In the 2016 single, “Pain”, Snoop Dogg raps, “I’m into public relations”. Of course, when you’re Snoop Dogg, you probably don’t need to worry about public relations. But as an independent artist who’s building your career, paying attention to PR is definitely a smart move to boost your growth and prospects.
In this guide, we give you the plain-speak and demystify everything you need to know about PR as an artist in 2022, including what PR people do for musicians, why it matters, when it’s the right time to focus on your PR, how to go about finding the right PR team, and how much to invest in PR.
Let’s dive in!
What do public relations do in music?
For musicians, public relations (PR) efforts are focused on building the artist’s reputation through positive media coverage. An effective PR agency finds the most newsworthy aspects of an artist and pitches these to interested journalists and media outlets, generating relevant, positive coverage.
Examples of media coverage includes articles on blogs and websites related to music and entertainment, such as NME, Vibe, TheSource, Genius, ThisIs50, Yahoo!, The Hype, and Medium, to name but a few.
Within the context of music PR, some practitioners make a distinction between “album PR” and “artist PR”.
So, what is artist PR?
PR campaigns focused on enhancing the profile of an artist as an individual (or a band) are classed as artist PR. By contrast, PR campaigns focused on generating coverage for a specific album, tour, or song, are considered album PR.
Why is PR important for artists?
Public relations campaigns are important for growing artists as it helps build their credibility in the music business, boosts their online presence and SEO, helps obtain verified status on social media, and offers a more organic means of reaching new audiences than through advertising.
Here are some of the benefits that an effective PR campaign can deliver to artists:
Improved discoverability website traffic
Mentions of an artist's name on high-quality sites and blogs is a well-known factor that influences search results rankings in Google. Even with no-link mentions, PR-driven media coverage can build an artist’s expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (EAT) score with Google.
This dramatically boosts how prominently an artist’s website, social media handles, and streaming profiles turn up in search results for related Google searches, which, in turn, improves website traffic, and conversions on newsletter subscriptions and sales of tickets and merchandise.
Enhanced authority scores for social proof
Social proof is the phenomenon that influences people to consider social cues as good indicators of safe or good behaviors in a given context, including what music to listen to, or which artist to follow. Being verified on platforms like Instagram and Twitter are great examples of social proof: even if a person has never heard of an artist before, seeing the verified status reassures them that that artist is reputable and worth following.
Social media platforms evaluate an artist’s “authority” score to decide whether or not to award the verified status. Although the specific formula to calculate authority is not publicly disclosed, it is well known that the extent of media coverage is a key factor in calculating authority scores. (BTW, you might want to check out our guide on succeeding as an artist, with or without a social media presence.)
Tip: Tools such as Social Blade’s BladeRank and Moz’s Domain Authority tool are great ways to estimate authority. A BladeRank of B or higher, or a DA greater than 30, is usually a good starting point to apply for verified status.
More leverage for booking gigs and venues
Event and venue managers are a lot more likely to work with artists who already have a fair amount of media buzz and attention. They’re also more likely to negotiate and offer better deals, as they realize that they’re working with an artist who has leveled-up, not one who’s just starting out.
Better results with playlist promotion and podcast pitches
The enhanced artist stature gained from the media coverage of a successful PR campaign helps secure better placements when promoting an album or single to playlist curators. The same also holds true when pitching to influencers and podcast hosts for interviews, as well as when reaching out to other influential artists with requests to collaborate.
As you can see, all these benefits are great, but before you reach for your phone to find a publicist, keep in mind, there’s also a question of timing. Which brings us to the next section:
Do I need a publicist for my music?
Artists with high-quality, updated profiles on streaming and social sites, and at least one released album or a few singles, can benefit by having a publicist run their PR campaign. Those without adequate released work or social presence will have better results focusing on those milestones first.
Here’s a checklist of things you should ideally already have in place before taking on a PR campaign:
- At least one released album or a few singles on a popular streaming platform
- Fully completed and up-to-date bio on all streaming platforms, with at least four to five high-quality images, and well-written copy
- Professional cover art for your songs
- Active account on at least one social media platform, populated with more than a dozen posts, and updated at least weekly
Of course, it’s still possible to run a PR campaign even without any of these things in place — you’re just a lot more likely to get better results if you have everything already in place to impress the new audience that a good PR campaign may generate.
It’s also a good idea to leverage other free and paid methods to promote your music before or in parallel to running a PR campaign. If your music gets attention, it helps if it already has a few thousand listens, rather than just single or double-digit streams. (It’s why we offer a PR and Spotify combo service.)
How much does music PR cost?
Based on campaign length and the extent of media coverage, professionally executed music PR typically costs $2K — $10K. Vendors on some freelance sites claim to deliver for under $500, but publish on spam / low DA sites, which can damage the artist’s SEO score or incur a Google penalty / blacklist.
Tip: De Novo Agency offers PR campaigns with guaranteed unique coverage and verifiable results, starting from $999. In addition to media coverage, our PR packages also include a free 30-minute consultation call with the founders, two highly experienced music industry insiders, to help you boost the growth of your music business.
How do I find a music publicist?
If you’re looking to find a good music publicist or PR agency, follow these dos and don’ts to make sure you actually get value for money:
- Do look out for articles or interviews on up-and-coming artists featured in high-quality publications that you follow. Reach out to those artists on social media and ask them about their PR strategy — a lot of musicians are willing to help out fellow artists.
- Do seek recommendations from other people in the industry, like successful producers and indie artists.
- Do check out the social media profiles of any agency recommended to you — check out the comments to see what people are saying, and if the people running the agency are actually being helpful.
- Don’t rely solely on listicles like “best music PR companies” that pop up when you do a Google search. A lot of the prominent sites with such results spend tons of money on SEO to rank high for those searches, and they often sell the listings in their article to anybody willing to pay.
Because the successful PR firms already have enough work, they don’t resort to these tactics, which means it’s often the not-so-great agencies listed in these results.(This isn’t to say such lists are never helpful; just be careful and look for other signals to verify the professionalism of an agency, before giving them your money.)
- Don’t buy the cheap services on various freelance marketplaces without due diligence. If you’re really keen, make sure you get the vendor to name the possible sites where you’ll be given coverage, BEFORE you hire them. Use tools like Moz’s free MozBar to check the domain authority and the spam score of these sites. Avoid sites that have a DA of less than 30, or a spam score of over 40.
One of the factors that can greatly help a PR campaign is having a great music video in place. Check out our super simple breakdown on how to make a music video, as well as these great free methods to promote your music video.
We’re also giving artists a free toolkit on how to market and distribute their music. This toolkit distills our experience of helping hundreds of artists build successful music careers, into six simple, powerful insights. Over 14,000 artists have downloaded our toolkit — get your own free music business toolkit now.