inter­view are now more favour­able for you.

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10. Marketing like a pro: offering copies to give away

A simple and sure way to get more atten­tion for the album is cer­tainly a small raffle where all sides win. A clas­sic is the concept of "share and win". Arrange a cam­paign with the magazine or blog where you encour­age your fans and read­ers to share the review with a unique hasht­ag (for track­ing). After a time lim­it, the win­ners are picked out via the chosen hasht­ag and decided at ran­dom. You as a band or artist can send the CDs (pos­sibly signed) dir­ectly to your fans.

The advant­ages of "Share and win" at a glance:

  • Spreading of the review and thus more vis­ib­il­ity for the release.
  • Interaction cre­ates more engage­ment (vis­it dur­a­tion, clicks, filling out forms). Google also notices this and the rank­ing for the review increases. This in turn ensures more organ­ic traffic.
  • Low invest­ment of time and money for a good campaign.
  • Direct con­tact with the fans, who may also post the prize again on their social chan­nels and thus provide pos­it­ive sig­nals.

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Summary: The checklist how to get your album reviewed

Here again all 10 points how to get your album reviewed sum­mar­ized in a short check­list. Use these points as a guideline.

  1. The right mind­set! Be aware that a good review is help­ful for you in many ways. For example: vis­ib­il­ity, ref­er­ence, your own pro­mo­tion and development.
  2. Scattered fire is nev­er a good idea. Research on an inter­na­tion­al basis, the chan­nels the music genre is tech­nic­ally your main tar­get audi­ence and make your­self a list of rel­ev­ant contacts.
  3. Don't ask per­mis­sion to send your promo. This is a use­less step and may only annoy the recipient.
  4. Make sure your request is well format­ted so the recip­i­ent has an easy time skim­ming the most import­ant inform­a­tion. This is where the prin­ciple of the inver­ted pyr­am­id comes in.
  5. Do not send phys­ic­al cop­ies to the magazine or blog without ask­ing. If there is gen­er­ally no interest, for whatever reas­on, it is a waste of time, money and resources.
  6. Actually, it is obvi­ous to send a stand­ard format (MP3 or WAV), so that the recip­i­ent can hear this without extra effort. So don't be the unique snowflake!
  7. Start the promo for the press as early as pos­sible. For a single 2–3 weeks before, for an album 6–8 weeks before. Specifies an embargo date if necessary.
  8. It may hap­pen that a small amount of money is due for a review from an ad-free magazine or blog. Please con­sider this as a dona­tion to cov­er at least the run­ning costs.
  9. Use the "snow­ball effect"! Share the review on your social chan­nels and encour­age your fans to do the same.
  10. Increase inter­ac­tion and engage­ment through cam­paigns such as "Share and win".

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Get your well deserved album review now!

With these "10 tips to get your album (or song) reviewed" you'll be well pre­pared and increase your chances of being listened to. If you found this guide help­ful, share it with your musi­cian friends now and book­mark the page to access it anytime.

Thanks for read­ing. If you think I've missed some­thing or you've had suc­cess with anoth­er strategy, con­tact me now and I'll expand the art­icle so every­one can benefit.

If you are con­vinced that your music suits us well, then get the chance to get a well writ­ten track by track album review here on Electrozombies. Apply for a review on Electrozombies now!

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  1. Thank you. This art­icle is right on time. I was reach­ing music advert­ising and came across this art­icle about reviews. Now I've learned anoth­er facet for pro­mot­ing my music. As an indie, I have lived off art­icles and self help aids/vids like this. These art­icles and tips are invalu­able! Thank you for sharing!

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