Music Business PR Guide

Music Business PR Guide

Guest post by Leena Sowambur of Positively Music

Part 1

If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.
— S. H. Simmons

I think the above quote as got to be my favorite quote on advertising, marketing and PR!

PR comes out as the winner in the above quote if advertising is saying that you're good, and marketing is saying that you're good at solving another person's problems; PR is someone else saying that you are good at solving someone else's problems. Word of mouth and endorsement promotion are particularly powerful combined. Therefore I have put together this super short guide detailing some music business PR basics and ten ideas that you can implement for any artist or act straightaway. 

This guide consists of:-

1. Definitions

2. Considerations Before You Get Started

3. Your Ten Ideas for Main Music PR Promotions


There is a difference between marketing and PR which some people, unfortunately, make mistakes with. So for clarification purposes here are some definitions that I use in all my talks and seminars and for the purpose of this article.


The way a business organization identifies its customers, defines and develops the products or services that its customers want, and sells and distributes those products or services to customers. It is paid for, personal and direct.


In the context of the music industry this really means “PUBLICITY” A type of public relations in the form of an editorial piece which conveys information about a product, service, or idea in the media. It is non-paid, non-personal communication. (“Public Relations” aka PR means the artist’s perception to the public.)

The reasons we would use “PR,” aka “publicity,” are because it is a cost-effective way to introduce your act to the online world of prospective fans, therefore, allowing you to potentially reach a massive audience. This also has the potential to increase global visibility and sales leads for the act in question. This media exposure is an easy way to increase a key website’s reach and rank within search engines as well as branding within the online space. As well as the data capture opportunity, editorial can serve as the ultimate advert, particularly in a well-known publication, online or in print.

Considerations Before Getting Started

A number of things to think about before embarking on implementing any PR campaign.

1. Begin with the end in mind and think about the results you want to achieve via your PR campaign in a timely manner, for example, is there a media value target? Is this engagement based?

2. Ensure you have a comprehensive EPK, this, of course, it your toolkit moving forward.

3. Isolate the maximum top 30 to 50 editorial online or offline mediums for your PR campaign for the genre of music in question. Go for a balance of quality versus quantity of readers and it bears repeating that the media should be targeted.

4. You will need a campaign timeline 6 to 8 weeks to your release date with a 2 week exposure period around your release date for online PR. For print PR you will have to schedule around their deadlines, therefore you may have to plan a 2 - 4 months in advance for PR around a release dependent on the level of exposure be it regional or national.

5. You will need wider coverage to provide a basis for your main promotions. Your wider coverage with comprise of:-

Syndication of audio and video content - Audio and video streams can be syndicated to all appropriate editorial partners for feature and review. All links should be offered to the partner websites.

Gig Reviews - Editorial partners can be invited to review live performances. All links should be offered to the partner websites.

Interviews and Q+As - A range of editorial partners such as Contact Music and Hypemachine can be targeted for interviews. Again all links will be offered to the editorial partners to include as part of their interview features. Pre-written Q+As can also be offered to widen coverage.

News Stories - Offering any news stories relevant to the artist and targeted editorial medium. Use your imagination with the features – journalists are always looking for a story.

The music PR business is a relationship business, as is all business and it's pretty difficult to build rapport over email, even though most initiatives start with an email. So, here is my short story to end part one of this guide. One time, I was planning a radio show with a team of local community arts workers. An email had been sent to the radio show management by one team member to secure a time slot, I asked when this email would be followed up and the reply was "in a fortnight, we don't want to look pushy."

In the music business, this is way too long, I'm sure you agree! Any number of events can happen in a fortnight that will leave you at the bottom of a pile of shelved emails plus in the case of music PR you risk missing out on deadlines for exclusives, features and the timeliness of your release altogether, therefore, follow up with a phone call 2 days after an initial email. Or better still, just start with a phone call and follow up with an email, much better. You know, the old school way!

Part 2

Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.
— Richard Branson

Your 10 Ideas for Main Promotions

1. Crowdsource T-Shirt Competition

This is simply asking the fans to create merchandise for your act and making the design available for vote and purchase where the winning fan might be rewarded financially also. This competition can be made available all over the web from email to social networks driving traffic to the website in return for data. Competition prize should include a meet and greet.

2. Album Listening Post

To hook in with an album release, create an album listening party where fans can get access to the full-length album streams a week prior to album release. The opportunity can be used to develop the database. This is best carried out over a web platform for wider coverage.

3. Have Your Lyrics Made Into a Track

The idea is to run a competition on with a relevant editorial partner where fans can enter a competition to have their lyrics made into a track. If possible it could also be made into a b-side for the next single or released as an exclusive online by the editorial partner.

4. Album Playback

A playback of the album held in an appropriate venue for fans to meet each other and discuss the music. This should be accompanied by a Q+A and meet and greet. Editorial partners should also be invited to this as good fan energy can prove to be a positive influence on any articles.

5. Remix Competition

The act can give away the key audio 'stems' from their title track to enable musicians and bedroom producers to remix. This competition can be made available all over the web from email to social networks driving traffic to the website in return for data.

6. Webchat

A web chat with can prove to be an exciting event especially if it is media rich. This would offer the target audience and editorial partners the opportunity to really get to know the act. The web chat should be accompanied by all appropriate links and it should be ensured that it is promoted widely. An opportunity to sign up for more information to a newsletter should be provided in order to capture data.

7. Collaborations

This is a creative and effective way of broadening reach. First, find out the acts daily routine and isolate items such as their favourite brands, causes and other activities. The best method for this is to ask the act what they do when they first get up and run through their entire day. This can lead to partnerships that can be pitched as features to editorial partners such as, photo shoots with upcoming photographers, features with artist favourite online video channels and other cross partnerships with areas such as brands, graphic design, films and fashion.

8. Live Webcast From an Intimate Setting Such As Living Room

This can work very well for acts with a hardcore of fans who want to get to know the act in a more intimate manner. These fans can also be encouraged to spread the word. This, in turn, incentivises editorial partners to cover this type of feature (or any feature) as they know it will be read. It is always worth mentioning the kind of fanbase an act has to encourage editorial partner support.

9. Fan Junket

This is the organization of a fan “led” press conference which editorial partners are invited to. This ensures meet and greets and good public relations. This feature could be run as a competition with an editorial partner as an exclusive.

10. Cross-referring with Non-Music Editorial Partners

This is a feature based on the theme of part of the editorial partner’s remit such as

  • What’s in [the acts] handbag for

  • Favorite accessories, shoes for

  • Best fitness tips with Men’s Health.

Find out the act’s interests in order to best feature them in this manner. These features can prove useful for later sponsorship efforts.


Remember, to observe timelines in order to drive traffic in the right direction at the best time and to use the media to their fullest potential in terms of creative thinking. It goes without saying that activity should be measured. It is still important to note, however, that PR/Publicity is only one small part of the promotional mix and cannot be taken in isolation to wider marketing efforts, the marketing campaign or critically your financial strategy. If you are executing a PR campaign with no ties to a monetary strategy via your business plan you have a PR effort that you cannot measure and therefore cannot manage.

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Leena, Positively Music

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Leena Sowambur holds a BA (Hons) Commercial Music and MA Design and Media Arts from the University of Westminster, London, UK. Her professional career started in 2000 running music marketing campaigns for acts from Beyoncé to Take That and music business entrepreneurship.

Leena now manages Positively Music, which provides music industry online courses and live training focussed on music business model design and strategy for SMEs.

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