Have you ever worked tirelessly on a new song, only to have it totally flop?
Or maybe you’ve spent thousands on an album, only to have the buzz die out about a day after the release?
And really, is there anything more disappointing than releasing a piece of music and feeling like no one cares? It’s incredibly discouraging!
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret—9 times out of 10, it isn’t because the music sucked. It probably isn’t even just because of the social media algorithm being against you. Instead, it has everything to do with your PR and marketing strategy—or should I say, lack of.
You see, for some reason, PR just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I get it, it’s not as sexy and exciting as boosting stream numbers, or a licensing deal, or all that super shiny, high tech equipment in a recording studio. It’s not tangible in the same way a new guitar you just spent 1k on might be. But I can tell you without a doubt it is the missing piece to your release plan. And if you’re reading this—I have a feelin you already know that.
So if you want to avoid having another flop of a release in the future, take these tips to heart.
Step 1: Network your butt off
This is really an ongoing thing, but if you want to have any hope of getting your music out there, you have got to start networking like, yesterday. This is even more true if you plan to do your own PR campaign rather than hiring a publicist. You need to start making connections with:
- Fans (new and old)
- Industry (managers, booking agents, venue owners, etc. Even if you aren’t ready to act on any of these things, start establishing a connection)
- Other artists
There is a myriad of ways to do this, many of which we talk about in this article, but a couple of my favorites to start you off:
- Social Media groups. These are a mecca for connecting with fans and especially industry. There are a ton of amazing ones out there that are filled with people longing to make genuine connections. Aim for those, not the ones where you just spam your music to an annoyed audience.
When you’re making connections, make it more about the other person than you. Don’t just virtually walk up to them and say “hey, want to listen to my music?” or “want to help me do x?” They don’t know you from a hole in the wall, why would they want to take time out of their day to help you? Would you want to help someone who said that to you? No of course not!
Instead, build a genuine connection. I suggest focusing on areas of interest outside your music, as that’s where the real bonding happens. For instance, do you both love bbq? Have you both been to Iceland? Social media is your friend here—get to know their interests and then bridge that gap.
- Know who you want to connect with, so that you can create a plan for doing so. For instance, is there a certain playlist you want to be on? A certain blog? Which writer would be best for your music? Plan ahead a little.
Step 2: Have a solid marketing plan in place
PR and marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. In an ideal world, the two work in perfect harmony and make each other stronger. So when you’re putting together your PR campaign, I suggest having a marketing strategy in place as well.
When I say marketing, I mean things like:
- Paid ads
- Contests you can run with your fans
- How you’ll show up on social media, your email list, a tour, live shows, virtual shows, etc
- How you’ll creatively capture their attention in all of the above ways
Then, weave the two together. For instance, if your album is about heartbreak that compelled you to travel the world for four months, that’s a good story! You can then use that story for not only features and interviews in music, travel, and lifestyle blogs and podcasts, but perhaps you also create a fan-made lyric video for one of the songs where they share their travel videos and photos and the whole thing becomes a collaborative experience, that you then turn around and pitch right back to blogs, podcasts, etc. See? Perfect harmony!
Step 3: Create your media list
Next up is to put together your media list. This is the list of places you’d like to feature you. Now, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but unless you’re already a pretty big deal, you’re going to want to start with some smaller outlets. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t later reach out to major outlets, but if you’re fairly new, and are doing your own campaign, and don’t have a ton of existing clout or connections, start with smaller outlets and work your way out. There are a myriad of reasons small outlets are actually better in a lot of ways, including that they tend to write lengthier, more in depth pieces, promote harder to their audience, and their audience is insanely loyal but that’s for another article.
I suggest finding outlets by googling similar size/genre bands that have had some success and seeing where they’ve been featured, as well as using some of the popular submission sites to find blogs. Note, I actually don’t recommend submitting through those sites—personal outreach is where it’s at and those sites take that ability away—but they are a great place for research.
Step 4: Whip up the perfect pitch
This is where it all comes together! Creating the perfect pitch is key to a successful campaign. There are few tried and true tips, and you can grab a template of the pitch I’ve used to secure my artists top tier placements at the link in my bio below, but here are a few things you need to know:
- Make it personal. Always pitch a specific writer (rather than an info@email) and make the email personal to them. For instance, compliment a piece of recent writing. As with our networking tips above, make this genuine.
- Keep it short but sweet. Tell me who you are, what you want, and why I should care, and then drop your links and send it.
- Seriously, don’t forget the links! But also, don’t include every link imaginable. A link to your music and website or main social platform, plus your EPK is plenty.
- Do not attach anything to the email. Ever. Link to a Google Drive or Dropbox or OneSheet for your EPK but never attach directly to the email.
Step 5: Follow up
Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up. Emails get lost, people get busy, and ultimately your emails go unanswered. But it isn’t always personal—sometimes they just never see it! My rule here is follow up after the first pitch 3-5 days later, and then if you must, a second time 5-7 days later. After that, it’s best to just let it be.
Bonus tip: Use a free service to track email opens so you can see who is opening and clicking your music, to better track your results and follow up methods.
And that’s it! Knowing how to run your own PR campaign is one of the most powerful and rewarding skills you can have as an artist. It means having the power to get in front of the masses, tell your story, and get more eyes and ears on your music—now who wouldn’t want that?
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.