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Music PR

10 New Year’s resolutions to kickstart your music career

2019 - New Year's Resolutions for Bands

The first couple of weeks of a new year are generally the time when you start to think about how to do things differently (and more effectively) so in this post I thought I’d share some resolutions to help you kick-start your music career in 2019.

1. Put the music first

Being a musician these days seems to involve dividing your time between making music and nattering about it with your fan(s) on Facebook and other social networks.

This year, maybe consider putting Facebook and Twitter aside, and putting the music first. By all means keep your social media profiles relatively up to date – but not at the expense of producing great music.

Lock yourself in a room with a musical instrument (but not your smartphone) until you are 100% satisfied that you have some great songs really worth talking about.

Then, and only then, go out and talk about them. 

2. Improve your website

Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are all helpful in spreading the word about your music, but nothing beats a good website.

By having a strong site, you’ll ensure that

  • you get a truly professional and distinct online presence

  • your act is easier to find when people search for your act (a website gives you much more control over search engine optimisation than a social media profile)

  • you obtain ultimate flexibility and control over how you present your band to the world.

To really understand why a band website is so important, I recommend reading this great article by Make it in Music on why music sites matter, as well as Prescription’s key tips for building a great band website.

3. Capture more email addresses

Capturing email addresses — using dedicated tools like Getresponse*, Mailchimp or similar — is absolutely essential for any artist (regardless of the level of their success), because

  • it allows you to communicate direct to fans

  • you, not a social networking company, own the data.

Having this direct link to your fans allows you to maximise music sales and gig attendance.

Whilst it’s nice to have large Facebook fan / Twitter follower counts, don’t forget that people will only see your messages if an algorithm lets them and, crucially, if the social network continues to be successful.

You only have to think of how much effort bands put into adding Myspace friends in the mid-naughties, and how useless that effort all seems now, to understand why having a large database of email addresses is important.

Get clued up about the importance of building an email database here.

4. improve your online reputation

The internet is rightly seen as the key place where artists forge relationships with fans – but it’s also a place where it’s easy to come across as a highly annoying individual or act.

It’s just too tempting to regularly spout inanities or post ‘buy me’ links every five minutes on Facebook and Twitter.

This year, make a resolution to stop bludgeoning your friends, family members and fans with too many messages about your music (or what the band had for lunch) and only post content about your music that matters.

5. Take your image seriously

Too many artists obsess over whether their album sounds like it was recorded on a big reel of tape in the 1970s and mixed on a consule packed full of valves – only to forget that sadly, in addition to sounding cool, you’ve got to look cool too…

So don’t forget to spend some time getting your image right, and ensuring your band photography is up to scratch.

6. Blog (And not just about your band)

One of the best ways to generate traffic to a website is to ensure it is packed full of content that people want to read.

And the easiest way to arrive at that happy situation is by blogging about interesting stuff – according to research by inbound marketing agency Hubspot, site owners that blog regularly receive around 55% more hits to their site than those that don't.

Every hit to your site is a chance for you to expose somebody to your music, or capture their email address. The key thing is this: don’t make your blog all about you – write about stuff that people are already searching about. For a band website, you might consider writing about acts that influenced you; recording equipment; a particular gig and so on.

You can find out more about blogging and how to increase blog traffic here.

7. Manage your time wisely

If you’re anything like me, you’re juggling a job, a music career, a baby and a cat.

And it’s tough, with music-making and music promo often taking a back seat. But there are strategies that can help you make the most of your time to make the most of your music – find out about time-saving tips for musicians here.

8. Think creatively about music promotion

There are many ways to skin a cat, as a record store owner I once worked for said about a very unfortunate cat.

So instead of taking the bog-standard approach of putting your album up on iTunes and hoping against hope that somebody actually buys it, why not take some time to dream up some interesting ways to fund and release it?

Sometimes creative ideas regarding both can actually land you a great PR angle too. You might find our ideas on funding the making of your album and interesting formats to release it on helpful

9. Manage that project!

You have a home studio. You have 10 songs. You are making an album. You are going to upload it somewhere. People will buy or stream it in droves. Simple, yes?

Well actually, no. Despite a plethora of self-promotion and self-distribution options now being available, releasing an album is actually a deceptively difficult business, and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

As such, we suggest that you make this the year that you take a bit of notice of project planning. Recently we put a guide together on how to create a really great project plan for an album release using post-it notes — it’s well worth a read.

We’d also suggest that if you’re going to self-release an album this year that you check out our checklist of the key things you must do when releasing an album independently.

10. Don’t forget the professionals…

In a music industry where DIY production and promotion is increasingly the norm, it’s easy to think that you can do everything yourself, from music photography, to band website design to music PR. But sometimes it really helps to get somebody experienced on board. An outside eye can deliver objectivity, free up time and ultimately deliver more professional results.

So if you’re planning on releasing something this year, do get in touch for a conversation about how we can help.


* Affiliate link.

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8 ways to get the most out of a music PR campaign

Hand holding microphone - accompanies article about how to make the most of a music PR campaign

Hiring a music PR company to promote a release is one of the best ways to raise the profile of your band (well, we would say that). But it can also involve a sizeable financial investment – and one which will obviously be felt most keenly by artists who are self-funding their projects.

As such, it’s important to make the most of any music PR campaign you commission, and in this post we’re going to give you some tips on how to do just that.

1. Make sure the music is top-notch before you approach any music PR companies

It sounds obvious, but before you even go anywhere near a music PR firm it’s important to ensure that the music you are going to them with sounds as good as it possibly can. The best music PR companies are actually inundated with enquiries from bands and have quite a choice when it comes to which clients to take on – to work with your chosen company, you’ll need to make sure that the material you present to your prospective music PR company is as sonically robust as possible.

2. Make sure your other band assets are top-notch too

Music PR firms won’t just base a decision about whether to work with you based on your music. They’ll need to see evidence that all the other aspects of your output – from your music website to band photos to the quality of gigs you’ve got lined up – are also strong. This may seem a little harsh (surely it’s all about the music, man?) but in fact it’s very important that a music PR company looks at ALL band assets closely…because journalists and bloggers sure as hell will. In short, if a music publicity company isn’t convinced by the quality of your band assets, then you can bet that newspapers and music review sites won’t be either.

3. Approach a music PR firm that works with your genre

If you’re in an metal band, it makes sense to look for a company with a track record in working on metal music PR campaigns. Don’t hire one that only does jazz. If a music PR company is interested in working with you, ask for examples of successful campaigns they’ve worked on in your band’s genre.

4. Shop around, and be cautious of PR companies that say yes to anything

Some music PR companies will say yes to any project – because they care more about getting business through the door than promoting quality projects. If you get the feeling that this is the case with a company you're talking to, ask some probing questions – why do they want to work with you? Which music publications do they see your music fitting into? What’s their track record in working with similar acts? Who’s on their roster at the moment? Are there too many bands on their roster for you realistically to get a look-in? Don’t be afraid to shop around – as when it comes to hiring a builder, get several quotes, evaluate them thoroughly and make the best decision based on the evidence. When you come across a music PR firm that’s incredibly enthusiastic about your music and wants to work with you, that’s great – but always let your head rather than your heart rule your decision on hiring them. Enthusiasm about a project is something you should definitely look for in a music PR company – it just has to be backed up with a sense that the enthusiasm is genuine and the company has a coherent plan to maximise publicity for your act.

5. Invest time in creating assets that will help your music PR campaign

As mentioned above the music press take band assets heavily into consideration when considering what to cover. So the more great stuff your music PR has to work with the better – an EPK, strong website, great band photos and music videos with strong production values will all make it easier for your music PR company to do the best possible job for you. (Having great hair also helps).

6. Listen to your music PR team's advice

It’s easy as an artist to get so wrapped up in your own musical talent and creations that objectivity goes out the window - and a good music PR team can help put that objectivity back into the equation. Perhaps a particular track would work better as a first single than the one you’ve got your heart set on? Perhaps a different band photo would be the best shot to distribute to blogs? Maybe a different running order on the album might help? Your music PR will have worked (hopefully!) on hundreds of previous campaigns and as such should have a good knowledge of how journalists and bloggers will react to certain types of content – so be aware that despite you being sure your band is better than Bowie, Lou Reed and The Beatles combined their knowledge of the media might just trump yours. Be open to advice.

7. Stay in touch with your music PR

Without overdoing it, don't be afraid to check in regularly with the person charged with working on your music PR campaign. The reality of the situation is that despite the best will in the world, when you hire a music PR team to work on a release, they're inevitably going to be working on several other releases too and the band that shouts the loudest often gets the most attention...so make your presence regularly known and ensure that your project gets as much time as everybody else's. Caveat: don't be a pain in the bum about it, as that can make your music PR team find you annoying - and may affect the effort they put into your project. Strike a balance between checking in about the important stuff and giving your team the space and trust they need to do their job properly.

8. Promote your music PR company and all their works

It may sound daft but as a band YOU need to promote your music PR company too, and the work they do for you. By that I mean ensuring that their contact details and website address are highly visible on any of your band assets – websites, promos, social media presences and so on. Same goes for any content produced or coverage attained by the music PR company on your behalf – you should ensure that the blog or news section on your site features your latest press release and any reviews, premieres or interviews secured by your music PR team (these should all be shared on social media / via e-newsletter too).

And now the obligatory plug: if you are interested in working with Prescription PR, don’t hesitate to contact us. (Just make sure you've followed all the above advice first).

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How to choose the best music promotion team for your release

A team of people working on a music promotion project

A team of people working on a music promotion project

As is often remarked upon on these pages, a technological revolution has brought about a massive drop in the cost of access to professional recording equipment whilst at the same time furnishing musicians with an easy way to distribute music globally. This means that the number of bands in a position to make and release albums has never been higher. However, the same technological revolution has brought with it streaming, illegal downloading and the gradual death of the physical album, meaning that the rise in the number of records being released has not been accompanied by a plethora of new labels with the finances to release and promote all of them.

This has led a huge number of bands ‘going it alone’ and self-releasing their records, either with a view to getting enough of a reaction to entice one of the dwindling number of ‘proper’ labels to get involved, or generate enough of a buzz to actually turn their music-making into a viable business. Both goals are extremely difficult to achieve, but they are doable. However, generally speaking, to have any chance of meeting either, bands usually need to work with a music promo team.

What do we mean by promo team, though? Well, as a bare minimum a music promo team tends to consist of a music PR firm, who will handle print, online press and possibly some radio / TV; however, depending on budget, bands may hire a broader range of professionals, for example:

  • A music PR company
  • A national radio plugger
  • A regional radio plugger
  • A TV plugger
  • An online marketing company

Typically, the most common scenario tends to involve bands hiring a music PR firm and a national radio plugger. Regardless of the size or make-up of your team, however, it’s vital to have really good people on board; music promo services cost money and the music industry is intensely competitive – pick the wrong team and you will end up 1) throwing cash down the loo and 2) not getting anywhere. So how do you pick the right people?

1. Identify your niche, and look for people who work in that area

There are a lot of PR companies and radio pluggers out there – but some will be a better or more natural ‘match’ for your project. If you make easy-listening jazz, it stands to reason that hiring somebody who works chiefly in the area of death metal PR is not the smartest move (and vice-versa). Before you hire anyone to do anything with your music, try to define what kind of genre you are operating in and do some research into companies and individuals who specialise in that genre.

2. Be cautious of companies that say ‘yes’ to every project

Delivering a serious PR or radio campaign involves a LOT of work: identifying press angles, writing press releases, selecting the correct targets, pitching, repeated chasing and reporting on progress. There is only so much time in the day, only so many people in the office (or in the case of freelancers, just one person in the office…), so if the company you are approaching seems to be one that says ‘yes’ to every project or has a huge client roster without the team to adequately service it, tread cautiously. Always ask a few probing questions about

  • why the company particularly want to work on your project
  • what else they’ve got on at the moment
  • if they can genuinely fit your project in.

3. Beware of outlandish claims

Musicians are probably the biggest dreamers out there. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as ambition is a pre-requisite to success, but unfortunately there are a bunch of snake oil salesmen about, all too ready to guarantee fame and fortune to these dreaming musicians…for a price, of course. Success in music is attainable but it is very difficult to achieve, and you need to be working with people who understand that alongside talent, graft is the key to this success. It is far better to work with a PR or plugger who gives you a realistic set of targets and outcomes rather than one who promises stardom without giving any hint at how he or she will deliver it. As the old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it usually is.

4. Shop around

It’s a good idea to approach several companies / individuals with your project and ask them to pitch for your business – by averaging out the quotes you will get a sense of how much you should be expecting to pay, and by examining the quality of the pitches and the kind of media targets each company lists in their proposals, you’ll be able to get a sense of which company or freelancer is likely to do the best job.

5. Check for rapport…

As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about how a company would potentially handle your project. This will allow you to get a sense of

  • how professional an outfit is
  • how good their relationships with media contacts are
  • their understanding of how your music could fit into the media landscape.

But crucially it will help you get a sense of the kind of personality / personalities you will be dealing with at the company, because it’s crucial to be working with people that you know you can trust and whom you will have a good rapport with throughout a campaign.

6. …and check for reports

Ensure that anyone you are thinking of working with commits to regular communication and written reports outlining who’s been approached, when, and what the reaction to date is. Nail everybody down to a robust reporting schedule. If somebody seems reluctant to commit to serious reporting, that should ring alarm bells.

7. Work with people who actually like your music

Music promotion is a business; profits need to be made and bills need to be paid. This inevitably leads to people taking on music projects even though they don’t actually like the music in question. If you’re working with a professional outfit whom you are certain will do their utmost on a project regardless of their opinion on it, then that’s okay; but in an ideal world, you want to be working with people who love your project and want to work on it because of that love for it. Passion breeds good results.

Good luck with your quest to find decent people for your project – and of course, don’t forget to put us on your list of music PR companies to check out. We look forward to all the probing questions…

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Four things today's bands can learn from David Bowie's comeback

Some David Bowie outfits

Music has come a long way since David Bowie’s legendary 1972 Top of the Pops appearance – the one where he flung his arm casually and camply around Mick Ronson, and proceeded to blast out one of the catchiest songs about a gay alien (Starman) you are ever likely to hear. Yes, things have changed alright. We have (nearly) abolished ‘physical’ music; we’ve shut down HMV; and we give away music for free (not for people's listening pleasure but in order to make databases).

Yet amidst all these sad developments, with the surprise announcement of the release of new album The Next Day, Mr Bowie has managed to make a comeback that seems almost as arresting as his 1972 Top of the Pops appearance. And there is a hell of a lot that today’s contemporary artists can learn from it.

1. Silence is golden

In this instant-communications era of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and so on, it is incredibly tempting for today's bands and artists to say something online every five minutes.

Whether constantly imploring people to buy their next album or letting their Facebook fans know what they've just had for lunch, bands – both unsigned and established – never seem to shut up.

Contrast that with Bowie, who kept 100% mum for 10 years regarding what he was up to musically, meaning that when he actually had something important to say ('hi guys, I've got a new album out') it was said with maximum impact.

Now admittedly, most artists are not rock legends like Bowie and simply being quiet for ages and then suddenly issuing a press release is not going to shock the music world to remotely the same extent as Bowie’s surprise comeback. However, there is still a huge amount to be said for the ‘less is more’ approach to communicating music news; and a bit of enigma (read silence) can do your band the power of good, by adding an air of mystique to proceedings and generating intrigue amongst fans and the media.

The key thing for bands to remember is to use their arsenal of social media tools judiciously. Ensure every status update is genuinely interesting; don’t hit your mailing list with e-newsletters every week; and only send press releases to journalists and bloggers if there is an absolute need to. The way that Bowie announced the release of his new album was a classic example of quality of communications trumping quantity; and you will note that in his first message about his music in 10 years or so, he didn’t mention that he had a chicken kiev for lunch.

2. Live up to the hype

I still haven’t forgiven the international community of rock critics for persuading me to purchase a copy of Oasis’ Be Here Now album back in 1997, so I’m not quite ready to buy their unanimous conclusion that Bowie’s new album is as good as Ziggy Stardust or whatever.

However, even after only a couple of listens it is clear that there are some very strong songs on the album – it’s fairly apparent that Bowie has done enough here to (largely) live up to the hype that the dramatic announcement of the record’s existence generated.

Again, few (if any) bands will ever find themselves in a situation where their next release is accompanied by as much hype as The Next Day, but nonetheless, some artists who have yet to release anything will find themselves in a position where they are starting to get feted by some very cool people indeed (largely Instagram-food-snapping types with a slight tendency to overuse the words ‘subtle’ and ‘textures’ when discussing music).

The natural reaction to being talked up by such types is to seize the moment and rush out a half-baked record. This is always a bad move. It is far better to bide your time and concentrate on putting together the strongest album you can rather than release something that fails to live up to the hype. For nothing offends a fashionable champion of your band more than a mediocre record that makes the aforementioned champion look a bit silly. And, if it’s a mediocre album, the average music fan isn’t going to like it anyway.

3. Work with interesting people

Most bands these days have a laptop and a copy of Pro Tools or Logic, which means (in theory) that they have a state of the art recording studio at their disposal.

Having this studio on tap often leads these bands to think that they can ‘do it all themselves’ without involving producers, arrangers and engineers (the financial implications of involving such professionals also puts them off).

But working with really good people can do wonders for an album, in two ways: firstly, it can seriously improve the quality of the results, and secondly, if the producer / mix engineer etc. constitutes a ‘name’, this can add a dash of kudos to the project and help generate mediate interest around it.

Bowie’s choice to work again with the legend that is Tony Visconti certainly didn’t hurt this release; nor did getting Tilda Swinton involved in the video for single The Stars Are Out Tonight; or letting long-time collaborator and guitar hero Earl Slick noodle all over his songs again.

Your band might not be able to get these sort of high-profile dudes on board that easily – but that shouldn’t stop you trying to get talented people to contribute. Even getting a decent mix engineer to do your final bit of knob-twiddling could pluck your record straight out of the amateur division and transform it into something that, sonically at least, could give The Next Day a run for its money.

4. Write / record significantly more than you release

I’ve always believed that whilst music-making involves a lot of artistry, skill, effort and so on, sometimes you just get lucky and a good song seems to pop along out of thin air (Yesterday by McCartney being a case in point – he just woke up one day with it going round his head).

Simply put, the more you write, the greater the odds become of this kind of musical serendipity popping up and slapping you round the face (maybe this is because the more practice you get at doing something, generally speaking, the better you get at doing it).

Now, if the contributors at Wikipedia are to be believed, Bowie recorded 29 tracks for this album – but how many songs made it on? 14: less than half. If the ‘record way more than you need’ way of doing things is good enough for Bowie, I suggest you investigate this approach too.

Or think of it as an argument in favour of editing your album heavily: try to make it all killer, no filler; leave out the self-indulgent numbers. This has always been sage (and obvious) advice, but in an era where people can download individual tracks from an album and skip the dodgy stuff, it makes no sense to put duffers on your record.

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Leather pants, rock gods, groupies and er, project planning?

Project planning - essential for a music release

OK, so you’ve spent 4 years recording your opus. And you’re getting ready to whack it up on iTunes and Spotify, thereby putting it within reach of a global audience of music lovers, who will, if there is any justice in this world, buy it in their droves and propel your act into the league of leather-panted rock gods.

The problem is that you are in the same boat as Lord-knows-how-many thousands of musicians all across the world, who, just like you, all aspire to wear the leather rock pants (or lycra hot pants; take your pick). The digital revolution has made it ridiculously easy to distribute your music to a global audience, but the flipside of this is that quite frankly, everybody else is doing it. You are competing with an enormous pool of ruthless, fame-hungry musicians who would sell their granny’s false teeth, or even the granny in question herself, if it meant a whiff of success.

So how can you put yourself ahead of this pack of mean, granny-selling musos? One option, of course, is to find yourself a nice sugar daddy or mommy with a shedload of cash that they are willing to plough into your career; but even then, you will probably not be home and dry. 

Although it helps enormously, cash on its own will not buy you success. It’s quite likely that your talent won’t help much either; record companies get sent fantastic music all the time – which could chart easily if given the right push – that remains completely unheard by the masses (often because the lead singer has a bad haircut, but that's another blog post).

In a nutshell – and you probably know this already – rock and roll success is one of the most difficult things to achieve, and if cash or talent alone can’t secure it, then what will? Well, it’s our view that one of the most single important things that can help give artists an edge in the quest for success, but gets repeatedly overlooked, is this: a plan.

Here’s a classic example of what we mean: a band spends thousands of pounds on an album; hires a designer to create a beautiful album cover; manufactures digipacks made of gold; hires dwarves to serve cocaine at gigs…and then sets a release date for the record that completely ignores the fact that the music press generally demand to receive an album three months in advance of its release (the ‘long lead time’). Cue no press hype, no interest from radio as a result of great reviews and finally, no sales and no leather pants and screaming teenage groupies.

There are a multitude of other examples of this kind of thing – for example, bands manufacturing CDs without ISRC codes (making it significantly harder to generate royalty income from airplay); press releases being issued without release dates; the radio plugger not being made aware of a four star Q review before talking to the head of Radio 1; barcodes not being added to CDs; artist websites not being updated with new material in time for the release and so on. All of these basic mistakes make that elusive rock success even more elusive, and generally they all stem from poor planning. Although “project management” may seem like a boring term when you put it in the same sentence as “rock stardom”, the two go hand in hand; and regardless of your budget or the quality of your material, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

So, here are 4 key tips which we think can help independent or unsigned artists plan for an effective promotional campaign.

1. Assign roles and responsibilities clearly: most serious album release projects will require a music PR company, a radio plugger, a website designer, a print designer, a distributor (and perhaps a publisher or TV plugger too). Ensure everybody is clear who is doing what, even if you are taking a DIY approach and doing a lot of the legwork yourself.

2. If at all possible, try to get one competent, organised individual to oversee the release – to act as the project manager. This person should liaise constantly with all the above stakeholders and ensure that each key project task is completed on time.

3. Get all your stakeholders in the same room and draw up a release timeline that works for everybody. Discuss press lead times, manufacturing turnaround, distribution deadlines, barcodes, ISRC codes and so on. Come out of that meeting with a project plan that contains key tasks and realistic milestones for the project.

4. Don’t ignore that project plan that you spent hours creating! Your project manager should now use it as his/her reference point throughout the entire release and tick off each task as they are completed.

Obviously, these four tips won’t guarantee rock stardom; a few little things like a serious marketing spend, a lot of good luck and that good haircut come in handy too, but hopefully having a clear, simple plan will take you a step closer to the land of the rock pants, or at least give you the best chance possible of getting there, regardless of your budget or musical prowess.

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