Before you even begin thinking about PR, you need to have what I refer to as your social media house in order. This is your foundation. You need to have your presence sufficiently fleshed out on the internet from your website to your blog to your Twitter page. You won’t get the results you want from your PR campaign if you don’t have a strong internet presence.
With the number of musicians and music publicists flooding the inboxes of the media, you can count on the fact that these editors and writers will be checking each submission’s social media presence as a means to weed out who not to cover. As always, you want to have the edge. Having a presence doesn’t mean having more Facebook likes than everyone else. It means having consistent activity online and engaging with your fans.
Once your social media house is built and stable you can begin thinking about amassing the publicity you’re looking for.
Let’s get started!
1. What is publicity exactly?
Before we delve into specifics, let’s make sure we have the basics covered. Her are some definitions of what publicity is exactly, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Publicity – “An act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically: information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support. Also: The dissemination of information or promotional material.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Publicity is precisely all of these things.
A music publicist is hired as a member of your team to represent you to the media. Media is traditionally defined as editors and writers of newspapers, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and television. Some publicists may also cover radio for interviews or live sessions on tour stops. But if you want to get on the radio charts (like CMJ), you will need a radio promoter.
A music publicist’s job is to liaise with the press. In other words, a publicist establishes working relationships between you and those in the media. You should not expect them to get you a booking agent or gig, a label deal, or any other type of marketing deal. That is what a manager is for. A savvy and well-connected music publicist may be able to hook you up with all of the things mentioned above, but it is not in his or her job description.
2. You Are the Visionary Here.
Remember, as the artist, you are the buyer, and you are shopping for music PR. You’re in the driver’s seat. It’s your money and your music that enables publicists to stay in business. Hiring a publicist is like hiring the next guitar player for your band. You have to choose someone you like, who jives with your vision and your short-term and long-term goals. Everyone on your team has to be on the same page for you to advance. All too many times I’ve heard that a publicist was hired in spite of the artist’s personal opinions. You should like your publicist, and they should be the right fit for you.
3. With Publicity, You Pay for Effort – Never for Results.
I’ve had disgruntled artists call me and say, “I hired a publicist and I only got six articles. That cost me $1,000 per article!” Unfortunately, this is not how you quantify a PR campaign. You pay for the amount of time, effort, and consideration the publicist makes on your behalf. Now, of course, you should get some and even many results. Getting nothing is totally unacceptable. But you never know when your publicist’s efforts will show up months, and sometimes even years, after your campaign is complete. Not everyone who is going to see your YouTube video is going to view it the day you post it.
4. A PR Campaign Needs to Be Planned Well in Advance.
For long-lead press (meaning, for example, magazines with national distribution like Rolling Stone), the editors put their publications to bed three full months before they are published. So if your album is coming out in October, you must have it ready to go, artwork and all, in July. Of course, not every PR campaign focuses on national press, but no publicist will take you on with zero lead-time, so you definitely need to prepare lead-time for every scenario.
- Recommended Publicity Campaign Lead Times:
- National Campaign – 3-4 months before the release
- Tour Press Campaign – 4-6 weeks before the shows
- Local Campaign – 4-6 weeks before placement
- Online Campaign – 2-3 weeks before placement (minimum)
- (Placement = blog article, album review, calendar listing, podcast/radio interview, etc.)
5. The 4 Components of a Press Kit.
In today’s digital world, a thorough one page press kit consists of four parts: the bio; the photo(s); the articles, quotes & album reviews; the music.
The Bio – Create a one-page bio that is succinct and intriguing. You have an original story; tell it! I strongly advise hiring a bio writer. If you are not ready to pony up the cash, consider enlisting an outside source to help you. I find that people who are great storytellers make great bio writers.
The Photo – Arrange a photo shoot; if you take this seriously, you will benefit tremendously. Create a photo that is clear, well-shot, and attention-grabbing. Showing movement is a plus (sitting on a couch or up against a brick wall has been done too many times before). If you have a friend who knows how to use PhotoShop, enlist him or her to help you do some creative and fun editing. Always utilize your resources!
The Articles, Quotes & Album Reviews – Getting that first article written about you can feel daunting. Two great places to start are your local hometown papers (assuming you don’t live in NYC or LA). Also don’t forget to check for comments on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby that you can use!
The Music – The way you present the music, like the press kit, must be well thought out. Do not bother sending out copies of your CD via snail mail – instead send a link to Bandcamp or SoundCloud with professional artwork and proper tagging so the writer can access your tracks easily.
6. Publicity is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
PR is very different in nature from a radio campaign that has a specific ad date and a chart that you are paying to try to get listed on. There is no top 40 publicity chart. With the number of albums coming out into the marketplace (approx. 1,000 per week), it could take months longer than your publicity campaign runs to see results.
7. Online Publicity Is More Important for an Indie Artist than Offline Publicity
The evolution of devices, expanding social channels, the 24-hour news cycle, and instant access to every imaginable type of media for all who are connected constantly shifts the landscape. The opportunities for exposure online are far greater for an independent artist. We at Cyber PR exclusively offer digital PR. Since we serve independent artists we want to do what actually works.
8. Publicity Does Not Sell Music.
If you are hiring a music publicist to see a spike in your record sales, I have news for you: There is absolutely no correlation between getting great PR and selling music.
PR is designed to raise awareness of you in the press, to help build and share a story, as well as build up critical acclaim. Of course, a great article can lead to sales, but overall, if selling albums is your goal, PR is not the only thing you will need. To sell albums you will also need to build a loyal fan base (see In Defense of 1000 True Fans) and take care of fans with sweet offers.
9. All Publicity is Good Publicity.
I know we have all heard the phrase “all publicity is good publicity”, but it’s beneficial to truly understand this. If one of your goals for PR is to get your name out there (and this should be a goal), the truth is that the average person remembers very little of what they read. People only retain a tiny percentage of what they read. Readers and internet scrollers are not going to remember a lukewarm or mediocre review of your album. I mean when was the last time you remembered the band that was the subject of a tepid review?
And never ever take your own PR seriously. As my favorite artist Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t read your press; weigh it.”