Ariel Hyatt answers 12 burning PR questions about Music Publicity for Independent Artists. These are the most frequently asked questions we get here at Cyber PR.
1. What is The Difference Between PR & Publicity?
These two terms often feel like they are one and the same – after all, you hire a PR firm to get you publicity, and people say “I ran a PR campaign” referring to placing their music in the media… but there is a distinction, and understanding it is important.
Public Relations or PR is all of the communications that take place between you and the public.
Publicity is a process involving the communication of a product, good, service, or a person, to the media.
2. What Does A Music Publicist Do?
Music publicists are professionals who help musicians by securing various unpaid or earned communications.
When you hire a publicist, you’re basically hiring a mouthpiece to communicate to the media your message or what it is you would like to promote. Media can include newspapers, magazines, television, radio, blogs, podcasts, and playlists.
Until I started working in PR firms, I really didn’t understand the depth to which PR touches almost everything you read in the media. For example, if you open a fashion magazine, and see “The best shampoo of the winter”, or “Our favorite lip-gloss”, or “The best pants to wear this season,” or if you read a music blog and they have a round up of the 10 best music videos you must see this week, that is all 100% the work of a publicist. The editors did not scour the earth to find the “best” anything. The publicists worked very hard to get the editors’ attention to place the products and the music.
Every facet of every business hires publicists – politicians, all kinds of products, retail stores, cities, states, countries, you name it. And, of course, musicians all have publicists.
3. When Should I Hire A Music Publicist?
There is no right answer to this question, as there are many types of publicists who can help you at practically every stage of your music career. I deeply suggest that you try your hand at DIY publicity first so you understand how it works and just how challenging it is to do well. This will also help you to understand the landscape before you spend your precious money on publicity.
I caution you to make sure you have a solid brand, an online presence, an engaged following and a strong brand or your publicist will have a hell of a time getting you placements. If you would like help with these things come find out about our Total Tuneups here.
4. How Much Should I Pay For Music Publicity?
Music publicity varies wildly in price. You can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars a month to $5,000 for a blue chip agency with household names on their client rosters.
There are hundreds of music PR firms and individuals who make their livings helping musicians get press. Individuals can charge less than larger agencies who have NYC or Los Angeles overhead and expenses to pay.
I know that this is extremely broad and therefore not incredibly helpful but if you have a small budget being clear and upfront about that will save you time and also keep you from wasting time when looking for the right match.
5. How Can I Make My Music Or My Video Go Viral?
You can’t. Many musicians try to create videos or social posts or music that goes “viral,” but the truth is it went viral because consumers loved it enough, or were amused enough or moved enough to share it online.
6. Do I Really Need A Musician Bio?
Yes you do! If you’re pitching to the media, many will still expect to have access to your bio for context. Also, it’s nice to give fans a deeper sense of who you are and what your narrative is.
The old music business set a standard for the musician bio. This is something you are probably familiar with – a one-page, single-spaced, typewritten bio that goes through the artist’s entire history starting with something like… “So and so began playing music at age 3.” It then goes on to include every single milestone and accolade that the artist ever received. This is not a compelling way to entice fans and media today.
Your bio, or as I call it a Signature Story, needs to include a memorable story (or moment) that the reader can recall. I refer to this standout moment as the hook.
7. How Do I Send My Music To The Media?
As much as you may want to drive traffic to your Spotify plays, SoundCloud is the industry standard for pitching to and posting on music blogs. The reason for this is SoundCloud doesn’t make you login to stream tracks like Spotify does, so music bloggers like it because there is no barrier to entry for their readers (unless you are told otherwise in the submission guidelines).
Make sure that you have your SoundCloud profile fully built with a current on-brand header, bio, links to socials, and album and single artwork posted with each track.
SoundCloud allows you to create and share private links. Take some time to understand how to set these up, as they will come in handy for advance listens. Create separate playlists for individual songs with single art and when pitching for that specific track send only that link.
You can also share these private links with the media. If you’re shopping for a music publicist or sending music to industry folks, this is the easiest way to share your music for their consideration.
Of course if you are pitching playlisters, you will send your Spotify link.
8. Is It Important To Have An EPK / Press Kit?
This is crucial. A thorough musician’s press kit should consist of five parts: 1. music, 2. bio, 3. photos, 4. videos, 5. quotes from the media, industry, or fans.
It is also vital that you post an EPK on your website. The media will deeply appreciate having easy access to your information because they are constantly under deadline. You can also point other industry folk such as promoters and venues to your EPK. You want all press assets to be in your control so that you always have your best foot forward and are sharing the latest news, releases, and images. I don’t suggest using an EPK website or service to host yours, as you want all of the contents to count for your own SEO.
9. What Makes A Good Music Publicity Pitch?
A good pitch is short and written specifically for the blogger, playlister, or music journalist. It is NOT a copy and pasted “blast” that gets sent to hundreds to see what sticks.
Aside from excellent music, I believe a pitch is one of the most important things to create. Without a pitch, people will have no context for understanding who you are or what you sound like. 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 sense of what you sound like, you’re basically robbing yourself of possibilities to get media and entice new listeners.
A good pitch includes words that are both descriptive and catchy; descriptive doesn’t mean you have to sound like somebody else, though that can be helpful for context. Catchy could be fun – hillbilly-flamenco, or poly-ethnic Cajun-slam-gras. Descriptive could be – Joan Jett meets Jessica Rabbit. Those are three of my all-time favorites.
10. What Social Channels Should Musicians Be On?
All of them. You will never be done with your online posting. Staying malleable and adaptable is the key there. Technology will continue to change and fans will continue to expect to see you on socials. It’s all about staying on top of it, or at least in it.
11. Do I Need To Use Social Media To Succeed With Music Publicity?
Yes. Many larger music blogs and publications will not even consider featuring you until you have a large following on your socials. Why? Because they expect that you will share their features with your audience, bringing them traffic. Publicity is very much a two-way exchange.
Many media outlets won’t expect you to have massive numbers, but they do pay attention to your interactions, so it’s important that you make connections. How do you do that? Never squander an opportunity. Every day you are given the chance to connect with people, so take the time to do this in a thoughtful manner – set a mini-goal for yourself that you will actually connect with 5 people a day (include music writers you like) on social media or on your email list. This means go above and beyond, and send more than a quick emoji – challenge yourself to write a few sentences. Stick to it for a few months and see how things begin to shift.
12. What’s A Realistic Time-Frame For Music Publicity Efforts To Come To Fruition?
This depends on the type of results you are looking for. You could send your music to a blog or playlists that posts multiple times a day and get picked up almost instantaneously. So when you talk about an online music publicity campaign it can be a couple of hours to a few days to start seeing placements.
If you’re aiming for traditional publicity in major publications, which are known in the PR-world as “long-lead press” (Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair for example), you have to begin thinking about your placement at least three months before the issue comes out, and you may have to go back to theses larger publications for years until you have something newsworthy enough to finally get included.
For daily and weekly newspapers, there’s a shorter window. Editors need a minimum of 4-6 week’s notice. 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 targeting, so planning is key.
Want to get started with your own music publicity? Get my brand new book “The Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity”
A slightly outdated version of this was originally published on the PlayItLoud Music blog