Why Does Music PR Need So Much Lead Time?
Sweetheart Pubstack #51
We’re Rachel Hurley and Frank Keith IV, co-owners of Sweetheart Pub. We’re music industry veterans with over 30 years of combined experience in the music business, having worked in licensing, talent buying/booking, label management, tour management, and more. Once a week (hopefully), we’ll publish a new edition of this newsletter, where we’ll share some philosophy and actionable advice on all facets of the music industry.
This is the free version of the newsletter. Consider subscribing below to receive more in-depth research and opinion pieces.
We’ve been putting together a weekly playlist of seven songs (just enough to keep your attention) every week — check out The Sweet Spot to hear what we’ve been listening to.
Does Music PR still need three months pre-release?
I was recently talking to a radio promoter via email when they posed this question, and as I was writing out my thoughts I realized it’s probably a topic worth sharing and discussing with you, dear reader…
The three-month PR window was created so media had time to get a story written, approved, edited, and printed. It took that long, sometimes longer. NOW, you can send someone a song, and they can literally share it that day…which throws the balance off. Back in the day, my rule (that I still kinda follow) is not getting anymore than six weeks out at radio, for the sake of having something available for purchase when folks hear it on the radio.
So, essentially the question is “why do y’all still work so far out from release if someone can, in theory, post approved content immediately?”
Here’s my response:
I think you may be onto something for more established artists / known quantities. But for us working with mostly indies, the lead time still matters, for different reasons versus “the old way.”
For any of the name-brand/knee-jerk outlets everyone wants coverage at (Rolling Stone, et al) — even in their online-only forms — the lead time is straight-up due to editorial calendars filling up, not so much the time commitment of the actual piece itself. Add to this the fact that we have to (cautiously, strategically) follow up with everyone we pitch to make sure they read/listen to what we send. It can take 5+ email follow ups just to get a proverbial day in court, sometimes. There’s also the "Rule of 7" old marketing/advertising trope (broken down pretty neatly here), that it takes seven impressions on any one person/entity before they take action or pay attention.
Then we have our seemingly small/medium potatoes media entities, many of whom are currently publishing ~3 weeks after I get an approval from them. So if I pitch them, don't hear back, follow up in a few days (call it a week) and get a "yes" ... that's basically a month right there.
I'm not even talking long-form reviews/features here ... I'm talkin' simple track premieres/features that are often 300 words, max, if any editorial is given at all. So it's not so much the ability of anyone to publish as soon as they green-light something, it's just a matter of everyone's inboxes being absolutely destroyed with new music every day, and parsing out coverage as best they can so something doesn't get buried the day it publishes ... even though that's arguably still happening.
There's also this (stupid!) unspoken rule that the day an album comes out, "that's it!" as far as folks even considering it for coverage. Again, due to so much music, it's just an easy cop-out for the recipients of our outreach. I'd say 90% of our post-release coverage was secured *prior* to release date. There are exceptions to this, say for music videos, but beyond that it's rare, and generally the focus turns to tour/live coverage at that point. Which...hasn't been much of a thing since March 2020 as local media (especially local music-focused media) was decimated by layoffs. It's coming back, I hope, but with large media conglomerates buying up the alt-weeklies across the country, who knows what that will look like in the future.
This doesn't even touch on the fact that by and large, most of the people we pitch do not make a living writing about / covering music, or in journalism at all. So if you aren't pitching Billboard, the NYT, NPR, Rolling Stone, etc ... you’re very quickly getting into pitching what are essentially passion-project volunteers who also have limited bandwidth much like the "big" media folks, but for different reasons (time = money). I don’t have empirical data on it, but I’d be willing to bet it’s a classic a bell curve, and the middle of that bell is REALLY small.
It gives me gray hairs...
There are probably other factors in this I've left out...it's a complex issue for sure...but that's my water-cooler-spitball on the subject for now. Looking forward to keeping this discussion going, though, as the landscape is constantly changing.
TikTok of the Week
Tweet of the Week
Just For Fun
Music Rookie Podcast
Have a follow-up question for one of our guests? Got a tip? Did we (*gasp*) get something wrong? Our line is always open -- hit us up and if we use your question or response in a future newsletter, we’ll give you credit and link your socials.
As we often receive requests to work with artists who don’t have the budget to afford a full campaign, we’re launching an “Office Hours”-style consulting service where you can book us for blocks of one-on-one time.
Thanks for sticking around! If you dig what we are doing, here are some easy ways to support us: