PR and management are two aspects of a professional career that can be non-obvious to a band first venturing into those territories. They can seem mysterious, nonsensical, towering, or even inaccessible to a band looking for representation. To clear up some of the confusion about the two related but separate functions of the music business, Brian McKinney of Crooked Houses PR + Management gave Independent Clauses a helpful interview. Below are some of the big themes that McKinney outlined.
Three things to know about PR
1. You need to get a PR person three months before your release date.
“A lot of bands don’t understand that publicity needs to happen before the album release. Lead time is involved. It takes magazines three months to look at it, decide if they’re going to review it, write it, edit it, publish it, and send it out to newsstand. If you’re working with Pitchfork or even Independent Clauses, it can be a month to six weeks. Having these conversations while you’re demoing the album is good. I’ve turned down some releases from great bands and great albums because I can’t [promote] it after it’s released. I just can’t get it to work.”
2. Results are not guaranteed with PR blasts.
“No matter how much you spend, even if you spend thousands of dollars on publicity, the results you get aren’t always the results you expect. I’ve worked with bands that are working with very little and got them some pretty good stuff–and they weren’t satisfied. The number one misconception is once you hire someone, your album will be on Pitchfork or reviewed in Spin. There’s so many other bands, so many other labels with marketing budgets, and there’s only so many places to get reviews.”
3. PR takes up a lot of time on the PR person’s part.
“There’s a lot of writing involved, that’s part of it. There’s a lot of thought that goes into who you’re going to contact and follow-up e-mails. If you’re doing physical mailing, there’s hours on hours printing pages, stuffing envelopes, printing address stickers, and affixing stickers.”
Three things to know about managers
1. You need a manager when the business becomes big enough that you’re running out of time to make art.
“[Managers] need to keep an eye on a whole bunch of different aspects of the band. Really it’s about freeing up the artists to perform art. If a band has enough time to send e-mails to every blogger and magazine and label, then I don’t think they’re practicing enough. I think they’ve got too much time on your hands. You can’t be good enough, there’s so many other bands that are going to be better than you. Focus on your live show, focus on your music.”
2. Management is about making business connections; PR is about making press connections.
“The job of the publicist is to get media attention, and the job of the manager is to get industry attention. That means label, A&R, and booking agents for setting up tours. That is one reason I don’t do PR for the bands I manage, because I like to spend as much time as possible working those connections. Otherwise I’m just being a free publicist for a band, which isn’t helpful to anyone. When [bands I manage] have an album coming out, I make sure that they budget to hire a publicist.”
3. It is expensive, but it’s valuable for those trying to make a career.
“It’s expensive, don’t get me wrong. It’s a hard sell. Bands don’t understand how much work is involved [in management], and how necessary it is to have someone represent you. That’s why I’m trying to keep things as upfront as possible on my website.”