Aaron Bethune started Play It Loud Music in 2006, dedicating his career to supporting musicians in this ever-changing industry. He recently published an incredible book called Musicpreneur: The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music. Written for working musicians, and absolutely packed with practical tips on every aspect of the industry, it is now used as a textbook at several universities and music institutions worldwide.
Aaron poured his years of experience into this book, and consequentially it is a masterpiece of accumulated information. That (and the fact that he interviewed me for it ;D) is why I’m featuring it as the first installment in a new blog series – #MusicBizBooks!
I have so many friends and colleagues who have written wonderful tomes about the music industry, and I want to make sure that you all know just how many great resources you have. #MusicBizBooks will review and feature some of the best advice available about the modern music business.
Back when Aaron was writing Musicpreneur, he interviewed me about PR, and its role in music marketing. That interview is featured in Chapter 4. Give it a read below, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the book as well!
Aaron Bethune Interviews Ariel Hyatt
Aaron Bethune: What is PR?
Ariel Hyatt: I asked the same question on the first day of my first internship at a PR firm in London. I’ll never forget the answer the guy gave me. I was 19 years old, it was my first internship, and I said, “Can you tell me what PR is?” He said, “PR? It’s PR!” I thought, “Wow. Thank you for that.” You can imagine that internship was a disaster from that moment on. Anyway, the process of PR is the communication of a product, a good, a service, or a person, to the media. So when you hire a publicist, you’re basically hiring a mouthpiece to communicate to the media world your message or what it is you would like to promote. Until I started working in PR firms, I really didn’t understand the depth of how PR touches almost everything you read in the media. For example, if you’re a woman who likes fashion magazines, when you pull open a magazine and you see “Our favourite shampoo of the month”, or “Our favourite lip-gloss”, or “The best pants to wear this season”, that is all 100% work of a publicist. The editor did not go walk around to find the best anything. The publicist worked very, very hard with the editor to place the product. Every facet of almost every business has publicity – politicians, products, goods, services – almost everything you can think of. Stores, cities, towns, and of course, musicians all have publicists. When you hire a publicist, what you are doing is hiring someone to represent you to the media. When I say the media, I mean newspapers, magazines, television, radio and now it’s been the vastly expanded in recent years to blogs, podcasts, internet radio, almost anything. So that is, in a nutshell, what it is.
AB: How important is a band’s pitch?
AH: I believe a pitch is the most important thing a band or artist can develop. Without a pitch, people will have no context for understanding who you are or what you sound like. Unfortunately, many bands are terrible at creating pitches. It’s critical because we have very, very short attention spans in today’s world. If you don’t have a concise pitch that gives people an instant hit, you’re basically robbing yourself of possibilities.
AB: What makes for a good pitch?
AH: Something that’s extremely descriptive and catchy; descriptive doesn’t mean you have to sound like somebody else, though that’s a very helpful context. Catchy could be anything from fun, like “hillbilly-flamenco”, or “poly-ethnic Cajun-slam-grass”, or it could be really descriptive like “Joan Jett meets Jessica Rabbit”. Those are three of my favourite pitches, they’re in my book because they are really good. If I was in an elevator with Devil Doll and I asked her “what kind of music do you make,” and she answered “it’s Joan Jett meets Jessica Rabbit,” that’s dead on. She’s a rocker who’s got a really sexy, curvy look. A pitch like that, a short concise piece, is crucial. Bands are normally terrified, they don’t want to say they sound like anybody, they don’t want to pigeonhole themselves. It really is a disservice to try to invent a new genre of music to explain what you are. It may feel creative, but people don’t understand it.
AB: What is a realistic time-frame for a PR campaign to show results?
AH: Depends on the type of results you are looking for. If you’re talking about a traditional PR campaign in major publications these are known in the PR-world as “long-lead press,” (Spin and Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair) that means you have to begin thinking about your press placement at least three months before the issue comes out. So for Christmas press you must have your Christmas tracks ready to go at the end of August, and your publicist should be lining up your Christmas pitches for long-lead press by September. This takes planning and foresight and I have met a lot of artists who don’t think this far in advance. Of course, for daily and weekly newspapers, there is a shorter window. If you’re promoting a live event in a local newspaper, the editor needs a minimum of 4-6 week’s notice to schedule you in. They have to get interviews and artwork and they are getting inundated by hundreds of other publicists and events that month, no matter what city you are playing in, so again: Planning and foresight are key.
With the internet, it’s very fast and can be instantaneous. Blogs are looking for information quickly and efficiently. We’ve released MP3s on a Monday and by Tuesday there are internet radio stations streaming, blogs posting, and people sharing it all over the social networks. So when you talk about an online PR campaign that’s a whole different beast.
Check out the other parts of Musicpreneur here!
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