Major labels have made serious cuts when it comes to staff, and they started with promo and marketing. While it was common knowledge that majors had plenty of fat to trim, the cuts that were made have left a bare bones staff of people too busy to be interested in the music they’re working. Any one person is working more records than is really possible, and although they are paying for the assistance of 3rd party PR companies, this kind of disorganization at the top always trickles down. For marketing departments to handle the workload, they have adopted a very simplistic template for press that they can plug any artist into, making only minor changes. Here’s what you need to work a major label record to press: 2 press releases, 1 bio, 1 audio link, 1 video link, tour dates, ad budget. Unfortunately, this standard set by majors has been adopted by essentially everyone, and ‘not knowing anything about what you’re working’ has become somewhat commonplace.
Since PR companies are given so few materials from their clients, there isn’t much more they can pass along to their press outlets, except maybe a few pictures. The main reason they are hired by labels in the first place isn’t really to ‘do press’ but to manage the ad buys and make sure people print the press releases. Where a successful PR agent once knew all of the big players in print personally, they are nowÂ maintaining spreadsheets toÂ keep track of the thousands of music sites and blogs, a list that changes almost daily. These sites and blogs are of varying quality and reach, and their writers are of varying skill and taste, meaning for every good review, I’ll show you 10 bad ones and vice versa. While the actual work load is relatively minimal for just one band in this template system, PR companies are also feeling the pinch of an industry hemorrhaging money, and are picking up as many clients as possible to make up the difference. And while they aren’t being given any real information about the acts they’re working and most of the time have never even heard the music, they are still expected to produce results from their campaigns. They must report back with every site and magazine that has written about the artist and anywhere ads have been placed.
The average music site will receive upwards of 50 press releases a day. In a given week, they will be introduced to approximately 30 new bands, all of whom are ‘the next big thing.’ From the PR companies they work with, they are expected to print every press release and all of the tour dates, post the songs and videos from the acts and then review the album. While MOST sites will never receive money from labels or artists, many can be included in bulk ad buys through a number of companies, where they make fractions of a penny per day from their ad space. The constant flux of music sites and blogs can be attributed to how easy it is to start one, but how difficult it is to maintain.Â Writers are being bombarded by people demanding exposure, most of them not worthy of it, and find it difficult to break even, let alone turn a profit. Additionally, those who created sites because of their love of music quickly learn that not only does love not pay the bills, but the serious reporting they were hoping to do is made near impossible by the lack of information and access available. Magazines are certainly experiencing these same problems, and then some, as their ad space costs about 5 to 10 times more than what can be purchased on websites. The cost of producing a physical magazine is much higher than a web page, and finding someone who can afford the space often takes precendence over unearthing the underground.
Unknown artists do not break ground in press without ad budgets. Most press outlets are too broke to be concerned with hooking someone up, unless they’re being hooked up in return. Perhaps, if they’re creative, they can appeal to the right hipster journalists at the bigger ragsÂ and gain a little traction, but that hasn’t proven useful as those artists rarely achieve significant sales as a result. Now, I am not saying that press is pointless, but I will say that for music, it is completely dominated by those who can afford to purchase a writer’s time and pay for ad space. Real music journalism is barely alive today. Real writers who see the stories and wish to pursue them face roadblock after roadblock as their PR contact tries to find the right information for the label contact, who may or may not have heard of the band, but is certainly too busy to be bothered. Reaching out to the bands directly can also be a dead end as writers are bounced between the numerous managers and staffers, if they are able to find contact information at all. And should they finally get that story, the one they had been waiting for, all they can do is hope someone sees it amidst the endless overhyped press releases and ‘purchased’ articles.
So here’s the question:
Even if you DID have the ‘real thing’ on your hands, what would you do about it?