We decided to refresh our Music Publicity Checksheet freebie (if you haven’t already downloaded that, click here now!), so we thought it only see fit to refresh this old blog post from 2016 for 2021!
You have your music, your vision, and you are eager to make that first move in the world of Music Publicity. But before I jump into what you’re here for, the nine critical things you should know about Music Publicity, we need to be sure that you’re ready to begin such a relationship with the media. It’s not a matter of feeling ready, it’s a matter of being ready.
Getting Started With PR
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 established online from your website to your blog to your Twitter profile. You won’t get the results you want from your PR campaign if you don’t have a strong internet presence. WHY? because if the lights are on and no one is home no blog will care! Capeesh?
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?
Before we delve into specifics, let’s make sure we have the basics covered. Here are some definitions of what publicity is exactly, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: (I know this is trite but it’s GOOD)
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. I have been doing this for 22 years so, YES.
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 blogs, podcasts, newspapers, magazines, and some TV bookers. Some publicists may also cover radio for interviews or live sessions on tour stops. But if you want to get on the radio “charts” which is really not a thing (like CMJ which BTW is dead so don’t strive or you will look like a moron), 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. These days the media means BLOGS unless you are Sia or Drake then, by all means, go to The New York Times. You should not expect your publicist 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 her job description.
2. You Are in the Driver’s Seat Here. If A Music PR Firm Contacts You – Be Wary
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 another guitar player for your band. You have to choose someone you like, who is in alignment with your vision, 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 she should be the right fit for you.
There are a few completely SHADY PR firms out there who will contact you and tell you that they can’t WAIT to represent you. RUN screaming for the hills unless that publicist has a damn good reason for taking the time out of his or her insanely busy schedule to reach out and find you on ReverbNation, Twitter or SoundCloud. If they saw you live or they have a REAL reason (like they represent a band you are friends with) then, okay – otherwise…. It’s a PR firm who has been contributing to the commoditization of a highly nuanced process and system that is valuable and precious. These kind of music publicity firms are hurting firms who do our work with passion and integrity.
3. With Publicity, You Pay for Effort – Never for Results.
Ever head something like this: “I hired a publicist and I only got six placements. That cost me $1,000 per placement” Unfortunately, this is not how you quantify a PR campaign. You pay for the amount of time, effort, and strategy the publicist makes on your behalf. It is up to you to help make sure time, effort, and strategy are part of the equation…. Of course, you should get many results. Getting nothing is totally unacceptable. But you never know when your publicist’s efforts will show up months, and sometimes like a year after your campaign is complete. For example, Not everyone who is going to see your YouTube video is going to view it the day you post it but over time the right person can see it and, an amazing thing may happen. And don’t forget you CAN do all of your own PR (read our handy-dandy 3-part guide here!) – it just takes a LOT of time and effort.
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, and Vanity Fair ), the editors put their publications to bed months before they are published. So, if your album or EP 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 understand that with little or zero lead-time, it makes planning a bit more tricky, so you definitely need to prepare lead-time for every scenario.
Recommended Publicity Campaign Lead Times:
- National Campaign – 3-4 months before release
- Tour Press Campaign – 4-6 weeks before the shows
- Online Campaign – 4-6 weeks before placements will start to happen
- Premiere – These can take time! Please read our The Musician’s Guide to Premieres to understand this.
- (Placement = blog post, feature article, review, calendar listing, podcast/ online radio interview, etc.)
5. The 4 Components of a Press Kit
In today’s digital world, a thorough press kit consists of four parts: the bio; the photo(s); the articles, quotes & music 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 & Music 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 send out copies of your CD via snail mail – instead, send a link to Bandcamp or SoundCloud with professional artwork and proper tagging so the writers can access your tracks easily. Also, consider single artwork as well.
Make sure your press kit is posted on your website in a findable manner.
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 and EPS coming out into the marketplace (approx. 2,000 per week), not to mention singles and videos it could take longer than your publicity campaign runs to feel papabile 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. So, you want to get familiar with music blogs on Hype Machine and with how to get included on Spotify and SoundCloud Playlists. These are powerful and effective outlets.
8. Publicity Does Not Sell Music.
If you are hiring a music publicist to see a spike in your 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 may lead to sales, but overall, if selling music is your goal, music publicity is not the only thing you will need.
WHY? because: Spotify.
People no longer buy music when they love it because they have already paid for their Spotify, Apple Music or Pandora subscriptions….. OR they listen for FREE on Youtube, music blogs or on the countless other outlets where people listen!
To sell music you will also need to build a loyal fan base and take care of fans with constant communication and great offers.
9. All Publicity is Good Publicity.
I know we have all heard the phrase “all publicity is good publicity,” it’s beneficial to truly understand this. If one of your goals for music publicity 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 come into contact with. Readers 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 visual artist, Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t read your press; weigh it.”
Want to learn more about music publicity? Check out Ariel’s latest book Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity