Liner Notes

The Ten Commandments of Pitching the Daily Vault

by Jason Warburg

In an average week, publicists, labels, and artists send about 800 pitches to the Daily Vault—and we publish somewhere between five and ten reviews. 

Let those numbers sink in for a minute.

The weekly dive into the pitch pile is an exercise in ruthless culling. There is no spite or malice involved; it’s just basic survival for a site that’s lightly staffed and all-volunteer.

Naturally, over the years we’ve identified some patterns and rules observed by successful pitches—which is to say, pitches that make it through the culling process and are referred to the writing staff. There is a limited audience for this sort of information, of course, but in the somewhat snarky but ultimately public-service-minded spirit of Rock Critic Law, we thought we might try to have a little fun in the process of sharing this accumulated wisdom.

So, here are some tips for crafting pitches that actually stand a chance of making their way into the in-boxes of the Daily Vault writing staff.

The Commandments

1. Thou shalt proofread every pitch. (Every. Pitch.) We’re not tyrants about this; a couple of minor grammar or punctuation mistakes aren’t going to land your pitch in the trash. But the more errors your pitch contains, the less confidence I’m going to have in the product you’re pitching.

2. Thou shalt not use a dark background in your email pitch. Think a dark, colorful background will make your pitch stand out? Think again. Half the time email clients dump them, so there’s a 50-50 chance either your message or my reply will arrive on the other end in the form of white type against a white background. (“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.”)

3. Thou shalt not pitch something again that you already pitched this week. Repetition does not increase your chances of getting covered, although it does increase your chances of annoying the crap out of me.

4. Thou shalt not oversell. Everybody, including me, loves the underdog story, the child prodigy wise beyond her years, the epic love story, the devastating break-up / serious health scare / unfathomable personal tragedy resulting in great personal pain (and a really good album), and other tried-and-true tropes of pitching. Just don’t ever forget that the only thing that ultimately counts is the music. The rest is just sales, and if you oversell the story and undersell the music, you’re doing your artist a disservice.

5. Thou shalt not name-drop bands your audience has probably never heard of. Sure, it’s nice to know the new act you’re pitching is made up of former members of Psychedelic Eyepatch, Gettysburg Dairy Farm, and Garland Popoff’s Magic Whistle… if anyone who lives more than 20 miles from the players in question has ever heard of their former bands. Otherwise, you just sound like a pretentious twit.

6. Thou shalt not describe a debut album as “eagerly anticipated” or “long-awaited.” Unless the artist in question either recently went solo from a major band, or recently formed a brand-new supergroup, this description is basically a big fat self-serving lie that undermines the credibility of anything else you might have to say. Don’t do it.

7. Thou shalt not pitch something you can’t actually share with us yet. If we’re not allowed to hear it, why the feck would we want to read about it?

8. Thou shalt choose a band name that does not suck. No, seriously. If I hate your band name, your pitch is probably doomed. It’s not capriciousness, it’s the fact that you chose to lead with a glaring example of your own bad judgment.

9. Thou shalt only pitch us things we actually cover and/or do. The Daily Vault is an album review site. If I don’t see the words album or LP or full-length or CD in either the subject line or the headline, it’s on to the next one. If you’re pitching us with award news, tour news, band news, your new single, a request to post your new video, or anything else that isn’t an album for us to review, chances are that you’re wasting both your time and ours.

10. Thou shalt describe the music. It never fails to amaze how many pitches we get that completely omit any description of the music itself. They list the tracks, give the release date, link to the video, drop the executive producer’s name and blah blah blah, but don’t give us a single clue what the music actually sounds like. For all we know, it could be 17th century chants, ’50s country & western, or postmodern krautrock. Tell us what the music sounds like, explain what it’s about or what inspired it, mention familiar artists and genres as points of reference, describe how the music might make us feel. Give us a reason to care.

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