Should you pay for music promotion? This question is a little misleading. Before we answer it, we should divide music promotion into two different categories:
- Music PR companies that run PR campaigns
- Promotional opportunities, such as advertising/comp CDs/fly posters and so on
Now, let's consider the other promotional opportunities. Of course, you have to pay for ad space, printing costs, design costs and other concrete services. Other opportunities are not so easy to call. What about a a label that wants you to pay to have a song on a comp? What about a company that wants you to pay to have your song included in an internet video/TV show/etc? What about someone that wants you to pay for a showcase gig?
As a general rule of thumb, you should never pay for intangible exposure. If you buy an ad in a magazine, then you know exactly what you are getting, what it will look like, what the circulation of the magazine is like and what the audience of the magazine is. When someone asks you to pay for a chance to play at a showcase gig, you have no guarantee as to what you're getting. It is a less effective use of your money, no matter how much someone promises you they can put you in front of label execs.
When you are figuring out your music promotion budget, keep in mind that no legitimate company in the music business is going to ask you to pay for featuring your music on a comp or in a video or any other source. That's akin to the proverbial model photo shoot scam, where the so called "model" is charged tons of money to take portfolio photos, only to never work again. Make sure you always understand exactly what you are paying for when you're paying for your music promotion.