Words by Alex Watts
As one of the chief publicists working at Chrissie Vincent Publicity, whose list of past and present clients include Dallas Crane, Tim Rogers and The Wu-Tang Clan, Melbourne Guru felt that Sarah Guppy was the right person to ask for some advice regarding the how’s, when’s and why’s of music publicity.
“Starting out I think bands should act as their own publicist, purely because you need to learn the business, you need to know how much hard work a publicist puts into their job,” states Guppy.
“There are a lot of young artists (that) will come and say ‘right — this is what I want,’ and they’ll expect they’re going to get all the big publications straight away. It starts with artists playing shows, getting a bit of a name and getting people talking about them, so that when it does land in (the media’s) inbox or across their desk in the mail, they’ll (the media) go ‘oh yeah, I know that name from somewhere, blah blah were talking about them.’”
When the time comes the right publicist can make an enormous difference to an artist’s career. “You have to be careful — you have to choose a publicist that does understand your music. Chrissie and I, we don’t take on anything unless we really love it, because you need to know what you’re selling,” warns Guppy.
“You’ve got to be ready and I wouldn’t take money from an artist that hasn’t played shows and doesn’t have stuff going on.
“If you have a name behind you where you can just call someone up and they’ll pick up the phone, that makes a big difference,” says Guppy of the power that the right publicist can bring to a campaign.
“It’s taking it to the next level with bigger articles in the newspapers, the nationals, and the fact that we would walk into Triple J and sit down with someone like Richard Kingsmill and actually talk to people about the tracks and keep them updated about what’s going on.”
The utilisation of radio pluggers is one tool not easily available to your everyday band, which is something that Guppy and Vincent use regularly for their clients.
“Because we live in Melbourne I have a guy that I use on ground up there (in Sydney), and he walks into Triple J every week and has a great relationship with Kingsmill. The reason I use him is because he does go in every week and he can do the follow up, which is really nice.”
Before engaging a publicist, Guppy listed hi-resolution press shots of various sizes and shapes, a good bio, all the usual social media profiles and clever utilisation of an email marketing service such as MailChimp as some of the things that bands can get in place on their own.
“Having a good logo from the start and making sure your name is Google-able. I do think bands should sit down and think about those things early, which is sometimes hard to do but certainly you do need to think about your image. Things morph and change all the time but do that as much as possible and then stick to that if you can.”
The art of writing press releases can seem confronting, especially if you are writing it about your own project, however Guppy maintains the key is to keep it simple.
“I’ve had some of the best press releases from bands that have written it themselves. and it’s cool. I think you should show your personality,” Guppy enthuses.
“It’s always good to put some quotes in, to list if you’ve been played on radio stations. Don’t oversell yourself — have all the basic information. If you’re playing shows make sure the shows are listed; make sure there’s a press shot and make sure there’s a link to the music that’s easily accessible. Soundcloud is a great one; you can set it to private and it’s an easy streaming service that everyone can access.”
There are inevitably however, some definite no-no’s. “Don’t ever tell a media person who you think you sound like,” warns Guppy.
“Because if it’s someone that they don’t like they’ll just go ‘uh I don’t want to listen to that’, and also you don’t want to put yourself in a pigeon hole, because it’s going to sound like different things to different people depending on their taste in music.
“I think it’s really important to do your research — you don’t want to send your indie music to a country music blog; it’s a waste of time and it’s pretty easy to research online blogs these days — very, very easy,” states Guppy.
“Look around at what other blogs bands have been posted on; what your friends have been reading and try and personalise your email as well. It makes a massive difference.
“No matter how big or small, to try and put aside a budget for advertising because it goes a long way when you’re approaching media. Most media will help you out for a small amount of money and they’ll remember you for the next time,” says Guppy, also recommending spending on different publications for different campaigns, “(it’s) being respectful and sort of saying ‘hey we really appreciate that you’ve helped us along the way.’”
No matter how slick the video or how many Facebook likes you’ve got, bands are unlikely to cut through the masses if they aren’t great live.
“If you’re gonna release a single we would definitely recommend that you have some shows around it,” says Guppy.
“With media some people go, ‘okay we like that but we’ll do something when the artist is touring’. It’s great for people to hear a track but a lot of people might want to see it live, especially in the sense of (prospective) management. You can send people tracks and the first question they’ll ask is ‘when are they playing next?’”
Even in the world of blogs and viral videos radio airplay remains incredibly valuable and sought after. Luckily for independent bands, community stations exist and are by design incredibly nurturing.
“I suggest to young artists to print off some CDs and send them off to the bigger community radio stations like FBi, 4ZZZ, Triple R and PBS 106.7. If you’re local, take them in and put them in pigeon holes — that always helps and they actively encourage people to do it.
“A great tool that some people still don’t know about is AirIt, where independent artists can upload their tracks for free and it’ll go out to community radio all over Australia.
“If you send an album they’ll send it out and then send you back a list of all the contacts they’ve sent it to, then the best thing you can do is to follow up.”
Guppy concludes: “I’d much rather work with a band that I can see have worked their butts off to get to where they need to be, but know now that they need someone else to take it to the next level.”
And at end of the day — “it comes down to the music, that’s the most important thing.”
So make the best tunes you can and apply hard work and dedication. And then call Sarah Guppy and Chrissie Vincent.
For more info, check out http://chrissievincent.com.au