Music PR and promotion for emerging bands! Essential advice from I Like Press
Blog by Louise Dodgson under Media, Selling & Distributing Your Music
Started back in 2009, Leeds based I Like Press was initially a music and festival PR company working with bands such as Anathema, Katatonia, Chevelle, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Black Moth, Paradise Lost, Pentagram and 65daysofstatic, alongside festivals such as Live At Leeds and Beacons.
In the early days, director Simon Glacken juggled a normal office job and fitted in band stuff during lunch breaks, on evenings at home and any other spare time he could grab. By 2010 he decided to pursue I Like Press as a full-time pursuit.
Over the past few years the business has evolved to incorporate working with venues, bars, food & drink including Headrow House, Belgrave Music Hall, The Turkshead and Bundobust, breweries like Northern Monk and Ilkley Brewery and Leeds Indie Food Festival. We managed to grab some time with Simon to find out why music PR is so crucial for bands and artists, how emerging acts can embrace it and the best way to approach music PR companies.
Simon, in simple terms what is music PR?
It’s the promotion of a new release such as an album or single, a tour or maybe some music related news via print, online and regional media. So this mainly involves securing album reviews, news features, interviews, tour previews and live reviews. A campaign usually lasts for a set period of time so for example an album campaign is usually 3 months in length.
What will working with a music PR company achieve that a band promoting themselves won't be able to?
There is definitely a lot a band can do themselves and especially for new artists I’d encourage them to try and do this as much as possible. Most cities have a local music website or magazine or maybe their university has one. You can easily find out who the best person to contact is and reach out to them about your band to see if they might write about your latest releases or cover a gig in the area. Along with this there are plenty of websites and blogs who are keen to hear new music and would most likely welcome you getting in touch if your music is up to scratch.
Though for a lot of bands doing it themselves, there is often a wall they will hit when it comes to securing more national and mainstream coverage with the bigger websites and publications so this is where a good PR can come in. We’ve spent a fair few years building up relationships with many of these places where they will now happily listen to the music we send them, and if they like it they will usually cover it. Music journalists get so many emails each day about bands that they need a way of filtering this wealth of new music down and working with PRs they know and trust to send them good stuff is a way of doing this.
The other advantage PRs will usually have over a band doing it themselves is knowledge. There are so many different magazines and websites covering all sorts of different styles of music that it’s firstly hard to find them all and also to keep track of which ones are still active and which new ones are now appearing. We have a large database full of these along with details of numerous freelance writers, which we keep updated and we can tap into this resource when we are working with an artist to make sure their music is going to the right people.
We also know the different types of content various places will feature and know what to pitch for. Some places run track of the day features, some are happy to run simple Q & As, some don’t run news articles at all, some writers will only listen to music if you send them a CD, some will only accept a download link. Again we only learnt this type of stuff from doing the job for a number of years and you can only really pick it up from experience which again gives us an advantage over a band doing it themselves.
PR is our job so we’re able to put in many hours to make sure a campaign, whether it be for an album or tour, is as successful as possible. Many bands usually have day jobs and just haven’t got the free time to put into doing a press campaign, especially when they’d rather be focusing more on writing, recording or playing live.
Of course there are no guarantees with PR and this is something we will always make clear to bands. We can make sure that we put the music in front of the right people but they can always turn around and say it’s not for them.
At what stage should an artist be approaching PR companies?
I’d always say new bands who are just starting out shouldn’t look into paying someone to do their PR. There are people out there that will happily take your money because they’ll PR a bag of crisps if it’s paying them, but I’d say hold off as you’re just not going to get any decent results and you’re better putting the money back into the band.
A lot of new artists are still developing their music as well and don’t start to become a more fully formed unit until they’ve been together for a while, played some shows and learnt how to work together. There’s a good chance the song you write 8 months down the line is better than the track you wrote in your first couple of practices.
When we’re working with an artist we’ll often have to sell them to people to show why they need to be listening to them. Part of this is the story and the history, who they are, where they’ve been, what they’ve done and where they are going. If you’re a new band with a couple of songs and a few gigs under your belt then it’s likely that there isn’t much of a story to tell.
So take the time to grow your band - play some shows, secure a few good support slots, tour, maybe even generate some press for your band yourself and help grow your fanbase to help create that story. Once you’ve got this behind you, along with some strong songs, whether it be a single, EP or album, then it could then be the right time to reach out to a PR company to see what they think.
Dialects (Credit: Andy Mills)
Do you work with many emerging/unsigned acts?
A lot of our roster is made up of established bands but we do like to have a couple of newer/emerging bands on there. We worked with Leeds band Black Moth when they were a very new band around 2011. Two albums later we still work with them in 2016 and it’s been great to watch them grow and see all the amazing coverage they’ve had over the years. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Dialects are another emerging post-rock band we took on last year for their debut EP and they ended up getting covered by the likes of The Independent, Prog Magazine and Kerrang which led to a tour supporting Solstafir and over the past couple of months they’ve had successful slots playing at Tramlines and ArcTanGent festival. They are currently unsigned but we’re very confident they’ll be picked up by a label for their album.
What is the best way to approach music PR companies?
This is a question that comes up a lot but it’s a really important area that I think of new/unsigned bands mess up on. For me personally, and I’d say probably for a lot of other PR companies, labels and booking agents, that email is the best method for reaching out.
The key though is to make sure the email you are sending is actually tailored and personalised to the individual you are contacting. This means not sending out a blanket email to 100 different PR companies at once asking them to check you out and BCCing or CCing them all in. It’s probably the worst way to do it and will have people clicking delete straight away.
Make sure you do your research on the PR company too and see which other artists they work with as your music may not fit in with what they cover. If there’s a band you like that they work with, then maybe mention them in the email you send as it looks good to show you’ve actually take the time to do your research.
As daft as it sounds, make sure you outline some details on the band such as what you sound like and what you’ve actually achieved so far, plus what you are actually looking for going forward. I get so many emails from bands that just say ‘Hello. We are ‘band x’. Please listen’ which is a perfect example of what not to do.
What do you take into consideration when planning a campaign for an artist?
The main factor is going to be the music when it comes to identifying your key targets for a campaign. If you’re working with a metal band you’re going to be targeting sites and magazines that cover heavy music. On the flip side if you’re working with an indie band you won't usually be pitching for a feature in Metal Hammer. Though we’re always keen to try and find ways of getting artists covered in places where you might not always expect them so if there is an angle then we’ll try it.
At the start we will outline the key places which we will target for features and reviews. Live dates are always a key factor. If a band aren’t playing live around the time of a release or just doing 1 or 2 gigs then it can make it harder to secure features as magazines want to usually write about bands that are active on the live circuit that their readers can go out and see. Also many times people want to catch a band live to see what they are like before they’ll commit to a feature so it can make your job a lot harder without any tour dates. So the live factor is definitely something we’ll take into consideration.
The types of features we’ll push for will depend on how new the band is. If it’s a band’s first album then you can pitch for all sorts of new band type features all over the place, but once you are on your 2nd/3rd album you’re usually no longer seen as new.
For online coverage, we’ll also look at the assets we have available for the campaign and when we’ll decide how to roll them out. Usually with an album campaign we’ll aim to reveal 2 or 3 tracks/videos which would be shared across the campaign. But if you’re working on an album with longer songs then chances are there might only be 5 tracks on an album and you can’t really share a big chunk of that record online before the release date so with that in mind we maybe only share a song max. Though to maximise this we could stream the track first and then follow up with a music video for the same track later down the line if that’s available.
Other assets that can be created which could be used in the campaign could be live videos, stripped down live sessions, in-the studio footage, remixes or track by track guides to the album. If an artist is resourceful then they could put a lot of these together and then they can be rolled out across the campaign as a way of keeping the interest and momentum going.
Find out more about I Like Press and the services they offer here.
Music PR advice on creating a unique artist story
I Like Press give tips & advice on music PR and promotion for emerging bands & artists