I know this can be a tricky one – I see metal bands struggling with it every day. Publicity is a nightmare and thousands of bands get ripped off every year. At the same time you can't really ignore it because with thousand of metal albums coming out every year if no one writes about your record then it will be ignored.
So what is a band to do? Here are five tips to consider before hiring somebody to do your publcity:
5. Be Willing To Shell Out
This is perhaps the most important thing to realize about music PR. If you pay less than $300 or so for a campaign then you ARE getting ripped off. My PR buddies refer to these companies as “bargain bin PR” and in my experience they will get next to no coverage for your band. At best you might get a handful of reviews from shitty websites written by guys who seem like they learned English from action movies. All these bargain bin PR's do is send your stuff to their mailing list a few times a month and call it a day. The real PR companies get out there and actively pitch to people. They cultivate relationships with countless press outlets so that when thy send out their records the press outlets perk up their ears. I don't think a lot of people in bands necessarily realize that relatively low level music writers like myself receive literally hundreds of albums a week. I'm highly unlikely to want to review a specific record unless I have a relationship with that particular PR rep or band. If your PR company isn't cultivating these relationships then you are wasting your money. This is why you need to…
4. Do Your Research
Just because you' are spending a lot of money on your PR doesn't mean that you are not getting ripped off. Before hiring PR you need to look at different options and evaluate their relevance to you. If you're a melodeath band you probably don't want to hire a PR company that focuses n black metal. You also want to look at the level of results these companies get. You don't want – for example – to spend all your money on a PR company that only gets most of their bands a few measly results. Try and find what PR companies are getting bands you like placed on sites you like. This is surprisingly easy to do – you just need to check out the Facebook pages of the bands who have the same sort of sound as you and who get the sort of placements you want to get. They usually list their PR companies in case an enterprising journalist wants to reach out to set up an interview.
3. Don't Expect The Sun, Moon and Stars, Especially Not The First Time
This is an important one. If you're starting from zero, have never really toured and never gotten PR before you need to assume that none of the press people out there have heard of you which makes them exponentially less likely to want to cover or discover you. You should be happy if you get placements on one of a few sites, like Metalsucks, Decibel or this one and then enjoy the smattering you might get in smaller publications. Sometimes you won't get to be in a major site – but that's just the way she goes. You need to realize that unless you're paying tens of thousands of dollars your first PR campaign isn't going to make your band famous – but it might just plant a seed that could lead to great things for you in the future. Being in any small name band is a step by step process and you gotta be careful as you march forward as a band.
2. Play An Active Role In Your Campaign
This is key. Oftentimes my PR buddies will complain about bands they work with dipping out for extended periods, not following up on emails, neglecting to show up to interviews, not answering basic questions from the PR person, or worst of all 'forgetting' to pay. These things all suck and make it hard for the PR person to want to work with you. They need you to be responsive and helpful, they can't do everything for you – you need to have an active role in this whole thing too. You need to follow up in a friendly way with your PR person to see if you can help out and work with them to create the best possible product. That being said – don't try and micromanage. Assuming you did your research and have your ducks in a row the PR person you paid is a professional PR person for a reason. They don't need you telling them how to do their jobs or whining to them because you didn't get the coverage you wanted. They are doing their best – I promise.
1. Use Your Campaign As Leverage
Like I said before – your PR campaign is in many ways just leverage. Odds are a Metal Injection article about your band isn't going to sell that many more tickets on your upcoming tour, but you can use it as part of a larger overall thing. You use a positive quote from Metal Injection to pitch yourself to venues. Maybe you take advantage of a piece on Decibel to reach out to a journalist you admire who said they might be able to talk when more people know who you are. Hell you can even use it as evidence for local bookers. PR I the sort of fulcrum upon which so much of this industry is based. That being said – you can't ONLY rely on PR. You need to add on to your PR campaign by being active on social media, sharing articles and playing some shows. Otherwise you will find yourself drowning out in the noise with all the other bands.
Attention unsigned bands: Metal Injection's ad network, Blast Beat, is currently in the midst of a promotion that will get you an ad on Metal Injection, MetalSucks, Decibel Magazine, Lambgoat and other top metal sites. The deal is $100 for 50,000 impressions spread over a month. More info here.