Publicists Reject New Claim That Best PR Is None At All

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The Weeknd: Don't call him, he won't call you.
A recent headline in The Atlantic - "For Indie Bands, the New Publicity Is No Publicity" - seemed to scream "music blog."

Since we Rocks Offers spend a goodly portion of our day weeding through emails and phone calls from publicists and aspiring artists, as well as the environmental catastrophe known as one-sheets and bios that are stuffed into every envelope along with a CD, we were actually thinking this "no publicity" concept might be something we could get behind.

Yet once we read through freelancer Jason Richards' piece, we pretty much wanted to slash our wrists and be done with the circus that surrounds the music business, and perhaps move to Idaho and work on a potato farm. In a nutshell, Richards uses bands who don't do interviews, don't post photos of themselves, and don't do the usual huge mailouts that have long been de rigueur in the business, citing groups like Cults and Crystal Castles, who have blossomed into buzz bands without the usual campaigns, to support his thesis.

According to Richards:

"Mystery" is quickly becoming the default PR strategy for breaking indie acts. Over the past two years, groups like WU LYF, the Weeknd, jj, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Shabazz Palaces have drawn attention even as they've turned down interviews, concealed their likenesses, and, in some cases, withheld their own names.

Beyond this, Rocks Off won't bore you with a long, drawn-out synopsis of every stream of thought about the subject, which Richards explores admirably. But we did reach out to a few battle-hardened PR veterans with whom we have frequent business with - and respect for - to get their take on the article.

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Candy Golde on Facebook
Candy Golde
Sharyl Holtzman works at Paramount in Los Angeles, but she does some PR work for bands like Candy Golde, the Chicago supergroup that recently released a 5-song EP.

"Now more than ever there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to publicity," Holtzman says. "On the Internet, you're facing the Wild West, a tremendous oversaturation in tandem with the old-school rules of print, particularly national magazines. What artists need to do is tailor their publicity efforts specifically to their audience and goals. Working with the internet - whether it's an online magazine, blog, column - is still publicity.

"Publicity isn't solely defined by interviews and reviews; artists want/need an audience to know they - and their product - are out there: Contests, getting a song streamed as part of a product promotion, having something written from a different angle. For instance, in the Candy Golde EP I just did, it just so happens both Bun E. Carlos and John Stirratt are involved in the coffee business. Bun E. has his own line, John was the taste-tester for Wilco. All qualify as PR.

"A subversive 'no press' approach isn't anything new, and really is only effective for particular types of bands/music," Holtzman continues. "We're still doing the same job, we're just using different tools, and amending them accordingly. The Internet requires a particularly smart, focused approach in order to leap over the overwhelming and often extremely poor, low quality of material available to people.

"You have to use social networking, email blasts; phone interviews, Skype, video conferencing. You still need to do your homework - know who the smart writers, bloggers are; which publications have an excellent online readership; develop a look for your postings so they pop; and, try to remember not to post them every minute like the world is Twitter."

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God Bless Jeff Smith.


Wow.  Richards' article doesn't make me want to slash my wrists, but it definitely makes me want to punch *him* in the face.

Two points: A) Using "Mystery," whether consciously or not, to get people's attention isn't new.  Talk to Clinic, talk to Jandek, talk to Man or Astro-man?, talk to The Locust -- heck, talk to KISS or Robert Johnson, for crying out loud.  Hell, by Richards' logic, Jandek should be a freaking megastar at this point, selling out arenas with Lady Gaga.

B) If bands like Cults, Crystal Castles, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Shabazz Palaces are doing so amazingly well without that pesky, oh-so-2000s "publicity," then why is it I've gotten a good dozen emails and press downloads for those bands over, say, the past six months?  For bands that are supposedly eschewing publicity to build their mysteriousness, they (and their publicists) are awfully damn chatty.

Never mind the fact that a quick trip to the Website of, say, The Weeknd immediately gets you the Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and YouTube links for said group; does that not count as "publicity" anymore?  Pretty sure somebody out there made a conscious decision to use their Website to *promote their music*, but hey, I guess that's different.

I know I shouldn't get as annoyed about this as I currently am, but it always irks me when some idiot writer (and yes, I've *been* that idiot writer, too) tries to pull some kind of new "trend" out of thin air where none really exists. Stupid, stupid, stupid.


Jeff, stop creating your own negative publicity! Go home!

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