10 mistakes bands make when it comes to publicity
Sydney-based publicist and author of Blow Your Own Trumpet STACEY PIGGOTT on the most common mistakes bands make when it comes to PR – from spending beyond your means to putting all your media eggs in one basket.
1. Not being prepared
Before you contact a potential publicist, or media outlet if you are doing your own PR, you need to be prepared so you don’t waste their time or yours. Have these things ready before you pick up the phone:
– A clear idea of what you would like them to talk about. Do you have a tour? Show? EP, single or album release? – A small sized word doc or PDF press release that clearly states what you are spruiking, the dates, the story behind it, and your contacts. – Soundcloud or website link so the person can instantly hear your music. – Don’t send large MP3 files. Clogging up a busy person’s inbox is the fastest way to turn someone off you for life. – At least two good quality promo photos of you or your band, one horizontal, one vertical. Close up headshot and full-length option. – Cover art if you are asking for a single or album reviews. – Your availability for an interview if they are interested.
2. Assuming you need to pay a publicist to access media
– Music media are always keen to hear a good story and great music. Whether that’s delivered by you direct, or a third party you have paid money to is neither here nor there to them. You only need to pay a third party if:
– You are in a financial position that allows you to allocate a budget for a publicist/radio plugger. – You are at the point in your career that you need a strategic approach behind your media campaign. – You need to allocate your time to other more fruitful areas of your career rather than sitting on the phone or email chasing promo.
I started my career as a music publicist with no experience in the music industry or as a publicist. I simply loved one of my friend’s bands and I believed they needed to be bigger than they were. I believed everyone in the country (who didn’t already know them) needed to know them. They were running every aspect of their career themselves – from managing and booking tours, to distributing albums and publicising all of this – and they were constantly on the road.
They needed help, so I pilfered contacts from papers and magazines in a news agency, went home and started calling people. I was 21 at the time. A lot of the bands I have worked with since have spent a considerable part of those early stages of their careers doing their own publicity to get their careers up and running. There is no reason why you can’t do the same.
3. Creating music you think will get you airplay or media coverage
Don’t be afraid to create your own pathway and your own scene if you can’t find one that you relate to already established. Not everyone has to follow the same path to success and not everyone needs to have lots of radio airplay or press coverage to gain that success. Success comes in many forms, sometimes the bands who are all over the radiowaves and across the pages of print and online are not necessarily the ones who can afford to give up their day jobs. It’s important to make the music that comes naturally to you. If you chase sound trends you risk being ignored due to oversaturation of that sound already on radio.
4. Handing over money with no idea of what you are purchasing
There are no guarantees when it comes to publicity campaigns, sometimes things just don’t translate as you would like them to, no matter how many hours you put into the campaign. There are a number of variables that come into play when it comes to the success or failure of a campaign some that are beyond yours and the publicist’s control. But you can ensure you have a really clear idea of exactly what they are going to do, how they are going to do it and what they will be delivering back to you. Even if the particular project doesn’t go well, you should know exactly what you are paying for prior to handing over any cash.
“A perfect campaign needs that delightful mix of talent, timing, and hard work.”
When you do decide to engage a third party to enhance your promo, make sure you research the person and the campaigns they have run previously. Meet with them and get a detailed outline of how they are going to run your campaign, how they will be reporting to you throughout, how frequently that will take place and what they will hand over to you at the end. Take a look at their previous reports to get an idea of how they run their campaigns so you know exactly what your money is buying and that their approach is suitable to your needs.
There are so many publicists out there; you are bound to find the perfect one for you budget and needs. A perfect campaign needs that delightful mix of talent, timing, and hard work. Sometimes if just one of those things is missing the whole thing can come undone.
5. Putting all of your music into one media basket
Focusing all of your energy on one media outlet or one media platform puts you in a really precarious position. Even if you do get a lot of support initially, that outlet may decide they don’t want to support you past your first or second release. It’s important to have a wide foundation of supporters in the media – the wider your foundation the more control you have. If one outlet drops off, the others can take up the slack and you can press on.
6. Relying on social media as your fan database
This is going to cause a lot of new bands a whole world of pain in years to come. Back in the olden days when I started, bands use to collect data like mad, adding any info they could get their hands on into their lists, postal addresses and then email addresses, putting mailing lists at the merch desk at shows for people to join.
These days, bands are relying solely on social media to communicate with their fans. It is fast and easy, but ultimately you don’t own those contacts, or their information – the social media platform does. And with the rate those platforms move, the goal posts for their subscribers and the stability of your database is questionable. Recently Facebook started charging pages to post. If they decide they are going to make you pay to access those fans, there will be nothing you can do about it, and without their individual emails you will loose that direct line to your fanbase unless you cough up. Creative ways to capture those contact details from your fans is something a lot of bands are overlooking.
7. Spending beyond your means
A big expensive publicity and advertising campaign doesn’t automatically guarantee you success. You should always budget for worse case scenario rather than spending money you don’t have in the hope it will generate income to cover the costs. If you don’t have the money in the bank at the time of commissioning the service or ad space, don’t do it. That is a clear indication you are not ready for whatever it is you are looking to spend on.
You’re better to do your budgets up based on not selling a CD or ticket. What can we afford to spend if this whole thing fails? That is your budget there. And if it is a huge success, you pop the earnings from the venture into your account, and use that as your budget for the next step, and so on.
8. Not following up
Media people get sent so many emails and CDs, you need to follow up anything you send out, in some cases many times. Mailing out a bunch of CDs or sending a bunch of emails is not going to be enough to get you coverage, you need to follow up and get a response from each person you approach. Even if they say “no”, having that feedback and initial contact is your first step to building a relationship with that outlet. And the only way you will know is if you get that answer!
9. Dismissing the small media outlets and heading straight to the top
Your local media outlets are ready and waiting to support you simply for being local. They nurture young artists and give you a safe space to grow and get used to talking to the media, so when the day comes for you to talk to the bigger outlets, you will fee comfortable and be able to give a really great interview. It is also where that wide foundation of support begins. Start local, then regional, state-wide and national. A lot of people go straight to the bigger outlets and get totally disgruntled when they either have no response or no success. You need to build your story for those bigger outlets, and the perfect place to do that is right there in your own backyard.
10. Assume people won’t be interested
Don’t assume certain outlets will not be interested in you because of the genre of music you play. If you have great tunes and an interesting story, you might be surprised at where you can find supporters. You will never know if you don’t ask.
Stacey Piggott is the director of Two Fish Out Of Water and the author of Blow Your Own Trumpet – A Musician’s Guide to Publicity and Airplay.