Expert TalkMusic Business

Expert Talk with Paul Howard from Music Mecca

Music blogs are the new music magazines in a way! This is not to say that magazines aren´t essential in the media mix anymore, but music blogs are quick and easy to work with, always up to date and a great way to expand your reach online! 

As an indie artist you might look for opportunities to get an album reviewed or getting interviewed, so new potential fans can find you and follow you easily.

Having released my own debut album just recently, I can attest to the fact that music blog exposure is highly efficient!

To help you understand how music blogs (including our own) operate, we have decided to converse with Paul Howard, founder of the Nashville based music blog “Music Mecca” about what it means to run an online publication and what artists should keep in mind when pitching their music to editors!

Paul, what a pleasure to be talking to you about all things music blogging today! For the readers that do not know the Music Mecca blog yet, could you quickly sum up the content you guys offer and the overall concept of the blog?

The pleasure is all mine! So Music Mecca is a Nashville-based music blog that features artist interviews, release news, immersive show reviews (that’s on hold obviously), and more. While the blog is Nashville-centric as that’s where the site originated, we do cover artists from all over. We steer more towards instrument-driven music and songwriters.

What made you start the blog in 2017 and tell us about why you picked the name MusicMecca (which by the way I love!)?

Thank you! So actually, Music Mecca started as an all-things-music classifieds site. Like Craigslist, but strictly for music. I went deep into trying to make that work for about a year and a half, and after much time and money spent with little hope for success, I realized I was getting more and more engagement for the blog on the site, which was initially meant as just secondary content. In a nutshell, I pulled the plug on the classifieds, and went full steam ahead into online music publishing, and it was the best move to make. I’ve been off and running since.

And as for the name, that one kind of just stuck in my head when I was brainstorming names. I’m a big alliteration fan, (who isn’t?!) and they both have two syllables and five letters. It just had such a nice ring to it I thought. Also, Merriam-Webster defines a “mecca” as a place regarded as a center for a specified group, activity, or interest, and I’ll be damned if it’s not exactly that for musicians and music lovers. Of course it’s also the Holy Land for Muslims, but not quite the meaning in this case.

Love your dedication to words and meanings! You are a full time writer and content creator who alongside the blog has also published a non-fiction book in 2017 called “Vagrants in Paradise” which is based on your experiences volunteering in organic farms in Hawaii for a while. On top of things you write your own original songs as well. Tell us, does writing come easy to you? Is this something you always knew you wanted to do?

I spread myself awfully thin! Haha. Honestly, I’ve always felt I had a knack for words, compounded with the fact that I am a very nostalgic and sentimental person. My nonfiction humor travelogue, Vagrants in Paradise, is an example of that. When I was 20, several friends and I dropped out of college to buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii to work on organic farms. The trip changed my life and introduced me to a world of stepping outside of my comfort zone, exploring the unknown, and much more. It was an experience I knew I had to do something about, so I put into words that became a book. 

I for sure hit walls and blocks like anyone, and am far from achieving what I’d like, but then again, who knows if I’ll ever be satisfied with the work I put out- common writer’s crux me thinks. But the thing is, regardless of how I may fail or succeed, I will always write. I have to. Since I started taking it seriously, it’s been like a possession and calling I can’t even control.  You know you’re really deep into something when you put off basic human functions like showering and eating because you need to just keep going. (I can assure you I do eat and shower plenty)

OMG yes! Word on everything you just said about finding your passion! Maybe, would you elaborate a bit on your passion for music and the music world? You obviously live in Music City. What fascinates you about working in music?

So if writing is my 1A love and passion, music is 1B. Hell, they may flip-flop from time to time too. Music definitely came first in my life before I ever cared about writing. It hits that primitive and humanistic nerve that nothing else does, and delivers an energy only music can. I started playing bass guitar when I was 17, and around 21 I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play, and a few years after I started writing songs. 

I decided to move to Nashville from Western New York in winter of 2015 because I had friends in the music scene there, and it was warmer. I’m also a big sucker for music history and learning about all the cool venues and stories of who played where etc. I love it all, and being in that bubble and community just felt so comfortable and right so quick. Nashville is a very welcoming city, and I love it here. And of course music and writing go hand in hand, and what fascinates me about working in music and talking to countless musicians is that it almost helps me learn about myself, and often they are reflections on my own feelings about music, and it really just boils down to a connection and a common understanding and love for something universal.

Paul Howard with Duffy Jackson (whom he mentions further down in our interview)

OK, so let´s dig into what artists should know when pitching music to an editorial team. Do you have some best practice pitch tips that you would like to share with us?

For sure! Always be personable, and be sure to have your pitch tailored to whoever it is you’re pitching to. Make it clear you’ve done even just a little research and know a little bit about who and what you’re pitching to, as that’ll usually garner an equally personable response back. As easy and tempting as the mass emails are, they almost come off as spam-ish. There’s a certain template used by so many artists, and editorial folks can detect it immediately and at least I usually ignore them. Bottom line is just take the time to articulate a personable email to whomever you’re pitching. Be honest, be respectful, don’t be cocky, include links and information about yourself, and just be yourself, and good things will happen. 

What is a no go when pitching a press release or new music to a blog editorial team?

Largely what I mentioned in the question above, shooting out blatant mass emails and not taking time to appropriately pitch, but also being way too short or way too long. I’ve had some that don’t introduce themselves or have any articulation and just say things like “check out my new single it’s about a breakup hope you like it,” or something of the sort. Just lazy things like that. Or, the incredibly long-winded emails that tell me their life story. Our time is precious, and I don’t have an hour to read through one email. 

At MusicMecca, what are you looking for usually? Any criteria, which an artist must meet to be considered for a feature?

Certainly! So really what I look for first is the level of dedication from the artist, meaning they have at least a few outlets with their music like their own website, Bandcamp, Facebook page, and that type of thing. Ideally they’ve had previous singles, EPs, LPs, and so on. We also steer towards instrument-driven music and songwriters, and not so much computer and electronic jams etc. EDM/techno/house music are areas we don’t really touch for example. Also really don’t love the overproduced kind of tacky bubblegum pop music. 

How far ahead of a music release should artists approach you? What are your editorial timelines?

Typically 2-3 weeks is good. We can usually work with whatever the timeline is, but if you tell us your single is out tomorrow and would like the article done then, well it just won’t happen. We could crank it out maybe a week after the fact, but yeah. If you’re trying to coordinate a premier with us specifically and the timing matters to you, 2-3 weeks is usually pretty good.

I am sure you do not have time to answer every pitch e-mail. What about follow-up e-mails? How many are ok, and when do people start to get a little too pushy?

Great question! All great questions. Again, going back to these mass emails- those are ones I don’t answer really. And of course those come flooding in. I try to respond to each and every personalized pitch to me/Music Mecca. If they take the time, I try to do the same. One follow up is usually good for me, and sometimes it really is needed. That’s when I’ll definitely reach back out. If you don’t hear back after two emails, it’s probably for a reason. Not always! But probably. 

How much work goes into one single album review or an interview on average? Do you think people are aware of the actual editorial workload?

I don’t think they are aware! It really is a lot. So many little nuances: research, tags, link embeds, meta-data, article titles, image searches, editing! The list goes on, let alone the whole ya know, writing of the article. And you don’t want to half-ass it. You want it to be flawless and of good quality. If I do a whole interview from start to finish via email, it’s usually a couple hours. Now if it’s a phone interview, with God forbid more than one person and I have to transcribe it, much more. Maybe four hours. 

I feel raising awareness for our work´s value is so important! So far, what has been your favorite article you´ve published and why? Any legendary stories?

That’s a tough one! There’s many. One really cool one I did was an in-person interview with legendary jazz and Big Band drummer Duffy Jackson. He was maybe in his early 60s or something, but was just such a character with endless stories, and loved to tell them. Stories of playing with all kinds of jazz legends like Buddy Rich and Duke Ellington when he was in high school, playing on TV shows, and just everything. His dad was a fixture in the jazz scene in the 40s and was born into it, and man he just was fun to listen to. I felt like I was watching a music history show with him.

Another one I really enjoyed was a phone interview I did with one of the best acts in American bluegrass music today, Billy Strings. He blew up in the past several years, and is a prodigy on guitar and just has the goods. I talked to him while he was on a 200-show tour and was in Wisconsin I believe at the time, and talked about a guitar his grandfather made in prison, and all kinds of cool stuff. I was working at a liquor and wine store at the time, and I had to hang a “temporarily closed” sign on the door so I could sneak in back to do the interview! Haha, that was one I’ll always remember. 

Awesome! Thank you so much, Paul for this conversation and best of success with MusicMecca!

To check out the MusicMecca site go to:
https://musicmecca.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/music_mecca/?hl=de

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/musicmeccanash

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