Refining your sales pitch

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For many years, one of my biggest challenges was getting a reply to the mass of emails I wrote to promoters, licensing agents, music venues, magazine editors, and even my fans.

When I would get a “yes,” it was a product of laborious follow up – or luck. The early years of my music career felt like one long grind.

Looking back, it's probably because I never liked asking for things. Asking to be booked, for someone to listen, for fans to contribute to funding my projects… I felt like I was being a burden. I’m sure that’s deep rooted somewhere in my childhood, but without getting into a psychological profile, let's just say I was pretty bad at making powerful requests. Which made getting a “yes” a long shot.

Things changed when it came time for me to book a big winter tour. My plan was to target ski resorts in the Midwest and line up live radio performances, shows at colleges and smaller music venues, and perform a few house concerts. It added up to a lot of gigs to book.

I couldn't face the prospect of going through my routine of “send 50 emails, get two replies,” so I researched how to be more effective in writing pitch emails. Then I did an experiment.

I set aside one week and did all the research I needed to book this tour. I had a spreadsheet of every possible venue's contact information, plus contacts for radio shows, local papers, house concerts, event listings, and ski resort managers. All told, I had about 100 contacts to reach out to.

Phase II of my experiment was to take a few days to email all 100 contacts on my list and keep track of the numbers. Was this new pitching process working?

70 percent of the contacts responded (so far so good!) and 50 percent of them said yes! I ended up with 17 shows booked over a 15-day span, with a dozen press mentions and local event listings.

Since then, I've refined this pitching process, and now 100 percent of the emails I send get a response. Every single one.

How to get a "yes"

Spend time doing research and organizing your contacts. As I mentioned, I took a full week to gather and organize all the email addresses, which was a huge relief when it came time to write the emails. I wasn’t scrambling and losing focus looking for contact information.

Know what you want and make it clear to the person you're contacting. The clearer you are, the more clear they will be, and the more likely to respond (and say yes).

What can you do for them? This might be a weird one you musicians who live in a world of “please help me out,” but if you can turn the tables and figure out how your performance, music, or track presents them with an opportunity, you’re pretty hard to resist.

Ask for what you want. While this may seem like the biggest no-brainer piece of advice you've ever heard, you’d be amazed how many emails I get from musicians who contact me with a message along the lines of, “I’m awesome because of A, B, C. Check me out.” My response can only be, "Why? What is it you want me to do?" It's ridiculous, and it's a one-way trip to my "deleted" folder.

Don’t overwhelm the people you're reaching out to. Your email signature does not need to contain a link to every single one of your social media platforms and SoundCloud tracks. Keep it short and sweet and give them what they need to learn more if they want to.

I’ve created a course called The Perfect Pitch that outlines the steps you should use to get results when you pitch your music to promoters, bloggers, music supervisors, or whoever. Plus, you get email templates. Here's a free checklist to get you started.

Reach out on my Facebook group for musicians and let me know how it goes!

Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a full-time singer-songwriter and composer. When she’s not working on a new jingle, co-write, film score, or choral piece, she’s jamming all of her experiences into resources for musicians, including this free pitching checklist. You can read more and hear her music at