This is one I haven’t tackled in a while so I figure it’s worth circling back around on it. Your band basically needs PR and needs to prioritize it over most other marketing expenses for your band. If your band puts out a record, but no one pays attention to it does it really count as a release? Yeah, I didn’t think so. What it really comes down to is that you want people to be writing about your music. You want publications to be posting it. You want there to be some level of traction, of attention being generated around what you are trying to do. These things don’t happen on their own. So many bands seem to think that there are journalists trawling new releases on Bandcamp and Spotify looking for things to cover. There are literally hundreds of metal records coming out every week and so many of them don’t even do the slightest bit to promote. If you miss this basic step then you’re wasting your time.
1. How music PR works
To kind of get a grip on what I’m talking about here you need to understand how music journalism works. This is pulled from my years at Metal Injection among other publications. Essentially, the music journalist is sent records by PR companies, often getting hundreds of emails a week. It’s their task to sift through and decide which of these records they want to write a review of. Music journalists also get emails from random bands soliciting reviews. Some of these emails are nicely put together, the vast majority are poorly formatted and mean that a lot of journalists, myself included, ignore unsolicited review requests from bands they don’t know. It simply isn’t worth the time when there are countless PR guys they have real relationships with who they can help instead.
2. It’s all about the relationship
So, the real takeaway here is that it is all about the relationship you have with the publications. Like I said – these publications are getting drowned in hundreds of requests and basically filter by bands they already know and people they have a relationship with. It’s really that simple. So, who do you think is going to have the better relationship. The PR guy who works on a hundred or more records a year, or you who is putting out a record once every two years? When it comes down to it that’s where your focus needs to be, finding out who has the best relationships. Sure, you can build a lot of these relationships yourself, but it’s hard to penetrate the noise of the dozens of PR people who are trying to work with individual journalists. It’s also important to make sure that the PR person you hire has relationships with the specific types of publications you are trying to get into which is especially relevant in metal.
3. It’s a question of supply and demand
You may be starting to realize that music journalism, like pretty much everything else in the world, is a question of supply and demand. There is a very limited supply of coverage and a huge amount of bands trying to get coverage. It’s this reason why your band with 700 likes is not going to get coverage in some of the big sites just because you think your record is good. Those sites simply are in too high demand to cover something small like that when they can partner with someone bigger and can get a lot more traction out of it. If what you are supplying (That is to say, your record) can’t be proven to be the best thing to review that day, be it through your PR persons connections, the quality of your music or your bands’ name, then it’s not going to get reviewed. Once you understand it’s a question of how much sheer content a music journalist can pump out it becomes a lot more clear why your random band isn’t going to get PR just because you put something out.
4. Watch out for dollar store PR
Just as a final point before I let you go here – watch out for dollar store PR. This is a huge problem for a ton of bands out there. They understand why they need PR and the value that but they go for the cheapest option. The thing is, the people who are charging thirty bucks for coverage probably aren’t doing the best job – and in fact, if you go with anyone under a hundred dollars or so you’re probably actually actively hurting yourself. Why? Because you’re associating with PR people who are disliked by the journalists since they tend to spam whatever shitty bands. So even if you go do PR again of your own volition you are tainted. Again, I know it sounds crazy, but in a world where journos are getting hundreds of promos a week, they need some way to sort through all of the noise.
Long story short – PR is essential if you want any sort of attention directed at your band. Journalists aren’t usually just writing about random acts or providing coverage just for coverage’s sake. You need to be showing why you deserve it and what differentiates you from your peers in the field. I know that it sucks to hear that there is yet another expense that your band needs to pay, but that’s the world we live in. If you are willing to embrace the PR world then you will get merited coverage and start to grow piece by piece, even if it takes a few campaigns. If you ignore it then people are just going to ignore you. It’s as simple as that.
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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