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The PR of the Playlist: Strategy in the Streaming Age

Published on April 13, 2023, at 10:40 a.m.
by Olivia Esquivel.

One of the key aspects of public relations is practioners’ ability to generate earned media for their clients. This skill is a foundational pillar for PR, and it is continuing to evolve today. The music industry has some of the best examples of classic PR tools that are being adapted to a changing world.

Straying from tradition

The basic goal for publicists in the music industry hasn’t changed; they want to connect their artists to the right fan base. However, technology has caused a rapid transformation in the ways that professionals are accomplishing this goal. The primary catalyst for these changes is the shift to streaming that has taken place in recent years.

Photo by David Pupaza via Unsplash

The standard to gaining earned media is sending out media pitches to potential sources that will pick up your content and publish it through their channels. According to Abbey Olson, a publicist and strategist for Cyber PR, this strategy has adapted to a more digital market. Cyber PR is an agency that represents independent musicians and helps them to navigate the streaming world. Olson said that her job consists of “helping clients get onto playlists, music websites and blogs for reviews and features,” among other services. To help clients “get onto playlists,” the agency utilizes playlist pitching.

Playlist pitching

Playlist pitching is a popular promotional movement that is a direct reflection of streaming services’ prominence today. There are a variety of ways that artists can pitch their music, but PR professionals are making it much easier for their clients.

Agencies have developed entire departments dedicated to playlist strategy. For example, Different Sauce describes its playlist strategy service as working to “place releases on relevant playlists to reach new fans.” Additionally, its staff analyze streaming data to “provide artists with the tools to run effective pre-save campaigns, drive new followers and optimize [their] releases for playlist support.”

Photo by Omid Armin via Unsplash

Pitching to third-party curators, who aren’t directly affiliated with a streaming service, is only one way to get new music onto playlists. Paige Parrucci is a PR professional with firsthand experience with playlist pitching. In addition to being a music marketer for Druid City Music Hall, Parrucci is also a singer/songwriter. When it comes to pitching music, she said to “go for the ‘big dogs.’” She referenced the Spotify pitching process as a popular way for artists to get “discovered.”

Even when pitching directly to a streaming service like Spotify, PR can still be a powerful tool. According to Parrucci, a good pitch is essential for music to be picked up. It’s not just the song that is featured on the pitch; streaming services want to see how artists are promoting themselves on other channels as well. Parrucci said that this promotion could be anything from “events, social media engagement, or even a TikTok trend that uses the song.” She advised that the most important thing an artist can do for their pitch is to “make it stand out.” Because this process can become complicated, working with a PR professional or agency could prove to be beneficial for artists.

Additionally, music PR agencies can provide key relationships to their clients. Agencies that pitch to third-party curators often have developed ties with certain curators and know exactly what they are looking for. If playlist builders prefer to hear from the artists themselves, PR agencies can provide them with the knowledge and tools that they can use for their own use.

Connecting with fans

A popular service for music PR agencies to offer is social media management and brand creation. It’s no secret that social media is the easiest way for people to connect these days, and this is especially true for musicians. Almost all album and tour announcements are made through social platforms rather than on official websites or news channels. Therefore, it is vital for musical artists to develop strong and specialized online brands.

Photo by Mohammad Metri via Unsplash

PR professionals possess the skills that their music clients need for success. Cyber PR, for example, offers a “total tuneup” of artists’ social media, as well as an online dashboard to track data metrics for their online presence. Olson described Cyber PR’s “total tuneup” as an ideal service for artists who “have an idea of their brand and their audience, but they’re not entirely sure how to put that into physical form on social media.”

A digital world means that things are constantly changing. As recently as 10 years ago, social media wasn’t a tool that was used widely across the industry. Today, it’s a necessary skill. PR is equipped to handle change to the industry, as its professionals remain updated and savvy with new technology even beyond social media. Musical artists need guidance through the streaming era, and PR practitioners are up to the task.

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