Give away lots of CDs. But do NOT just toss them away. Make every one count!
Get volunteer friends/ bandmembers/ fans to help call or email and track the results of as many of these as possible.
Go ahead and ask for favors - be a little bit of a pest. Ask each mag what they'd want to put you on the cover. Take notes of each conversation.
Keep everyone happy. Don't lose touch. Ask for references. Ask if there's anyone else they know that can help you. Then contact all THOSE people, and keep doing it.
It's a LOT of emailing and calling. But it means EVERYTHING. (As long as you superhumanly balance this with making new music and writing great songs.)
I think KEEPING IN TOUCH is THE single most important thing. Here's why:
Whenever I'm talking to someone in the “industry” or have the opportunity to help promote a CD Baby member, I often find myself hooking up the person who I just got off the phone with. (You know - “Oh I was just talking with Scott from the band called the Rosenbergs, you should talk to them - he's home right now, and just told me how well their tour is going!”)
On the flip side, there are 60 people a week or so who submit their CD to CD Baby, I put it in the store, I email them but they never reply, I send them checks for CDs sold but never hear from them.
I often wonder who these people are that just let a potential fruitful relationship just disappear into anonymity.
(Do I sell a band called Conundrum? Umm.. let me check the database. Well it says here I do. I don't know them, though.) And CD Baby is just ONE company!
Imagine if you actually stayed “close” with 100 little companies! Or 1000!! You'd have people in all corners of the industry everywhere constantly recommending you, referring you, hooking you up with opportunities, promoting you, etc. You'd be very successful, very soon.
When you're on tour, look up all the people who you've sent CDs to in that area. Meet with them. Sleep at their house.
Ask everyone's advice. Pick everyone's brain. Hear their thoughts & point of view. Remember it.
Oh, send them a present every now and then. Chad the Dungeon Bunny sent me a bag of Baby Ruths. Guess who comes to mind first now when people are asking for his kind of music??
God now that I think of it I probably remember every little present anyone has ever given me in my 10 years being in the music biz. I can count them one hand. It's such a rare wonderful surprise.
On the flip side, I made a friend for life at the top ranks of BMI because I showed up to his office with a pizza for our meeting. (Luckily he was hungry and never forgot it.)
Radio stations are just people. Magazines are just people. Websites are just people. Record companies are just people.
People like to work with their FRIENDS whenever possible. Be a good friend. Be a real person, not a slick schmoozer. If you're acting TOO professional in all this “keeping in touch” then it just sounds fake and will be forgotten.
Oh, and try to sense when they don't like you. Sometimes they just don't like your music, and aren't willing to help. Don't take it personally. Mark it in your database and move on to the next.