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What Press Releases Do That Twitter Can’t

by Max Willens on September 13, 2010 · 76 comments

Kanye West's Twitter background image

As the music business continues to groan and writhe and metamorphose into its newest form, a lot of its former features have begun to fall off like sheaths of dead skin.

Artist development budgets? Gone.

Albums as the primary unit of sale? So 2002.

But press releases?

AdAge’s Simon Dumenco posted an article today which supposes that Twitter has killed the press release. As far as Dumenco is concerned, artists (and, by extension, other celebrities and businesses) can simply bypass publicist machinery and disseminate important information to the fans and media outlets that love them.

Sure, there’s a lot that’s wrong with press releases these days, and there is plenty of blame to go around for their current, sorry state. But Dumenco’s thinking really only applies to known quantities. Can you really use Twitter alone if you don’t have 1.1 million followers like Kanye West does (or even 15,000 followers like the National)? If you’re starting out, or, really, if you’re anything less than a household name, using Twitter by itself is a little bit like shouting into the void, and here’s why:

Loss of Wow Factor
Thanks to sites like FanBridge or press kit builders offered by sites like ReverbNation, Topspin, and Guguchu, press releases are no longer press releases. They can be big, bright, beautiful, attention-grabbing things. Got an amazing picture of you and your band playing on a roof just as the sun is rising? An incredible album cover or show poster that one of your friends drew/illustrated/animated for you? A beautifully calligraphed version of your logo that your Japanese teacher from high school did for you?

Congratulations. Nobody is going to see that in a Twitter update.

Tuff 2 b clr in such tight .25cs
If you’re issuing a press release, odds are you’re trying to communicate something fairly important. Cramming all of that information into tweets will improve your ability to get attention quickly, but past a certain point, things start to get lost. Assuming you need between 16 and 20 characters for a shortened link (to an album/artwork/tourdates/whatever), it gets very difficult to write something that a journalist or blogger who’s unfamiliar with you will find compelling enough to click on.

Say you want to publicize a tour EP you’re going to put out in a month. It features dates you’ve played across the U.S. over the past year on assorted tours – Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Providence, and one totally crazy show at a loft that was so well-attended that it exceeded the fire code restrictions by 50 people. You’ve got a free preview that you put together that’s available on Vimeo, and a private stream available on Soundcloud that you want to offer to interested bloggers/journalists.

All interesting information, right? All stuff that would maybe entice fans, bloggers, editors, and/or journalists to at least check out the preview, right?

Bands like DD/MM/YYYY, pictured, benefit from eye-catching images

It looks far less compelling when it reads like this:

New live EP 10/15! Incl recordings from Boston, LA, and insane show in Milwaukee! Preview here or press DM me 4 copy

or like this:

Live EP feat. the best versions of my favorite songs from this yr’s tours! Incl. sold out shows, illegal dates&more Prev:

or like this:

Did 5 tours this yr, hear the best cuts from the best shows on new EP! All soundboard, hi-qual; preview here or DM 4 stream

Sure, your fans, especially the ones who attended those dates, might click on one of those links. But the people who have never heard of you (which, realistically, is going to be a lot of people) aren’t going to click on any of those things. They might if you mention them in the tweet, but that costs precious characters. They might also if you DM them, but manually and individually addressing tweets to dozens of bloggers is tedious as hell, and you might as well just e-mail them personally, especially in light of my next point.

A Lesser of Two Evils
One of the dirty little secrets of mounting a press campaign for anything (unless you work for Vice, Fader, or Apple) is that you have to be a nag. These people are busy. Big-name bloggers and veteran music journalists get dozens of e-mails per day from bands and publicists, and so you can’t just hit them up once. You have to send the first blast out, find out who didn’t respond, then target people individually, then follow up, then follow up again, then sweeten things up and maybe offer that certain writer something extra (an interview, comps to a show, a basket of baked goods, whatever).

If none of that works, only then can you finally, reluctantly give up and accept that freelance writer/blogger X who wrote one thing about a band that’s similar to yours one time 16 months ago (it also involves being thorough, in case you hadn’t noticed) probably isn’t going to write anything about your new EP.

All of this can get tedious, obviously, and it will look slightly annoying on e-mail. Do it on Twitter, and you are going to look like a monster:

Hey @1000timesyes did you get my EP! Listen to it dude! And holler at me I’ve still got bobka with your name on it!

@xzachbaronx Don’t forget I’m playing at Southpaw on Friday DM me if you wanna get comped!

@Maura I saw you logged into Soundcloud did you like my EP? Tell me! Have I mentioned that I loved your work at Idolator yet?

And on and on and on, every day, for weeks (yes, weeks!). This is an unfortunate necessity for any artist, and it is also fairly high on the list of things that you do not want your fans to be aware of.

Obviously, Twitter can be a huge part of any artist’s efforts to spread their name across the world. But suggesting that it can replace visually striking, informative, and effective press releases for rising artists is just silly.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

joey mascarenhas October 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

i tell you that you are damn right, i hate to say it, articles in news papers, radio interview, a small video cilip on your local tele can do much more that 12 hrs a day on F.B or all of them put to together, most of these guys were already famous before goin on F.B or Twitter so they got so many click,
using social media network as a parallel to follow up after people read and hear about is a good way of keeping your fans in the loop,regards,joey mascarenhas

kidcouture December 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

Great read Max! Curious to know your thoughts on the use of an artist one-sheet vs. press releases when seeking write-ups/editorials/reviews/etc. from traditional magazines.

MaxWillens December 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Thanks for commenting, kid! In my opinion, you've gotta go with the one-sheet.

Unless it's issued by a big name, most journalists are going to treat a random press release with skepticism, whereas a one-sheet can be more personal and immediately engaging.

iTunes Music Promotion August 19, 2011 at 1:47 am

So happy to hear that such sites can help bands to promote their music too.

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