Do You Need a Publicist Or Just Some Research?

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

Building out your team as an artist is a very difficult process. Young musicians often believe having a manager, a publicist or a booking agent onboard will be the core to somehow expediting the process of launching their career. Today you’re playing to ten friends and family members at your local VFW or singing at open mics. Then, viola! Your team has scored you a spot on tour with your favorite band, selling out arenas.

As most of you are probably aware, that scenario doesn’t necessarily match up with the reality of building a career in music. There is no magic bullet. In fact, building out your team too early can lead to getting stuck in business relationships that don’t necessarily make the most sense in the long run or, as is the case with publicists, see you investing what little money you have to spend on your project in areas that you won’t necessarily see the sort of results you’re hoping for.

Here are three questions to ask yourself before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger on bringing a publicist into the fold:

Will I Be Able To Give A Publicist Enough To Work With?

An important key to publicity is having assets to work with. Yes, you have a great EP, but is there anything else that your publicist can give to press? Are there tour dates or live shows in your hometown? Do you have a unique element to your story that could lead to a bigger editorial piece that will serve as a cornerstone for the campaign? Did you shoot any high-quality music videos for the project?

A publicist is going to have to sell a writer on the fact they are getting in early on something that will be bigger down the line. Just having a handful of quality songs does not go a long way to help them sell that idea.

What Are My Goals With This Campaign?

Am I hiring a publicist because I think they’re going to take me from my bedroom to the cover of Rolling Stone? Do I think that I am going to see a significant financial return immediately from doing a few months of PR? If so, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results you’re going to get.

One in a million projects can break immediately without a ton of work from major industry powers going on behind the scenes. The vast majority of artists need to build out their public presence in stages. Your initial public relations campaign should be about building that first tier of coverage. This would likely consist of grabbing a few of the aforementioned cornerstone pieces and streaming playlists that you can start building a 1-sheet around and getting writers out to see you play live.

From there you can start building anticipation for your next release or, if the campaign goes really well, you can continue to go after additional coverage on the release immediately.

What Is My Next Step?

A standard PR campaign will run around three months. Once that three month period is over, if the coverage isn’t rolling in enough to continue seeking press, what’s your next step?

Are you going to be right back in the studio working on the follow-up or is there going to be a long wait before you release music again?

If this release took a year or two to prepare and you don’t see a next release in the near future, you’re better off handling press yourself and focusing on building an organic following through playing live and direct-to-fan initiatives.

In short, ask yourself if this release is going to set up a bigger push in the next year or is it step one in your career as an artist from which you will decide where you will pivot to next.

It’s best for an artist not to rush to add structure to their project to quickly. It’s usually better to find yourself creatively before looking to start working towards a sustainable career. If you do find yourself in this stage of self-discovery, don’t rush to hire a publicist. You can find the contact information for most of the writers or blogs that will be most likely to cover your project in these early stages on their website or via the writer’s Twitter account.

The more you can do on your own before hiring people around you, the better you’ll understand the process of releasing music and ultimately the more worthwhile your eventual first proper PR campaign will be!

6 Steps To Making Your Band Press Friendly

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

Have you ever tried to reach out to media only to find the sound of a deep and resounding silence on the other end? Maybe you heard back from one or two people who gave you a firm, “Thanks, but no thanks.” If you’re really lucky you heard back from one underground blogger who loves the sound and will get it up right away – and that’s the only response you hear after sending dozens, if not hundreds of emails on your band’s behalf.

It’s not easy to grab the attention of media when you’re a band who is not on the blogger’s radar. There are, however, a few simple steps you may have overlooked. These steps can also make the difference in who will pay attention to you and who will rapidly reach for the delete button on the keyboard.

If you want to increase the chances you’ll band will be covered, follow the next six steps to get your music heard.

1. Make your Site and Social Media Press Friendly

Believe it or not, media is always on the hunt for new bands. Outside of a publicist or direct email from a band, the discovery may happen through Facebook, Spotify, Soundcloud, or a major music festival like SXSW. Once a blogger has found a band he loves, he’s going to look for more information on the band so he can write about it. That may end abruptly when going to the website or social media if there’s no bio, contact information, or in the worst case – music that can be posted on the site. You may think the blogger will just keep digging for the information like a detective hot on the case of a suspected thief. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The blogger is already buried with other band submissions who provided the information quickly and easily so he can write a legitimate post. He’s not just a lazy journalist who can’t bother to do his research. He’s a blogger who has a high demand for his time and can only do so much.

How can you make the blogger’s job easier so you can increase the chances he’ll write about your band? Use this checklist to make sure you have all the relevant information on your website and across your social media.

  • Contact information with an email address
  • Bio
  • Streamed music or link to hear streamed music on a site like Soundcloud or Spotify
  • Links to social media
  • Hi resolution publicity photos
  • Cover Artwork on the single or album

2. Know Your Sound

Blogs, writers and radio hosts often focus on a specific genre or niche, so it’s important to know if your sound would fit what appeals to that particular contact. Before you do anything else clearly state your genre and in seven words or less describe your sound. As uncomfortable as it may be to pigeonhole your sound, it will also help you reach the right audience and start building into a larger one. As I mentioned in my last point, bloggers often face a time crunch, so if you can quickly and easily show them your music is the right fit, you’ll also increase the chance of clicking on the link to hear your music.

3. Know Your Story

Now that you know what information to include for a journalist, you need to know how to convey that information. The first step is knowing what your story is so you can convey it in a compelling way in your bio. At my company, Green Light Go Publicity, we ask all of our bands to fill out a 35 question survey to help round out the story and determine what would differentiate the band from all the other bands out there. You want a bio and story that would make a journalist who’s never heard of you immediately want to listen.  Here are few questions to get you started in helping define your story:

  • Where are you from? How does your location influence your music?
  • Are there any current events or anything in the media that influences your music? Or do any of your songs or album themes tie into any current events?
  • What’s your history? (How many albums, when they were released, how long you’ve been in the industry, etc.)

4. Have an Image That Conveys Your Sound

A publicity photo or cover art can often be the first deciding factor on whether a media contact will listen to your music. Like the bio, you want to make it compelling. You also want to make sure it represents the sound you’re making. Hiring a professional photographer whose photos have been published on reputable music sites is one of the best investments you can make for that reason. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at bands who are similar to you and see how their publicity photos convey the sound. This can give you a great launching point to define your own vision for your band. If you do plan to invest in a photographer, ask bands with compelling photos in your area who they hired and determine if the photographer would be able to capture your sound with the right image.

5. Set a Single, EP or Album Release Date

News by definition is looking for something new. If you’re trying to peddle your six month old album, you’ve already missed the window of opportunity and you’re better off waiting until you have new music to release.  Although there are blogs who are more (and less) forgiving on the timeline, typically you have about a one to two week window to send information on your single release prior and after the release date.

Once you have released it, I highly recommend having it publicly available on your social media and website so it can be easily heard. Pin your tweet and and Facebook post announcing the single release so it’s at the top of the page. If you’re releasing an album or EP, you’ll want to start sending information three to four months prior to the release. This is so the media contact has time to become familiar with your band and give the music a good listen. Your album or EP should only be available as a private link until after the release date. [Editor’s note: Try setting up a Pre-Order for your release on iTunes and Google Play to build excitement!]

6. Make Sure Your Pitch Includes Necessary Information

Now it’s time to put it all together and write a pitch that includes the necessary information in a clear and concise format. You should include a two-four sentence description of your band including your hometown, genre and description of sound, accolades (notable musicians you’ve played with either on tour or on your record etc), and story about  your band or album. In addition, you should have links to the following information (no attachments!):

  • Single approved for download
  • Private album stream
  • Bio/EPK
  • Publicity Photo
  • Social media including Facebook and Twitter

Once you’ve pulled all this information together you’ll have a steady foundation to not only contact media, but to also give you a chance to be discovered and written about without having to advocate on your own behalf.

How To Get Writers to Actually Open Your Emails

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West, a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

It’s often said that the internet and home recording has made it possible for anyone to explore their creative side musically. Another positive effect of the DIY culture the internet has nurtured is that as these bedroom musicians begin the process of turning their hobby into a career, they are able to handle a lot of the business and promotional side themselves to get the ball rolling.

Chief among these early efforts that an artist can use to start spreading the word is press. A little interweb stalking will turn up the contact info for most of the writers that you would want to cover your music. With a carefully-crafted pitch, you might start to see your music start popping up among the new songs and videos of your heroes that your favorite blogs are covering.

On the flipside, this instant access to press contacts means that most of the writers you want to reach out to are simultaneously getting hit up by hundreds of other artists on any given day. As a result, publicists devote a lot of time to figuring out how to cut through the clutter and get writers to prioritize checking out their clients ahead of the droves of other submissions.

If you can’t yet afford to hire a publicist, here are five tips on how an independent artist can get their favorite music bloggers to give their new music a spin!

 

  • Be Personal – The fact that you are an artist hitting them up directly gives you a leg up with a lot of writers. But if you send them a generic pitch, chances are you’re going to lose that favor. Tell the writer why you’re writing to them specifically.Which artists have they covered that leads you to believe they’d be into your music? What articles that they wrote made you a fan of theirs? Do you really love them on Twitter? What about your music is unique? These are the elements that are going to entice a writer to hit play on your Soundcloud link or YouTube video.
  • Is There A Certain Regular Feature You’re Interested In? – Another good way to approach writers is to reach out about a specific feature they oversee.For instance, is their blog pushing to promote a Spotify playlist? Do they run a “track of the week” series that you find a lot of your new favorite music on? These are the sort of deliberate pitches that might garner a quicker, more favorable response.
  • Be Precise: One thing that often goes overlooked with pitching writers is that brevity is key. It’s understandable why you want to cram every iota of information that you find interesting about your project into your email, but your life story might push your message to the TLDR folder.Stick to the necessities; (1) why are you writing to them specifically, (2) why they would like your music, and most importantly (3) a link to the music. Also, make sure it only requires one click in your email for the writer to be able to listen. If they like the music and decide to cover it, they will ask for more info at that point.
  • Get To Know The Writer (For Repeat Pitches): This is probably the most important key to continued coverage of your music. Get to know the writer! Is there a certain way they like to receive pitches? Do they prefer text or twitter messages to email? Do they want a full press release or personal message every time? Will they even cover non-exclusive tracks? These are all key to success with developing a rapport with writers. Even better, if they live in your city, see if they’d be down to meet for coffee, a drink or even to check your project out live. The better you know their personality and preferences, the more accurately you’ll be able to pitch them. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to make friends with another music fan!
  • Always Have An Angle: We mentioned the ‘special feature’ angle already and have hopefully made it abundantly clear that you need to speak to how you’re unique when contacting writers. But how specifically are you going to frame your music in an enticing way? Is there something interesting and quirky about your personality that you can use in the voice of your email? Is your music a part of a bigger vision that spans multiple artistic mediums that you will be unveiling in the coming months? Is your new song part of a concept album or tell a specific tale?There has to be something about you and your sound that makes it endearing because there are a lot of talented musicians out there you are trying to beat out for coverage.

 

If your music is good and you can translate your special qualities to the writer quickly and precisely, you’ve greatly increased the chances of a writer actually clicking play. And getting them to listen is half the battle!

Recap: The Inaugural Mondo.NYC 2016

A week and a half back, music industry professionals, artists, fans and students got together for the first-ever Mondo.NYC Festival at the Kimmel Center on the legendary NYU campus in lower Manhattan. Panels, keynote speeches, presentations and performances from artists dominated the five-day event, allowing members from different sectors of the industry to exchange ideas, strategies and thoughts on the future.

TuneCore was honored to be one of the sponsors at the inaugural Mondo.NYC 2016 festival, with indie artists across all genres performing throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan each night. In fact, we’re proud to mention that almost 50% of Mondo’s featured artists have used TuneCore to distribute their music at some point!

Bob Boilen, creator of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” and the Tiny Desk Concert Series acted as moderator throughout Mondo.NYC, offering decades of experience and overall music-nerdery to conversations with everyone from label owners and strategy folks to publicists and journalists.

There was a LOT to cover – not to mention TuneCore’s very own “Under the Hood” presentation on Friday morning – but below are pictures and quotes from some of the notable panels and discussions we were fortunate enough to make it to.

"Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry with Michael Nash & Robert Levine
“Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry” with Michael Nash & Robert Levine

During the “Making Streaming Work for the Music Industry” discussion, UMG’s Michael Nash explored the importance of major labels accepting and expanding the role of music streaming. With physical product dominating almost 70% of the market share in territories like Japan and Germany, there’s an important future to look at.

“How fast is change coming? It’s coming like a freight train,” Nash went on to say, noting “one of the most positive developments” being the growth in the space between Spotify, Apple Music and now Pandora. He believes that int the next 3-5 years we’ll see a few major players rise in the digital distribution space, as well.

mondo nyc 2016
Daniel Glass, owner of Glassnote Records, making a keynote address with Bob Boilen

Another inspiring moment during Mondo was the Keynote Address with none other than Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records. A man with a storied career in music, his imprint has been responsible for a new wave of independent artists looking for a friendlier label model. Glass explained while major labels can give artists the push they need, labels like his help left-of-center artists find their way in the world.

It was a bit of a trip down Memory Lane as Daniel and Bob reminisced and re-emphasized the importance of CMJ and college radio during the 80s and 90s. Plenty of laughter and note taking went down, and they transitioned into how Sirius XM stations are actually a refuge for would-be college radio fans.

Before wrapping up, Glass also reiterated the importance of a live experience in 2016, saying of Glassnote’s Aurora, “If I had $100K to develop her, I’d spend $97K getting people to see her live.”

"Press & PR: How To Rise Above the Din"
“Press & PR: How To Rise Above the Din”

Press and PR can be a pain-point for many indie artists just getting started down the DIY road. Rolling Stone contributor Christopher Weingarten, Audible Treats PR founder Michelle McDevitt, Big Hassle PR founder Ken Weinstein, and Bond Moroch PR founder Skipper Bond all provided what they  considered to be a ‘good day’ at their respective jobs.

Explaining the nuances of how to catch a writer’s eye and how to target your pitches, the attendees – mostly independent musicians – diligently jotted down bits of information. Bob Boilen kept things light and encouraged those in attendance to ask questions and get the most out of this very helpful panel.

It was refreshing to watch members of both sides of this complicated machine exchange thoughts, laughs and questions for each other behind the mics.

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On Friday, TuneCore’s very own Senior Director of Entertainment Relations Chris Mooney and Director of Marketing Mitch Wenger presented and moderated “Under The Hood: Get Your Music Heard and Get Paid for Doing It”.  TuneCore Artists Devvon Terrell, Opus Orange, Kathryn Gallagher and The Republic of Wolves all sat in to discuss the state of digital distribution for independent artists in 2016.

While we couldn’t make all of those awesome panels and discussions, below are a few of our favorite helpful quotes heard from the Kimmel Center. Be sure to browse through some more photos, too, and share any great advice or stories YOU heard during Mondo.NYC this year in our comment section!

“That direct connection with your fans at shows is huge. When you’re sending them links to your music, send it to them at two points of contact.” – Benji Rogers, CEO, PledgeMusic

“If you’re doing pre sale ticketing on a tour, just make sure you have a period for fans associated with email sign ups to keep control of your data.” – Justin Spindler, Director, Music Glue

“Having ownership of your data is really important. People want to know if you’re worth their time and if you’ll make them money. It’s all about metrics.” – Matt DuFour, VP of Artist Development, ReverbNation

“Content is key. Audiences don’t mind being marketed to, but you have to do it well. There needs to be a balance between the brand, the audience and the artist.” – Jennifer Stilson, VP Music, MTV/VH1

“When it’s real is when the brand identifies with the type of music it is. By having something that the brand stood for, that became synonymous with the sound of the brand.” – Nick Parmar, Director, W Hotels

“Find your authentic lane when it comes to working with brands.” – Joi Brown, SVP Marketing, Atlantic Records

“Figure out who your fan amplifiers are and serve them. That’s what grows your fan base.” – Cortney Harding, Founder, Cortney Harding Consulting