ANSWERS BY RANDALL DAVIS, CLIENT LIAISON
What is the focus of your campaigns?
We try to get a lot of attention in the new age music community (because that is where your initial audience will come from), but we also pitch a certain number of mainstream media outlets. Regarding the written-word media, we pursue numerous new age and alternative lifestyle publications.
How is your company different from other radio promotion firms and music PR agencies?
Our PR agency is one of the only ones in the country (perhaps the world) that thoroughly knows both the new age music marketplace and the mainstream music business. This company deals with all of the new age lifestyle publications on a regular basis (and has for more than two decades), but we also work all the time with the mainstream media. So we push into both territories simultaneously, and we split our mailing list accordingly.
I do not think there is another company in the world that really knows both new age publicity and new age radio promotion (we have been working closely with writers and radio programmers for several decades). Some PR agencies send to a few radio stations. Some radio promotion companies send to a few print media outlets. But none have an in-depth and long-term relationship with both the programmers and the writers/editors. And if you hire two separate companies, you will spend considerably more money.
How do you come up with your mailing list?
We have developed our list of media and radio contacts over many years, and have a close relationship with them. One of the main things we offer is that we handpick the mailing list for each client. We use the computer to whittle down the 15,000-plus names on our database to about 500 (by genre), but then we click through each name, study that media outlet, and decide if it is a good possibility for you and your music. For example, there would be no reason to send a keyboard CD to GUITAR PLAYER magazine, but many agencies and record companies just send every CD to a standard list and do not care if they are basically throwing away a percentage.
Clicking through a computer list and studying each media name and their musical preferences can take four-to-eight-hours of time, but this way we maximize the effectiveness of the mailing and don’t waste CDs. I saw a list recently from a large New York City-based PR firm that was hired to publicize an acoustic neo-classical trio, and the agency sent copies to 14 editors at ROLLING STONE even though in more than four decades of publication, that magazine has never covered a neo-classical act. If your background or instrument is unusual (a hang, stick, koto, duduk or oud), we will do extensive additional media research to add appropriate outlets to the 15,000 names we already have. For one children’s music project, I did 80-hours of pre-campaign research.
What sort of media is on your list?
For the Radio Promotion part of our list, we first target all of the radio programmers who report each month to the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 chart. Some of these shows, stations and channels play all new age music, but others only play some new age music. There are shows that specialize in ambience or world music or electronic, but most of them are new age-oriented. One of the great things about new age music is that it is a wide-open field encompassing a great many sub-genres. Half our radio list contains ZMR reporters and the other half are similar radio outlets that do not report. The radio list includes some satellite and syndicated shows and channels, and many specialty shows. Virtually all radio, even if broadcast terrestrially locally, is also webcast.
For the Publicity Campaign, we not only balance our list between new age and mainstream media, we also balance it between new age music outlets and publications that cover all types of music. Since there are more media outlets online than anywhere else, the largest percentage are online webzines. But we send to the dwindling number of appropriate printed publications too (few newspapers have the space to run reviews these days, especially on non-pop releases, and when they do run reviews, those reviews often come from the wire services and are not written locally). We are careful to not just select large media because if they all say no, where does that leave you? In addition, we work very hard to keep our media mailing list up-to-date (which takes a LOT of hours each week). Every musical artist and album we have ever worked on has gotten some good album reviews. The nature of the internet is such that some media outlets do not have time to review, but we try to get them to post your bio or press release to increase exposure.
Why do you send to so much on-line media?
Ten years ago we sent to a lot more print media than we do today. But now there are far more media outlets online than anywhere else. If you add all the newspapers, magazines, TV shows and radio stations in the world together, there is still more media online. So now we send to more online media than print media. Research now shows that people get the majority of their information online. But because there is so much media online, you need a specialty company like ours that knows which of these media outlets are important for getting exposure for this type of music.
One of the major benefits of online media is that the coverage can last a long time. Previously, if a CD was reviewed in a newspaper, the next day the paper was probably in the trashcan and never read again. But now a review online can be read by people all over the world for years to come. And those reviews can be found by simply using a search engine.
What type of follow-up work do you do after the mailing?
We call every media and radio outlet that has a phone number (except foreign media or some online sites who do not give out a number). When we start following up on our mailing with countless phonecalls and emails, we have a half-dozen refined verbal pitches for your project plus three or four written email pitches that we send. These pitches contain reasons why that music critic should be listening to and writing about your music, or why that radio programmer should be playing your music. We also have numerous short reminder or teaser emails that we send. Most emails we send are personalized. We work hard at developing and maintaining relationships with media people and radio programmers. We are VERY persistent. Our goal is to get a firm yes or no answer from each person about whether they will be utilizing your CD.
How do I found out what you have accomplished?
Every Friday we email you an in-depth written report outlining the reviews or airplay we scored that week. Unlike some companies, we do not waste your time outlining everyone we contacted that week, but only the actual scores. You can assume we are contacting hundreds of media/radio every week. In addition, every Friday we also email you clippings (copies of media coverage) and radio playlists and chart reports. We work hard to get in as many of these clippings as possible. We paste them up on the computer with a media logo on top so they are clean and easy to read so that you can utilize them. You can post them (or excerpts from them) on your website, or you can email them to fans, distributors, stores, concert promoters, etc.
How detailed is the information that you would send me about the media and radio that you score?
Our weekly reports are generally considered the most in-depth and thorough of any in the music business. Many companies only provide you with a list, whereas we send you an informative written report each Friday. For publicity scores, we not only tell you the name of the media outlet, but also whether it is regional, national or international; whether it is printed or on-line; and when the coverage will appear. We also describe the publication (general interest, general music, just new age music, etc.). For radio airplay, we tell you the name of the show, the station or channel, the frequency, whether it also is webcast, where the station is located, information about the show and station, the day of the week and time the show airs, and, when available, what tunes will be played or were played (and the date they were played). Some radio promotion companies merely forward the list of Zone Music Reporter monthly report lists once a month which tells you very little. In addition, we supplement our reports with numerous clippings and playlists which are useful tools, proves the scores, and, in the case of playlists/airplay-reports, allows you to see what other artists you are up against.
What about written materials?
If you already have a bio or press release prepared that deals specifically with the album we will be working on, we can probably utilize it or we re-work it for our purposes. If nothing has been prepared, I will write a new bio for you. My bios are full of background facts, but also cover the new recording, and include quotes so that the reader gets a feeling of the artist’s personality. The bio is written like a music magazine feature story with an interesting beginning and ending. This is important to draw readers in and because the bio usually gets posted all over the internet. You approve the bio before it is sent out. In order to write the bio I do an in-depth interview (two-to-three-hours) with you.
I never farm out the assignment or writing a bio because this is our most important tool (and during the interview I get to know what you are all about). Over the years many media have told us that we provide some of the best music biographies available in this business. I personally have written more than 3,000 music pieces, probably more than any other music publicist in the world. We send the bio to both the radio programmers and music writers. We also write and send them numerous weekly email pitches.
How many projects do you take on at a time?
This is an important question because many PR agencies and many radio promotion companies take on an unlimited number of clients, so they are working a long “laundry list” of projects that they have to ask each media person or radio programmer about. We take a different approach. We never take on more than four clients at a time (often the company is only working on two or three). We do this so we can fully concentrate on each campaign. Both Ruthe Forbriger and I work on all the projects (we don’t split up the clients). In addition, we do all the media work (nothing is handled by an assistant, secretary or intern). All of these points are important because virtually no other PR agency does this. Few agencies set a limit on signing up new business.
What can I expect in regards to results?
We don’t promise you stardom or huge sales or anything like that. What we promise is to work extremely hard on your behalf, no matter how many hours it takes to get results (which means working many nights and weekends too). Unlike some agencies that end a campaign with only a couple of reviews in your hand or a few radio stations playing your music, we know we can get strong media coverage on you and your recording, and also get airplay with a large percentage of the radio outlets that we send to.
Regarding results and expectations: this is the music business. If there was a magic wand we could wave to get people to buy music, we would all be waving it like crazy. All you can do is follow the tried-and-true methods of marketing -- radio airplay, publicity, advertising, videos, concerts, distribution (or online sales availability), special projects (such as film placement), social networking, etc.
Does your company do anything else?
I am available to my clients for music marketing consultation free-of-charge. It is nice to have someone on your team who has many years of experience in the music business. It is valuable to have someone to serve as a sounding board or to make recommendations.
Sometimes I get so involved in the creation of an artist’s music and forthcoming album that I am hired as an Executive Producer.
But we do not publicize films, corporations, advertising or gizmos. We specialize in radio promotion and music publicity. And we REALLY know music (including eclectic, non-mainstream music). In addition, even though we formerly publicized all types of music and worked with many big-name rock acts, we now specialize in just a few genres of music. If you are a pop or rock act, there are plenty of good PR agencies and radio promotion companies you can turn to. But if your music is new age, world-fusion, neo-classical or ambient, you want to go to a company that fully understands the marketing of these types of music. That is why I have narrowed the focus of my company. No company can thoroughly know every style of music and every media outlet for that music. With our company you get a radio promotion company and publicity agency that is extremely knowledgeable about your type of music and knows how to get coverage for you along with airplay for your recording.
Could I do this myself?
You could not do these types of campaigns for yourself. If you are the artist, it can sometimes be awkward to call up a critic or programmer to try to get them to use your music. You can purchase various media lists, but none of them are thorough or targeted. Many of them do not even have emails. You cannot purchase a detailed and extremely workable new age music media list anywhere. Anyone with unlimited time and energy could use the Internet to eventually put together a strong media list, but this sort of targeted list could take you literally 300-to-500 research hours. At the end of that time you would have a list, but you still would not have a long-term working relationship with those media. In addition, media names, addresses, phone numbers and emails change very frequently so it can almost be a full-time job keeping a list current. It is generally most beneficial if a musical artist (or even a record company) does what they do best. In the case of the artist, it is creating the musical product. Hiring The Creative Service Company still requires you to oversee the campaign, read the weekly reports, track the marketing progress, perhaps update your website and do some social networking. That is enough. It is too much for an artist or small record company to try to do all the media contact and “in the trenches” promotion and publicity work.
Some clients ask if they could save money if they did the media/radio mailing themselves. No, you would not save any money and you would expend a lot of time and energy (or you would end up paying someone else to do your mailing). We do not make any money on the mailings we do for you. We include those mailing costs in our fee, but we can tell you exactly how much of your cost goes toward the mailing. We have found that the least expensive method of mailing is a regular envelope with the CD padded. Our most expensive cost is the postage (which goes up every year), but costs also include the envelope, the padding, the mailing labels, the photocopied bio, and packing tape. Some of the packages go overseas and these packages cost about three-times more than domestic mail and require a customs form to be filled out. Mailings are a lot of work and we take care of that for you. Keep in mind that when you get a price quote from many other PR agencies or radio promotion companies, they often will want you to do the mailing so you need to add those costs on to the total price so that you can actually compare prices between companies. Even those that do the mailings often quote you a “come on” price for the campaign, but then later tag on the price of the mailing. Our price includes everything including hundreds of dollars in postage.
Do you recommend manufacturing CDs in jewel boxes or Digi-Paks or Eco-Wallets?
I highly recommend manufacturing Eco-Wallets or Digi-Pak CDs.
The Eco-Wallet is all cardboard with the CD sliding into the sleeve. This is the lightest option which saves in bulk shipping costs as well as postage. This packaging also does not break when dropped and takes up less space on a shelf. One crucial thing to remember is to order this format with a printed spine which is important so that both media and consumers can find the CD in a stack or on a shelf.
A Digi-Pak is almost as light and is a good option. This packaging uses a plastic tray to hold the CD, but around that it is all cardboard (varnished with a plastic-like coating). This packaging also seldom breaks and saves in shipping/mailing costs.
Jewel boxes are all plastic hard-shell cases that crack easily and often break when dropped (especially the hinges). They are being phased out.
NOTE: It is especially helpful to radio programmers to have the tunes numbered and listed on the back cover with the timings next to each tune.
We can do campaigns for digital-only releases, but at this time you would have to manufacture 250 promotional CDs for our campaign because that many media still want hard copies. However, each year we service a few more radio and press with digital copies.