Musicians: Why Your PR Campaigns Are Failing

by | Sep 20, 2019 | Uncategorized

Isn’t it frustrating when you put a lot of money into a marketing endeavor that totally bombs?

As someone who’s wasted quite a bit of money on Facebook ads, I know the pain of throwing away hard-earned moola on marketing that doesn’t work all too well.

At the outset, I can tell you that it’s best not to depend on any one thing for your success, even if that one thing is publicity, which can achieve killer outcomes.

PR is awesome. But unfortunately, most music PR campaigns fail.

If you stopped yourself to ask why, and examined what failing campaigns had in common, you would probably start to see the patterns emerge.

But I’ll save you the time and effort. Here’s why most music PR campaigns yield nothing.

The Top Reason Music PR Campaigns Fail

Before I start, care to take a guess why most musicians don’t have successful PR campaigns?

Is it because they aren’t spending enough?

No. Although budget is a consideration here, these days you can get excellent PR work done for a little bit of money. You can even buy some digital PR courses on a site like Udemy for less than $20 and learn how to do it yourself, even though that is a long-term prospect.

Either way, some musicians save thousands of dollars to spend on a PR campaign, and if that describes you, it’s unlikely that you’re not investing enough money.

Is it because they aren’t using the right service?

In most cases, no. I would be wary of any publicist promising you the world and more but generally most PR people are competent, and you can easily find reviews, testimonials and the like if you’re in any doubt about their service.

Even properly executed PR campaigns can sometimes yield little by way of measurable results, though if your service provider tells you that, you should always ask them to show their work – they should be able to report on exactly what they did and how they spent your money.

Is it because their publicists aren’t reaching the right outlets?

Again, generally no. A skilled PR person should know what outlets to target, and further, musicians often have conversations with their publicists around where they’d like to score coverage. A musician can certainly choose wrong or aim too high, but a good PR person should be able to help steer them in the right direction.

And, you must carefully consider what “right outlets” means to you. If you’ve never released an album and only have a small fan base, you should expect to see your news on small PR and article sites, relatively unknown blogs and the like. That’s normal.

So, it depends a lot on where you are in your career right now.

Now, I’m not saying that none of these things could be contributing factors as to why so many music PR campaigns fail. But none of them are the top reason.

Do you give up yet?

The number one reason PR campaigns fail is because of a lack of story.

The number one reason music PR campaigns fail is because of the absence of a compelling story. Share on X

Why Not Having a Compelling Story Hurts You

It’s sad.

Musicians spend a lot of time crafting their music. They pour themselves into it.

But when it comes time to market their art, they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into, their creativity suddenly goes out the window.

By the way, if you’d like to develop a solid strategy around marketing your work, have a read through my Amazon bestseller, The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship.

The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship: Making and Selling Your Neon Yellow Tiger

As Bob Baker shared with us in episode one of The New Music Industry Podcast:

Marketing should be an extension of the creative process.

Think about it. Your music tells a story, doesn’t it?

I get that it may not always be a rich, detailed, surprising, controversial, emotionally evocative or otherwise substantial story. But there’s a story to the music. And, there’s a story behind the music too. Can we agree on that?

Well, while that may not be the exact story to use in your marketing (i.e. the story your music tells), you should nevertheless have a story that sets the tone for your branding and promotional efforts.

Musicians must have a story that sets the tone for their branding and promotional efforts. Share on X

Not having a story hurts you most when it comes to getting coverage. Of any kind.

It’s been a while, but I’ve talked about the cut and paste bio before.

The idea is this – your bio should be so compelling that when a PR person, reviewer, event organizer or another looks at it, they’d be willing to run it (in some cases as is) in their press release, review, promo or other piece.

If you get that, you’ve also gotten the essence of PR. It’s not just about the details (e.g. who, what, when, where, why and how). The details are secondary to the emotional reaction your story begs and elicits from readers, listeners and viewers.

But What About Duplicate Content?

As it applies to republishing a band bio, I’ve been asked whether duplicate content is an issue. But trust me when I say it generally isn’t.

There’s a little something called syndication. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Syndication is when an article you’ve written gets picked up by a newspaper, magazine, blog or otherwise.

It’s your article and you’re free to do with it as you please – even negotiate fees and rights depending on who’s asking to publish it. Of course, if your work is being used without your permission, you might want to stick them with a cease and desist letter.

The onus is on the other party to ensure they’ve taken the right steps (e.g. use a canonical link), so they don’t get penalized for duplicate content.

But they shouldn’t be penalized in the first place. You see, duplicate content applies to content on the same website.

So there, SEOs. You should know better than to throw around a term without understanding what it means. They don’t call me music industry’s master wordsmith for nothing.

If another site publishes your bio and links to your website, technically it can only help you. I say “technically” because there are always exceptions to the rule, but it’s pointless to focus on what hasn’t happened yet.

As you can imagine, syndication is a powerful concept and if you understand and utilize it, it can benefit your music career big time. Remind me to talk more about this in the future (i.e. leave a comment).

Tell Your Story

Sure, there are plenty of artists and bands without a compelling story getting covered in the media every single day. But you must ask yourself whether they’re getting any benefit from it (see my earlier point on reaching the right outlets).

Journalists and media people are trained in quickly spotting and evaluating the newsworthiness of a story.

If there is no story, they will likely pass. If the story is boring or ordinary, they will likely pass. And, there are plenty of other situations in which they will likely pass, such as when the story isn’t in alignment with their core values.

Good headlines sell. You can’t ignore this fact just because you’re an artist. If you want to do PR the right way, the smart way, you’ve got to consider what your story’s headline might be.

A headline is another powerful element often not discussed in the music industry. If you’d like to get a crash course in writing better headlines, read about copywriting basics in my first book, The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age.

The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age

Rest assured your publicist is going to be looking for a grabbing headline, and if they can’t find it, they will dig and dig and dig until you’ve got nothing left to offer. If they still can’t come up with anything, you shouldn’t expect your PR campaign to drive stellar results.

And, as Ariel Hyatt shared with us on the podcast, it’s okay if the story is a little made up. Guaranteed your campaigns will do better if you have a strong headline and a powerful accompanying story.

PR Campaigns Aren’t Everything

Getting media coverage is exceptionally useful when it comes to promoting your music. But it’s not a panacea.

Just because you spend a lot of money on it doesn’t mean your face is going to end up on Pitchfork. There truly are no guarantees with PR campaigns.

But if you’re working with the right publicist, and you remain consistent, you will see some positive results. You must pay attention to those results and dig deeper into why your story connected with certain publications.

If you can pinpoint what resonated, you can enhance and amplify it. You can find other outlets that might want to cover your story. You can keep working your way up the chain. You can plan for more successful PR campaigns moving forward.

If you can pinpoint why your story resonated with specific people, you can enhance and amplify it. Share on X

Just don’t pour all your money into PR. There are plenty of other great things you can do with that money, whether it’s funding Facebook ads, investing into traffic generating content (e.g. from yours truly), planning a podcast tour or otherwise.

Ensure your promotional strategy includes more than just publicity.