Why should artists if they have the budget pay large fees, hundreds and often thousands of pounds in some cases to publicists when they often receive very little profile? Is it not better that if artists wish to market their new albums that they take out ads on specialist websites or Facebook? If they have the same budget will they get better results by going one direction and not the other?
Let’s be clear, the changes in media that we all know as a result of migration online have massively affected journalism, democratised the flow of information, decreased the role of “gatekeepers” among specialist print media, and harnessed fan power that has allowed not just easier purchasing but crowd sourcing for the funding of new albums. Faded articles and photos in magazines are certainly left on the shelf tidied away, curiosities, not fit for easy reference.
The changes have also affected publicists who have made their living feeding journalists. Their role now is more varied than ever and is yet less significant on a basic level because via social media and artist run websites or artists selling via pro-active huge online sites the word is out there about their album already. There are fewer professional music journalists to feed, PRs are also dealing with talented amateurs more who often as not beat the professionals at their own game. They however are more reluctant to be reached in the same way and are more likely to be frank with their views. They are not beholden in any direct way to professional publicists and so can be believed more by music fans who are fed up with hype. Pitching a profile piece to a magazine and online site, setting up interviews and very occasionally organising press days is still part of the PR admin role but for most jazz artists getting a piece in a magazine is not going to sell product in any greater number than building sales online via less wordy methods. Print is not as important as getting the album played online either via DIY or media method.
The key bit is getting people to listen to the music which is more difficult than it sounds and why video promos have become an enduring hard currency since MTV days even with crap, irrelevant or slideshow visuals. Clicking on a video or link is easier than tearing off the shrink wrap of a promo CD or putting it on a tray of a bulky player that might not be in the same room. To your normal image-conscious non fussy music fan video is more of a sweet pill. They really do not like sitting in front of their computer provided with sound-only. The idea of having to look, however, at something is absurd for hardcore music fans who are only interested in listening if you are talking about records even via computer; if they were at a gig they do not need anything beyond basic lighting, sound quality wins every time.
Marketing is vital for new jazz because no one has heard of it. But artists cannot expect too much. New bands straight out of music college will largely be ignored as they do the rounds playing gigs to 20 people at a time. Even specialist blogs are reluctant to write about the newest kids on the block because click rates for unknowns are usually small to begin with. However, their albums might get a few mentions that someone else with a bigger reach will pick up on and pass off as their own. Someone needs to get the ball rolling and roll it well so that the listener can discover it as if they are the first even if they are not in terms of their peer group and for their own immersion in their favourite musical style.
Enhanced profile takes time. Injecting media with the passion serum to believe is vital. At this stage hiring a publicist does not make sense because even the best publicist will garner little because there isn’t much of a story and very little music unless say like Jacob Collier or back in the 2000s Jamie Cullum suddenly pick up word of mouth and get backed by the likes of Quincy Jones or Universal and then their professional management and label teams take over often working in tandem with big concert hall promoters or product brands for sync sponsorship as in Collier’s case with Samsung.
What marketing budget there is should be used to provide as many promotional streams and less so now promo CDs as possible. Or it should go to invest in an online promo private link service such as Promo Jukebox and use easy listening accessibility via Bandcamp which is also publicity in a sense. All this can heavily sell your product and make it easy for journalists to write about your music. The tools need to make life easier when time is short.
Facebook ads are worth buying as a trial as is partnering with jazz sites such as marlbank who will build coverage not just for the short term but as time goes on again when we really believe in what you are doing and crucially you value the site as well. You have to like the media you use at this micro, tabula rasa level, and be part of a same facing direction of travel, invest in it the same way you might any other marketing, and you cannot just be cynical and see it as free publicity because of a basic arrogance.
Building goodwill with online media is not throwing them sweeties, giving them a free CD or free download any more and assuming that the site is grateful enough to write kind things in acres of space all the time because of your sheer generosity that actually translates into a form of self entitlement and can be just vain.Time is an issue and remember the music writer at the music site is taking time and the trouble to write about your music.They need to make it worth their while. Doing it for the love is not enough just as you making music will be reluctant to accept the opportunity to play for free because not just are you playing for nothing but you are actually losing (and devaluing) when your costs are factored in.
Don’t waste your money on fancy publicists who simply cannot deliver. Experiment with ads, invest in some common sense tools to promote your music, best of all partner with new media by making it worth their while – the word may well get out that bit more if you try and mock up a plan to put into gear along these lines. Good luck, you don’t need it because you are making your own as far as you can, but it surely all helps.