Music Industry, the DIY Version: Part 2 — Press
In the first part of this series, we talked about the five verticals of the music industry as told by Pat Corcoran. Those are: booking, press, business management, legal, and management. Booking is a fairly simple idea, if difficult to do: you find a venue or a show, and you play there. In some ways, press isn’t much different. You find a blog, and you try to get your music posted. However, press has a lot of nuance to it — Tyler, the Creator knows.
When Pat talked about press, he was referring more to the PR aspect. That’s because PR (public relations, if you didn’t know) is the only primary job of the press vertical. They will intersect with the other verticals more than any other, though. The press part of your team is responsible for finding your brand, and communicating. Like Pat said, it’s easy for some teams.
Chance’s PR team doesn’t have to work too hard, because his personality shines through everywhere, and he’s overflowing with positivity. Other teams might have to work a little harder. It’s hard to imagine Kanye having a PR team of any substance (in fact, he doesn’t do press), and CollegeHumor summed up pretty well what it must be like to work PR for Chris Brown.
We can’t all have Chance’s natural charisma, but we haven’t all beat Rihanna, either. Here’s Press, the DIY Version.
What Does a Press Team Do?
A press team comes in to sizes: you can have a team of people behind you (a PR agency), or a one man band (a PR agent, or publicist). For most musicians, one person will be enough, though they may work with a team. A record label may have a publicist for one artist, but they will work in conjunction with the publicists for other artists.
A PR agency is not in the business of advertising, or even marketing. Robert Wayne, a PR agent, told the world this in a Forbes article, “A PR agency […] promote companies or individuals via editorial coverage.” In simpler terms, a PR agency is in charge of getting you on the radio, on blogs, and on the cover of magazines. (Yes, people still read magazines.)
Of course, that’s not all. A PR team should be aggressively searching to get an artist covered, staying on top of editorial trends, and firing off emails to influences of all kinds. They will make constant changes to the plan to reflect changes in the artist. They will also anticipate public perception of an artist and their actions and help to shape the correct narrative, or help to clean up after something has come out. They might help you to keep fans when it comes out that you’ve beat Rihanna, had sex with a minor, or are on trial again for domestic abuse and several cases of witness tampering. Then again, that shouldn’t be hard considering no one seems to care about those things in 2018.
How Much Will a PR Team Cost?
The good news is that you typically hire a PR team for only a short period of time. In music, most PR is done surrounding the release of an album, a tour, etc. You might hire a PR team for 3 or 4 months a year, and do it yourself the rest of the time.
The bad news is hiring a PR team can be expensive. Exact numbers are hard to give because there’s a lot of variables with PR work. Are you already getting press? Have you done something press-worthy? If you’re considering it, your best bet would be to get a quote from a few agencies, but expect to pay between $1,000 and $10,000 a month.
(The last time I got a quote from a PR agency it was, “A cynic is only a frustrated optimist.” It wasn’t much use, but the other half of the card taught me how to say “grandmother” in Mandarin.)
When Should I Get Someone Else to Do My Press?
This is tough to answer. The simplest way to go would be, “as soon as possible.” Press is such a powerful tool in marketing music and creating a brand image that it’s worth spending the money for it as soon as you can. That said, if you’re making enough money from music to pay for press already, you may be able to skip it for a little while. We live in an amazing age for marketing, and there’s plenty of ways to take advantage. If you have a manager, talk to them about it. If you’re managing yourself or someone else, go with your gut, but also look for consultation. You can window shop PR agencies without truly having the intent to buy.
How Do I Get a PR Team?
Googling and payment. If there’s someone you see a lot on blogs you care about, look into who they’re using. Search ““hip-hop” + “PR agency”” in Google. Talk to people who are on or right above your level. Find an agency, talk with a few, and pay them money.
What Does a Good PR Team Look Like?
If you can’t find a team with prior PR success, you want a team or agent with experience in the editorial world, and in marketing. Someone who knows what your goals are, and can figure out why you’d appeal to the press. You’ll also want reliability, though that’s true in all of these cases. You’re trusting your PR team with an important part of your business, so look for someone you know will report to you.
How Can I Be My Own Press Team?
Okay. This is the fun part. This is the one part of these five articles I feel truly qualified for. See, I’ve written about some rappers in the past, mostly doing interviews. My colleagues at Inverse Culture dabble in it, too. (I personally like this article a lot.) I know what makes the press tick.
The first thing you should do when looking to be your own press team is create an electronic press kit, or EPK. Now you know a cool music industry word you can tell all your friends. It would be redundant to tell you how to make an EPK. If you Google the term, you’ll find roughly 651681651321 guides. SonicBids has your back.
Now that you’ve got that ready to go, start looking for publications that might be interested. If there’s a submission form or email, use that. If there isn’t do a little digging around — you’ll find an editor to get a hold of eventually. Email them and tell them your story, send them your song, and give them some photos to use. If the publication has a comments section, get active there. People love it when you post, “HEY CAN YOU REVEIW MY MUSIK.” No, but seriously. Make your name known by interacting with the publication and their content. You might not get on Rolling Stone this way, but you might get in a smaller publication.
You’re going to go through the soul crushing, Tyler, the Creator-like defeat stage after this. That’s good. It’s necessary for growth. What you need to understand about the press is they need a reason to cover you. The reason Russ was left out wasn’t because every publication hated him, but because they had nothing to gain — there was no story there.
It’s time to deploy self-awareness, and ask yourself if you’re truly worth writing about. Why would a publication talk about you? Here’s a few things at least one person just thought that are not truly self-aware:
“Because the music is the greatest.” No, it isn’t.
“Because the music is great.” Maybe it is, but I doubt it.
“The music is good.” There are a lot of people who make good music, and they all sent the same email.
“I’m different from everyone else.” Is the way you’re different different?
You might also think that they don’t want to talk about you because you’re “counter culture,” “underground,” or “they hate me.” Publications don’t hate you, and, for many, underground is what they’re about. You need to do these two things:
Pitch the right publication. If you’re a trap artist, but you’re pitching to “OldHeads.net,” they don’t care. It will take time to find the right blogs, but if you’re not putting in work, don’t expect results.
Do something interesting. Be interesting. Be worth writing about. Look at BROCKHAMPTON. That was a group destined for Viceland. They’re a hip-hop boy band, with 14 members, who put out 3 albums in just over 6 months. That’s a headline. You shouldn’t force it, but you should start brainstorming now.