If You Stopped Sharing Your Voice Tomorrow What Would the World Be Missing?

Every day brings with it highs and lows. This summer I had my share of highs and lows that I’d like to share with you.

I helped three powerful women from across three generations illustrate the great amount of impact and influence they have to offer others and the world. These were my highs this summer.

My lows involved the anxiety I felt as I began to move away from my comfort zone and into a whole new realm – thought leadership. This terminology does not sit well with everyone, I know, and this realization is where many of my hesitancies stemmed from. However, what I’ve come to realize is you can assign whatever terminology you like, but the importance still stands. If you want to get ahead in any desired field for any reason you must have some influence. This is being a thought leader, an influencer, whatever you feel comfortable calling it.

I came to terms with a great deal this summer and as we move into Fall I am confidently moving in the direction I had been temporarily set back from. I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of wonderful feedback on my article, “If You Stopped Sharing Your Voice Tomorrow What Would the World Be Missing?”, and I would love for you to read it and share your thoughts as well.

 

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The Musician’s Guide to Creating an Effective Music Marketing Plan (Part 1 of 3)

 

Chris Hacker here, I lead the Marketing Plan team at Cyber PR® and really enjoy working with our artists who are in diverse genres and in all stages in their careers.

Over the years I’ve seen the same problems occur again and again. An artist will call us up looking for help promoting a new album that they’re planning on releasing in a few weeks or less! And often their only plan is just to hire a publicist. It completely baffles me that an artist will work so hard on an album, spending hours and hours writing songs and practicing these songs and then spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, to only rush the release without being ready and having a complete plan in place. Chris Hacker Especially in today’s saturated climate where even small music blogs are getting inundated with hundreds of emails a day from artists looking for coverage, just making an album and then wanting to “get some press”, is not enough of a plan. An artist needs to be working many different angles and taking many different approaches to get seen and heard.

In this three part series I will discuss some basic components of a marketing plan to promote you and your new release. This begins with building a solid online presence, which will be the focus of part one in this series. Ariel contributes some of her articles and videos to back me up.

Time and energy needs to be spent building a strong online presence in order to be taken seriously as an artist for when the time comes to start actively promoting. This will begin many months before there is even a thought of releasing an album. Here I’ve laid out the critical elements for a solid online presence and other important steps that will prepare you for a new release launch.

ONLINE PRESENCE

The music industry is built on appearances. To be taken seriously it is very important to have a complete and professional looking online 360 degree presence. There are lots of places online that artists can have a presence, but I will focus on the four of the most important: Official Website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Your socials are not substitutions for your website. It’s important to have an online home where you are in complete control that is modern and functional. Your website should have a place where people can easily listen to and buy your music (but not a player that plays automatically when a person lands on your site, I can’t stress that enough), a news section where people can read the latest happenings with your career, and a newsletter sign up that offers an incentive for signing up such as free music or merch discounts.  It always surprises when I go to an artist website and can’t find any contact information or links to their socials. Ariel wrote a great guide to help you with the architecture so you don’t miss anything.

TWITTER

This platform is great as you can easily build a following of targeted users. Many clients come to us with stale Twitter accounts (their last Tweets from months ago), the profile is missing a cover image or bio and there are hardly any followers. What I also see is many don’t know the basics. Not understanding them will really hurt your promotional efforts as bloggers, and other music industry professionals you may be contacting will often visit your social media sites to see how serious you are and see what kind of existing following you have, and a stale profile will not help you chances. If this is the state your Twitter is in it’s time to jump start your followers by following people and many will follow you back. Every single person you interact with in real life should be searched for and followed on Twitter (friends, musicians, producers, club owners etc.) As there are only so many people that you can interact with in person, also target similar sounding artists online and follow their Twitter followers, as there is a great chance that these followers will also like the music that you are creating. There are many tools out there to help with this following effort, Tweepi is a great one for example. But don’t follow more than 50 accounts in a day to avoid being flagged by Twitter.

Next to tackle the image problem, or lack there of, upload a cover photo that says something about you and your music. A picture of the countryside may look beautiful, but instead use this prime real estate as an advertisement. A simple solution is to use a publicity shot with text on top of the image that promotes anything on the horizon like single, EP, or album releases, new music videos and tour announcements. To keep your profile active with Tweets use a program that will allow for pre-programming like Hootsuite and in as little as one hour could potentially schedule a weeks worth of tweets. Vary the topics you tweet about from career news (which should be no more than 20% of your output) to your interests, passions and hobbies. News, politics, sports, culture are all great topics to share for people to engage and connect around. There are many relationship building practices and benefits for being active on Twitter of course that we teach our clients, but by following these instructions you will at least have a respectable presence on this powerful platform. Watch Ariel’s Twitter Video Class it goes over the basics:

FACEBOOK

Yes there is definitely a pay-to-play reality on Facebook for a Fanpage to get maximum exposure. If you wish to spend money on advertising we suggest it but you should have goals in place before you do, and you should have a complete Fanpage that is active with daily posts if you want to appear professional. Make sure the page has a cover photo as discussed above for Twitter and install apps that work as promotional tools for you and your music. Three that I suggest you install are an artist profile (Ex. Bandpage), a store (Ex. Bandcamp) and a mailing list sign up form (Ex. MailChimp). For your posting efforts even though the posts won’t get seen by a large percentage of the people who have liked your page without advertising organic reach is still possible and an active Fanpage helps to show that you are an active artist. Posts that are not just text will have a greater chance of being seen, so share photos and links as much as possible and ask questions to increase engagement.

YOUTUBE

YouTube is the first place millions of people worldwide go when they’re looking for online video, and with music being the number one type of content being streamed, it is a very powerful platform where artists are getting seen and discovered. youtube icon For any artist looking to increase awareness and raise their profile, it is imperative to have a presence on YouTube with a professional looking channel, one that has a branded cover image and is linked to your other social media profiles so people can connect with you across platforms. Create a home page that looks amazing and is very functional by making categories to group your videos for easy viewing, such as “Behind The Scenes”, “Official Music Videos”, and “Live Performances”, and highlight an official music video in the featured spot at the top. The channel for The Flaming Lips is a great example of these practices put to use.

For the videos themselves I often see artists leaving off their artist name in the title of the video, which is terrible for search. Need to think of these videos as stand alone entities, not videos found on your YouTube Channel. Make sure you include keywords in your tags and place those most important keywords and keyword phrases at the start of your tags fields. Use adjectives that describe your music and similar artists as keywords with your artist name also being a keyword, the latter of which will ensure a greater chance your other videos will show up in the “related videos section” after one of your videos is viewed. I also often see description sections left blank too. This is a crucial piece of real estate to tell the viewer what they are watching and provide links to other content you own, such as your website and iTunes, where they can go for more music and learn more about the band (Make sure to use http:// or it won’t turn in to a hyperlink!). Here is a video from NYC blog The Wild Honey Pie, they pack all their descriptions full of information where the viewer can go to learn and watch more. Their YouTube Channel is branded well too, utilizing the same features as discussed.

Read our guest blog post (from an Ex YouTube Employee!) as well: 6 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Waste Your Time on YouTube

NEWSLETTER

This is real simple, have one, and contact your mailing list once a month with news. Don’t cut corners on this either, a newsletter is where you’ll see the greatest impact on sales. All the tweets and Facebook posts about a new album out for sale won’t equal the results of a well crafted newsletter, so spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be. A premier solution that many of our clients enjoy working with is MailChimp.

Here are Ariel’s recent articles on Newsletters:

5 Critical Things to Keep In Mind for Your Newsletter

Cyber PR’s 3 G’s – GREETING, GUTS & GETTING – How To Write An Effective Newsletter

PRESS

I know this might seem too soon to talk about press but it’s not. This is not about pitching press, but identifying and becoming familiar with press outlets that you will eventually want to pitch your music to well in advance. Before reaching out to press it is a good idea to make a connection by simply following them on social media and then retweeting and favoriting tweets they are posting. For blogs that you want to make an even further connection with leave a comment on one of their blog posts (not about your music, a genuine comment about the blog post). Through this activity  this way when you do send the press outlet an email about your music, or if a publicist will be  doing it for you, there could now be some familiarity there and relationships potentially built  that will help the PR campaign in getting your emails opened and then your new album  hopefully featured. There are many ways to start building a media list of targeted media, one  method is to identify a musician that is on the same level as you, or slightly further along with  their career, and take note of the press outlets that they are getting featured in as then there is  a great chance that those publications would also feature you.

Here is some further reading that will help you prepare for PR. 

Now that you know how to build a solid online foundation and the beginnings of an online community dive in and do it.  Do not cut corners here. Having a true base will put you  in a much better position when you’re getting ready to release a new album, which is the topic  for part 2 of this 3-part series. In the next blog post I will discuss some basic principles for an effective album or EP launch.

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5 Critical Things to Keep In Mind for Your Newsletter

Newsletter
If you’ve read my last blog post, “How To Write the Engaging Newsletter You Should be Writing”, you’re probably in the process of drafting what will be one of the fundamental assets you will need to create a long-lasting career for yourself. Here are five things to keep in mind as you go through the process.

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Cyber PR’s Three G’s – GREETING, GUTS & GETTING – How To Write An Effective Newsletter

You have a a lot on your plate as an independent musician. You’re trying to keep up with Twitter, come up with content for your next blog post, book shows, write tracks, and the list goes on. Probably the last thing you want to hear is how underrated the newsletter is and how you should be writing one every month. I know.

But one more hour in the studio can make a song single, and one newsletter once a month can be key to generating revenue. Your newsletter is the one place that you can ask your fans for money on your own terms. Studies prove that you can’t be pushing your newsletter to the side.

To understand why the newsletter is so crucial and for tips on how to write one that is effective read my latest post on the Cyber PR blog, Cyber PR’s Three G’s- GREETING, GUTS & GETTING – How To Write An Effective Newsletter, at http://cyberpr.com/2014/08/newsletter/

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9 Ways to Increase Your Follower Base This Summer

‘Tis the season for concerts, summer jams, and amassing more fans! Summer is a time to relax, but it is also a time to continue working towards some of your aims. As a musician, I’m sure one of your aims is to continue building your fan base.

For 9 fail-safe ways to build your fan base this summer head to the Cyber PR blog and check out my article “9 Ways to Increase Your Follower Base This Summer”!

http://cyberpr.com/2014/07/9-ways-increase-fan-base-summer/

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9 Critical Things You Should Know About Publicity Before You Make Your First Move

MicYou have your music, your vision, and you are eager to make that first move in the world of PR. But before I jump into what you’re here for, the nine critical things you should now about PR, we need to be sure that your ready to begin such a relationship with the media. It’s not a matter of feeling ready, it’s a matter of being ready.

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 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, college journals, 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. More and more publicists are covering Internet PR, like my company. However, not all traditional publicists do this, so make sure to ask before you hire.

A 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 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 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. How you quantify a PR campaign is by how much buzz (i.e. Facebook activity) and feedback your band is getting during and post 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; 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 (this should cost between $200-$500). 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. If you would like to hire one of our trusted and affordable writers to help you craft your story, check out http://www.ReviewYou.com for available bio writing services.

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), and any music websites or blogs you like. 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 Just as (If Not More) Important as Offline Publicity.

I would argue that online PR is more important, because today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s recycling (and that’s if you even get today’s newspaper). Most articles you find in printed newspapers and magazines are just as easily accessible online. Online publicity goes up fast, and it can be around for months and sometimes for years. The internet also provides a platform for you to discuss articles in a public arena (i.e. comment sections, Twitter). More people rely on the Internet as their main source for news, so Internet placements are absolutely wonderful and totally legit, and they can help your Google rankings as well.

8. Publicity Does Not Sell Music.

If you are hiring a 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.”

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