Just a brief FYI! Back in May, I began a partnership with A3C Festival + Conference to have my own column and to serve as a mentor for their annual conference. So, if you want even more content, click the link here to check out my A3C column, “Act Like You’ve Been Here.” Bookmark it!
Recently, with my column, I covered the topic of song pitches and why media outlets might by turning you down. It’s a fun article but it’s also really high-level. I wanted to get into something a bit more close-up, a bit more common, something that goes beyond your pitching but also your bio, your emails and how you carry yourself:
Not your songwriting, but the way you write when you speak to media, to venues, to labels — hell, even to other artists. I find that there are just some words you should down-right avoid. These aren’t just pet-peeves either, they’re words and phrases that turn off the reader, and make you look like a novice.
If I teach one thing — if you were to summarize my philosophy in one quick leap it’s this:
The best way to stand out from the thousands of other artists, is to do something they don’t — act professionally.
This doesn’t mean your tweets or brand has to be buttoned up from a clean-professional standpoint, no, still be you. However, it does mean that when you pitch a writer, your pitch should be compelling, free of typos and informative.
It means that when you write your bio it’s succinct and not one long cliche’ and when you’re writing fans to ask them to check out your work, it’s personal and not lazy and copy/paste.
Here’s some keywords to leave out, along with a good replacement.
1) “Up & Coming.”
I got into an argument with a fellow industry guy, and not because I disagreed with him, but because of his attitude. He said he “immediately deletes” artists who use the word “up and coming” in a pitch or email.
While, I agree that this is a universally hated word… I don’t think anyone should ever delete an email because they didn’t like a word that was used, that’s ridiculously petty. However, that’s the industry for you. This is a thing that exists. Be aware.
The word up and coming is disliked because mainly, it’s overused and well.. more importantly.. it doesn’t mean anything. How are you up and coming? Because you’re talented? Plenty of artist are talented. Why are you up and coming, and what does that mean? Does it mean you’re getting social media action? Are you selling out venues? How is that defined?
It’s also just.. completely overused in the industry. It’s a universal term that seems to turn people off.
What To Use Instead: Tell them why.
Instead of up and coming, give them facts.
“I’m an up and coming artist from Philly” can be changed to “I’m a Philly-based artist who’s been recognized by national media such as Complex and Hip Hop DX. I’ve also been a featured artist for A3C and SXSW numerous times”.
See that? You’re showing not telling. You’re still …”up and coming”… but now you’re inferring that, rather than saying it.
2) Cliches: “The Next Michael Jackson, The Next Pop Sensation.”
This is less in pitches, and more so found in bios. I see phrases like, “Jason Jones is the next Usher or maybe even the next Michael Jackson!.” Or, something even more cheesy such like: “Jason Jones is a bonified superstar, quickly racing towards pop superstardom.”
This, boys and girls, is what we call hyperbole. It’s an exaggeration. Will Jason Jones be the next MJ? Likely not, but maybe — but we’re not worried about what he’s “going to be”, we are worried about who he is right now.
That’s the thing! Realize that when you talk to people, you are talking to people who want proof. A writer, a venue operator, hell even some fans, could care less about flowery language regarding your “future stage of hip hop prowess”, nah they care about what today.
What To Use Instead: Facts over Flowers.
Again, we want to show — and not tell. Show people why you’re the next pop star through facts, rather than a pretty written sentence. This means that:
“Jason Jones has been making his way to pop superstardom from birth, and is destined to take MJ’s throne as the new Prince of Pop.”
Can be turned into:
“Since his humble beginnings locally in 2013, Jason Jones has garnered nearly 500,000 streams across all his streaming platforms, with his latest single accounting for 250K of those. He’s embarked in numerous tours in the past two years, and has garnered a reputation for being a hard-working, traveling artist. Which you’ll see below from his live reviews.”
3) “I’m a little bit Kendrick Lamar mixed with Sugar Ray.”
This one, I’m on the fence about. So, let’s get all the caveats out the way:
If you’re pitching a music supervisor, who wants to get your work into film or TV. Yes, compare yourself to another artist. Why? Because music supervisors look for indie artists who “sound like” a certain artists. Indie music is cheaper to acquire, but still a healthy payout for indie acts.
So yes, if you’re pitching a music supervisor, let them know you sound like a mix of Maroon 5 and A$AP Rocky, because they may be looking for that similar style.
Another somewhat similar tactic is targeting writers who have covered work similar to yours. Let’s say you’re a conscious rapper, or you’re an indie guy with a big following. Maybe you should pitch writers who’ve written about Kendrick Lamar or Chance The Rapper, and mention: Hey, I see you did an article on indie rappers, and wanted to introduce myself. Or, I have a conscious style some would compare to Kendrick, so I figured you could appreciate my latest.
Those examples, are positioning yourself in a way that’s relatable to a writer. This is good. This is being different than a copy/paste pitch.
What To Use Instead: Just..Don’t.
However, you have certain artists that say things like: “I’m a little bit Stevie Wonder, with the attitude of James Brown and the vocal styling of Bryson Tiller.” The only thing I imagine at this point is a very melodic and charismatic Frankenstein.
Like everything in this list, let your music speak for itself. It’s always good to have your own style, however, if you want people to view you as a cross between Lady Gaga and Lil’ Kim, let them come up with that on their own.
Remember: Always let your music and facts speak for you. It becomes obvious when you’re trying to create something that’s not fully there.