How to pitch to NPR Music

NPR Music is an editorial team dedicated to connecting the dots between the people who make music, the people who listen to it, and the context around them. We prioritize posting from a wide range of perspectives, not just one definitive “take”, and are open to all genres, especially those you think we could cover better. If you’ve never written for us before and want to suggest a feature, here’s what you need to know.

At a basic level, your pitch should follow the common sense guidelines you’ve seen elsewhere. Put “PITCH” in your subject line. In the body of your message, clearly explain your central point or issue. Explain why now is the time to tell this story and how you will go about it, including a target length (800-1200 words is a good range for a first assignment). If there’s a particular audience you’re hoping to reach, say so. Limit yourself to two or three short paragraphs.

More importantly, remember that a pitch won’t stand out if it just broadly endorses the music. While many musical stories depend on taste, history, community, identity and mechanisms of power are equally important to us – the things that filter how we listen. What excites you, worries you or surprises you about this music, how it was made or how it was used? What should your reader understand from this, whether they like it or not? Give us a precise, precise angle on your subject and you’ll be ahead of the pack.

So what types of stories are we looking for?

Just about any written format is acceptable, but most of our features fall into a few categories:

  • Interviews and profiles of musicians, industry professionals, subject matter experts and other very interesting people whose lives and ideas can help illustrate an overall lesson. Tell us what you would like to know and why now is the time to ask. Examples:
  • This profile of Raveena, looking at the musician as she took charge of her career.
  • This profile of Lucy Dacus on songwriting as an empathic window into your most vulnerable memories.
  • This interview with D’Angelo’s sound engineer about making a contemporary artist timeless.
  • This Japanese breakfast Q&A, explaining the production decisions that went into making an album about joy.
  • Essays and Reviews on the listening experience. For critics, we’re interested in what makes a musical work exceptional — not just good (and not even necessarily good), but possessing the kind of layered meaning that rewards closer examination. Examples:
  • This St. Vincent review of what’s at stake when a “futuristic” musician decides to go retro.
  • This essay on how an album by elusive electronic artist Burial helped a writer understand climate catastrophe.
  • This essay unpacks the heavy baggage of Aaliyah’s music hitting streaming platforms.
  • This trending story about a wave of bookish British post-punk bands and what their music can reveal about life after Brexit.
  • Reports and Analytics on current events and forgotten stories. We love curious, well-informed stories that reveal new levels of meaning in the entertainment culture we consume every day. Examples:
  • This Dodos profile that expands into a story of musicians living with chronic career-threatening pain.
  • This examination of Dolly Parton’s status as a saint in pop culture and the instinctive urge to protect her.
  • This trial reported on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series as a generational gateway to alternative music.
  • This reflection, after the death of Phil Spector, on black women whose voices built his wall of sound.
  • There’s room for the occasional wildcard – for example, a list of high concepts or a live review with a larger point – as long as the presentation makes sense. But whatever happens, say what shape your room will take and why. Stories come to life in the narrative; how you will say yours is as important as what it is about.

    OK what are not are we looking for?

    There are a few common pitfalls that virtually guarantee your pitch won’t receive a response:

  • “This thing exists.” The least exciting thing in a publisher’s inbox is a pitch that simply says, “[Artist] has a new album, are you interested in a review/interview?” and leave it at that. In placetell us why you, in particular, are constrained by this topic at the moment: an odd detail that has piqued your curiosity, a fascinating parallel, an entry point that makes a great topic accessible. Let us see your mind at work.
  • Information overload. Anyone can find raw information about a new release or rising trend and drop it in an email; your pitch won’t seem essential if it’s just a list of facts. In placeremember to highlight what your reader Needs namely – the things that are really crucial to the particular story you want to tell.
  • Right thought, wrong time (or vice versa). A straightforward critique might not sit well with an artist who is currently mired in scandal. A 20th anniversary story shouldn’t look like it could have been presented when the album turned 10 years old. In placebe aware of the context in which readers will encounter your article and write for that world.
  • That said, a good pitch doesn’t have to be 100% perfect to be worth sending out. If there is an idea that you to know would make a great NPR Music story, send it along with details on why it means something special to you, and we might be able to help you find the edges of the frame.

    If you are ready to submit:

    Email your pitch to [email protected].* Our editors will review it and, if we are interested or have any questions, will contact you in a week or two. We can’t answer everything, but if you’ve sent multiple submissions and not received a response, please ask how your submissions could be improved and we’ll do our best to guide you. As of early 2022, our base rates for common story types are $600 for reviews, $800 for shorts (including interviews and obituaries), and $1,200 for features and essays .

    *Please use this address only to showcase your own web features – it is not the place to showcase a radio play or new podcast, or for artists or publicists to lobby for coverage. Also, NPR is a news agency: if a story involves a clear conflict of interest between writer and subject, it’s not for us.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    About Brandy Perry

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