The company works on your social media presence, promotion of your music, and overall your product branding. They create your profile on their server that is available to all of their professional contacts including other artists, bloggers, podcasters etc. They also create your RPK that you can link to your website so it’s available to interested parties. After an interview over the phone, they create your artist bio. For this you will have to be available at the agreed time to conduct an interview. For the RPK you need to provide photos for the album and yourself, basic info about your music and CD and the pitch, some digital recordings for podcasters and internet radio stations, and to provide as many songs as possible. I’m glad I provided only 6 as initially I considered providing all! If I was doing this now, I would have provided only partial songs, but I will explain this later.
If you haven’t done it already, they would make your Facebook, MySpace, LastFm, Soundcloud, and Flicker (or similar) profiles and they will keep them pretty active for you. They will also keep pushing you to start and maintain your own blog. Your involvement is obviously constantly required. So, pretty soon, my initial 1.5 hours a day turned into whole evenings of doing online promo! For a while it was interesting as it was bringing some results, but later it became obvious that this kind of involvement will not be able to last.
In any case, it was very beneficial. Soon I started getting more Facebook likes, requests for podcasts, an internet radio station had contacted me to present my song “Sonny” with a live interview, one podcast selected my song “You and I instrumental” as the best in 2010, and as the culmination of it all, a UK blog “For Folk’s Sake” had reviewed my CD and selected it in top 10 discoveries of 2010.
This whole experience of course brought some interesting twists. Very quickly after I joined CyberPR, a podcaster has contacted me complimenting me on my music and requesting a song to be placed on his podcast. I naturally accepted. A few days later he contacted me telling me that he liked my music so much that he hacked into CD Baby site and my page there, and downloaded all my songs! His excuse was that since he was in South Korea or something like that, CD Baby was not allowing him to purchase anything – so he hacked into it! I was shocked. The fact that he liked my music so much he wanted to have it didn’t impress me. I told him he could have asked me to send him a copy (and I wouldn’t even charge him) would be much more flattering than having him steal it. It didn’t seem to faze him at all.
Another episode was with a podcaster who selected my song as one of the best that year. This was flattering, however, I found his podcasts on sale on ITunes with no remuneration to the artists or even mention about them!
The third episode was with my song “Sonny” that was posted on a website and offered for free without even consulting me about it! After I had a talk with the CyberPR team, they had removed the song, but couldn’t understand why I’m at all upset about it! No, I don’t believe in giving the art for free. It takes a lot of talent and sweat to produce it, and regardless of personal taste, it deserves respect and recognition. In a way, by artists accepting this disrespect as a new reality, we ourselves are creating this massive exploitation of music and art in general, where everybody else is benefiting and making money, in some cases billions – but artists! Read the latest case of Taylor Swift and google about how much artists get from online streaming. You will be shocked, and probably disgusted about it as well…
The last thing was about the bio. I only got really bad reviews about it. My feeling was that it had been done too quickly, with not much thought, with the structure that was not fitting the accepted norm as I had learnt after my research, but I went with it thinking they should know what works. It didin’t work, and finally after too many complaints I had to abandon it and create my own.
While I was with CyberPR, I was at the same time with CTW Promotions, and the Cyber team couldn’t understand how come my number of friends keeps growing so rapidly in comparison to their other clients. This proved to me that only if you have someone or some company working on it daily, you will get more significant results. Even with that, the success rate is very much under question. As I got laid off, I had to discontinue not only CTW Promotions but CyberPR services as well, and eventually it all stopped. After the initial contract, you are offered a monthly service that was at the time about $250. From this perspective I’m not sure that would be money best spent, as all in all, the online promotion could be useful, but is not crucial. For real success, it still seems, the old fashioned leg work still works the best.
I would like to give you latest example from my experience: Since the backup vocals are very important in my music, realizing that hiring them every time is not feasible, I came across a choir which performed at a concert I was attending with the bass player in my band. I’ve always been interested in singing in choirs but to that point none triggered my attention. The ones that did were usually requiring reading notes which I don’t - so naturally I never attempted trying to get into those. This one was more relaxed, yet still with some serious repertoire that would give me both training for my vocal chords and keep me educated about music in general. So I eventually joined them. I’ve already got not only interest from fellow singers to help me with the backup vocals, but to attend my every performance. The first one happened just before the holidays, and just by sending one email to everybody (about 25 people in total), I got 4 showing up (4 more stopped by to pick up more people and they ended up drinking too much so couldn’t drive… but that’s another story…). That’s still a pretty good percentage (6.25%). Out of 800 plus people I invited on Facebook, only one had actually shown up! By word of mouth I also invited a few of my closest friends probably about 15 or so, and 5 showed up! About 33%!
When you think about online involvement, you got to consider how much time you are spending on there and what you are actually getting. The more I’ve been doing it, the less I’m convinced it actually helps much.
Back to the artist from the beginning of this Online Public Relations Company story: He was and is a professional musician probably at least in his 50s with at least 30 years of experience in the industry. He has worked with some big names in the industry; he does music and everything around it full time, he has real time connections and fans already. In his case, the online promotion makes sense just to boost his brand, to add to what he already has. Without the real time involvement in his music business, the online presence would do very little for him and for anybody for that matter. The time will come when more and more artist will be waking up to this realization and we will see a decline in artists’ online involvement. Unfortunately, there seam to be a limitless pool of wannabe musicians out there desperate to get their music out so I don’t foresee a disappearance of online music services. I’m only hoping that we will all put the respect of our own music it deserves back, and stop giving it away.