The Ultimate Guide To Music Publicity Book

Today is a HUGE day!  My first book in 5 years is FINALLY ready for preorder.  

The Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity Proven Strategies for Getting Featured in Blogs, Playlists, & Traditional Media is now available for Preorder on Amazon (USA, Canada, Europe) and Barnes & Noble. So many fantastic musicians, music industry friends and publicists contributed their advice and tips. I’d be deeply grateful if you would consider ordering a copy. Comes in hardcover, softcover and ebook! This post is an excerpt from the book.  Enjoy and please preorder!

My team and I speak to a lot of musicians who want a music publicist.

Remember, as the artist, you are the buyer, and if you are shopping for a music publicist, you’re in the driver’s seat. It’s your art and your money that enables publicists to stay in business. So, do your homework and research well.  My team and I speak to a lot of musicians who want PR. What continues to baffle us is the fact that many of the artists who contact us have no idea what they are actually looking for – someone told them they should “Get a Publicist” so that’s what they do.

I have written this guide in addition to my series to help you understand the music publicity process.

First, Figure Out Your Music Publicist Budget 

Here’s one of my favorite jokes about the music business:

Q: How do you make a small fortune in the music business?

A: Start with a large fortune.

You are calling this PR firm to hire them so asking about  the general ballpark budget is not a bad idea before you get too attached, or deep into a conversation. Music publicist prices vary wildly from a few hundred dollars a month to $5K plus. Most PR firms do not publish their rates.  A word of warning – many PR firms try to charge what the client can afford. I have known many wealthy clients or artists with investors or google-able information about how much money they have and they pay much more than independent artists with smaller budgets. This is a practice that is alive and well so be mindful and careful not to volunteer too much. I have had many artists tell me right off the bat that they have investors or are willing to pay top dollar. This is not a great idea.

Ask yourself instead: How much money are you willing to spend on PR? That’s the primary question. 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 asking for proposals from agencies. This process in agency speak is called RFP – Request For Proposal.

Making Contact with a Music Publicist

Before You Call: Set Your Expectations & Goals

I get a lot of complaints from artists who call me and say that they have tried to contact certain PR firms and that they never get a response. Speaking in defense of a busy PR firm, many are just too crazed with work to handle all of the incoming inquiries and many don’t handle independent artists preferring to work with represented clients only. With a little finessing you can get to them. This is not a guarantee that they will take you on as a client, but it will at least get you in the door.

Most major firms for music publicist (the ones that have national acts on their rosters) have strict criteria for accepting clients and many of them plan music publicity campaigns months in advance.

It will be helpful to have reasonable goals in mind that you can talk to her about. Reasonable does not mean Pitchfork if you are just starting out. It means figuring out what is attainable from where you are today. Create a list of at least five goals – these should be specific media targets. This way you will know what you are aiming for when you hire.

Initial Communication

I get a lot of complaints from artists who say that they tried to contact certain music publicist and they never got a response.  Many are just too crazed with work to handle the incoming inquiries. Also, some don’t handle independent artists. Many music publicists prefer to work with signed or represented clients. With a little finessing you can get to them. This is not a guarantee that they will want to take you on as a client, but it will at least get you in the door.

Know Who You Are Calling

A solid few minutes on any PR firm’s website will reveal a lot. Ask yourself – does this firm represent the kind of music I make?  You will want to understand who you are talking to and you don’t waste a busy publicist’s time. Every PR firm has their roster of clients listed on their website so make sure you are a great fit and be prepared to tell this to a publicist to show her you understand who you’ve called.

Set your expectations before you reach out. Most major PR firms (the ones that have national acts on their rosters) have strict criteria for accepting clients and many of them plan campaigns months in advance.

It will be helpful to have reasonable goals in mind that you can talk about. This means figuring out what is attainable from where you are today.  Create a list of at least three goals – these should be specific media targets. This way you will know what you are aiming for when you talk to a potential publicist to hire.

Pick Up The Phone

If you are a telephone kind of person, by all means call. When you make initial contact, don’t just dive in and start firing questions at whoever answers. Note that a very busy intern or an administrative assistant may answer the phone and most likely will not be able to tell you prices or availability. And now that practically everyone works from home you may very well be leaving messages. If this is the case, leave a full and concise message including: your name – first and last, and your band / artist name. Your telephone number and your reason for calling – “I am interested in hiring a PR firm and I am inquiring about your interest and availability for a release on (give the date of anticipated release).”

If no one responds within 5 business days, repeat three times. Use the three strikes and they’re out method and move on. If a PR firm can’t call you back after 3 tries and 15 days they’re not the firm for you.

If Sending An Email

If you find an email address, prepare a short and thoughtful email with who you are, name of project, when you want to release and links to music. A private SoundCloud link is always preferred. One of my clients taught me a fabulous strategy he used. He created an individual playlist per PR firm and he was shocked to discover quite a few wanted to schedule a meeting to discuss working together and they had not listened to any of his tracks.

 3 Strikes – They’re Out!

If no one responds within 5 business days, repeat three times. Use the three strikes and they’re out method and move on. If a PR firm can’t call you back after 3 tries and 15 days they’re not the firm for you.

When You Get The Music Publicist On The Phone

If you do get someone on the phone on first contact, ask only three questions.

But, first introduce yourself very briefly:

Hi, this is ______________ and I’m in an indie pop band from ________________about to release an EP.

1: Are you considering new clients for the time frame of ______ (your release date?)

2: Give a very brief synopsis of your project, three sentences max. Include:

  • The genre of music you play (if you didn’t already mention it)
  • Distribution plan
  • Your release show / tour schedule with markets and highlights
  • Then any other parts of your release plan, like your radio promotion, your social media promotions, etc.

3: Ask – can I send you the music to consider? Then send a private SoundCloud link. Do not clog up her inbox with a YouSendIt or a Dropbox link. One click is all she should have to do, unless she requests your music in another format.

If the PR firm is interested, you will set up a call to chat. This is the time when you can really see if you like the music publicist, their ideas, their ability to listen, and this is the time to have a candid conversation about your expectations for the campaign. If she has not listened to the music you sent and checked out your site and socials or she “yeses” you to death and doesn’t manage expectations, move on.

Round 2: If The Music Publicist Is Interested

Have These 3 Talking Points Ready 

  1. National distribution CD Baby or Tunecore may not be enough of a distribution plan for some larger PR firms.
  2. A release date in mind that is at least 2-3 months away from your initial contact.
  3. Interesting angles, a charity affiliation, strong newsworthy or niche angles can be enticing for a publicist.

Ask About Accountability & Reporting

This is CRUCIAL! You deserve to be updated as your PR campaign progresses. You want to know who is pitching on your behalf, is it an intern or an experienced publicist? Also, you should expect regular press reports and updates from your PR team so be sure to ask about the reporting policy. Also, will they be telling you and showing you who they are pitching you to so you can be following along with social media follows? This is key.

Ask Hard Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions and really have a candid conversation.  As hard questions to see how she reacts. BE AWARE: A PR firm is NOT a used car lot!  I have heard stories that PR firms do “hard sells” saying that rates are only available for a certain amount of time – this means you should be running away.

After the call you should get some sort of a proposal that outlines what you spoke about, the campaign, and the pricing. Take you time to consider this and send back any questions or further points in need of clarification.

BE AWARE: A Music PR Firm is NOT a Used Car Lot!

I have heard stories that PR firms do “hard sells” saying that rates are only available for a certain amount of time or their roster will be completely full by tomorrow if they don’t act now.  This is CRAZY and means you should be running away.

Do Your Research

99% of publicists all sound fabulous on the telephone, and they should, after all , communication and sales is their job.

But, sadly, there are a few publicists that are known for not delivering great results, or for being accountable. Therefore, it is critical that you do some due diligence and research. I suggest that you use these four methods to research publicity firms.

Google names of each publicist, and the company, and look for information about these individuals. Dig past the first few pages of results.

Google the different bands and artists that they rep and search for placements (articles, blog posts). If you don’t see articles this may not be a great sign.

Search Glassdoor. An artist client of mine who was ripped off by a PR firm taught me this technique – search for the name of the company at glassdoor.com and see if anyone who has worked there has reported about what goes on behind the scenes and what the morale is like.

Ask Artists. Reach out and ask bands on socials – the best part about social media is you can reach out directly to bands and artists on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and ask what their experience was like. This is the BEST way, as artists will always watch out for other artists.

Want more advice on music Publicity? I have a BOOK for that 🙂 Check Out The Ultimate Guide To Music Publicity

The Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity Preorder

 

 

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