RAPPER: What do you do for a living?
RAPPER: What’s that?
ME: Grrr. Public relations.
Rappers, you need PR. I know you think you don’t, but trust me, you do. “Here today, gone tomorrow” is the state of the music industry. PR will help you 1) get seen and 2) stay seen. PR is an expensive service though, running from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per campaign, and understandably unaffordable for many unsigned artists. Fret not! Here are a few tricks of the trade you can do yourself…and for free.
1. Use social media
Social media and PR go hand in hand. Think about it… Your status updates go out to the public, hopefully you relate to them. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn status updates all go out to different sectors of the public, right? Each of whom you relate to differently, right? So you should update each network differently, right? Right! For rappers, it’s safe to use all social networks, but don’t use one platform (HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc.) to update them all; cater to them each. A general rule of thumb is this: Update Facebook a few times per week, Twitter a few times per day, YouTube every time you have a new song, and LinkedIn every time you have new resume experience. Keep your personal Facebook swagged out for friends and family, and your Fan Facebook slightly more professional while still presenting your artist image. Your Twitter should represent you as an artist; it’s one of the more public social networks and pulls up on Google. YouTube, like your Fan Facebook, is seen by fans and (hopefully) A&Rs, so keep it pro while also repping your artist image. Finally, LinkedIn is 100% professional—pay extra attention to detail anytime you update and only update about gig-related things; keep “how fine the bitches are in the club” on Twitter (and before 1am at that! You lose cred if you tweet something like that after 1am because Bro, they’re all fine after 1am.)
2. Use proper grammar
As you’re updating your social networks, and more importantly when you’re emailing bloggers, use proper grammar. Use SpellCheck. Check Google if you’re using a big word and aren’t 100% sure that you know what it means. Re-read before hitting Send. Ask a friend to proof read it for you 1) for grammar and 2) to make sure it simply reads smoothly and makes sense.
3. Use capital letters like a normal person would
An even bigger issue with rappers doing their own PR is spelling LEtters FuNnY LiKe THIS, 0R L1K3 TH12. I had hoped this would die when signatures in text messages died, apparently not. Stop doing this! It’s hard to read (annoying, childish, uneducated, outdated, I can continue…). A normal person only capitalizes “I,” the first letter of every sentence, and proper nouns (i.e.: names of people, places, dates, and titles).
4. Know that bloggers are not your homies
As you’re emailing bloggers your new-new, do not call them: homie, bro, son, dude, my guy, mayne (or any spelling variation of mayne). This tip is straight from bloggers themselves and something I’ve heard repeatedly at conferences. Trust.
5. Describe your music realistically
When emailing bloggers, describe your music modestly; better yet, let bloggers form their own opinions about your music. Also at a music conference, I heard a panelist say, “telling me that your new track is fire before I’ve heard it is like telling me a joke is funny before you’ve told it.” The only exception is when you’re emailing someone who’s never heard your music before; then, it is ok to say what genre of music it is or who inspired it (note the subtle, but humble difference between ‘inspired’ and ‘sounds like’).
6. Remember that ‘you are who you roll with’
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn. If you hang out with wack rappers, they’re gonna rub off on you—and they likely won’t push you or your music to be better. Furthermore, if you hang out with wack rappers, people will assume your music is wack too. Get better friends; hang out with better smarter, richer, and more attractive people than you.
7. Pay a designer to create your event flyers
If I had a nickel for every shitty flyer I saw on a Portland promoter’s Facebook… Spend a few extra bucks to pay someone with a design background to design your flyer! (Genius idea, I know.) If you’re good at rapping, rap; don’t try to spread yourself too thin and design. A well-designed flyer might cost more, but in the end will bring more people to your show and actually pay for itself.
8. Network (aka hustle)
Stay busy! Go to as many shows as you can. Meet as many people as you can. Exchange contact information with as many people as you can. Follow people back on Twitter, and engage with them. Networking (aka your hustle) is fundamental to public relations.
9. Send personal emails, not blasts
Email blasts are spammy. Mass text messages are spammy. Both are poor PR at it’s finest. It takes time to send personalized, individual emails; but it takes time for bloggers to write about your music too. If you don’t give them the time and respect they deserve, do you really think they’ll give it to you?
10. Have me do your PR
I’ve been doing artist PR on the side for about four years; if it paid better I’d happily make artist PR my fulltime gig. Reach out to me if you need a publicist for an up-coming project, or just consulting! (You can start the convo on Twitter: @SillyCristina.)
- Register a professional-sounding Gmail account, something like “email@example.com” or “artistnamePR@gmail.com.”
- Reciprocate favors. Alongside networking, PR is a favors game. If someone blogs about your new-new, tweet it and shout them out.
- Set and stick to dates. Unsigned rap is the only industry that thinks it’s acceptable to set an album release date and then fail to meet it. When setting your dates, under-promise and over-produce (aka don’t set yourself up for failure!).