Wednesday, October 19, 2005

How to pitch, part 1

The more I think about this, the more I realize that this isn’t just “How to Pitch to an Entertainment Writer”, but more of a primer on what to do if you’re an artist and you want to prepare your media campaign. The pitch is an important part, but so is the groundwork you do ahead of the game. It increases your chances that people will interview you, notice your work and increase your visibility.

I appreciate that some of you are shy, hate being interviewed or getting your photo taken, but this is a necessary evil. You want people to notice your work. Media is one of the best ways to go about this. So you might as well try to enjoy it.

Just for the record, when I use the word “artist” over the next few posts, it refers to anyone in the arts – musicians, writers, actors, painters, dancers, etc. It's just for simplicity.

I’m going to mention Mark Vaughn-Jackson again. I’m not entirely comfortable doing it, but I suspect Mark has vented about this to enough people that I’m not breaking state secrets here. And I always had his words rattling around in my head when I was doing entertainment writing.

Mark gave up being an entertainment writer (and he was a good one) I suspect largely because he was bored and getting frustrated with the arts community.

If memory serves, the quote he told me was “It was getting to be ‘It’s the third week in March, it must be time for me to write yet another story on this particular festival.’” Which doesn’t sound too bad, unless you’ve written a story about the same festival for the past seven years. Then it becomes awfully dull. Without help, there are only so many ways to write the same story year after year.

Artists are generally oblivious to this, which is funny. You would think that as a group of creative people they would be aware of the danger of boredom in someone who depends on their imagination and skills to create a piece of work that people will read and enjoy. But they don't tend to be.

So the first thing to keep in mind is that entertainment writers want to write something interesting and captivating. And remember, for all the variety in the arts, odds are we’ve already written about it.

New record? There are about 50-60 new releases each year in St. John’s. I could literally write a story a week about a CD release. That gets boring in a hurry. New play? About one every two weeks. New book? I can write stories a week about book launches. New art exhibition. Easily one a week.

Up and coming bands looking for some attention, who are working on an album, but are going to be the next big thing? Oh dear Jesus, don’t get me started. Most of them break-up 10 minutes after they’re off the phone with me.

I’m being harsh, I know, but you have to realize this important point: an entertainment writer is someone who loves the arts, but its probably a bit bored and jaded. They think they’ve seen it all because, frankly, they’ve seen quite a bit. So you have to work to catch their attention. You have to be prepared. And way too often, artists aren’t.

You have to think of it this way – it’s not the Entertainment section, it’s the entertainment business section. Ninety per cent of the stories I wrote for Jiggs and Reels in The Express were people promoting a product, whether it was art, music, books, etc. If your product is going to succeed you have to put as much thought into marketing and promoting it as you did in creating it. Because if you can't make it exciting enough to make a reporter, with space to fill, want to write about it, then you're in trouble when it comes to getting the rest of the general public engaged.

And this is where most artists fail. They create it and then think magically people will flock to it. It doesn’t work that way. I wish it did.

So think what you want to do with your baby once it done. This means research. This means planning. And it means a lot more work.

Part 2 tomorrow - What media is best for you? And what are their strengths and weaknesses.

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