MEDIA PROFILE: Spin invites pitches that help it stay in tune withmusic's latest

Though it may sound like a PR title, Spin sticks to the spinning of CDs, rather than ideas. But, finds Melanie Shortman, PR pros will still score hits by knowing the content and which sections to target.

Though it may sound like a PR title, Spin sticks to the spinning of CDs, rather than ideas. But, finds Melanie Shortman, PR pros will still score hits by knowing the content and which sections to target.

Seventeen years ago, Spin sought to fill a hole in music journalism by covering alternative and underground artists and trends. Recently, subjects have included more mainstream bands and hip-hop artists, but you still won't see Britney Spears on the cover of this monthly. Writing for the intelligent and cynical post-collegiate crowd, Spin bills itself as "The Music Authority, covering music and culture with an opinion.

"We just try to be the best music magazine, says music editor Charles Aaron.

The magazine, with a circulation of 525,000 and readership of 3 million, has a mostly male audience between the ages of 18 and 30, though readership among women is increasing. Pitchable sections include Noise, which profiles younger bands and music trends, Reviews, and Exposure, a pop culture grab bag which highlights new movies, books, TV shows, and video games.

With a new editor-in-chief (Sia Michel, the first woman to head a national rock magazine), Spin is in a bit of a transition period and receptive to pitches, especially from up-and-coming bands. Editors will pass their own judgment, but rely on PR pros to let them know what's out there.

Concentrating on original and intelligent reporting, editors prefer pitches from PR pros who are familiar with the subject matter and format of the magazine, and present their ideas clearly and concisely. "One of the best pitches I got recently was about white female rappers, Aaron says. "The guy did his homework, and had contacts ready."

The trick, according to Spin/Vibe ventures PR director Adrienne D'Amato, is to know which section of the book to pitch. "It's a matter of finding what works best, she says. "Most publicists want the cover, when one of the smaller sections may be a better fit."

In fact, Spin editors decide on cover bands and features themselves, relying on publicists to make the artists accessible and available. "The most frustrating thing is to be pitched, and then have no follow-through, says Aaron. "Once we decide we want a band on the cover, we need publicists to make it happen."

To stay timely, Spin doesn't rely on an editorial calendar. When pitching a new album for review, the key is to send it far enough in advance. With a two- to three-month lead time, Aaron says it helps if Spin gets as much of the album as soon as possible, even if it's just a few tracks. And two copies are better than one, as Reviews editor Alex Pappademas and Aaron both need a listen.

Product pitches are best sent to Exposure editor Dave Itzkoff (newly imported from Maxim), who looks for kooky, edgy products, and unusual ways of presenting them. "Dave's the most dependent on pitches, Aaron says, "He's keeping up with 10 different media at once. Recent examples from the section have included Jesus action figures and Wu Tang Clan puppets.

If the product isn't that unusual, then the presentation should be creative.

In the July issue, New York City cab drivers review Sega video game Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, and dermatologists recommend solutions for rockers with less than perfect skin. "Exposure is whatever seems strangest and most accessible at the same time, Aaron says.

With Noise, the key is originality. "We need creative ways of presenting the bands, Aaron says, noting a piece in which 15-year-old rapper Lil' Bow Wow offers relationship advice to readers. "The most boring way is to interview them, and try to make it sound like we did something groundbreaking,"

Edited by Tracey Pepper, Noise pieces include 300-word profiles of groups signed or about to be signed to major labels, and a page called "Bands you need to watch. She prefers detailed written proposals via e-mail.

"The last thing we want to hear is 'there's this really cool band ...' Aaron says. "Figure out what you want to say, and tell us why it's fresh and timely."

Special issues, like the year in review (published each January) or the top-40 albums, are mostly compiled in-house and closed to pitches, but because of the two- to three-month lead time the editors look to record company PR departments to say what might come out in November and December.

Steve Martin, whose music shop Nasty Little Man represents cover stars Radiohead and the Beastie Boys, and recently landed newcomers Sparta a profile in the Noise section, says that when pitching Spin, it helps to be objective and read the magazine. "Make your case, but don't push something that won't work, he advises. "Remember, it's their magazine, it's their decision."

CONTACT LIST
Spin
Address: 205 Lexington Ave., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 231-7400
Website: www.spin.com
Music editor: Charles Aaron caaron@spin.com
Noise editor: Tracey Pepper tpepper@spin.com
Exposure editor: Dave Itzkoff ditzkoff@spin.com
Reviews editor: Alex Pappademas apappademas@spin.com

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