Here’s something a lot of people don’t want to hear about PR. It’s a cumulative thing. Your first PR campaign isn’t going to have huge results. You are going to need to build up to that. You can get a good publicist and they can definitely help you kick start things, but if there is no history there is a relatively limited amount that they can do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get PR for your first release, you absolutely should, but you need to be realistic. There’s a few key things to learn about how journalists operate which is going to be able to help you take a more long them view on this whole thing and eventually grow your brand in a way that is not only actionable but also legitimately healthy over an extended period. Focusing on that 10 year plan rather than a flash in the pan is going to help stimulate growth in ways you can’t even imagine.
So to understand PR you need to look at it from the journalists perspective. The journalist doesn’t want to feel like they are missing out on anything special so they should be incentivized to really get into whatever artist the PR person is talking about. Of course the PR person is working with dozens of artists at any one time so the whole thing is a little bit tricky. Simultaneously, journalists want to be read, people will read articles about bands they are about. Peole very rarely go out and read blogs to find out about bands they have never heard of. I know that’s counterintuitive but that’s how things work. A Metallica review will get more views than a Subrosa review, yes, even on your favorite cute little tastemaker site. There are ways around this with Hypemachine for example, but that only really works for certain genres. A lot of bloggers don’t operate in that world, making this whole thing even harder.
It stands to reason then that if you already have been written about in B level blogs then people who write for A level blogs are going to start taking notice. A lot of those A level journalists read the smaller stuff and are very supportive of it. If they see something getting love then it will get traction with them. There’s a reason so many press releases will use quotes from other blogs, they are trying to suggest that other tastemakers already dig what’s going on and it’s up to this journalist to become a part of that trend or have to deal with the shame of being uncool. This is, admittedly not always an easy task, which is why you need to pay good PR people who know what’s going on. Otherwise you just find yourself with nothing going on. This also is part of why you can’t get really good PR for one record and budget PR for the next, the budget PR guy isn’t going to be able to capitalize on those relationships, unless they are THAT fucking good.
The other thing to be aware of is that some higher level PR people simply are not going to take you on if you don’t have at least a few pieces of press on you already. This is for a variety of reasons. On the one hand it can be just to show that you are serious. On the other it can be because they want some sort of jumping off point. They don’t want to be wholly responsible for everything all the time. Ya feel? They want to have a band who at least a modicum of a reputation because that makes things easier and saves them from a lot of the usual breaking ground stuff that a PR person has to do for their first campaign. They only want to deal with serious people, it’s like a good producer, there is only so much that can be done. When it comes down to it, they don’t want to expend their relationships on bullshit bands that they have to beg people to cover and who might end up getting made fun of anyway. That’s how this works.
PR, like anything else in the music industry is a question of developing trusting relationships and not pushing yourself too far too fast. You want people to trust you and to think that your bands are good if you’re doing PR. You want people to affiliate your brand with the music they love. You can’t do that by signing on bands who have never worked with PR before and who you have no guarantee aren’t going to fuck up relationships when things aren’t exactly going their way. You as a band need to build up some trust capital. PR people are the most hired folks in the music industry and the most likely to get in with a band on the ground floor. This can be really cool for everyone involved, but it also means that PR people have seen all manner of bullshit and this can be a huge issue because they want to be able to keep making a living.
So yeah, don’t expect the sun, the moon and the stars your first time out. Don’t use that as an excuse for bargain basement PR though, you still need to do your research and try and find something that both makes sense financially and is going to act as an active driver for whatever it is you are trying to create. There are no gods and no masters in this world, so it’s up to us to find a path forward, a lot of this is going to involve research and keeping realistic time frames. I know that’s not something you want to hear, and I know it sucks, but such is the way of the world. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.