To PR or Not to PR
So, you just spent a bucket of money on recording a new song or new album.
And you want to release it. And since you’re really proud of this new music you’ve made, you’d like it if someone out there heard it. Someone besides your mom and immediate family.
How do you let a wider audience know about your new music? How do you spread the word to media outlets that might cover the release, or interview you for their blog/website/magazine/podcast?
Enter the PR Campaign
PR stands for Public Relations, and a PR campaign is a coordinated effort to generate press coverage for your new release. In other words, to get influential people talking to their audience about your music. Reviewing it, recommending it, and spreading the word to the public.
The trouble is, these PR campaigns can cost thousands of dollars — on the low end. And tens of thousands on the high end. But you just spent all your money on actually making the music! AAAACKK! What to do? Is going into debt or dipping in to savings worth it for the sake of getting your music into more ears? Do you have to do PR?
Are you dead in the water if you don’t?
I have spent thousands of dollars on PR over my 15+ year music career. Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s not. Let me share with you my experience.
When It’s Worth It
If you are a brand new artist — you’ve never released anything and this is your first effort — PR might be a good idea for you. If you’ve made a really good record or single. It needs to sound professional and on a level with the marketplace. That is to say, what is being played on the radio or what you are hearing from other more widely know artists. If not, keep honing your skills and wait till you’ve made something that you are really proud of and want the world to hear. If you have made a great, commercially viable product and you think it is ready for reviews from reputable media sources, then you should think about budgeting for a PR campaign from the get go.
Whether you’ve raised funds through crowd funding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, or saved up your own money to record, make sure you set aside $2,000-$4,000 dollars to be used for a mid-to-low budget PR campaign around the release.
Why It’s Worth It, and What You Should Get for Your Money
One of the best things a PR campaign can do for you, the new-on-the-scene artist, is get you those press quotes that you see on other artists’ websites and bios and social media profiles.
You need a good press quote or two for things like the press kit that most venues ask for when they’re considering you for a show, or the posters you’ll send for them to hang up on their wall.
Having a few concise, favorable quotes from music blogs and publications gives a certain credibility to your product. It says, “Hey, people who write about music for an audience have heard my music, and they liked it. So maybe you will, too.” If there are people out there in media-land giving your music good reviews, it puts you in front of their audience, and makes venue bookers and industry folk more likely to give your music a chance.
Do I Have to do a PR Campaign for Every Release?
After you’ve put that one good foot forward, and spent a decent amount of money on a small PR campaign, do you need to keep doing them for every release? I don’t think so. In my experience, every PR campaign from there on out is probably going to net you the same result — a few more press quotes for your bio. If you already have 2-3 good ones from the first campaign, more really won’t help that much. Nobody wants to read a wall of press quotes. Well, besides maybe your mom. But everybody else has already decided whether or not to listen by the second or third one. In my experience, all the articles and blog posts that you get from a PR campaign really don’t serve to bring you enough recurring listeners or fans to make it worth the thousands of dollars it costs to get them.
I think one good, lower budget PR campaign is worth it for the indie DIY artist, for that collection of press quotes that you actually do need. Once you have that, spend your money elsewhere.
OK, So How Do I Get Coverage Next Time I Put Out A Record?
Run your own campaign from the contacts you get from the first one. Save every email address and name you get from that first PR campaign. Keep a list of every publication that covered you, along with the name of the writer that wrote the review or article, the email address that they used to get in touch, etc… Then reach out on your own next time to tell them you’ve released something new. Make your own press release. Google it — they have templates for that!
The PR companies that you hire and spend so much money on are really just sending out press releases to all their contacts, and those contacts are the real value that they bring to the table — not the ability to send out emails! You can do that. It becomes much easier to get attention or coverage after that initial contact has been made. And if they liked your music enough to give it some press the first go round, then you’re much more likely to get their attention for subsequent releases — even if it’s directly from you instead of the PR company.
Shift Your Spending to Advertising
Instead of spending on additional PR campaigns, use your money to gain listeners and fans. How? Well, in the current landscape of digital everything, that means using your money to make video content and then using the video in a few well-funded Facebook, Instagram and TikTok ads. Getting your content in front of people in a more immediate way where they can hear it and see it (and share and repost it), instead of just reading about it is more effective in converting folks to fans.
And that’s what we all want, right? People listening to our music, not just reading about it.