Find your angle… then sell the shit out of it.
Having a career in music - especially a DIY one - means that at least some portion of your job is to be a salesperson. I know, MAJOR CRINGE, at the word “sales” but it’s true. At the end of the day you have created a product. You need an audience for that product and to sell it through to them. Most of the time when we talk about a “product” we are talking about something tangible that you can taste, see, feel, or hear. In this instance, I’m going to talk about the very IDEA of what you are as the product. In the music industry, the story is often as important as the song. Last week at AmericanaFest, David Macias (head of Thirty Tigers) said that if you’re around him for 5 minutes you’ve likely heard him use the word “narrative.” We need to sell through the idea of what the music is and who the artist is for a lot of people to care. But once the audience knows the story, they REALLY care.
So, what’s your angle?
This is the part that’s personal. I can’t tell you what to use, but here are some thought starters:
Your past. Mining your past is not always fun and it can feel very exposing. But it’s yours. No one can tell your story like you can. Just be mindful of others you may be exposing as well if you choose to go this route. Example: Jay-Z’s early work was all about his upbringing in the projects and his days as a drug dealer.
A major event. Maybe there is something that stands out as a major turning point in your life. Example: Jason Isbell got sober and for a while it was the driving narrative to his songs and his career (and I assume daily life).
A thing that makes you unique. The narrative you sell doesn’t HAVE to play out in your songs. Perhaps you know how to drive a formula one race car. I can’t imagine anyone would relate to that in song form, but it’s a great story to tell. Maybe you’ve existed solely on McDonald’s chicken nuggets for 5 years -- that could be a thing!
Your current life. What’s happening RIGHT NOW that feels relevant? Maybe you just had a baby (hey Ronnnnn). Maybe you’ve been living out of an RV. Maybe you’ve moved 10 times in the past 10 years. MAYBE you’ve lived in the exact same house your entire life and you’ve never crossed state lines. Even mundane things are interesting if you frame it the right way. Ultimately, people want to read something interesting, but they also want to find themselves in the story. We’re all just looking for our tribe.
What do I do with this?
Include it in your bio on your website and in the press release. Maybe it finds its way into a song if it’s natural and makes sense.
The PR factor
A good journalist wants to tell a story. A bad journalist just wants to copy and paste the press release. By sharing more of your story you will inherently be up for more thoughtful press pieces, but either way, if it’s in the press release it’s likely find its way into the piece.
I know a lot of people want to disagree with me on this factor. “IT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE SONGS, MAN! (lady)” -- and it should. It is! Nothing matters without a good song. But there are lots of good songs. Having one more piece of the puzzle to get people interested never hurt anyone.