Most musicians want to take part in interviews, see their singles and albums reviewed in major magazines and watch as fans on social media discuss their latest feature written by a high-profile blog. That all sounds wonderful…but how does it actually happen?
The vast majority of features, interviews, reviews and other focused write-ups about artists are pitched and managed by music publicists or PR professionals. These are the people who work for record labels or individual promotion companies and whose job it is to maintain relationships with editors and writers, pitch stories about their clients and make sure it all looks good when something is finally published. To many on the outside, it seems like a simple and straightforward job, one which should reap some serious benefits. To those who work in the industry, especially the ones doing the pitching, it is anything but easy.
If you’re thinking of hiring a top music PR firm or working with a publicist to push your new release, you first need to set your expectations. Before any real work begins, it’s important that you read on below to understand how difficult the job is, what success looks like and then to speak to the person (or people) who will be pitching your music to countless writers to ensure you’re all on the same page about what’s going to happen and what you can expect in return for your money.
There Are No Guarantees
One of my first jobs out of college was working at a tiny PR firm, and the owner used to tell all prospective clients that in music PR, (or any PR), there are no guarantees – and that anyone who promises anything is almost surely lying. It was necessary to verbalize this truth to those paying the bills not just so he could cover his own ass, but so they’d understand just how difficult the industry is.
There are more marketers, communication professionals and publicists than ever before, and these days, everyone with an email address and Google thinks they can do the job. That’s technically true, but it doesn’t mean they’ll do it well. While there may be more people joining the PR industry all the time, there are fewer media outlets, and the number of writers and editors working is seemingly contracting. That means there are many more people competing for very limited space and trying to reach out to a smaller and smaller number of decision-makers, and this trend is set to continue.
When you hire a music publicist or a PR company, all they can guarantee you is their time and effort. That’s what you’re buying. Any results are huge wins, but if you’re going to go this route, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that little, if anything, might come from the campaign.
We can’t promise you the cover of Rolling Stone, but we can promise our music promotion team will work incredibly hard to get your music out there.
The Major Publications
Countless musicians and bands dream of seeing themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone or conducting an interview with Billboard. Those are great dreams to have, and they’re certainly not impossible, but don’t count on scoring such profiles, at least not at first. If you’re just getting started in your artistic career, don’t expect any love from the major blogs, magazines, radio stations, TV shows or playlists. There are simply too many people vying for the attention of those top-tier titles, and it’s just not realistic to assume they’ll be into covering an act that has a tiny fan base and very little music out.
Typically, those reviews, interviews and feature pieces come later on, not first!
Smaller Blogs Matter!
Chances are, if your band is just starting down the publicity road, the only media outlets that will take a chance on covering your work are lesser-known. They may have smaller audiences, and you might not have heard of them. Many artists may be disappointed when they find out that their only write-up from a PR campaign was featured on an obscure blog, but there’s reason to be excited as well!
One review or Q&A on a not-highly-trafficked website won’t make anyone a star, but it’s a fantastic beginning, believe it or not. Once one blog, zine, college newspaper or other outlet has included your name, others might catch on. Those who write for Billboard, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin and others follow and read those smaller outlets, and sometimes that’s how they catch what’s next!
Every Bit Counts
One write-up from a smaller blog is nice, but several tells a story. Whenever your song, album, concert or even you and your band are mentioned anywhere, you have to keep track of those clips and put them together on your website. It may take a while, but as the reviews begin to collect, it shows there’s a real interest in you and your art. Once there are several items, your publicist can share quotes and include links the next time they do a full PR music campaign, perhaps for your next release.
Armed with all that information and all that praise, suddenly you’ve gone from an obscure outfit nobody knows to a rising figure in the scene, one which the cool underground blogs have been covering for some time. This practice makes all those little outlets mean quite a lot to you, and the more you have your team reach out and work your records, the better things look.
It’s A Long Game
Your PR team might not get much in the way of media attention the first time you work together, but remember—this is just the beginning. The second and third emails from your publicists will help writers begin to recognize your name, and while that doesn’t sound like much, it subliminally puts your band into their mind. Months or years later, when you have a new album that’s being worked and it ends up in their inboxes, they’ll catch it again and begin to understand that you’re not a flash in the pan, but rather someone who is still at it.
With each cycle, you pick up some momentum. Sometimes that quickly turns into reviews and interviews, while in other instances, it’s much slower, and it might take years. If you keep going and your PR team is smart and hardworking, more and more bloggers, playlist makers, editors and other decision makers will begin to recognize you, your band’s name, and eventually maybe even your music. It’s a massive undertaking, but this is what 90-plus percent of musicians have to go through, so try not to be too discouraged. There’s no end to what a PR company can do for your band, and sometimes you just have to sit back and trust the process.