Complete Musician’s Guide To Preparing For A Publicity Campaign
By David Roberts is founder of Nashville consultancy the Sunshine Promotion company. He blogs at "Sunshine Promotion".
I’ve touched on publicity briefly in other articles, but recently I had the chance to sit down with Laura Goldfarb over at Red Boot PR about the ins and outs of a properly executed publicity campaign. Huge thanks to Laura for her contributions. Any questions for Laura or about the article? Leave them below.
At what point do you think a band is ready to hire a publicist? I’ve shared with my readers before that dollar for dollar, I think publicists offer the best “return on investment” when bands are starting out. Do you think that’s true?
Laura: I think that CAN be true, but it depends on the band as well as the publicist. Unfortunately the mainstream music media market is completely over-saturated right now, which means it’s a more competitive environment than ever before, resulting in incredible artists who deserve attention not getting much of it. I think we’ve taught each other that managers and publicists are most important and we’ve forgotten about the development of the product to manage and publicize! Artists should really spend more time honing their sound and craft, developing their fanbase organically and putting in the hours before hiring a publicist. Otherwise, what’s there to really publicize? An artist who’s paid their dues a bit, went through trial and error with their music, worked hard to get a local/regional following the old fashioned way (one fan at a time) tend to have more success with a PR campaign than one that’s never recorded an album, never toured (even a little bit), and one who doesn’t have any fans. When the artist has really done it themselves for a good run first and then they hit that point when they say, “Okay, I need to call in reinforcement now,” that’s the time to hire a publicist. Otherwise, put that money (because publicity can be expensive) into online marketing to help grow your fanbase and/or recording an EP and/or touring.
How soon should a band come to you before their album comes out? Do you need a final mastered retail-ready copy to begin pitching or will a early mixes of the songs work for you to decide whether or not you want to take them on as a client?
Laura: Unmastered final mixes are great to get a feel for the artist and the album, and decide if they’re someone we’d like to work with. We typically start working an album 4 months out from its release date, and at that point the final mastered retail-ready version is necessary, as are at least some (100-300) physical copies with full artwork to send to press (some folks haven’t quite made the switch to digital yet). We tend to steer away from anything less than 4 months of lead time because it often can take AT LEAST that amount of time to get attention from press. Very often we pull in album reviews and other great coverage months if not years later. PR is definitely not a marathon!
In addition to the album, what else should the band bring to you when they’re ready to run a campaign? Photos, bios, stories, previous press mentions?
Laura: If we haven’t yet confirmed working together, Red Boot typically asks to see your current bio, links to your website and social media, YouTube videos of yourself that you love, and an idea of your goals for a PR campaign as well as your proposed schedule.
In short, can you give readers a basic run down of what an album PR campaign looks like? How long does it last and what do you do after you’ve agreed to take on a band?
Laura: Red Boot’s record release campaigns typically run for 4-6 months. Once we sign the paperwork and gather all current materials from the artist (hi-res press photos, past press, tour itinerary, etc), we work with the artist to write their new bio and all new press materials. We also figure out a tentative schedule and game plan for the campaign, like the initial roll out, singles, music videos, touring, etc. We pitch artists digitally through our massive email list as well as through physical mailings, by phone and even Twitter! Throughout the campaign we’re pitching multiple stories and angles to mainstream music media to try to secure coverage, which tends to start to come in after about a month and then continues to roll in throughout the rest of the campaign and even months after.
You can never guarantee results, just your work ethic, right?
Laura: Correct! Although specific results can not be guaranteed in PR, with Red Boot the artist can expect a new bio and one-sheet, multiple press releases, consistent pitching and constant communication with press on behalf of the artist, at least some coverage and appearances of varying sizes from various outlets (in print, online, TV and some syndicated or online radio), and biweekly reports explaining how the pitching process is going and any feedback from press. We also guarantee that the artist becomes “family,” and we are available to them for pretty much anything throughout their campaign — whatever will make it successful! We’re here to discuss ideas for improvement, new content, help set up photo shoots, meetings, venue introductions, etc., anything that we can do to help the success of the artist and their campaign.
What are some of the best ways bands can start generating buzz in their home town without hiring a publicist right out of the gate?
Laura: Above all, have fun! Play out as much as you can — residencies are a great way to start generating buzz. Also, get involved in your community. Get to know the other artists, collaborate, write with them, support them genuinely — build a family — and find charities and benefit shows you believe in that you can play (a great way to get in front of various prospective new fans). Interact with your fans, one at a time, and never forget that without them, you’re just playing music in your room — your fans are the key to your buzz and success at all stages of your career.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Laura: Choosing a publicist is like choosing a nanny for your first born child. It’s not a decision to take lightly, and it’s not always about whoever has the best resume. The best publicist for you is the one you feel most comfortable with, the one you can sit down with and feel at ease, and the one you feel you can trust to have honest, open dialogue. If your publicist does their job “right,” you’ll be getting pretty intimate with them during your campaign so make sure they’re someone you like.