Music PR

Do You Really Want to Hire a Music PR Company?

Over the past two decades, dozens of my mastering clients have hired music PR companies to promote their music.

They always regret it, and always tell me the same thing:

“They didn’t do anything for me that I couldn’t have done for myself.”

Same goes for labels, by the way.

I’ve never been on a label, and the two radio promoters I’ve worked with both turned out to be scammers. Knowing what I know, why would I take a chance on a music PR company?

Two reasons:

First, the company I hired lives and breathes my genre, and works with some of the biggest names in it.

Second and most importantly, this article! I knew that even if the campaign was a total disaster, I’d at least be able to prevent others from making the same mistake.

So I forged ahead, paying roughly $2K for a two-month campaign to promote a double A-side release.

The contract I signed includes a confidentiality clause, so I’m not going to go into the specifics of my campaign, or even name the company. I think they did a solid job and I’d happily recommend them, but I understand why they’d rather keep the finer details between us.

UPDATE: They read the article and are totally fine with being mentioned! I worked with The Playground and would absolutely hire them again.

My Music PR Campaign Setup

My relationship with the PR team was very one-sided to begin with. I had homework to do, and plenty of it!

I uploaded assets to Google Drive, filled out a long questionnaire, and answered a series of stock questions for an interview that would later be posted on their site.

Next, we nailed down the press release, which was essentially a light rewrite of the bio I provided.

In retrospect, we should’ve worked harder on it. At the time, I didn’t realize that the vast majority of blog features would be a verbatim copy/paste of the press release.

Last but not least, I provided a spreadsheet of the various outlets that I routinely hit up. There was some overlap, and we double-teamed a handful of them, but for the most part, they solicited their contacts and I solicited mine.

My Music PR Campaign Results

Communication between myself and the PR team was near-constant, and they provided several progress reports. We worked closely to coordinate the premieres — three of them!

They were with Atwood Magazine, Clash Magazine, and Wonderland.

I could not have done this myself.

You may be wondering how we managed three premieres with two tracks. Wonderland called their feature a premiere a full two months after the track premiered in Atwood! I wasn’t going to complain.

Of course, the music PR company got me a lot more than those three features.

The songs received over three dozen plays on terrestrial and internet radio, a couple dozen more blog posts, and even a couple of YouTube features.

They reached out to big names like Pitchfork, Stereogum, NPR, Consequence of Sound, Brooklyn Vegan, and many, many more. Presumably if the songs were better or our pitch more interesting, the coverage would’ve scaled along with it.

My Music PR Campaign Conclusion

I’m satisfied with the campaign for the three big features alone. They make for great social proof on my About page and helped me establish credibility for my free CD campaign.

To be clear, this is no way to build a fanbase. I’ve never heard from anyone who discovered me on a blog or radio. Neither was there any clear return on my investment to help offset the cost.

On the other hand, the coverage could definitely improve my chances on Spotify, both with the recommendation engine and potentially with editorial placements.

It’s likely that if I continued to work with a music PR company, we could leverage these results into bigger coverage down the road. While it may not be fair to render a verdict on an entire industry based on a single two-month campaign, that’s all my budget allows for.

Have you ever hired a music PR company? Share your results in the comments!

Photo by Марьян Блан | @marjanblan on Unsplash

14 Comments

  1. Hi Brian! Would you say that this kind of service is good/worth it for a short little burst of activity periodically (for the social proof or other reason), or should it be undertaken as an ongoing relationship that will keep building up momentum and results the longer it is active (if so, it’s not affordable for most indie artists..). It sounds like its aim is awarenesses more than anything else (as you say, there is no actual fan/follower building), or do you think that this is this because it was only two months?

    1. Thanks for opening up the discussion Paula!

      Both of those use cases make sense to me. If you’re looking to put together a tour or just create a compelling EPK, quality press coverage goes long way. Even a short campaign might do the trick there.

      An ongoing relationship could snowball into bigger and bigger coverage, and could attract higher level labels, managers, booking agents, etc. Probably even some fan building over the long haul!

      1. If I had the money I would def go for the IndieX Agency over any other company, but they are also super selective in who they take on as well as requiring a 6 month commitment that costs substantially. As always, it boils down to having a budget that you can afford to spend without expecting any monetary return…

        Whilst I am here, I remember in one of your articles you had written about how to release singles then release an album with those tracks and link them to the singles – can you guide me to it please?! Thanks!

        1. To clarify, IndieX is NOT a PR company. In fact, there’s really no overlap between what IndieX does and a PR company does that I’m aware of.

          As for linking the album tracks to the singles, I don’t think I’ve written a dedicated article about that, but it’s pretty straightforward. If you use the same ISRC, which by definition means the same recording, Spotify should match the single version to the album version and show cumulative numbers. It can take a few days for it to appear correctly in Spotify for Artists.

  2. I’m about to release my fourth song. I’m still in the process of checking out PR companies. To be honest, i wonder if it’s worth it (these days)? I mean, i just have to continue what i’m doing and it will grow right? Hummmm maybe not lol! Or will take a hole lot more time to achieve my goals. On thing’s for sure, i don’t have the budget to work with one of them right now… So i’ll stick to my plan!

  3. As always, I appreciate your work Brian both as an artist and as a blogger/educator for working artists like myself. I’ve been very hesitant about investing significant budget in PR assistance for the same reasons you state- often, no one you hire can do anything you theoretically cannot- but this is certainly making me mull it over. Thanks again Sir.

    1. If you decide to give it a shot, please share your results! PR companies and radio promoters will always tell you that it comes down to their relationships, that they talk to these folks multiple times a week.

  4. Great article Brian. I worked with Playground when they promoted a few of our label shows a few years ago and they were super pro. Glad you had a good experience

  5. We worked with a promotional company when we released our (debut) EP a little over a year ago. I think it was maybe $2,500. They did a perfectly respectable job. We got two video premieres in the blogs we wanted, and maybe another 10-12 reviews/mentions in other blogs. Of course, we did some of the legwork as well – so they didn’t produce all of that. The reviews were mostly quite good (PR can’t control that, obviously), the mentions/premieres were a bit stock (just riffing off of our bio), but… all in all, worth it. We’ll use a different company for our debut (vinyl) LP that comes out next year – we found one that is spot-on genre-appropriate – and the two labels (one each in Europe and US) will foot part of that freight. But after that release… we probably won’t bother to use that service much anymore. When you’re first starting out (or just unknown) and just trying to get your name out there and get respected critics to write about you, you really can’t do that on your own. You need a gatekeeper to help and that costs money. But after you’ve gotten pretty widely- (and hopefull well-) reviewed by folks who are respected in your genre, the marginal benefit of continuing to do that declines materially. I think the reviews can drive a little bit of traffic your way, but the premieres/mentions don’t do much at all – they look like straightforward PR, for the most part. So, we’ll do one more PR round with our next release and that’ll probably be it. Ultimately, your money’s probably better spent on doing whatever you can to trigger Spotify’s algorithmic playlists.

    Unfortunately, kind of like 95% of the Spotify playlist promotions companies out there, most of these PR companies can’t survive pushing only music they like. There isn’t enough out there. So, they are forced to promote a lot of music that they don’t like that much because they gotta pay the bills. Which is why there are so many unhappy PR customers of all stripes out there. You can find someone to promote anything – plenty of options out there. You pay them, they’ll promote it, no matter how bad it is. But the results will be disappointing, of course, and the customer won’t be happy. But, such is life. The business of promoting music is clearly FAR more lucrative than the business of actually making music, unless you’re in the top 2% of the latter group. Again, such is life.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience David!

      That’ll be nice to have the labels sharing part of the cost with you next time. I’m jealous of the vinyl release!

      I suppose if I had worked with The Playground on an album release, reviews would’ve been a part of the picture. I could see how getting some strong initial reviews on an album, preferably before release day, could help build momentum.

      I’m still investing in my own playlist rather than hiring companies. I still haven’t landed any editorial placements, but I’m getting about 4K streams a month from algorithmic ones, mostly radio.

  6. I’m curious to ask Apostola and Brian, can you tell me more of your opinion (more details you know, reviews by anyone else who’s worked with them, etc.) about IndieX? I’ve had their founder Circa on my radar for a couple of years, since I saw a video of his about marketing. I want to make this year about building my fanbase. I see their Indie Pro membership, but I’m willing to make the big commitment and pay for the direct guidance of something like IndieX.

    I’m learning that there are a LOT of services like this out there. It would be easy to get overwhelmed with choices, or lost down a rabbit hole of research. Usually I investigate a lot of options, then let my instinct guide me about the best choice. A clear “winner” hasn’t arisen yet, so I’m continuing to investigate. Another program, Modern Musician, came on my radar a few months ago, as well as one called The Savvy Musician. The guy who founded MM has had some success with his band, and the woman who founded TSM claims to make multiple 6 figures a year, in an extremely niche genre.

    I am also seeing a lot overlap in their strategies, which of course makes sense for marketing. There’s even some overlap of people they have worked with. For example, the Modern Musician guy had a guest on his webinar, and that same guy has written favorably about Indepreneur/IndieX. I’ve also noticed that they have some of the same clients/online community members in their circles, including another well known music marketing/promotions guy.

    I guess I’m casting a wide net at this point and thought I’d see if you had anything else to add. Thanks!

    1. I’m an IndiePro member myself, but I’ve never worked with IndieX. I’m a regular listener of the podcast, and I think they have a ton to offer at a very reasonable price. That said, a couple of good friends of mine are Savvy Musician members, and have seen good results. I’ve also listened to their podcast on and off, and picked up a few things.

      If it were me and I could afford it, I’d go with IndieX. Keep in mind that they don’t believe that the kind of PR I’m talking about here is worth investing in. Instead, your approach will be direct-to-fan. Most likely you’ll start with a “Fan Finder” video views campaign on Facebook to build an audience, and grow from there.

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