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Music PR: Making the Next Big Hit


Posted At: March 28, 2012 2:30 PM
by Kera Cottingham

Certain songs manage to become the next music chart toppers. These songs, deemed “hit songs,” begin as any other low-ranked composition, but through the elbow grease of PR and publicity, a few privileged tunes climb the Billboard ladder.

Songs should be seen as their own brand, encapsulated in three minutes of lyrics and instrumentals. Therefore, they should be promoted as such. With the help of a little PR magic, songs can gain their own recognition and personal identity.

Steven Johnson, senior vice president of Average Joes Entertainment (AJE) and president of the Christian/gospel division, believes PR is essential in promoting the artists and songs of the record label. PR makes the public aware of an artist and presents their songs in a certain way.

AJE uses traditional social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace to promote the music of its artists. It also creates an individual website for each artist to promote their unique song packages. Grassroots efforts like street and club promotion; fliers, posters and radio ads targeted for a certain locale; and gaining “cheerleaders” for an artist and their product are also used by AJE.

One prime example of a song turned into a star is AJE writer Jay Smith’s song, “I Love You This Big.” Through careful promotion, Smith’s song was selected by “American Idol” as the song to be performed and later recorded by the show’s season 10 (2011) winner, Scotty McCreery.

The song began as a question from Jay to his son about how much he loved him. It was eventually reworked and reproduced to fit the Idol winner. But just how did the song make the jump from a personal family tie to a part of a debut album that would make history by becoming No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling 197,000 copies?

The answer is in the wide array of public awareness that was generated from multiple PR techniques. “I Love You This Big” began gaining attention through aforementioned grassroots efforts. However, the song hit the PR jackpot when the TV mogul “American Idol” started its promotion of the song.

“American Idol PR used all the traditional media outlets including its own website, Wikipedia, major magazines, newspapers and various TV and radio stations that covered the show’s winner,” Johnson said.

Smith also credits American Idol’s promotion of the song with its overall success. “If American Idol didn’t get the song it would have never made it to the chart. It helped launch Scotty McCreery as an artist and my career as a writer/artist,” Smith said.

“Sometimes, success is right around the corner. It’s a mix of timing, opportunity hard work and destiny; all rolled up into one unforgettable phoenix of a lifetime of effort,” Smith said.

Since the release of the song, it has been used additionally in “ringtones, caller tones and commercials” — all of which add to the increased success of “I Love You This Big.”

Getting a song in the spotlight isn’t always easy, or cheap. In a NPR blog post, Zoe Chace addressed the expense of creating a chart topper using Rihanna’s single “Man Down” as an example.

The article cites industry insiders Daniels and Riddick with claiming the cost of $1 million to turn a song into a hit by getting people to hear it. “The reason it costs so much is because I need everything to click at once,” Daniels said. “You want them to turn on the radio and hear Rihanna, turn on BET and see Rihanna, walk down the street and see a poster of Rihanna, look on Billboard, the iTunes chart, I want you to see Rihanna first.”
Ultimately, like with McCreery and Rihanna’s songs, the creation of such a hit comes from a combination of all PR forces working to capture the radios, iPods and voice boxes of fans everywhere. Using them all correctly and in the right amounts awards artists and their PR teams with the title of chart toppers. When all of these tactics align, a musical phenomenon is created.


  1. Post comment

    The PR world seems to have a significant gap between players in the mid range of the industry. On the low end you’ve got services targeting CMJ and blogs. On the high end there are mega-dollar services trying to place music on American Idol. I am investigating publicity proposals for a new record label and finding a void between those two levels. Where did the firms go that were specializing in print publicity? Where is the online resource detailing offerings, specialties, and capacities of the key players in the game? Is there a code of secrecy in the PR industry where clients don’t want to share or endorse the firms that have made them successful?

    I would love to discuss any insight you have privately through email at adam at akashic dot com

    [email protected]

  2. Post comment

    I am a senior majoring in public relations and aspiring to do PR for the entertainment industry. I really enjoyed this article because it contained information dealing with the area of PR I am interested in. Becoming a song writer has been on my bucket list for years, but unfortunately has not become a reality. This article shows how I could do PR for certain songs and song writers helping them achieve great success in the music industry. I had never thought about how PR could play a role in this area of music before this article.

    What does the “American Idol” song selection process consist of?


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