Once a budding music producer has made that all-important first step and had their music signed by a label, the real work begins. However good the track might be, how on earth does the label find a way to make the music stand out from the crowd? Do we need to pay to get our music out there?
More often than not they will pay a promo company hundreds of dollars to send out the track to DJs and tastemakers in the hope that it will be picked up by people of influence. If the release features in a magazine, on the radio and in the DJ sets of some of the key players, then the paying public have a better chance of hearing it and ultimately buying it or sharing it.
But in this age of mass media, is it really worth paying for? It probably is if the promo campaign succeeds, but the chances are so slim that it would be naïve for an artist to rely solely on their label to get their name out there.
The major problem is information overload in the market. The inboxes of music writers and DJs are absolutely chock-full of music and correspondence from promo firms, most of which is deleted. And yet labels will still pay a company good money to send mass mailouts to their database. It just doesn’t seem like value for money.
There is more value in the relationships that PR/promo firms have with magazines, websites and sometimes even DJs. But even in the event that an artist’s music goes a step further than the email trashcan and is featured in a publication; just how many sales will this really drive?
Landing a review in a magazine is not the big deal that it was back in the day. This website is a prime example of the many alternative forms of music media that have sprouted up and taken a big chunk out of everybody’s audience share.
It’s also worth considering that even though a label will pay for promotion themselves, the money could have otherwise gone to the artist. The standard procedure is that artists don’t get paid any royalties until the label has paid for all of their marketing costs. The grim reality is that most releases up on Beatport, Trackitdown or any of the other DJ-focused music stores will never generate enough revenue to get above this threshold, which means that most of the time, all parties are working in a false economy.
This doesn’t mean that formal music promotion has become completely worthless, but it does mean that labels and artists should be a lot more proactive with their own channels. It is simply not enough to trust someone else to do it.