As independent artists, our jobs are not only to create amazing music, but to ensure that this music gets heard. As you begin to think about releasing your tunes into the world, you may also be thinking about the ways you can get that music heard by as many people as possible via different methods of promotion.
What is music PR?
PR, or public relations, is the act of getting media coverage - generally to promote new music, a tour announcement or other newsworthy event. The goal of a PR campaign is to spread awareness of the news by informing the media. If you’re a newer artist, this can sound pretty intimidating, but in reality what this looks like is being featured in blogs, magazines, newspapers, on music websites, radio, podcasts, TV and on occasion, playlists.
Advantages of doing music PR
There are four main advantages to doing PR with each release:
- Awareness - It generates awareness that you have new music.
- Exposure - You will get more exposure, potentially to new audiences, as an artist/band
- Credibility - Being published in the media gives you social proof and helps generate buzz
- Social media content - If the campaign goes well, you’ll have articles and interviews to share with your followers, and radio play to promote. It helps you get the message of your music out there in a more interesting way than simply posting, ‘please stream my music,’ a million times.
How to do PR for your music
When I was first starting out as a musician, and long before I worked as a journalist, I saw artists getting cool media features and being played on the radio and used to think that stuff happened by chance. I figured these outlets simply stumbled upon an artist, liked them and decided to cover them. This is rarely the case, especially for newer artists.
In most instances, media will be sent information about an artist and their announcement - such as new music - via an emailed press release. From there, they’ll either republish it as a news piece, ask for an interview, play the new music on radio, etc.
So who sends the press release to the media outlet? Either a PR agency the artist has hired, or sometimes, the artist themselves.
When thinking about hiring a PR agency, there are a few factors to consider such as whether they look after similar acts in your genre, previous results which may be indicative of the types of contacts they have, and their package structure. Some agencies look after both traditional press as well as radio and playlists. Others consider radio pitching to be totally separate (this is generally the case in the US where the market is bigger).
Hiring an agency can be great because they have the contacts, can help with the angle of the pitch and also take care of much of the in-between communications such as coordinating interviews.
However, hiring a PR agency can be expensive and results can vary. PR agencies can’t force media outlets to cover you so there’s no guarantee you’ll get the placements or results you’re after. For that reason, many artists feel hiring and agency is not worth the money.
The other option - and one that can work well for smaller artists - is to DIY your PR campaign. But you do have to know what you’re doing because if you don’t, it can turn into a lot of effort for little reward.
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Why PR campaigns don’t do well
There are a few core reasons PR campaigns may not go well as expected. The first is that many artists set their expectations too high. It’s important to understand realistically where you are in your career. If you’re starting out, or a smaller act, aiming to be in an outlet like Rolling Stone may not be appropriate. Never say never, but your first step will be getting into smaller independent blogs and websites.
Secondly, PR is not a one-and-done thing - each campaign will build upon the last. You can leverage the results such as cool features and review quotes from previous releases to help bolster future campaigns. As media outlets become familiar with you and see your name pop up more, they’re more likely to check you out. For this reason, PR should be factored into your timeframe and budget for each and every release.
One of the biggest mistakes musicians make with PR is not capitalizing on the campaign through social media. Most music journalists are volunteers simply passionate about writing and music. Additionally, publications are often funded through advertising, which means that they are reliant on traffic to their website to keep running. It’s a given that features on bigger artists are more likely to drive traffic, even though there are many publications out there who love supporting the up-and-comers.
So the simple act of sharing a piece on your socials, not only shows gratitude for the journalist’s time and effort, but also helps get further exposure for both you and the outlet because the more engagement and shares on a post, the more the algorithm will push it out there.
How to make the most of PR
Here are some things you can do to really drive home your PR campaign:
- Be responsive to emails - Media often have deadlines, especially print media so the quicker you act, the better. You’d be surprised how many artists miss out on cool opportunities because they didn’t reply in a timely manner.
- Share all press items on socials - It helps the article reach more people and helps both you and the outlet get more exposure.
- Create graphics for Instagram - For visual platforms like Instagram, you can use a program like Canva to create a cool graphic to promote your PR feature. Something as simple as your press photo with the outlet’s logo over the top can be super effective and looks more professional than, say, sharing a screenshot of the article.
- Have Twitter - Media are the biggest users of Twitter globally so you could miss out on tags and a method of engaging with the outlet and your audience by not having an account.
- Turn on Google Alerts - You can ask Google to alert you, each time your artist or band name comes up in an article. This means you’ll catch any features that come through. Want to know how? It’s easy, just Google it!
- Keep a stats sheet - Create a record of all the PR features you get as well as how your socials and streaming stats have grown throughout the campaign. A stats sheet is not only useful when pitching for bigger opportunities, but also helps you take stock of all you’ve achieved. Oftentimes we will be way too harsh on ourselves. Seeing everything you’ve achieved right there on paper will help you to realize you’re probably doing a lot better than you think.
Of course, as great as PR is, it should only be one element in your promotional mix. You should absolutely ensure you’re promoting your release organically on social media, have a budget for paid ads, be submitting to playlists and it’s often a good idea to have a launch show or tour lined up to promote as well.
Monica Strut is a musician, heavy music fiend and “former” Myspace kid from Melbourne, Australia. After working for years as a music journalist and digital marketer, she now helps emerging bands and musicians reach the next level through her podcast, Being in a Band, coaching services and online courses. When not helping other musicians kick their goals she is writing, recording and playing in her own rock/metal band, The Last Martyr.
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