Music PR advice: When to call in professional help & how to find the best publicist for your music
Blog by Saint In The City PR under Media, Selling & Distributing Your Music
This blog was contributed by Saint In The City PR who handle press, Spotify and radio promotion for emerging artists and independent labels from around the world. As specialist publicists and pluggers for new/unsigned/independent bands, they work with some of the most influential and biggest music platforms in the UK, USA and beyond - and also have a great reputation for mentoring and guiding artists through effective and affordable professional release campaigns to media. Get in touch with Debs Brown at [email protected]
With over 15,000 new tracks hitting Spotify and Apple Music EVERY SINGLE DAY, music is an overcrowded, hyper-competitive market where it’s very, very easy to be lost in the herd, regardless of how talented you are. There’s a staggering amount of good quality music around. So how do artists stand out in the crowd and make sure they’re in with a fighting chance of getting their records heard?
Well, they outsource it to PR professionals. Just like most artists prefer to have a producer help craft their music in the studio, or an engineer to manage their live sound, or a photographer to make them look cool - it pays to have somebody reliable and knowledgeable helping you get that all-important product into the public eye (and ears).
Music PR is sometimes looked at by some people as a bit of dark art and something that only artists and labels with bags of cash can afford - but it needn’t be either of those things. It should be a team effort, and you should feel like everyone is on the same page moving forward.
Here’s a quick guide to what you should be thinking about when investing in the right publicity and promotion for your release…
1. What does PR actually 'do' for bands?
In basic terms, our job is to get your music heard by the kind of media people that are going to help move you forwards (and upwards) in your career. That could be editors at influential music sites and magazines, it could be radio producers and presenters, it could be Spotify editors and playlist curators…you get the idea.
A common misconception is that great press coverage and national BBC radio plays will automatically deliver Axl Rose-style rock star riches to your front door. In the short term it probably won’t, sadly. What it WILL do, is put you firmly on the radar of booking agents, festival curators, promoters, sync agents, A&R folks, managers, other radio/press - who all can make your next steps a lot easier and potentially more rewarding. They call these people gatekeepers for a good reason.
It will also, without a doubt, get a lot more people reading about, listening to, tweeting, liking, sharing your music - which is all forward progress for you.
2. Does your band really need professional PR?
That may seem a weird question, but you need some sort of game plan and ambition for promotion to be worthwhile. If you’re looking to play more shows around the country, get festival slots, earn more streaming/royalty money and get record label or management interest then you’re going to need professionals on board - and it’s probably going to be a long-term part of your strategy and budget as a serious, ambitious band and business.
If you’re happy playing gigs to mates down the local on a Saturday night and that’s where your ambitions end, you don’t need to pay for a service that isn’t going to benefit you. And I always advise bands to be honest with themselves about their goals - music is a tough world to make progress in and is not for the faint hearted. If you’re playing for kicks, enjoy that for what it is.
3. Do your homework...and don't overpay!
There are A LOT of people out there working in publicity and promotion. Many of them are very good at what they do and some are lovely people to boot. There are still some sharks about, and you need to avoid people who make big promises then deliver very little. Remember the sleazeball ‘Frankie Sharp from Sharp Records’ character in Wayne’s World? Those stereotypes are alive and well, probably run a weird hybrid consultancy/PR/A&R/production outfit in LA (web address only) and will fleece you for a huge amount of money if you let them. Do your homework and research on whoever you’re considering working with.
Make sure you get examples of recent campaigns (not stuff they worked on 15 years ago…as a lot has changed since then!) and look at what a PR company has done with similar-level artists to you in the past. That will give you a benchmark of what they can do for YOUR band at YOUR current level. While it might sound impressive (and ego-massaging) to employ the publicist who worked on an Arctic Monkeys album, your project is not going to have a similar marketing budget, fanbase or media awareness - so the two are not going to be compatible in your expectations or results. We have campaign examples and testimonials on our site for these reasons. Transparency is key.
Finally, never pay silly money. Don’t pay more than you can afford to invest (sounds common sense, but you’d be amazed by how many horror stories we’ve heard over the years from unsigned or independent bands who’ve spent £3,000+ on a single promotion). Good PRs are in demand and can afford to charge emerging bands and small labels a reasonable rate. Bad PRs tend to quote high prices as they’re looking for a quick sale that they know a band will never repeat with them. The majority of our clients come back to us again and again, as we’re helping them build things over time - not ripping them off in the short term.
4. Why can't we do all this ourselves?
Technically, you can. But just like studio production, mastering, graphic design, video production, live bookers etc., it’s better to have experts steering the ship. Publicising the product (your music) and getting it out there is the second most important step in the whole process (having great music comes first, obviously) - so you’ve got to get it right, not guess as you go.
Very few bands have this combination of essential elements that a good PR can offer -
- Time (you’ll spend weeks researching the right contacts to get anywhere near the volume of a decent PRs address book)
- Expertise (knowing who covers/plays what at site/show/playlist, how to run an effective release campaign, how to arrange the right premieres/interviews/features, how to keep media momentum going etc.)
- Writing skills (you’re probably ace at social media, which is great and a skill in itself. Crafting angles for your band or writing concise pitches with high impact in the right format for different media outlets, probably less so)
- Relationships (good PRs work with media every day, and get their emails read and their music heard. Out of the blue first timers are not usually that lucky)
- Persistence (again, time is an issue here, as is knowing how and when to follow up without becoming that annoying emailer who won’t take the hint)
Advice on finding and working with a PR company to promote your music