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Hello? Is this thing on? – The People Fighting Your Corner

publicRelations

It’s been a while! Too long, in fact. So it’s about time for another article, methinks

This time, I’m going to try and shine a light on the weird and wonderful world of PR (or Public Relations in layman’s terms).

For those of you who don’t know, these are the lovely people that will be sending your music out to the world to get you as much profile, and radio play as they can, as well as loads of interviews, TV spots, and features as they can, and they can be split up into these rather broad categories:

  • Print
  • Online
  • Radio
  • Club

Print

The print PR team are going to spend their time targeting magazines and newspapers, ranging from being featured in their Albums/Singles of the Week to reviews, features, Q&A’s and more. Traditionally, these guys will also be writing up your press releases (I wrote previously about these devious documents here) and even biographies on occasions. Print is where most of your press would have come from in the old days, but with blogs and online editions starting to take over, this is less true, though still massively important. If successful, and I say ‘if’, because  PR can work day and night at times to make the project big but seemingly hit a brick wall, this is also where your quotes will come from for posters, product stickers, adverts and more.

Print press is the grandfather of PR in the music industry, and is continually merging with online going forwards as more magazines and websites increase and improve their web presence, which leads quite nicely to…

Online

 …Online PR (Pretty sure I’m breaking a lot of grammar rules using an ellipsis to bridge paragraphs but hey, that’s why I work for a label and not PR!). This is now arguably as important as print, if not more in the modern game. I say that because blogs are now the heart and soul of new music and main tool for breaking it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it costs a magazine or newspaper to print an article in its physical form. The only cost of putting a review or feature on a website is bandwidth, the writer and whoever they pay to maintain the website, so as a rule they are much more susceptible to putting things up for you, given the amount of content uploaded in a day. This isn’t a make or break type scenario, but just an opinion of mine – you take what you want from it. It’s also a damn sight easier to get people to listen to your music on a website, with a Soundcloud link for example, than an article telling them the music is available to buy. That’s not to say they won’t go and seek it out at the record shop or iTunes, but think about it – one click of a Soundcloud/Youtube embed versus trawling through iTunes to find it themselves. This is probably a good time to note that PEOPLE ARE LAZY. Shove it in their face and make it as easy as possible and you’ll find more people will engage. Don’t believe me? Think about how you surf the web/read magazines and you should be able to answer me.

Radio

Radio can make or break a campaign. If you get loads of radio play across lots of a stations, then great! It gives you something to talk about and also gets the tunes out to more ears. If you get a few plays across a few stations, that’s good. Something, at the end of the day, is better than nothing. When you end up getting little to no plays, it makes the whole campaign a lot harder. After all, where else do you expect to hear new music? Traditionally that is, don’t forget how strong online is now, with iPhones, Galaxy phones the size of a dinner tray and tablets that make you try and remember why you ever had that giant, windows ‘95 computer tower decades ago. I digress. Radio PR teams will go and talk to presenters and producers (usually producers) and harass them until either they play your tunes on air or get removed from the building. They pitch to get you into playlists.

Now, for those of you that don’t know radio stations usually have a set of playlists, from which they make up the majority of the music in their shows. It usually consists of;

  • The ‘A’ Playlist – Big stars, super popular tracks (Adele, Beyonce, 1D and the like).
  • The ‘B’ Playlist – Tracks that are popular, but not quite at A-list status yet
  • The ‘C’ Playlist – you get the idea by now, right?
  • The ‘Specialist’ Playlist – This is where the tracks that don’t quite fit the mould sit, like big tracks that aren’t ‘pop’

This applies to most commercial stations, BBC Radio 1 & 2 and more online stations too. Just switch the genre up depending on the station. Presenters usually get one or 2 free plays, which are usually tracks of their own choice they can slot in once in a while.

As well as trying to get the recorded track on the air, they’ll try and get you in to talk, co-host where possible or go on and play a track. Be prepared to sit around for a long time to then play 2 songs, say 4 lines then leave. You’re at the mercy of scheduling, remember this. Especially live.

Club

The mystical and baffling world of club promo. Now as a rule this does not usually apply to traditional bands, it’s always been for electronic music really. House, D’n’B, Trip-Hop, Glitch Funk and Mooba-core. They’ll take your package of tracks and send it out to scores of DJ’s, both radio and live, to try and get them to play it. You often get loads of feedback from them about what they think of it but it’s incredibly difficult to track this back into sales. Get a review in a paper, have a website premier a single or have BBC 6 Music play your track, and it’s very easy to track and analyse just how effective it has been, be it new Facebook ‘Likes’ or 500 people buying your single. Club promo is almost under the radar in some ways. It puts the tracks in the hands of a select few people, nudges them to drop it into their set at XOYO or Plan B, hoping that the crowd goes wild and then goes off in search of just what the hell track it was. And there is your issue. Radio, print, online, all say what the track is, who it was by etc. In the club, you’ve either got to ask the DJ (If he/she’s not holed up in his/her booth), pray your ‘in the know’ club buddy knows the track or you can get close enough to a speaker to Shazam the track without overloading your phone’s microphone. A double-edged sword, but if you get the right DJ behind a track and they pioneer it, you’re onto a winner.

Now, I would advise all of you to read this as it is. I work with PR through a label, not for a PR company. This is just my words and thoughts and a little insight into how I see it working, as well as some generalisations and opinions I read in ‘Music Week’ from time to time. Do your own research. Approach a PR company and see what they think of your tunes. Get them to pitch you their opinion of how they could work your track and where they think is a good place for it.

This is also a work in progress. Undoubtedly I’ve missed things that I know but don’t remember that I know. Pop a question in the box below and I’ll do my best to answer it. In fact, here’s a link to my previous articles. Read them and ask me questions. I started writing these blogs to try and give an insight and some help, so help me do that by picking my brain.

By Luke Crook

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