Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Town Cryer - Outsourced vs DIY Promotion

[Doing research for the last post, "Portrait of the Artist as an Indie", we had the good fortune to gather some expert information about promotion.  Instead of letting it rot in the obscurity of our inbox, and because of it's importance to the indie musician, we thought a follow up post was in order.]

In these days of DIY, when the indie musician composes and records and masters and duplicates and does most everything, including booking their own shows; that "if you want something done right, do it yourself" attitude encroaches into every facet of their musical endeavor.  So much so that it's difficult to give away control to an outside force, even when maybe that's the best move.  

A prime control hot spot?  Promotion.  

Though it's a vital step in the music trade, it's typically downplayed or ignored by the indie.  Either "My Music Stands on it's Own (If you build it they will come)" or "It costs too much" or "It's overrated".  Or "I hate that stuff".  

Makes sense - To the musician, every deed of non-music is a deed of questionable worth.  Because music is what they barter, it's the coin of the realm, it's what's for supper.  It's What It's All About.  Everything else is... everything else.  Eating, sleeping, working, bathing?  Overrated. 

Promoting?  Same deal.  Though an integral part of the music trade, promoting is just... not music. 

And to be agreeable, promotion isn't strictly necessary.  If you're not interested in getting your music heard, in any capacity, then you should skip out on promotion.

But if we may - Promotion in every other industry is called Advertising.  Without it, no one knows you've got something worth paying attention to.  So music without promotion is kinda like a farmer raising crops, then not harvesting them.  Not exactly, but kinda like that. 

You could even argue that there is a scientific way to approach promotion, a "Generally Accepted Promotional Principals" list.  Bu this isn't accounting, and following it doesn't necessarily lead to success.  Every group is unique, and so needs unique handling.  Ryan Cano of The Loyalty Firm says "...every project is different but publicity is very much a relationship-driven type of service and I have been fortunate enough to be able to share good music from people around the world." 

Ryan would know.  Self-taught, self-motivated, he's a voting member of the Grammys, a veteran of band management, done record deals and licencing negotiations, handled show booking and production, worked as a sponsorship liason, as a publicist -

"There's always a lot of hats to wear to make a band successful and having a good publicist is a smart investment to add to a band's team."  But being a publicist isn't Ryan's sweet spot:  He calls band management "the true bread-and-butter of what I do well here..."
Talk to enough people, and you'll hear those two words, "management" and "promotion", mentioned in the same sentence, leading you to think these are the same beast.  Ross Bennet of Manateam clarifies it:  "I think they go hand in hand on our level. There are big management companies that manage huge acts out there that work with big promotion companies, and that makes sense to be separate.  But on our local level there is no need for separation."   
I always think of Press and PR as being part of the puzzle, not the final piece of it.... I guess what I mean is that if you hire a publicist, the best way for a band to maximize the value you receive from the PR company is to be doing all the things a band desiring publicity should be doing.
-- Ryan Cano of The Loyalty Firm
So what do you guys do, really?
The load of doing your publicity!  ....create a strategy with the band and we go for writers who we think will review the artists music and also review it favorably.  We push music videos, send press releases, do tour marketing, etc.  I design a custom mailout based upon writers tastes at various places.... We dedicate our time to getting our clients music in the press and that's a full time focus and our full time job.
-- Ryan Cano of The Loyalty Firm  
...placement in local online and print media outlets regarding new music, cd reviews, show previews or anything else writers write about, help with booking if needed, inclusion in one of Manateam's mix-tape's (via bandcamp)...Our greatest goal is to make sure everyone knows who they are and that they are awesome.
-- Ross Benett of Manateam

Like the industry they inhabit, these promotional entities come in all shapes, sizes, and focus.  The Loyalty Firm is a full-on boutique promotion house, with a select clientele and a full range of services.  

Moving down the continuum a notch or two, Manateam is a bit less focused on promotion per se - Their proper name, "Manateam Group", suggests a collective, a strength-in-numbers approach to problem solving.  Ross says "We have close ties to our bands, and work with them all on a personal level. We hang out with them, come to their shows, drink with them, and help them make decisions with the band."
Manateam is a project that helps deserving bands point themselves in the right direction. We help promote where they may not have reach, generate media content where they may be lacking, and help create an an awareness where a buzz is deserved.
-- Ross Bennett
And way on the other end, you can get promotional resources from anonymous websites like,, and 101Promotion:

These kind of entities can only exist in our over-wired world:
This day and age of a viral marketing medium is very real, and what can start off as a local/regionally known entity can become a world-wide household name depending on the various media outlets that review, post or talk about your music and the content the band creates.
-- Ryan Cano
Given these kinds of choices, you could see why the indie may just DIY it.  And in some instances, that's for the best:  
I think most bands who need PR truly are touring bands.  If you are only playing in your hometown - you have plenty of time to handle your own PR and it will make you truly appreciate that job once you do hire it out after doing it youself.
-- Ryan Cano
The current mainstream thought is that there is a list of activities the artist has to perform just to be a position to grow that fan base - 
1)Playing shows 
2)Touring regionally 
3)Producing music videos 
4)Engaging fans via social media, and 
5)Making great music (The One Great Absolute).  

All the work in the world, however, may not be enough to satisfy the gods of virality.  We'll rest our case with just two names, and you'll be forced to agree - Bieber and Black.  

[Special thanks to Ryan Cano and Ross Benett for their contributions to this article:
Ross Benett;
Next week we'll return to our normal, review-based programming.]


  1. We're an American band. Thanks for the info on how we can promote our songs.

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  2. You're welcome, and we're gratified to hear that we made a post that was worth the time you spent reading it!

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