We all like to imagine that the freelance life—all of writer life, really—is the glamorous life. We case local coffee shops and vegan cafes, we write up kitschy stories that go viral on Twitter, and we break scores of fresh artists, really shaking up the music industry.
While all of this sounds wonderful, it is widely untrue.
A majority of freelance music writing unfolds off the page, off the timeline, and festers out of endless email threads, not in your local plant-based fast-casual restaurant. Angry artists, green artists, lazy artists, and the whole spectrum of PR agents and managers shoot off emails to writers daily, and while it's obvious we are on the same team—the team of pushing good music—that goodwill often gets lost in the digital shuffle. More often than not, out from these email chains comes a slew of stories ranging from nightmarish to hilarious, to instances of harassment and verbal abuse.
Poking around my own email, and consulting with the EARMILK team, we've compiled a few of the most ridiculous email offenses we've been sent from PR people and artists.
The Over-Eager Follow-Up
I get this one, I really do. I want everyone to email me back within seconds of my initial email. I want to know if my pitch is greenlit, declined, needs work, or if I should never write again. I want things to be scheduled immediately and I want my workflow to be spotless—but much like the opening writer fantasies, this is just not possible.
Sending me a follow-up email five minutes after your initial email, as a separate email, to make sure I got your first email does not make me want to open your first email, or any email, for the foreseeable future. One EARMILK writer bemoaned the within-the-minute follow-up, telling me that the excuse of "sometimes my emails don't go through," is not convincing enough in 2018.
I get this one, too. Sometimes you're trapped sending out template emails with a standard press release and some links to socials, and that work sounds tedious and mind-numbing. Copy and paste is our mutual friend, but please, make sure your salutation is appropriate. For one, my email is also my name, so if your opening line is "Hi Alicia," I have no desire to continue on and read your pitch. I'm glad you found my email on my Twitter and are happy to "e-meet" me, but my Twitter handle is also my name, which still isn't Alicia. Attention to detail is everything here.
The Poorly Crafted Pitch
As one EARMILK writer shared, few things are as cutting as seeing an artist you once worked with be undersold by their new PR.
"So way back in winter 2016, when I had just started looking into music blogging and figuring out the music industry, I discovered this artist on HillyDilly who I really liked and hit her up offering to essentially do free PR for her because I was a fan of her music," the writer tells me. "This was before I knew you could be paid for PR. I really just wanted some experience helping artists. She has new management now." And said new management sent over a pitch riddled with typos, poor phrasing, and a genuine lack of care for the artist.
"The quality [of the pitch] was terrible and I think that genuinely is detrimental for the artist," our writer continued. Here, the obvious solution is a little extra—or baseline—effort. Every pitch sent out should communicate how totally jazzed you are about your artist and make a writer just as jazzed about their music. It's tough getting excited when there are careless mistakes from the subject line to the final sign-off.
"DO NOT REVIEW MY SHIT BITCH"
Or, the verbal harassment email. Extremely troubling and just as common, a good portion of emails fall into this category of nonsensical hate mail. Across the board, this type of email devolves into: "you shouldn't be in this field of music… YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT," sometimes within the same, unreplied-to email chain. While it would be nice to chalk this up to childish individuals who don't know better, it's difficult to ignore the gendered component of these types of emails.
Would an artist feel entitled to this type of outburst if they were emailing a male writer? A few male EARMILK writers shared their own ridiculous email stories, but also said they were less likely to receive emails of this intensity. Of course, this is mostly anecdotal evidence, but there is something to think about when male writers note that they're spoken to differently, even in their hate-mail, than their female colleagues.
Jokes and social awareness aside, hopefully, this can be a lesson to budding artists and anyone looking to get into PR: a little bit of email etiquette will go a long way. We're all on the same team here, we all want good music and great artists to get their dues. So, let's relax on sending passive aggressive follow-ups and emails with subject lines like "show your pussy" going forward.
Writers do want to open your emails and listen to your music, but first, we would like to establish mutual respect, and then listen to your mixtape.