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Ten Tips For Do-It-Yourself PR and Publicity For Bands

Long before I started my publicity firm in 1994, during my hard rock bass playing halcyon Heavy Metal Big Hair Band years of the 1980’s in New York City, I realized I had a natural proclivity at handling all of the band’s business affairs including bookings, radio promotion and publicity.

A band is a business, and that business produces music, concerts, and tee-shirts; products that people want to buy.  But you have to promote that business in order for people to become interested enough to want to part with their hard-earned cash, so you can get it and use it at the grocery store.

Learning the ‘Black Art’ of the music industry was no easy task.  “Fahgetaboutit!” my Brooklyn-born father would remind me… “Get a normal job, you need to make a consistent salary, so you can raise a family and be happy… like me!”  For 30-someoddyears, for an executive desk job he hated, Dad was on the Long Island Rail Road at 5:30 a.m. to downtown Manhattan and then returned home at 6:00 p.m. looking like he helped an elephant each day push out a kidney stone… from the inside.  But I digress….

Educational books didn’t exist 25-years ago the way they do today.  Much of what I learned about the business was by trial and error, talking to other musicians, and from what I picked up as a ravenous reader of all things music, musical instruments, bands, etc, from the fan magazines of the time, such as Creem, Circus and Hit Parader, Guitar Player and Musician Magazine, to Billboard Magazine, the latter of which was pretty hard to find on the neighborhood newsstand.  

No one in the upper echelons of the business, at that time, was willing to help or give up any info to anyone looking to make their way in the industry.  The music business was very much a private club; you were either in or out.  I got a lot of doors slammed in my face when all I wanted was a little help, or an answer to a question, and that had an impact on me.

Hence the reason I spend so much time helping those interested in furthering their careers in music through speaking engagements for SFSU’s Music/Recording Business Program, the SF MusicTech Summit, the PR Club at Cal Berkeley, and programs produced by NARIP, Pyramind Studios, and others.  Even though I run a PR firm that works with major or funded bands and corporations, I hate turning anyone away, therefore my cheapest services help a DIY band get their music to radio and reviewers for as little as $99.  And if you’re going to be contacting members of the press, here’s the first of what I hope will be many more informational pieces to help guide you to success in music and entertainment.  Good luck. 

1. Learn how to sell yourself.  Want media coverage? Ask.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask to speak to the person in editorial who handles music or entertainment.

2. Be Creative.  News doesn’t happen.  News is created… and develop a sense of humor, especially about yourself.  If they’re laughing, they’re listening.  Let’s be real… you’re playing music, not curing cancer.  Try not to be so serious, but don’t be a buffoon either. 

3. Grammar. Learn how to spell and know the fundamentals of grammar.  (Use the spellchecker).

4. Proofread your work.  Then have someone else proofread your work… and then have someone else proofread your work.  Then let it ‘marinate’ for a few hours or overnight.  You’ll be amazed at how many spelling and/or grammatical errors will appear, as well as glaringly required edits, when you come back to it with fresh eyes.  Sloppy, incoherent press releases or introductory pitch letters will result in their instant deletion.  You only get one chance to make a first impression. 

5. Consistency of press output – if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.  Also, instead of blasting out a press release, why not send a personalized “pitch” or “inquiry” letter to a few editorial contacts with media outlets that you really respect, that cater to your specific audience?  When you get to know a reporter one-on-one, and build a relationship, that’s when you’re going to start to see things happen for you, possibly with a little write up first, and then a feature article a few months down the road when you play the biggest club in the county. 

6. Media Contacts. Know your media outlets and build and maintain a database of editorial contacts, reporters, staff and freelance writers with:• Enthusiast & Trade Magazines• Newspapers – Arts, Entertainment, Lifestyle & Business Sections• Web Sites• Bloggers• Influencers on Social Networks

7. Pay it forward.  Contribute business tips or articles to your trade media outlets for free.  In the beginning, the most important thing is to get your name out there.  Become an authority – offer commentary and/or opinions that benefit your contemporaries about recording, instruments maintenance, playing techniques, performing, reviews of other bands in the community, etc.  Make sure your writing credit includes your full name, a headshot, short bio (as simple as ‘Fritz is the lead guitarist of Lemongello and the Pudding Pops”), band name (if applicable), contact info and website address. 

8. Networking Opportunities - Know your industry associations, networking opportunities, and trade shows (The following are examples of music industry associations), and get out there and meet people face-to-face.  When someone refers to someone else as ‘connected’, how do you think he became connected?  He got himself out of the house and met people over the years and developed relationships:• NAMM – National Association of Music Merchants• NARIP – National Association of Recording Industry Professionals• NARAS – National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences - find your regional Chapter• SF Entertainment Commission• MUSEXPO• A2IM – American Association of Independent Music• NARM – National Academy of Recording Merchandisers• SF MusicTech Summit• SXSW – South by Southwest

9. Respect Feedback – your story is not the most important story in the world – don’t take rejection and criticism personally… rejection and criticism are at the heart of education and learning from rejection and criticism will help you better craft and skills. 

10. Be realistic: There is one guarantee in publicity and that is: There are no guarantees. Publicity takes a long time to develop.  One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from drum great Rod Morgenstein the first time I met him in 2002 at the Berklee College of Music when I was handling the press for the university’s publishing division, Berklee Press.  I introduced myself as Jordan Rudess’ publicist (Dream Theater’s keyboardist), and Rod who performed with Jordan in the Dixie Dregs and is one half of the Rudess Morgensten Project, commented that you couldn’t open a music magazine (we had magazines back then), and not read about Jordan.  I had been doing Jordan’s relentless publicity in association with a leading recording equipment manufacturer, as well as several of solo projects, for two years when he made that comment.  So, when it comes to being realistic, just remember, every overnight sensation can be years in the making.

This article was originally posted at

Email Christopher Buttner at

Reader Comments (4)

Great post, Christopher. It's always useful to hear really down to earth promotional advice from one who has truly been there, and respect to you for wanting to help up and coming artists who may not have much of a PR budget.

One of the best points for me was when you said: "Publicity takes a long time to develop".

In my experience this is very seldom understood by musicians.

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Hol

I'd like to piggyback onto Tip #5 and elaborate on how to build the relationship with journalists BEFORE you pitch them. Here are tips from my ezine:

--Find out if the journalist blogs. If so, you've just struck gold! That blog will tip you off to the kinds of music or other topics that the blogger thinks are important. Spend some time reading the posts.

--Comment at the blog! Every blogger I know is disappointed that they don't generate more comments. Comment two or three times and, I promise you, the blogger will know who you are BEFORE you pitch.

--Is the journalist on Twitter and Facebook? Many are, and they scour those sites looking for story ideas. Their tweets and Facebook status updates also will tip you off to things they think are important.

--Comment on their work, perhaps through a letter to the editor of the publication the've written for, or email them with your comments. A journalist's worst nightmare is that nobody is reading their work.

Hope this helps.

P.S. Great meeting you on David Mathison's teleseminar tonight.


Thanks for share information

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March 16 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Awesome stuff! Thanks. Tip 4 is often hard if your hungry and impulsive, but there is nothing more embarrassing than reading through your errors in your outbox when you go back to send the follow up.

Also great add on from Joan. Thank you.

July 14 | Unregistered CommenterSolwave

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