Public Relations, or P.R. for short, is a complex field of mass communication which can generate millions of fans if precisely executed. The payoff can be hugely lucrative, however, P.R. is often misunderstood. Having a guide with expertise and experience can help save you tons of time, energy, and costly mistakes. Here is some insider information to help you understand the truth about music P.R.
(Be sure to check the links at the end of this article for more information.)
What Is P.R.?
P.R. is a strategic form of organic communication used to share and spread information about an individual or company in order to positively influence public opinion.
It can encompass press releases to the media, scouting for interviews and articles, t.v./radio/playlist spotlights, social media strategy, word-of-mouth networking, event appearances, and image/brand consulting. The end goal is to reach a large audience quickly while increasing likeability.
P.R. is not paying for placements in magazines, posts on music websites, or boosted social followers. This typically falls under “advertising and marketing.” P.R. involves reaching out to influential people to build awareness and authentic support. Both fields are closely related, however, the methods are vastly different.
The saying goes: “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”
Paid advertising can increase the effectiveness of a P.R. campaign and it’s highly recommended to have a budget for both.
Timing Is Everything
Be ready for the long haul.
P.R. campaigns are planned well in advance. Some begin up to 6-8 months prior to a release. One of the biggest mistakes artists make is waiting until after an album comes out to alert the media or hire a publicist.
The point of the campaign is to build anticipation and public support before a major release.
Think of running a music campaign like premiering a movie. How many times do we see and hear about a motion picture before it comes out? Many. The goal is to have the public ready and waiting for the big day.
In order for this to happen, the media has to be notified in time for articles and appearances to be scheduled and produced. This is called “lead time.” The lead time before a feature is published is usually much longer than most people realize.
What You Should Know Before Hiring a Publicist
A publicist’s success is largely dependent upon the actions of their clients. This means if the artist and team are not taking the right actions, the publicist cannot do their job. This also means a publicist’s professional reputation is dependent upon their clients’ behavior, public image, and professional growth.
For these reasons, publicists are usually selective. Many only take clients through referrals from trusted sources. It helps to do a bit of foundational networking with other industry leaders so you can get recommendations.
Hiring a publicist means more work for the artist not less. There is a misconception that hiring a publicist means sitting back while the press pours in. That isn’t exactly how it works. It is a lengthy process that requires patience and persistence.
The artist needs to be on point with their social media; an E.P.K. and other documents have to be prepared; events have to be scheduled; and numerous other behind the scenes tasks. During this period and throughout the campaign, the publicist is going to need tasks completely very quickly.
A publicist is not a personal assistant. It is wise to hire a P.A. along with a publicist to assist with the workload.
If you’re hiring an independent publicist, understand he or she is their own boss and can let any client go at any time. Most have a “no refunds” clause in their contract. It’s advised to make sure you are a right fit and can keep up with the requirements before starting any services.
An independent publicist will have other clients and priorities. Expect to have scheduled communication times in order to work efficiently.
P.R. Can Be Expensive (but worth it)
Because P.R. isn’t something tangible with instant gratification it’s often difficult to understand what the money is going towards. As mentioned, you are not paying for the publicity itself. You are paying for a publicist’s leadership and expertise, as well as communication and associated business costs. Their skills are both technical and interpersonal, and extremely valuable.
It takes years to learn the P.R. ropes and build relationships. These relationships are unique to the publicist’s past experiences with their connections. These connections have taken lots of trial and error and time to cultivate — they’re priceless. You are not paying for the publicist to turn over their contacts’ information which is proprietary. They are hired to introduce, spread the word, offer advice, solicit support, coordinate meetings, and persuasively communicate on your behalf.
Sometimes being on a publicist’s roster can elevate an artist’s status quickly. However, there are no guarantees the public is going to like the artist’s music, or that the timing is right. Therefore, it is a risky business.
Sometimes results don’t show up until much later, so it’s important to have a clear idea on what you can afford for a long term campaign.
With the right leadership from a publicist that truly believes in you, you can greatly minimize the risk and increase your chances for the big wins.
P.R. Can Launch an Artist to the Ultimate Level of Stardom
The bigger the risk the greater the reward. This is a major reason why P.R. is so expensive.
With the right words from the right influencers, an artist can find themselves in higher places they were never able to reach on their own. This level of spotlight is where more press opportunities, higher paying gigs, and even sponsorships/investors come rolling in. It’s like a floodgate.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does, the effects can be massive and extremely lucrative.
Whether you want to make millions and create a lasting legacy, or just generate enough income to keep making music, media and influencers can help you reach your goals.
You Can Do Your Own P.R.
Building relationships, communicating with the public, and pitching music are things anyone can do with practice. If you’re organized, good at research, genuinely like talking to people, and aren’t afraid of rejection, you can certainly create your own press releases and reach out to the media. Many managers and business-savvy musicians are excellent at securing their own press.
Get to know who’s who by following some of your favorite outlets. Reading and learning is essential if you hope for others to read and learn about your project. It’s all about reciprocation.
Before reaching out to anyone, ask yourself, “What value can I bring this person? How can I help them?”
The most important thing is the passion and energy you put into the project. If you love it, it will show.
Yes, You Need an E.P.K.
E.P.K. stands for Electronic Press Kit. It’s a digital file folder containing all the information about an artist and their music project(s). The folder is uploaded to a hosting service such as Google Drive or Dropbox where it can be shared via a read-only link. There are also sites that specialize in hosting artist E.P.K.s.
The folder contents generally include:
- High resolution photos
- Album and single artwork
- Social graphics
- Artist bio / one sheet
- Streaming & social links
- Press release
- Previous media features
- Advanced streaming link of the upcoming album. (Whether or not you include the mp3 and video files depends on various factors.)
These are the main ingredients a media professional needs to create and promote a story about the artist. It may also be used to shop for show bookings. The contents should be updated often to keep the E.P.K. current.
Many artists try to pass through the gates without an E.P.K. and miss out on really big opportunities. At some point an important person is going to request an E.P.K. and if the artist doesn’t have one ready, they’ll move on to someone who does.
Having an E.P.K. link you can send off quickly to V.I.P.s is the difference between a pro-level artist and an amateur. It’s best to have all your ducks in a row.
I’ll have more tips on how you can earn more press coming up soon.
About the author:
Jennifer McKinnon, a.k.a. MsRivercity (@msrivercity), is an award-winning journalist, event photographer, and media specialist. She was an editor at OZONE Magazine & Florida Music Blog and has spearheaded breakthrough P.R. campaigns for Lil Baby, Future, 2 Chainz, Migos, and many more.
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