Music Industry Quick Tip: Be Honest in Press Releases

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When you write a music press release, it can be tempting to stretch the truth a little bit. That's easy to understand. Your press release will be competing for attention with tons of others, and to get your story told, it needs to stand out. The thing is, kind of like lying on a resume, your liberty with the truth will almost always come out. Here are a just a few press release no-nos:

  • Attributing an endorsement from a member of the media to an endorsement by an entire organization is bad practice. For instance: the front page of this site contains a blog, written by me. This site is owned by the New York Times. If I write in my blog that I think your album is the best album I have heard all year, you can't then turn around and send out a press release that says, "Best Album of the Year - New York Times." An opinion expressed on a blog, on a radio show or in some other informal environment that is not an official review must be expressed as such. In the case mentioned here, you would need to attribute the quote like this: "Best Album of the Year - Heather McDonald."."

    Now, if the "Best Album of the Year" claim was in a specific review of your album that was published on, say, Pitchfork, then you could say, "Best Album of the Year - Pitchfork". When in doubt, always come down on the side of attributing a quote very specifically rather than generally.

  • If you have worked with a well-known artist or producer on one track, be clear about the extent of your relationship. Don't suggest that an entire album was produced by someone if they only did a few tracks or that the artist has a closer relationship with your project than they do. Even if you don't come out and say that they did work they did not do, leaving the suggestion open that someone produced your entire record when they didn't is still misleading.

  • Don't say you toured with someone when you only played one show with them. Landing a gig as the local opening act for a big name musician is impressive on its own. Simply say "have opened for (insert list of names)". Saying that you toured with them misrepresents the situation.

You'll notice a trend here - being clear is key. You also have to find a way to promote yourself by working with what you've got. For instance, although you don't have to say that when you opened for musician X that they had nothing to do with selecting you, you can't be ambiguous about the fact that you shared the stage with them on more than one occasion.

Before you add something to a press release, consider whether or not the person on the other end of the claim you are making would back you up. Not sure? Don't write it.

And of course, it goes without saying that out and out making things up is never, ever OK.

Why It Matters

You may be thinking, "who cares if some journalist thinks that I played five shows with musician X instead of one, if it gets them to write about me?".

Well, it matters. A lot. Here's why:

  • When you send out a press release, members of the media usually take your claims in good faith. If they promote your music/cover your story, and your claims turn out to be false - or even if turns out you stretched the truth a little bit - you have compromised their integrity. At best, you have embarrassed them in front of their readers and given the impression that they are less than reliable. At worst, you could cost them their job. Making enemies in the media is not a good course of action for anyone in the music industry.

  • You will be embarrassed when the truth comes out. It takes all of a minute and a half to verify anything you say in your press release, and the truth will come to light. If someone you have inappropriately attributed a past association or quote to calls you on it in a public forum, it will be extremely embarrassing for you. If a member of the media decides to write about you making false claims in your press release, it will hang-your-head time. Getting a reputation for dishonesty is bad for business. Image the story covered on a blog and the trail of snarky comments it would receive. Bad look.

What To Do If It Is Too Late

What happens if you have already sent out a music press release that contains misleading information?

If you haven't been called on it, immediately revise your press release and send out the corrected version. If you have been called for the info, here's how to handle it:

  • Apologize for the miscommunication.

  • Own the mistake. Don't try to save face by clinging to the false story. Simply say that you didn't intend to give the wrong idea. If someone got the wrong impression - you gave it to them. Accept it.

  • Offer to do what you can to correct the mistake. If someone has covered your story somewhere, ask them if there is anything you can do to take the blame away from them, like writing an official statement correcting your info that they can print.

  • Send the corrected press release.

  • Reiterate that you didn't mean to cause harm and say you hope that you can still keep them informed about your music news.

    There is no guarantee that someone burned by running with misleading information from you will be OK with working with you in the future. However, apologizing and owning up to the mistake will go a long way in most people's books.


    To learn more about music press releases, including how to write them and when to send them, visit Press Releases 101.