Thursday, 3 November 2016

Instead of publicity

There are new things you have to do now to publicize your work. This is something that most publicists, I fear, may not understand. But one of my former Juilliard students provides a good example of what needs to happen now.

(He's given me permission to blog what he and I talked about — you could call it informal consulting — but asked me not to use his name.)

What not to do

My former student is a composer (whose music isn't only classical), and he has a new CD out. He asked me how he could publicize it, saying that the publicist he'd worked with hadn't been much use.

publicity-blogI suggested in reply that publicity — as we've known it in the past — wouldn't do him much good.

Suppose he had a publicist (no doubt charging him a monthly fee) who against all odds scored the ultimate publicist's coup, a review or feature in the New York Times.

Who'd see that feature or review? Most likely not the people who'd care about the CD, the people who might buy or stream it, who'd learn about my student from it, who'd maybe want to work with him.

Odds are these people aren't reading newspapers, or paying close attention to any major media. And even if they do, this isn't the way to find them. My student, realistically, isn't talking about very many people. There especially aren't many of the industry insiders my student wants to reach. So what are the odds these key people even see a Times review?

The road I recommended

I said, again, that my student should forget publicity. Instead he should list the things he wants this CD to do forhim. Which might tell him who he needs to reach.

He made a list, jumping right to those people. He wants to:

Get [the CD] to people who would like it

Get it to people who might program it

Get it to people who might commission/hire me (both in classical AND theater)

Get my name out a bit more

So now it's not hard to know what he should do.

The second and third groups are the easiest to reach. He knows some of the people in them, and knows who others are. Music directors, for instance, at. radio stations that play music like his. He can make a list, and send the CD directly to the people on it. He can also figure out who might know these people, and put a word in for him.   

The fourth goal of course needs to be further refined. Who, exactly, would he like to know about him? But here, too, with a little thought he could list some names. Send them the CD. And then find more people like the ones he listed.

The first group is the trickiest, as he himself said,

because it's so eclectic. People who like the group Pink Martini would probably like this – but how do I reach/seek out that demographic is a big question?

I suggested he find Pink Martini fan sites, and reach out to people there. Which he immediately started to do.

This is just the start…

…the merest introduction to what we need to do today, in place of old-fashioned publicity. But it's definitely a start. It's how we have to think.

One warning: The work can be intense. Often you don't know specific people to reach (like Pink Martini fans). So you have to figure out what kind of people would like what you do, and work out where to find them.

That takes analysis, imagination, and, again, hard work. But — as when a millennial staff member at the National Symphony got 2000 people to hear the orchestra at a dance club — it can succeed!

Why traditional publicity doesn't work so well anymore. And often doesn't work at all:

Traditional publicity is based on two assumptions. First, that there's an established market for what you want to tell people about. And second that this market can be reached through the media.

That worked in the past for, let's say, the New York Philharmonic. There were people with a relationship to the orchestra, or who might have one, people who went to its concerts regularly, or went sometimes, or who'd long thought that someday they'd like to go. And almost all those people read the  New York Times.

So when the Philharmonic was reviewed in the Times, or got feature articles about it written there — or when its marketing department advertised in the Times — it was talking to its audience.

But now markets are fragmented. And many people pay no attention to mainstream media. When these things happen, the old assumptions no longer work. And the old model of publicity goes up in smoke.

Original Content: Instead of publicity

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