Questions to Ask Before You Work With a Music PR Firm

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Is it time to hire music PR? It's a big decision. After all, PR is expensive, and the results are never guaranteed.

Music PR, or Public Relations for music, is the strategic promotion of a new release, tour or other music related news to the public via the media.  People who work in PR liaise between labels and/or musicians and the media to try and get album reviews, profiles of the band, reviews of live shows and so on. Most music PR companies have a dedicated focus — for instance, they only do print media or they only do radio.

Some PR firms have an even more pointed focus, in that they only do college and club radio promotion where they work to get an on air plug with a popular radio station geared at a specific market or they only do online promotions and social media to work with key online influencers for example.

Music PR: Campaigns and Promotions

Most music PR is done on a campaign basis. If a label wants to promote a new release, they may hire a PR company for a set window of time, during which the PR company will try to generate as much press as possible.

If the band is touring during the promotional campaign, sometimes the PR firm will also do a round of press for the tour, or sometimes they will charge an extra fee for that (especially in the case of large PR firms/large record labels).

At the end of any campaign, the PR company will issue a report with press clippings of all of the coverage the album received. They may report at intervals during the campaign as well.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Sign with a Music PR Firm

Before you sign up with a music PR firm, ask yourself - and them - these questions, so you can be sure PR is the right choice for you right now. 

Can I Afford This?

PR is expensive. In many cases, it is VERY expensive. Although hiring PR can eventually help you make money, you have to put it into the right space in your budget. First and foremost, you need money to get your release ready, distribution set up and a reserve to cover the costs of playing shows. Consider these the basics. If you have to divert money from one of these expenses to pay for PR, you may not be able to afford to hire a PR company right now. If you compromise the basics, you won't get the most of your PR campaign anyway, since you won't be in the position to take advantage of it.

Can I Do This Myself?

If you want a small, regional promotional campaign, chances are that you can handle the work yourself. It will require some research and time, but if money is an issue, this might be your best bet. A PR company really becomes valuable when you are ready to mount a national promotional campaign that you might not have the time or contacts to accomplish yourself.

If you don't have the time and inclination to do a regional press campaign, outside PR can certainly handle the job. Just be aware that a campaign of that level is easily handled in-house and if money is a problem, this kind of campaign is a luxury.

    What Am I Promoting?

    A PR campaign shouldn't be general. It should be centered around a specific project and have specific goals. Such a project may be a new release or a tour. It should have a start date, and that start date should give the PR company plenty of time run the campaign (ie, don't hire PR three days before your tour starts).

    Will The Project Get Press?

    What is the likelihood that the specific project you want PR to work on will actually generate enough press coverage to justify the investment in outside PR? Be realistic. Your first indie release is probably not going to get reviewed in Rolling Stone. The best time to hire PR is when you have built up a little bit of buzz through your own work and have a project with a good promotion angle. This angle can be anything from an album promotion anchored to some tour dates or a unique story about how the project came together.

    This way, your PR company has something to work with. More: When to Send a Press Release

    Are My Expectations Realistic?

    When you hire PR, you aren't buying guaranteed press and exposure. You are paying for the service of PR - someone to send out your music/tour dates/news to the media, follow-up with them, and try to convince them that you deserve some coverage. They can't MAKE anyone want to cover your projects, and unfortunately, they can't make anyone give the music a good review. Even the best PR company in the world with a lofty past client list can't guarantee you that even a single person will want to write about or play your music.

    That's reality. Get comfortable that you are paying for effort, not guaranteed fame and fortune.

      Are They Being Honest With Me?

      When you hire a PR company, you want one that is going to be honest with you about what they think they can achieve. If someone is trying to sell you the moon, steer clear. A PR company that is really on your side can sell you their services without pulling the wool over your eyes. Take promises that sound a little far fetched as a red flag.

      Working With a Reputable Firm: 5 Questions to Consider

      Hiring a PR company can be a great thing. When you're working with an established PR company, then you know that first hurdle — the building of press contacts — has already been tackled. An envelope bearing the logo of a well known PR company can carry a lot of weight at a magazine that receives hundreds of promos and press releases a day.

      Unfortunately, working with a PR firm can be extraordinarily expensive, and there is no guarantee of any payoff. Some PR campaigns end with exactly zilch in the way of press, but you still have to pay the bill. For this reason, small labels should think carefully about PR and consider the following questions before hiring a music PR firm:

      1. How many clients does the firm currently have on their roster and do they have ample time to dedicate to your project?

      2. Who else are they currently representing and could they be in direct competition with you or your campaign?

      3. Where has the firm recently landed media coverage and what outlets do they think would be a good fit for you? 

      4. What other artists or bands have they worked with in the past and are they at a similar level and genre?

      5. How often do they send reports and how can you see who they have pitched to on your behalf?

      You don't want to spend a lot of money on a PR firm or campaign, only to see very little come from it. Start with a clear vision of what you want, what you expect from a successful campaign and the time frame you require. Only move forward if you are confident that the PR company has addressed all of your questions and can deliver on their promises.