Music Promotion - How to Avoid the Scams
Without a thoughtfully planned and well executed promotional campaign, most releases will fall upon deaf ears and go nowhere. However, many of us creatives work day jobs or simply don't have the time or know how to put together and carry out a fully blown marketing campaign on top of our day to day lives. If this sounds like you, it might be time to hook up with a music promotion company to boost your marketing efforts. Trouble is, the music industry is unfortunately full of unreliable, scammy promotion companies who will take hard earned cash away from artists who might not know any better, in exchange for a sub-par marketing campaign. They don't see your goals, they don't care for the hours you've put into writing and producing and they're not really concerned with how well the campaign goes. They only see the money. That said, there are tons of promoters out there who do care, who do have your best interests at heart and who will deliver. A good campaign can be the best investment you'll ever make, you just need to know what to look out for and what to avoid.
What is your goal for the release?
Before going out and hiring a promotion company, determine a realistic and measurable goal for your release. Do you want to double your streaming numbers? Do you want more engagement on social media? Do you want more radio play? Each of these will require a different type of company (although you may find some all-rounders, often called label services or 360 campaigns). Once you've figured out your goal as precisely as possible, reverse engineer it. Ask yourself how you will get there, what support you need and what sort of a budget you will need. Knowing all of this will help you to find the right team for your unique position.
What to look out for:
When you're looking for promoter, there are a two big things any reputable company will have.
Firstly, their website will be full of testimonials and case studies and their roster should be easy to find. They should be proud to show this information off. Secondly, there should be some kind of detailed application process in which you need to pitch yourself as an artist. A good promotion team won't accept any artist who comes their way, they'll want to make sure it's a project that they love and genuinely believe they can deliver results for. Any company who will take you on right off the bat, with no friction are not going to deliver the results you want.
Furthermore, you'll want to ask a couple of questions. You'll need to know that they have a reasonable payment process - if they're taking the entire payment upfront, that can be a worry because they have no way of guaranteeing results. They should believe in the project enough to offer some kind of low risk payment plan, deposit scheme or royalty split. (For example, 50% upfront and 50% when the campaign has had time to build some traction)
You'll also want to make sure that their communication is on point. Ask how they'll notify you of the campaigns progress? Will they tell you about opportunities immediately? Will there be a weekly phone call? Or perhaps a bi-weekly email? The last thing you want is for them to be hard to reach or to drop out of the picture as soon as the campaign's underway.
Now you know that, here's how to spot the dodgy ones...
These companies will take your music and push it to relevant streaming playlist curators to boost your streaming numbers.
Fake playlist promoters will pay to put your music on playlists, which are only listened to by bots that generate thousands of plays. Although your streams will go up, your fanbase will not grow and there will be no long term progression. Here are the red flags:
Promising a certain number of streams - If any playlist company promises you a set amount of streams, they're fake. Music is entirely subjective, so nobody can promise anything with a promotional campaign.
The amount of followers is equal to the number of streams - Ask companies for some case studies of artists they're currently working with. (They should be proud to tell you this) Then, find those artists on Spotify, go to their about section and have a look at the playlists they're on. Often you can tell a fake playlist by the cheap aesthetic, but if you're not sure check the average streaming numbers on the songs and number of followers on the playlist. If they're more or less equal, it's probably a fake, because not everybody who follows a playlist will stream every song - the numbers are much more unpredictable.
Radio pluggers will send your music out to radio curators to get it onto the airwaves, either regionally or nationally. Typically, they're quite expensive due to the years they've spent building their relationships and due to the value you can gain from national radio play. The trouble is, they can quite easily lie about their accolades, because with radio it's very hard for you to find evidence of a song being aired. If you're hiring a radio plugger, look out for (or ask for) their current roster and what they've achieved for them. Then, contact those artists directly and ask how they've found working with the company.
Digital Marketing Agencies
Digital marketing agencies specialise in social media. They can expertly create content for you, post it and promote it, saving you heaps of time and brainpower that could be used for making music. However, just like playlist promoters, they can easily fake their campaigns by buying followers. To make sure a digital marketing company is legitimate, ask them who they're working with and take a look at their social media profiles. Ignore the number of followers, this is easily faked. Instead, check the engagement on their posts - are there plenty of likes? Are their fans commenting? Furthermore, check their streaming numbers. Of course they won't directly correlate, but they should be respectable (and legitimate) as a result of their engaged following.
Music PR Companies
Music PR companies will send your music out to journalists, with an aim to get you placed on high readership blogs and in printed magazines. This can be incredibly fruitful for your career and the right placements can help you to gain huge traction, however, just like all forms of music promotion, they can have the best connections in the world, but they can't make any promises. Thankfully, it can be quite easy to find out whether a music publicist is legitimate or not. Simply look at (or ask for) their case studies and Google the artists. Any press they've had should be easy to find online and if there are no results, the company were probably lying. You should also drop the artists a message privately and ask for their experiences of the process.
If you're in the market for a music promotion company, I hope this post helps you to find an amazing team who can help you to achieve your goals. It's truly sad that there are so many fake and scammy people out there in the music industry, particularly in promotion, but that shouldn't put you off the idea of working with a music promotion company. At the end of the day, we're creators not marketing folk, and hiring an expert can save you hours and hours of learning about promotion tactics and carrying a campaign. You just need to watch out for the red flags and find somebody who believes in your project as much as you do.