Marketing and PR Are Not Synonymous – Here's How to Tell What Your Band Is Really Looking For

Posted by Sarah Spencer on Apr 28, 2016 06:00 AM

shutterstock_297790034Image via Shutterstock

During the day, I work at a boutique inbound marketing agency in Nashville. We’re pretty cool, check us out sometime. We help musicians and music industry professionals use inbound marketing techniques to enhance their digital presence and get them reaching sales goals. Things like attracting the right kind of fans, making more conversions to their email list, and serving up the type of content that makes them more discoverable and more engaging. Most of what we do takes place on the artist’s own website and their socials.

We are not a PR agency. Yet, misguided artists continue to call us asking about our PR services and what we can do to help them sell 50,000 copies of their debut album that’s coming out in two weeks. There is so much wrong with that statement. Starting with…

Marketing and PR are not synonymous

When artists make these kinds of statements, it indicates they have a complete lack of understanding of the difference between PR and marketing. Okay, understandable. That’s not the type of knowledge people are just born with. It needs to be learned. I get it.

But at the same time, it demonstrates that this artist is clearly not a good candidate for PR in the first place. It seems that a lot of misinformed musicians think that PR equals promotion. It begs the question…

What is PR, really?

PR stands for "public relations." A public relations team or publicist’s job is to make sure that your brand or image is properly upheld in the public sphere. They take their time to do a number of things for their clients, which often include:

  • Engaging with fans or customers on social media to build strong relationships with them
  • Reaching out to media outlets to spread their client’s content and make sure it’s displayed in positive light
  • Monitoring the web and other media outlets for negative reviews or comments

Neither PR firms nor marketing agencies will:

  • Send your music to radio stations to get airplay
  • Pitch you to record labels for a record deal
  • Get you a coveted gig at the largest festival in your region

PR is an amazing investment that should be made at the right time. While there may be some crossover between PR firms and marketing agencies, this is a general outline of their differences.

[Ask a Publicist: What Do You Do, Exactly?]

So, when is the right time for my band to get some PR?

Make sure there’s something to talk about

Sometimes, new bands will be under the misconception that, since they’re new, they need to get the word out about their newly minted band status. They may believe that any potential fans need to know that their band exists and music is to come at some eventual, undetermined date.

A good first step for a new band isn’t to get PR. Instead, it’s to make content. Write songs, record, get professional photos, write blogs, create your social media accounts, book shows. Your time will be much better spent creating the content you’ll be giving to your potential fans.

Then, once you’ve got a release coming up, it may be time to consider reaching out to a PR company. They can help you widen your sphere of influence when you have a product to share.

[5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Music PR Firm]

Give yourself plenty of time to ramp up

PR campaigns are just that: campaigns! They take time to plan and execute. Shorter campaigns can run for a couple of months, while longer campaigns can run for a year or more.

[Ask a Publicist: What Does an Album Campaign Timeline Look Like?]

It’s always in the artist’s best interest to approach a PR firm well before your album releases, your tour starts, or your big event happens. Your publicist will simply need time to link you to media outlets and get you specific write-ups and interviews.

It will cost you money

Working with any PR firm worth their salt will be an investment. If you don’t have the cash to spend, then you’re most likely not going to be able to afford their services. On the flip side, if you do have a large budget set aside for PR, you still don’t want to jump right in if you don’t have content or time. Having the money doesn’t always mean you should start spending it on PR right away.

[How Much Should a Music PR Campaign Cost?]


Sarah Spencer is a singer/songwriter and blogger, working, living, and playing in Nashville, TN. By day, she's the creative director at a boutique creative agency for the music industry. When she's not on the web, she's writing songs, playing shows, and singing as a session vocalist.

Looking for artists to feature

Topics: PR, Music Business 101, Marketing & Promotion


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