Right now, it’s February in NorCal and I am sitting in my garage, smoking a cigar, which at best most people find disgusting. Yet as Ozzy sang, “No use saying sorry, it’s something I enjoy.” Supposedly, I am reviewing music, but instead, I am pondering the ins and outs of the music industry, a vast, monolithic monster of disturbing size.
Since I write music reviews for numerous online sites, I receive approximately 200 emails per day from indie artists, publicists, and record labels. Each and every email is unfailingly similar – an invitation to review or premiere a new single, music video, EP, or album or interview some artist who is, I am assured, the Next Big Thing, while their music is, like clockwork, described as “genre-breaking” or “unparalleled” in the history of music.
Frankly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to all the new music I receive. Generally speaking, and there are of course wonderful exceptions, most of what is offered is derivative. It sounds like everything else. King Solomon pretty much hit the center of the bull’s eye when he wrote, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
The qualifier in the above sentence is “pretty much,” simply because creative originality is out there and, while nothing is truly novel and totally original, atypical artists do exist.
The really scary thing is this: according to Spotify founder Daniel Ek, “close to 40,000” tracks are uploaded onto Spotify every single day. In other words, 280,000 songs per week or, if you prefer, 1.2 million tracks every month, which equates to more than 14 million per year.
These statistics prompt the question, “How the heck is any new artist supposed to gain notice in the midst of an ocean of music?” For all intents and purposes, making good music isn’t good enough. Even if your song is the greatest thing since the Beatles, no one will hear it if they are unaware of its existence.
All that to say this: maybe you need a publicist. Right off the bat, know this: like any profession, doctors, lawyers, dishwashers, cooks, servers, car mechanics, etc., there are good publicists and not-so-good publicists. A good publicist puts together a package – EPK, bio, press release – and then utilizes their network of contacts to obtain reviews, interviews, sync placements, and inclusion on playlists.
Because of TANSTAAFL, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, an axiom coined by Robert Heinlein, publicists cost money. If you don’t have the money, do not put it on your credit card or borrow the money from your mom. That’s a no-win scenario leading to you joining Prometheus chained to a rock, while an eagle nibbles at your liver.
Simply put, no money equals no publicist, which means you are now part and parcel of the DIY crowd, a group whose members are inestimable and whose exertions rival the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Yet as fierce as the struggle is, you can prove victorious. The trick is to never surrender. Put together a list of reviewers and pitch every one of them. Feedspot has a listing of the Top 100 music sites for 2021. Start there. Work social media until you’re blue in the face and concoct guerilla marketing techniques.
Now, let’s say you’re flush with cash and plop down the cheddar for a publicist. Beware, because some publicists adhere to the social media perception: they work the sites with massive Twitter and IG followers and, to a lesser extent, those with beaucoup Facebook followers. Facebook gets short-shrift because it’s perceived as “for old people,” while TikTok, IG, and Twitter profit from youthful users. The belief is that all those followers will willy-nilly click on the link, read the article, and then listen to the music.
Once upon a time, I contributed to a very popular site, which shall remain nameless because it’s a good site operated by knowledgeable staff, covering music, film, TV, culture, and interviews. The site amasses circa 40,000 hits per day, of which the music reviews attract only a few hundred, despite the fact the site boasts hundreds of thousands of social media followers. In essence, social media followers do not equate to hits.
Another site I currently contribute to focuses primarily on music and gets more than 2 million hits per month, around 70,000 per day. Yet their social platforms are weak, sans the immense number of followers that would make it irresistible to some publicists. So, even though the site is on fire, benighted publicists tend to disregard it.
Quantifiable traffic is the key ingredient, not gigantic social media numbers.
Francois La Rochefoucauld said it best: “… the world is made out of appearances.” And the appearance insinuated by social media is a glitzy mirage, tantalizing and magnetic, but in the end ersatz. Thus, before you take on a publicist, check them out.