A good friend of mine posted a Facebook status the other day asking, “Since when did everyone and their mothers own a music promotion company?” This after all is an excellent question. With all of my music writing gigs around the webernets I get hundreds of records a week in my inbox and it feels like every few days a new PR company is getting in touch with me, not to mention all the bands hitting me up on a regular basis. So yeah, we have to eventually ask “Why ARE there so may PR companies?” and perhaps more importantly “What does this mean for your band?” because with a glut of PR companies there is going to be a lot more to worry about.
First, I think its important to address why there are so many PR companies out there. Nowadays there are more easy to use resources available than ever. Companies like Haulix and Mailchimp make it easy to send out hundreds of emails with everything a writer could need with just one click. You don’t even have to do the massive manual entering of addresses anymore. You have your database and you send away. That’s it. The point being, now more than ever when you are paying a promoter you are paying for their personal promo list and their personal contacts. Because PR companies aren’t sending anything concrete anymore (IE: CD’s, etc) it’s easier than ever to ignore them, that’s why you need a good PR person.
Now more than ever good PR relies on cultivating personal relationships. In fact most of what I write about comes from just a handful of labels and promoters who have actually gone through the bother of helping to cultivate a relationship with me. This isn’t because I’m a snob but rather because I have limited time and want to go with people I know and trust. The folks who just reply “Thanks.” aren’t winning themselves any favors, but the ones who have me as a Facebook friend and chat with me periodically get more attention. (I wonder why?) Before hiring a PR person you need to check if they have these kinds of relationships with writers. There’s a whole bunch of journalists who only want to produce fluff these days and who will just copy the press release wholesale, and while that’s good for your SEO it’s obviously better if you can get real writers generating real content about your work. Otherwise you’ll get cast aside as ‘just another stupid band’.
Note that just because you get with a good PR company doesn’t guarantee results, and getting with a bad one doesn’t mean that you will get nothing. While IMP is unique because you actually do get guaranteed results (And go well above and beyond the call of duty) many other PR companies refuse to give even a ballpark estimate. In all honesty that doesn’t upset me too much when I’m looking at other PR companies because sometimes it’s just not realistic,. It all depends on how their business model works. PR is a tricky game, but you should remember, assuming you do your research usually you get what you pay for. Sometimes a several thousand dollar a month PR company doesn’t guarantee results because they would rather give you three results and have those results be Rolling Stone, Time and CNN rather than three hundred from tiny blogs across the internet.
The best way to research if a PR company is going to be right for you is to look at their previous clients and then message them on Facebook. Most of these folks realize that we are all in this together and are willing to help you out if you ask politely. Googling can help to, but don’t look for reviews as positive reviews are generally paid for and negative ones are usually written by crazy people. Instead you should look for how much press these sites got for their clients. Be sure to check the dates and make sure that the press came out over a sustained period of time. It’s also always good to scan over the articles and make sure they aren’t just copy-pasted press releases. Though that CAN help a band after a fashion, it is generally pretty useless.
PR is one of the trickiest things that every band will have to deal with. It can lead to you being skyrocketed to popularity or just give you a handful of essentially useless reviews. It’s easy to see these things in a vacuum so be sure to check on what sites your favorite musicians are getting featured in. You want PR campaign that target them and help to grow your name. But like I said, if that doesn’t happen for your first, or even second or third albums you shouldn’t worry – you just need to make sure that there is a slow build happening that will allow you to construct your own narrative and build a better future for your band.
At the end of the day, music PR is something that really shouldn’t be done by everybody. There are only so many talented writers who have an actual voice and no one is really going to care unless you can land placements on a handful of tastemaker sites. You need to make sure that whatever PR company you end up going with can reliably get you on some of these tastemaker sites and will help to grow your name in a way that will generate word of mouth press. There is no real advantage to being on hundreds of sites no one reads outside of it boosting you on Google. PR is essential and folks are starting to realize that – now you just need to be a savvy consumer and double check before spending your hard earned cash.