Enjoy this conversation with Lily Virginia, a New York-based artist who joined me in LA for an encouraging, insightful interview. We cover all kinds of things: Lily’s songwriting philosophies, her treasured friendship with her producer, how she’s grown her newsletter organically, PR advice, the challenges of trying to become a full-time musician, and more.
“I guess what I would say, at least at this point in my life, is that I’m kind of tired of being strategic. It can be fun—but ultimately, when you get caught up in the strategy and planning, I feel like it does take a toll on the amount of time you have to be creative. So at least for right now, I just kind of want to focus on writing.”
How to grow your newsletter organically
Lily hustles harder than any other singer-songwriter I know—I’m not kidding—and she’s managed to do it while keeping up genuine relationships with fans. This is especially obvious when you look at her newsletter, which she sends out regularly to almost 2,000 engaged subscribers. She’s grown her mailing list organically by…
- Announcing onstage at shows that she has a mailing list.
- Walking up to people after the show to ask if they’d like to join.
- Putting a lot of care into each edition, keeping it interesting, not too wordy, good images, etc. “Have something to share that’s of value,” Lily says.
She finds the list is a good way to organize your contacts in different cities, too. When she knows she’ll be in a certain city for a gig, she tries to reach out individually to everyone she knows there.
How to get your music on blogs
PR is a beast. Here’s Lily’s strategy for submitting music to blogs, based on advice she got from a friend who works in PR:
- Get a list of blog names/contacts together. You can manually compile the list or purchase access to various directories online, but remember that lots of for-purchase lists, like Indie Bible, go out of date quickly.
- Put your list into Mail Merge, an application that allows you to connect Google Sheets to your Gmail. You can send up to 100 emails a day directly from your inbox to a blog’s inbox—no third-party newsletter service involved. You compose a template (one that looks like a conversation, not a blast), organize your contacts’ names and blog titles, and season to taste. Eventually, the app will let you send up to 250 emails a day.
- Follow up every 24 hours for a week using a tool like FollowUp.cc.
My opinion? This all sounds very gross and annoying. I hate nagging people and am a little uncomfortable with mass emails in general—but I’m willing to give this a shot on my next project. I’ll let you know how it goes.
“If the blogs disregard your email, it doesn’t matter,” Lily reminds us.
Submithub is also a nice tool. I’ve used it myself a few times and have had decent success. For $1 per submission, you can guarantee that blogs will listen to at least 30 seconds of your song and either (a) accept it or (b) let you know why they didn’t. If they don’t respond, you get your dollar back.
Sometimes the feedback you receive from blogs on Submithub is conflicting and looks a little copy/paste—but I’ve much preferred this to sending out an insane number of individual emails to bloggers and hearing nothing back at all.
Relevant links & mentions
Find Lily online
- Website: http://lilyvirginia.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lilyvirginiamusic
- Instagram: @lilyvirginiamusic
- Twitter: @LilyVirginia
- DreamTrain project: https://lilyvirginia.com/pages/dreamtrain
- Mail Merge: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/mail-merge-with-attachmen/nifmcbjailaccmombpjjpijjbfoicppp?hl=en
- FollowUp.cc: https://followup.cc/
- Submithub: https://www.submithub.com/
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- The VOICES podcast – How to get started in session singing & voice acting: Mella Barnes shares tips & experiences (June 21, 2017)
- The VOICES podcast – How to lead a band: Hip-hop frontman Isaiah Oby shares strategies & common mistakes (March 29, 2017)