Does PR Help Build An Artist’s Career? Dispersion PR Says Signs Point to Yes

Dispersion PR
Author : Daisy Magana
February 22, 2021

Does PR Help Build An Artist’s Career? Dispersion PR Says Signs Point to Yes

What does it take for a house and techno artist to go from good to great? With thousands of DJs and producers out there, how can you set yourself apart from the rest? Is talent enough to get you noticed? It’s definitely a start but not the only factor. So what else do you need to develop your artist image and build a successful career? Dispersion PR is one of the world’s most reputable public relations (PR) agencies serving the electronic music industry. The agency specializes in PR for artists, events, and music labels and has been doing so for nearly two decades now. Founder and director Julian Shay discusses why PR still holds weight in a time where social media has facilitated self-promotion. He also shares tips on how artists can create a collaborative, productive relationship with music industry members who will ultimately play a vital role in their success.

Dispersion PR Artist Client: Ben Sims

 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with 6AM to learn more about Dispersion PR as well as dive into music marketing and PR. How is the new year coming along for you and the agency?

2021 has seen a strong start for recorded music. 2020 was obviously a hugely challenging year for the industry, and that continues, but after a few quieter months for us at the tail end of the year, we’re now busy and working on some great projects. Most importantly, our team is intact, safe and well, and doing a brilliant job working from home, so we feel very grateful.

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen how artists have been greatly affected by canceled gigs. For some, touring was their main stream of income, but we’re all interconnected. In what ways have you adapted to the changing climate, and have you noticed clients scaling back with PR services?

The lack of live performances and events has been a devastating blow for all, and as you say, the industry is very interconnected. We’ve personally seen some changes to our business, with DJs needing to tighten their belts, due to a lack of income. Some have scaled back their spending, but many others have seen it as an opportunity to make and promote new music. As a company, we have slightly broadened the musical remit of what we are working on – something planned for some time but not quite actioned. We’ve expanded to handling projects that we have found exciting but are perhaps a little further from our house and techno roots.

Independent media still has a hugely important role in music discovery. A great review in a national newspaper, a news piece from a leading online publication or an in-depth interview for a respected blog is still precious

The importance of media for emerging artists

Social media is such a powerful tool for self-promotion, and budget-friendly. Artists don’t have to pay to have an online presence. Hiring PR professionals, on the other hand, requires an out-of-pocket expense for an artist. Why should artists consider allocating money toward PR services rather than keeping that money in their pockets?

Social media’s power is unquestionable, but it doesn’t provide everything for new or established artists. It’s just another tool in the armory. The desire and need for print and online media support are still crucial to developing and maintaining an act’s profile. Independent media still has a hugely important role in music discovery. A great review in a national newspaper, a news piece from a leading online publication or an in-depth interview for a respected blog is still precious. It brings a degree of kudos alongside public attention.

Beyond the press, Dispersion PR offers a complete service to clients, handling radio plugging, club/DJ promotion, playlist plugging and marketing consultancy. All of these elements have their place in getting a release or an artist into the public eye.

Does PR move the needle when it comes to leveling up an artist’s career? Many might not see this element as important to their growth, but can it help them stand out from the thousands of other DJs and producers?

Absolutely. The sheer volume of music available now is staggering and reaching new audiences via PR makes a huge difference. Having a proper plan in place about the timing of PR, how artists, management, distributors use it, and what you want to achieve are essential things to consider, though.

 

We don’t extend the initial conversation until we have taken the time to listen to the music to see whether we feel strongly about it. […] We turn down a relatively high percentage of incoming work requests as we must be confident and passionate about the music we do work.

Scale with intention, Dispersion PR avoids growth for growth’s sake

 

What does Dispersion consider before taking on a new client? Do you scrub their socials? Look at their catalog? What are the defining aspects? Can you briefly walk us through the process?

The first thing is the music. We don’t extend the initial conversation until we have taken the time to listen to the music to see whether we feel strongly about it. That policy applies to established artists and labels too. Beyond that, we’ll look at socials and their catalog as you say along with previous media support. We’ll make a decision based on what potential we see. As previously mentioned, we offer a range of services so, often, it may make sense for a newer label or artist to start with DJ promotion to build grassroots support before developing things with radio and press. We turn down a relatively high percentage of incoming work requests as we must be confident and passionate about the music we do work.

You have a heavy-hitting client list including Radio Slave, Ben Sims, Rebekah, and Michael Bibi. You also represent prestigious labels and recently added Nicole Moudaber’s label MOOD to the family. What has contributed to Disperson’s success?

We have been doing this for over 14 years now and have established an excellent reputation amongst our agency peers. We have a great, passionate team who are at the core of everything we do. We’ve innovated, too—we were one of the first to operate worldwide and one of the first to build a digital delivery and reporting system; something we continue to improve. We pride ourselves on exceptional communication with our clients keeping them informed at all times with clear and regular reporting. We’re transparent and honest with the labels and artists we work with, giving them the best advice we can. [I] and co-founder Dean Muhsin, have nearly 50 years of industry experience between us with a background in artist & label management, publishing, retail, production, and promoting, so we have a pretty holistic view of the industry, and where the PR element sits in the mix.

Treat your agency as if it were your team, your professional family. Be polite, be clear, and concise in all of your communications. It’s worth remembering that every email you send to your PR takes time away from them talking to the media about you.

A PR team is an extension of an artist’s brand

How can artists make a good impression on PR agencies and establish positive relationships?

Treat your agency as if it were your team, your professional family. Be polite, be clear, and concise in all of your communications. It’s worth remembering that every email you send to your PR takes time away from them talking to the media about you. Provide listening links to your music and a short rundown of your plans, so the person you’re pitching to can hear how you sound and has an idea of where you’re heading. Put a simple press kit together; a biography and some press photos. Be realistic whilst retaining your ambition. Keep your ego on the stage and not in your industry relationships. Pay your bills.

If you think having a PR isn’t “underground,” consider that every event you play, every platform that sells your music and most labels that you will release on will be utilizing PR in some form.

Food for thought, PR is here, there and everywhere

PR helps push a product, in this case, music, to increase buzz, and hopefully its popularity. With the rise of the underground house and techno scene, some underground artists out there might see PR as “selling out” helping to commercialize a sound. Knowing that the lines between mainstream and underground are subjective, why should underground artists consider enlisting the help of PR to help amplify their music?

It’s useful to remember that PR isn’t always about a product; it’s a communication tool. Some people do see it as purely about selling something, and as such, there have always been artists who feel that PR is a sell-out, and that’s fine, diversity of opinion is a good thing. However, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. For most artists, bringing public attention to what they do is a crucial goal and support from the media plays a big part. Using a knowledgeable PR professional to help achieve that goal makes complete sense. The media can be a tricky thing to navigate, and a good PR can help whether you’re releasing the most underground, niche music or big, commercial releases.

If you think having a PR isn’t “underground,” consider that every event you play, every platform that sells your music and most labels that you will release on will be utilizing PR in some form.

Any advice to artists on how they can plan ahead for this part of their journey career? At what point are they ready to bring on a PR team, or what kind of questions should they be asking themselves?

It starts with making good music; this the essential step before anything else can happen. You must believe in what you are doing and try to find your sound, rather than emulating others too much. Hone your craft, refine your skills, consider how you want to appear to the broader world, and build positive relationships with people. With music industry success comes a phalanx of team members: managers, label A&Rs, publicists, agents, but very often it’s the personal relationships that an artist builds with other DJs, producers, promoters etc. that is key to success and longevity in music. As for the right time, there is no neat answer to that as every single case will be different and anyone telling you otherwise is lying to you. Our advice is to talk to a trusted PR and ask them if 1. They think you ‘need’ PR and 2. They think PR will be value for money at this stage in your career.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes! PR isn’t a silver bullet. It’s part of a mix of tools that can help you achieve your goals, and it pays to think about how you or your label, distributor, agent [and/or] manager can use PR before engaging an agency. A good PR should be able to give you some advice here.

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