Not unlike ‘music journalist’, ‘music publicist’ is a title that gets thrown around a lot these days. But there’s a big difference between helping out your mate’s band get some write-ups and being an actual mediator between an artists and media.
Firstly – What the fuck even is a music publicist?
Common parlance is that publicists are ‘professional liars’, ready to spin something whatever way they need to get the media interested. While there’s a kernel of truth within that, good publicists – that is actual mediators between artists and media – don’t need to lie, they understand the product and the media landscape well enough to carve out interesting and numerous angles for any given campaign.
No, it’s not easy. But being a legitimate music publicist isn’t an easy job.
It takes patience, dedication and a thick skin to be a music publicist. There’s a thousand moving parts to any given music PR campaign and if you get them all right, you stand a chance of scoring thorough coverage on your announcement.
Get just one wrong, however, and you’ll totally kook the entire campaign. Trust me, I’ve kooked plenty.
Having operated on both sides of the PR / Media divide, I’ve picked up a thing or two on the best way to not kook a music PR campaign. While I was far from a good publicist, I worked closely enough with amazing publicists including Nik Tropiano and Meg Williams so I bore witness to how greatness operates.
Press releases are the magic wand for publicists. These are used to convey functional information to anyone who may read it and wish to cover the announcement on their publication. They’re also a fine art.
Phrasing can make or break a press release and while you may deeply, truly, madly believe your announcement is a ‘game changer’…
I can tell you right now it’s not.
Don’t oversell your product, PR is the business of managing expectations as much as it is the business of anything else. No editor has ever been convinced that your artist is ‘the next big thing’ simply because you said so in the press release.
Be honest, objective and realistic. Media cop hundreds of press releases a day and as such, they’ve developed the innate ability to read between the lines. They know when they’re being bullshitted and yes, it’s offensive and no, they won’t write it up.
Try and keep your press releases to one page. Don’t bog down the press releases with artist quotes. Two paragraphs is plenty.
Be sure to format things in a way that’s easy for the media to copy and paste sections, i.e tour dates should be DD/MM/YYYY followed by venue, city and ticketing links. Don’t get fancy with key facts.
Put the new information up the top, and keep a summary of the band, or colour commentary down the bottom. Include relevant links and also a link to a high-res artist image.
Music PR campaigns are usually broken down into multiple announcements.
This could be an album announce, followed by announcing the first single, followed by announcing a tour, each done off the back of a new press release. While you may feel as though literally everything your artist does from waking up to going to the bathroom is worthy of an announcement, it’s important to stick to the key happenings.
I’ve been approached many times by people who want to announce something that simply isn’t worth hassling media about. If your working with a local band who’s signed up for Dry July, no one cares.
They should sign up to Dry July regardless of media attention.
Who you send announcements to can also kook a campaign. Make sure you look at the sites you’re sending your announcements to. See if it’s relevant to them and for god’s sake, if you’re going to add a media outlet to your press release send-out list, be sure to send the outlet a friendly g’day in advance. Find out how they like to receive announcements.
Don’t. Always. Be. Selling.
Pitching / following up
Unless you’ve specifically received written consent to do so, do not cold DM a journalist with your pitch. Not on Facebook, not on Instagram, not on LinkedIn. Look, we’ve all done it during our Hail Mary moments of trying to lock in some coverage but it’s not OK.
Lay down the foundations of the campaign with press releases and announcements, but pitching and following up is where the magic happens. Sure, you could copy and paste each and every pitch, subbing out the editor / publication name each time but it’s obvious when you do, and incredibly common for mistakes to happen – I’ve been called Larry from The AU Review more times than I can remember. Campaign = kooked.
Tailor your pitches specifically for the outlet you’re approaching. It’s a tonne more work but it also gets results. Investigate each outlet to see what they cover – do they even do EP reviews? Do the ever post news pieces? Do they have regular interview series?
“Exclusives” and “premieres” are a good way to get content over the line with outlets, however some outlets may see this as a ploy to score coverage. Readers have started cottoning on to the fact “exclusives” and Premieres” are tags used to place content that no one else wanted organically.
Engage with the outlet first to see if they’re interested in exclusive content before pitching it.Take some of the guesswork away from busy editors and suggest what coverage they could do with your artist.
Another thing to remember with pitching is you’ll get a lot of nos and no replies. Yes’s will be few and far between for any given campaign so set realistic targets.
Gone are the days of picking 50,000 blogs to approach, they’ve all closed down and as more and more publications shift to having freelance writers, the ones that are still around have less breathing space for unpaid content. Pick five media targets for your campaign with a stretch target of seven and be happy to get four over the line.
The best way to keep track of your pitching and following up is a spreadsheet. Throw in the media outlets with columns dedicated to the date you first approached and the last time you followed up – be sure to leave a few days between emails.
All that said…
Don’t let media walk over you.
You’re doing important work as a communicator and it’s easy for the power dynamic to become unbalanced. Media can and will make unrealistic requests and demand special attention, guest spots, promo stock and access to artists hitherto unearned.
There are plenty of hard and fast ways to kook a music PR campaign…
But if you can get your head around press releases, announcements, pitching and following up, you’ll dramatically reduce your chances of kooking it.