by Cassie Fox
If you’re a DIY or independent musician and you have new music you want the world to hear about, you’re going to want to do some PR. But first you need to decide if you want to do this stuff yourself, or whether you want to call in a press agent.
Here’s some pros and cons to think about and help you make your decision.
- The only cost is your time and effort. Maybe a bit of postage, if you’re promoting a physical release and sending out review copies. But hands down a massive saving on the cost of professional PR.
- In many cases, you may be your best PR. You know your music inside out, you know what’s at the heart of it – what’s the story behind it. Who better to tell that story than the author/protagonist.
- Many would say that, ethically speaking, DIY PR is the approach most becoming of a ‘true DIY artist’.
- Many media outlets – especially independent music blogs – really welcome direct contact with artists. Here at LOUDWOMEN.org, for example, we make a point of prioritising messages that come in from artists directly, and we prefer to talk to musicians rather than press agents. (Or agents of any kind, for that matter!)
- Doing your own PR means you’re completely in control of the messages being sent to the media – your words won’t get reinterpreted.
- PR involves quite high level writing skills, and pretty good IT skills too. If those things aren’t your forte, and you don’t have a bandmate or significant someone willing to help out in those areas, you may struggle.
- PR can eat up a lot of time. And if you’re busy creating music, and/or working a day job, then you’re going to need to give up a lot of evenings to hunching over a laptop writing emails. (Of course, the ideal DIY scenario is to do the band PR emails while you’re at the day job – let The Man pay for your side hustle. Don’t tell my boss I said that though.)
- Nothing’s guaranteed in PR and the media is fickle. It can be really disheartening to work hard on a PR campaign, for music that means so much to you personally, only to receive an inbox full of tumbleweed back. Or even, negative feedback. A PR agent would at the very least be a kind of buffer for any negative or uninterested responses to your work.
- When you find one who’s a great match for your music, and who has a great working relationships with the media you want to get noticing you, you’ve got a much greater chance of getting featured in those outlets.
- A good press agent will work with you to plan a campaign that focuses on your goals. Really thinking about what it is you want to do with your music is in itself a useful exercise, and a good press agent is well placed to help you think through what’s possible/desirable for you.
- If the skills of writing interesting messages, communicating over email, and staying on top of admin are skills that you completely lack, then a press agent is likely to do the job better than you can do it yourself.
- Good PR is not cheap – you get what you pay for. Rates will vary hugely depending on the scale of your campaign, but generally be really wary of PR agents offering deals that seem too good to be true.
- There’s a danger that you’ll lose control of the message you want to send out with your music – and if that message is important to you,
- There’s a lot of bad PRs out there, firing out press releases to a mailing list, with no attention to whether the music and the blog are a fit. (Here at LOUD WOMEN, despite having a name which really clearly lays out our primary interests, we receive a ridiculous amount of press releases for male folk artists.)
Gonna DIY it? Good choice
Check out the next in our series of DIY guides and we’ll talk you through what you need to know.
Gonna hire someone? Cool. LOUD WOMEN recommends …
Sarah Maynard of Major. Sarah specialises in punk, and her client list include Petrol Girls, Ho99o9, Dream Nails, and yours truly, LOUD WOMEN. Sarah rocks.
Ellie Sorensen of A Badge of Friendship. Ellie is a great champion of DIY, indie artists, and is currently working with the fast rising Eliza Shaddad and [checks notes] Diana Ross. Yes, the Diana Ross. Ellie also does radio plugging.
If you want to make the most of the money you’re spending on your PR campaign, make sure that you are working effectively with your PR agent. Take some time to find out what they need from you, how the campaign/s are going to run, and what you can be doing to help their work.
We asked our fave PR agents what they would like new clients to think about before they start working with them.
If you decide to work with a PR rep to give your band a push further than you feel like you may be able to do yourself, then make sure you have a plan for the release of your music! As well as a distro you’re going to work with. The timing of singles / video releases etc is important to plot out. But also be open to discussing altering it, based on their advice. We are here to guide but ideally need a band to plot some timings etc out for themselves. To make the most of a campaign, you might want to look at bringing someone like me on board for a full EP rollout or album release, rather than just a standalone single. It’s hard to build something from one song alone. Also make sure you have your music ready to go, as well as hi-res artwork, promo shots and a strong idea of your vision and what you want to talk about. “Band makes good music” isn’t necessarily compelling enough for journalists to want to write / talk about you.Sarah Maynard
The PR world has changed drastically over the past few years thanks to the likes of Spotify becoming such a pinnacle platform. It’s easier than ever for emerging artists to submit music to DSPs themselves as well as tastemaker blogs, but it is extremely time consuming. As an artist, if you can find the time to do your research, find the right contacts to pitch to and build relationships with editorials, then hats off to you, but I feel like when an artists gets to a certain ‘level’ and need that extra push to get to those ’top tier’ targets, that is where hiring a PR comes in. Managing expectations is a huge part of my job, especially when it comes to working with emerging artists. If I had a pound for every time an artist asks us to get them in NME or Pitchfork… I’d be bloody loaded! I think artists need to remember its all about building blocks and you need to work your way up to those sort of publications. Most of the time, unless you’re crazy lucky, it doesn’t happen over night I’m afraid hennies!Ellie Sorensen