So, you've got a new album, a tour or some other music related project to promote. Wherever to be begin? The idea of running a music promotion campaign strikes fear in the heart of many, but really, you have more power to promote your own music than you may think. Some good planning, persistence, and a healthy dose of patience are all that are required.
Whether you're a musician promoting your own project, a label doing in-house promotion of their releases or a budding PR pro, follow these five steps to put together a winning promotional push.
1. Know Your Aim
A rookie mistake in music PR is not clearly defining what exactly is being promoted. Vague notions of promoting "the band" lead to vague campaigns that won't click with the journalists, radio producers and others you'll need to court while promoting your work.
Naturally, the overall goal of any PR campaign is to garner more general recognition of the artists involved, but achieve THAT goal by having another smaller, more tangible one. In other words, plan a PR campaign around a new release, a concert, an album launch party - anything specific that gives your campaign a focus.
Music PR campaigns can also be drawn up around a piece of a news. For instance, if a musician wins an award, completes a successful Kickstarter campaign or does something else of significance, a press push with the news can help keep awareness of the band high while giving your music campaign a defined purpose.
Your music promotion campaign will be dead in the water with bad press contacts. Don't count on building a list as you go - it will only slow you down, and as we'll discuss in a moment, timing is everything.
If you don't have a press database, put one together before you go any further. Although you can purchase databases from some PR companies, you can easily build your own with an afternoon on Google and your cell phone. Take a spreadsheet and fill it with the name of the publications/stations/etc. that you're targeting, the main contact there, contact information and special info, like how they prefer promos, publishing dates and so on. If you already have a press database, update it now. Make sure you still have all the right names, email addresses, phone numbers and other info.
Having a solid press database saves you time and money, since you don't waste promos (if you're sending physical copies), postage and sent box space on bad contacts. Another bonus of pre-building your press database? Doing so forces you to decide who you're going to target with during your campaign, which means your campaign will be easier to manage.
Your press release is your promo campaign's calling card. There are a few rules of thumbs to keep in mind when penning these important docs. For starters, keep it short and sweet. Try not to go longer than one page. Even if you feel like you're not getting every detail in there, better to err on the short side than to compose the press release equivalent of War and Peace - you'll scare your target audience away.
The flipside is that you want a press release to include all of the relevant info a journalist would require to write a story about whatever you're promoting without having to pick up the phone and call you. That means you can approach writing your press release like writing a news story. You need the who, what, where, when, how and a tiny bit of why (space permitting). Of course you should leave the door open for a member of the media to contact you for more info or to set up an interview, but don't make it required for them to do so just to get a story out of your release.
You can learn much more about writing press releases in Press Releases 101.
As mentioned, timing is EVERYTHING in PR. To have a good shot at getting as much media coverage as possible, it's ideal to start promoting things six to eight weeks prior to the release date/show. "Ideal" doesn't mean "perfect," however - timing PR campaigns is an art, not a science. To get the best possible outcome, combine the six-to-eight week rule of thumb with knowledge of publication print dates. Some magazines have a lead time of two months, meaning you need to have your stuff to them way before six weeks prior to release. Some papers can turn things around in a week. Know how people work so you can target them effectively. If you call up publications, they can give you this info.
In addition to print dates, consider what else is going on the in world of music when you do your push. Christmas is almost exclusively major label territory - they save up their big releases for this time of year, and big releases demand column inches. January/February are indie friendly. Consider the release schedule and touring schedules of similar artists so you don't compete for the same press. Although you can't always avoid ALL competition, a bit of clever timing can result in bigger results.
5. Do The Mailing
I know, I know - this is the obvious part, right? In some ways, it can be the hardest part to complete. The separating of the email list from the hard copy mailing list. The envelope stuffing. The personal messages. This time consuming process is easy to put off until tomorrow, until tomorrow, until tomorrow - until, oops!
Get that mail out done, all in one day, and draw a line under it. You'll find it's easier to track and easier to manage if you force yourself to do it one go.
If you don't have an established relationship with members of the media, don't necessarily expect your phone to start ringing once your music arrives. In fact, you may have to follow-up a few times to even get a response. That's OK. It doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. That's part of game - and next time, it will be much easier.
Take the long term view with your PR campaign and settle into the fact that responses are unlikely to be instantaneous. Successful PR campaigns take time, but don't give up on your work. Stay the course, and you'll get those results!