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

Creatabot Conversations: Music – 25th July 2012 – Rochester

What turned out to be an invite to a few people to come to coFWD to see the space has turned into something much more interesting. There are now a number of people coming to coFWD on Wednesday to have a look at the space – and they all have one thing in common – making music. 

Having spoken to various people recently about possibilities and needs in Kent, Medway is quickly becoming a place bubbling with inspiration and like minds who want to create and collaborate. 

If you would love to meet other musical creatives and discuss where there are needs and also help others find out about things they maybe didn’t know, then we would love to see you Wednesday: to indeed see coFWD but also to have a nice relaxed (emphasis on RELAXED) afternoon to chat about creativity, collaboration and ideas.

We would love there to be a wide mix of people attend such as:

Songwriters
Singers
Musicians
Photographers
Gig organisers
Music Video Producers
Record Labels
Social Media peeps
Web designers
Illustrators

Place – 161 Rochester High Street – ME1 1EH

Time – 3.00pm until 5.00pm

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/296198113812612/

For more details email: natasha@creatabot.co.uk

#creatabotconversations

Please note, our venue (http://coFWD.org/) is a very old bank building that is being slowly shaped by a community of individuals for long-term Community Interest. Sadly the startup project is in its infancy and being run on limited funds so the building currently has some accessibility issues. If you have specific access or disability requirements and would like to attend an event or activity please let us know at least 5 days before the event date so that we can do our utmost to resolve any potential problems to accommodate.”

This reason for the above is two fold:

1. by law we (coFWD/161/CreativeMedwayCiC) are required to make any ‘publicly promoted’ events or activity accessible to all and failure to be ‘accessible’ or not provide advanced notice of building/space accessibility limitations will likely land us in trouble.

2. it is very important that all of our events are measured for capacity and that we know who is coming to or has been through our doors, this is important for safety and security, and it also means the person running such activities can easily update participants of any changes or additional correspondence.

Area: South East

Working For An Indie Record Label – Part 3 : Pitching To A Record Label

So, we’ve covered a few bits about the thought process that goes into getting a record onto iTunes and into shops and also sourcing and producing artwork for the release.

Next up, I want to touch on Press Releases and Biographies. Record labels receive bucket loads of these together with a CD attached. Some are good. Some are ok. Some are downright awful!

Now, for those of you that don’t know, a Press Release is a piece of paper that contains a brief overview of the release you are trying to push out to media or radio or labels. Every release we do at the label has a press release to go with it, telling whoever reads it about the release, collaborators, interesting facts and angles, and also a little bit about the band too. Traditionally these are usually written up by the Print (Magazines/Newspapers) PR company you have on board to work the release. Throw a photo in if you like and you’re sorted.

A Biography is just that. A history of the band or act written by someone else. A page long should suffice, but obviously it all depends on how long the subjects of it have been going. Be honest, big yourself up and try and get someone outside of the band to write it. An impartial biography reads much better than a fan boy one.

Of course, if you’re signed to a label or management, then you don’t really need to worry about this, as someone else will be writing all these up for you. However, if like most of the examples I receive you’re unsigned and doing it yourselves, here are a few pointers for you, from what I’ve seen.

Press Releases/Biog

  • Keep them to the point. By all means, shout to the heavens about your achievements; you’ve got every right. Just don’t waffle. Lots of indie labels run small crews, so a 4 page copy about your band is not a smart move. Keep the meat of your text somewhere on your website or Facebook page where someone can find it, and make your press release interesting so people want to find out more.
  • Appearance and presentation. Humans make first impressions on another person in under a second or something ridiculous like that. Same theory applies when you submit your info to a label. I have received a press release written in crayon (by what appeared to be a 4 year old) on lined Winnie The Pooh paper (I think) with cut outs of the bands photos thrown in for good measure. Arty, yes. Easy to read, No. By all means be inventive and creative. You want to stand out. Just don’t make it difficult to read. The best one I have seen had a brief hand written hello, press release, a biography and upcoming gig dates with a sticker, a CD and some badges.
  • If you can afford to or you think it might help, throw in a few gig tickets. Personally, I will always try to at least make it to the show if someone sends some tickets through the post to us about their band. I’m a musician, and tickets are income. So if they’re prepared to lose £12 and send a few tickets through, I personally am more likely to go and watch. It’s a nice gesture.
  • Emails. We live in a digital age. However, here are a few tips for you guys sending links about over email…
    • DON’T ATTACH YOUR MUSIC FILES TO THE EMAIL! Trying to download 45.3MB of attachments is not only annoying; it slows down receiving the rest of your emails. Link to your Soundcloud/Band Camp/Myspace.
    • Write a bit more than “Hey, listen to my band. Thanks, J. Bloggs”. Throw a bit of your bio in, leave a few links to music and gigs and videos. Don’t drown the email with words, but give us some assets.
    • This is an important one. Don’t, for love of all that is good and tasty in the world, paste 300 email addresses into your “To:” or “CC:” section. Use BCC, A.K.A. Blind Copy. It sends the email to everyone, but the recipients don’t see the 299 other labels you’ve sent your band to. Personalization is key here. Talk to us directly, not a blanket “Hi guys…”.

I hope this helps you guys out when it comes to trying to pimp your band out to labels or management. I will leave you with one, final piece of advice.

Know what label you are sending music to. Sunday Best are traditionally Leftfield, Hip-Hop, Dance, and Indie with bands like Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Dub Pistols, Max Sedgley, and Beardyman. For example, the death metal band who sent me a CD of music for our consideration, I enjoyed. Next time though, send it to Earache or Nuclear Blast, you might get a better response. KNOW YOUR TARGET!

By Luke Crook

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