In late 2014, I came to the realization that, while helpful, my “Dear Rap [People]” posts were limiting (mainly because it was only my thoughts/opinions/truths). So, I reached out to cook up something awesome. I hope to have/”host” more roundtables to help educate people on how to approach writers, music, A&R’s and so on. Also, I want to showcase that these people aren’t scary entities who sit in ivory chairs throwing potshots at up-and-comers. Volume One of the SpeedontheBeat.com Roundtable features:
Part one will focus on the panelists themselves along with hints about what not to do when submitting. Part two (Monday, March 2nd) will deal with thoughts on paid posts, more hints to future “media hubbers” (see, Rizzo. It’s catching on) and artists, and biggest accomplishments. I’m not doing this just to give out contact info, though. So, if that’s what you’re here for, stay for parts one and two. You might learn something more useful than an email address.
Speed on the Beat: What prompted you to get out and start speaking about hip-hop and music in general?
Rizzo: Just the overall coverage of hip hop and current events in general prompted me to do it. I got tired of complaining about media outlets and the disconnect between them and actual everyday people so I figured “fuck it.” I’ll create my own corner of the internet and go from there.
Nikki: When I first started my blog NikkiSiixx.com back in 2008, I decided to voice out my favorite things such as movies, music, and video games. Then my best friend Kassandra from Womazing.com took me to my first underground hip-hop event. I witnessed my first rap battle, live performances from local artists, and met a bunch of dope people within the scene. I was intrigued by the culture and I truly embraced it. I started to post more underground music from locals from Miami and then it spread to all over the country, and even to the UK.
Al: I toyed with music writing throughout college, first reviewing albums for Pitchfork and then starting a rap blog, Government Names, in 2004. My coverage of Baltimore hip-hop on there led to working with the Baltimore City Paper and kind of leading the charge with a lot of their local rap coverage, and that was my stepping stone to a lot of other publications. I consider myself a fan of music in general who’s fluent in most styles of rock, rap, pop, and R&B (and at least conversant in country and jazz and dance music). But music criticism is still kind of dominated by people who privilege indie over everything else and rally around one rap album a year (this time it was Run The Jewels, 13 years ago it was Cannibal Ox, so things haven’t even changed that much in the time I’ve been in the business). So being able to write about rap is a semi-specialized skill that keeps me busy doing mostly that. And I enjoy it, but I didn’t necessarily set out as a writer to be a self-proclaimed authority on rap music. I just listened to a lot of it and ended up having some things to say.
Quinelle: Hip-Hop is my life. So I’m always talking about it because it’s a part of my DNA (laughs).
SOTB: How many emails do you tend to receive on a daily basis?
Rizzo: My site has only been active for a few months, so not that many, submissions-wise. But, I do correspond with artists and other writers/curators daily
Nikki: I receive about 50-100 emails daily, ranging from submission to site inquiries. I’m the only one who reviews the submission and then later down pass it to the other writers on my site. But lately the writers have been M.I.A so I have been dealing with the overall submission process.
Al: Not counting social media notifications, I get anywhere from 5 to 30 e-mails a day. Usually there’s only a couple that a living breathing person addressed to me, a lot of it’s just lists and mass e-mails and stuff. Out of those emails, how many would you say stand out to you? Anyone who’s “pitching” me about new music, as wonderful as it is that people just want to send me music, are ultimately just asking me to turn this stuff into something I would work on, when I’m just trying to finish the work I’ve already agreed to do and have no desire to sign up for more.
Quinelle: On average, a little over seventy-five a day.
SOTB: Out of those emails, how many would you say stand out to you–and why?
Rizzo: Most don’t stand out at all but I try to check every one of them. [For me], the only thing that stands out to me is the product. If the content is good, I recognize it immediately.
Nikki: 3-4. Say I received 50 emails. About 25 get X’ed out ,because they either sent it BCC or its only a link in the email. About 15 emails truly stand out because they have great music, clean image, proper presentation, and providing all the information needed to post about them. Especially including all your social media links. This usually makes the cut.
Al: Usually it’s someone I already know of who I’m really checking for their new music. Very occasionally an e-mail actually describes someone and their music in a way that makes me actually want to hear it, but that’s extremely rare. Most artists are terrible at writing promotional copy for themselves, and professional publicists are often even worse.
Quinelle: Normally, no more than six because I know those individuals who are sending [the emails].
SOTB: What’s the worst email you’ve gotten from an artist or rep? By the way, I have my fingers crossed that it wasn’t one of mine.
Rizzo: So far, all emails I received have been professional…but I’m sure its only a matter of time before I have an answer for this.
Nikki: I would say the worst kind of email submissions are the ones that are half-assed. Meaning you’re just sending me a link and stating “Check it out ma!” and that’s it. I feel you need to try harder than that. Oh! There’s one other thing that kinda grinds my gears when the submission states “Thank you for the previous feature, here’s a look into my new music.” First off, I searched on my site from this particular artist and it comes up there’s no such feature. I always write back when this happens, why? Because you’re lying about previous support/feature(s). You need to remain honest and build a relationship with the site/writer.
Al: “If you could combine versitility , raw emotion , ingenuity , creativity & originality together. Stir the blend into a mixing pot with, off the wall punchlines and a flow only matched by a methodone clinic You will have the unique formula embodied by”…whatever the guy’s name was. It went on like that for two very long paragraphs.
Quinelle: Probably those individuals who send me e-mails every other day, [even when] I never respond or acknowledge.
SOTB: Nope, none of those stories are mine, thank God. What are the three “no-nos” when approaching you or any other blogger/journalist/writer in the field?
Rizzo: I’ve got one in particular: Spamming me via social media. It’s like you are trying to force feed me your music. I hate that shit. Put your product out and promote, no doubt. But, people want to DISCOVER music, not be FORCE FED.
Nikki: The three No-No’s when approaching a blogger/journalist would have to be:
- Don’t harass the blogger if they haven’t featured you on the site yet. Or a constant status update regarding a submission.
- Don’t make it public, whatever business you’re trying to handle with them. Each site has ways for you to inquire about submissions, promo packages, and any business inquiries.
- For my specific field, I am a female event coordinator/promoter as well. I even created a list of my own Do’s and Don’ts on How To Approach A Female Promoter Here’s the link to get the scoop: http://nikkisiixx.com/2012/10/13/nikkisiixx-dos-donts-how-to-approach-a-female-promoter/
Quinelle: First, don’t assume. Second, don’t be annoying. And third, don’t take anything personal.
Quinelle: I feel it’s always in your favor to build a relationship with someone before trying to ask them for something.
Quinelle: Short and sweet.
Quinelle: I like anything, as long as it’s presented correctly and authentically.
Quinelle: Honestly, just sounding as much like yourself is the best. If, by chance, you end up sounding like Drake (laughs) that’s cool, too.