So you’ve got some music together and you’re ready to unleash it onto the world, you’re producing the best stuff you’ve ever written and you’re ready to be bombarded with that accolades left right and centre.
But before you start copping 10s on Pitchfork, there’s a lot you have to get covered – who to contact, what to pitch, how to pitch. Do you have a press release? Do you need a professionally written press release? Will anyone actually care? When’s the best time to hit up some sites? How should you set up an email that’ll stand out? How do you follow up on emails without annoying a writer?
Well we caught up with four local and international seasoned PR pros to chat about How To: Avoid The Biggest PR Mistakes A Band Can Make, so read up and rest assured you’re in good hands. All of these guys will be in Brisbane from the 9th – 11th September as part of Bigsound 2015. For more info visit www.bigsound.com.au.
Adam Lewis: Is the head of Planetary Group, an artist development and promotions firm based out of Boston and LA that focuses on helping new and upcoming artists be heard and discovered through radio and blog exposure in the U.S. and Canada. Recently Adam has worked with such acts as The Decemberists, Courtney Barnett, Sheppard, Kings Of Leon, Portugal. The Man, Fitz & The Tantrums, Orwells, and Guided By Voices.
Em Kelly & Bec Reato: Are the co-creators of Deathproof Presents and, a public relations company working with local and international releases and tours and culture site blerg.com.au. In the past four years they’ve worked with everyone from The Bennies and Peep Tempel, to Motley Crue and The Prodigy as well as tour managing Soundwave Festival’s 2012 PR.
Jacob Daneman: Is the National Publicist at Pitch Perfect PR. He’s worked for artists such as Parquet Courts, Todd Terje, Wild Beasts, Temples, Sharon Van Etten, Quilt, Burger Records, Protomartyr, and many more and festivals such as Pitchfork Music Festival, Pickathon, Burgerama. he also handles comedy PR for Tim & Eric, Kyle Kinane, and Scharpling & Wurster.
Adam: “Just this morning someone emailed me about asking for updates because they are supposed to get their report today even though it was 9AM and I obviously hadn’t started it yet. I know you’re anxious, but give your publicist time to do their job and report back. Publicists should always be providing regular reports. Either weekly or bi weekly.”
Don’t Try To Write Your Own Band Bio
Em & Bec: “It makes sense that you write your own bio, right? After all, who knows your band better than you? You know how you formed and where you’re from so why would you get someone else to write it? Perspective, that’s why. Let someone else muse over your sound and lend a fresh voice to your public persona. It will come across as infinitely less conceited (unlike using the term ‘public persona’) and you may get a better idea of just what the general public may find appealing in your music, as opposed to a member that has been entrenched in the project for years.”
Have Good Communication
Jacob: “Communication is paramount. I don’t understand a manager or publicist or label representative who is bad at emailing or responding to requests, especially urgent ones. Your job is to be organized so the band can focus on their music, so if you can’t do that, maybe consider becoming a carpenter or delivering mail. That said, band members: please also respond to emails and calls, that makes our lives easier. We’re trying to help you!”
Em & Bec: “The clearer you are with your publicist the better this relationship will work for everyone. For maximum good vibes and high fives talk to your rep about what you’re not comfortable doing and let them know the stuff you’d LOVE to do.”
Take Media Opportunities Seriously
Adam: “We worked hard to get a band an “Artist of the Day” feature on Myspace and it took forever to receive answers to the interview questions the site provided. When they finally sent back their answers – they were all one-word joke answers. The writer got back to us really upset that she couldn’t use it because the answers were too skimpy. If they want our help, they should take things seriously.”
Don’t Get Pushy
Adam: “One client would call us everyday. While it’s nice to get their input…at some point, bands/managers need to know we’re not going to make them famous overnight and to wait and give us a chance to pitch you and get results. PR takes time. So give your publicist time to pitch outlets and report back to you with the results.”
Stay Loyal To Your Team
[include_post id=”453283″] Adam: “Be loyal. Stick with your radio plugger or publicist for the long term if they are delivering. Too many acts think that they don’t need us once they are signed. Too many managers won’t stand up to their new label. If the radio plugger or PR professional has done their job up until that point, then you should keep that member on the team as you progress to your label. This person knows you, where your fans are and how best to work with you moving forward.
Often times bands and managers just think they need to work with the in-house label person – who knows nothing about the act or where the fans are. It’s a huge step back for you. Plus that person is working multiple bands on the label. You also don’t know that the agenda is in-house. Better to have your own advocate. Find the budget yourself to keep this valuable team member on board or stand up to the label. This person helped get you where you are now. Why throw them away?”
Have Realistic Expectations
Adam: “Make sure you have realistic expectations. You are not getting into Pitchfork or Rolling Stone right from the beginning.
Realize the limitations of the product. I’m not saying not to shoot for the stars, but focus the limited amount of time and energy you have on realistic possibilities. Go ahead and pitch to the mega-blogs and high-end magazines if you must, but don’t underestimate the power of the slow burn. A lot of press on many lesser known publications can often be better than one post on a major outlet.”
Have Great Content
Adam: “Not releasing good, professional content. This sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often a band, manager, or label will release an obviously rushed product for the sake of keeping a stream of content. All it takes is one disagreeable video or press move to turn a listener off from the band.”
Watch Your Ego
Jacob: “I’ve had artists think they’re too big, or at least too particular, for an editorial outlet and turn down an interview that could have helped really get a press campaign going. Remember, the bigger outlets won’t notice you if you haven’t been noticed by many of the smaller ones. Appreciate your supporters and count your blessings when someone thinks you’re interesting enough to interview, especially when you’re just starting out.”
Understand Who To Pitch To
Adam: “Each publication posts different content, has a different size staff, and converses in different ways. Do some research and look at the writing style in the publication’s posts. Some are very large companies that take things very seriously and run much like a business, others are run by one person as an after-work side-project that might have a more informal writing style. Deal with them in a corresponding matter.
Pitching to an informal publication in a really professional way can cause them to misinterpret what you’re saying and dismiss the content immediately. If you are going to do the PR yourself – you need to know the in’s and outs of the publications. This is why you hire a professional.”
Stay Involved With The Campaign
Jacob: “This goes out to managers, bands, labels, et al. The worst thing a label or band or manager can do is just throw the press campaign into the publicists court and then disappear. If you as a band member have a cool idea for a feature, let your publicist know about it, I promise they won’t laugh at you or think it’s stupid.
[include_post id=”411675″] Today, most outlets don’t want to talk about just music. They want a broader story about the songwriters; a glimpse into their lives and interests. It’s always frustrating for me when I learn something really interesting about a band I’ve been pitching for three months that could have made for an interesting story, but it’s too late. That said, don’t micromanage the publicist. Let them do their work and understand that they’re probably hitting up most of the outlets you’d like them to. But a campaign with no communication between these primary parties can end up being a pretty quiet campaign, indeed.”
Understand How Your Band Fits
Adam: “Not understanding what your brand is and where your music fits into the current music landscape. I think a lot of bands get wrapped up in their own music and they forget to look around and see what other people are doing. At the end of the day, it’s your fans that matters most because they’re the ones who buy the t-shirts and go to the shows, so it’s important to recognize what it is they latch on to most and continue in that direction.”
Don’t Worry About Pitchfork
Jacob: “I say Pitchfork here because that’s literally what 80% of my bands worry about. What will they think? Will they like it? Is there a single we can release early on that will cater more towards them so we can garner their support?
Listen, you didn’t become a musicians so you could create music for Pitchfork or Rolling Stone or whatever other tastemaker of the moment (or at least I hope you didn’t). You do it because you have to; it’s your emotional and creative outlet, and if you’re in a band that’s really trying to make a go at it, I can only assume there’s nothing else in the world you’d rather do. So don’t worry about Pitchfork, and better yet, don’t read your own press. Make music. Let me worry about the press.”
Try To Do It Yourself Before Hiring A Publicist
Em & Bec: “Not because you’ll necessarily be able to do a better job (and awesome news if you can!) but because it helps you understand just what you’ll be hiring someone to do once you have the funds. You’ll be much more appreciative of your publicist and more comfortable with spending the cash when you realise just how much desk time, creativity, contacts and commitment PR involves.”
Work On Your Social Media
Em & Bec: “It’s quick, easy, efficient and – dare we say it- the way of the future. You need to be set up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you need to be collecting a fan base and carving out an identity on each one of those every day. I know self-promotion can feel super lame (and it’s way cooler when other people just write about you instead) but these platforms are where promoters, labels, media and the like will head when they want to know more about you so don’t let them lie dormant.”
Have A Plan & Be Organised
Adam: “There’s a method to keeping people interested in and following the band and music. It’s easy to inundate readers with a new band as well as underexpose them. The best way to avoid that is to plan every press move out beforehand and stick to the timeline as much as possible.
Don’t get antsy and release the album without setting it up properly first. Realize that you want to have at least three months lead time from when you are hiring a PR person to when the album is coming out.”
[include_post id=”450638″] Jacob: ” I work with all sizes of labels. Some have great infrastructure, with teams for 5-10 people working on one record, while others are much smaller operations, which has one person handling 5-10 roles. But if you can, it’s important to look at a press campaign and, to the best of your abilities, plot out the roll-out of assets (songs, videos, album streams, remixes, etc.) in advance, and set target dates for everything. Take it from me, it sucks scrambling at the last minute to secure a premiere or chase down a music video director.”
Em & Bec: “The big album release is coming and you want to give it the best shot possible, so get organised. Channel Leslie Knope, get stoked, get coffee, get ready. Have your music prepared in various formats, have as many press photos as possible, have a new bio ready to go, have your social media, website, band camp, soundcloud up to date, and organise and assemble your team (manager, publicist, friends, bandmates, that old mate that is obsessed with your band, family, dog, tour manager) like the awesome, invaluable Voltron like they are.”
Em, Bec, Jacob and Adam will all be in Brisbane from the 9th – 11th September as part of Bigsound 2015. For more info visit www.bigsound.com.au.
Deathproof will also be throwing a Bigsound Bash on September 8th featuring Cosmic Psychos, High Tension, Super Best Friends and Born Lion check out the Facebook event for more info.