So I’ve made the decision…
I’m going to quit PR this year.
Hey that was a fun sentence to type. I have a suspicion that it might be even more fun to type in bold and all caps. Let’s see.
I’M GOING TO QUIT PR THIS YEAR.
Nope, I was wrong. First one was more satisfying. Seeing it shouted out like that just makes me kind of anxious.
Anyway, yeah, I’d hinted that I might be leaving the PR game last week, but I wanted to think it through before I committed.
So this week, I retreated to Panera with the purpose of journaling and setting goals. After some deep reflection, mediocre soup, and one ill-advised cup of hazelnut coffee, I made the final call:
Yes, I’m going to quit PR this year.
Here’s what I mean when I say that…
I’m not going to offer press campaigns as a service anymore.
I’m not going to take new clients and help them get blogs to write about their music. I’m not going to work on growing my network of magazine contacts. I’m not going to email a bazillion editors asking for a review of a single.
I’m done. (At least for 2023.)
Okay, to be totally transparent, it’s not a completely hard stop. I’m currently running a couple of campaigns that I’ll be finishing out. And there’s a chance that I take on a couple of projects from friends / existing clients over the next 12 months.
But I’m not going to be selling PR as a service for new clients anytime soon, and I’ll be adjusting my website accordingly.
This wasn’t the easiest decision to make.
I’ve been running PR campaigns for about five years. It’s how I started to turn Two Story from a passion-project blog into an actual business.
I can vividly remember the first conversation I had with an artist who asked me to run their PR campaign. We’d covered them in Two Story Melody; they’d liked our piece and asked if I could try to get similar articles written at other blogs.
I played it cool.
“Yes, I suppose that’s something we could help with,” I told the artist, trying my best to channel the calm of David Attenborough reading the lyrics to “Wonderful World.” Then I hung up the phone, yelled, and viciously high-fived myself.
I can still remember how crazy it felt to send my first invoice. My hand hovered over the send button in hesitation; I was nervous that I was charging too much for my work. I was blown away by the idea that I could send a few emails and make 50 whole dollars.
In truth, “a few emails” turned out to be ten-plus hours of tedious labor.
And I can clearly remember around one year ago, in the aftermath of quitting my job at the B2B marketing agency, trying to plan out exactly how many PR clients I’d need to take per month to make the business work as a full-time thing.
I just re-checked that old Google spreadsheet. It turns out that after I tallied everything, the sum at the bottom of the column came out to “You’re going to be totally screwed.”
All of this is to say: I’ve spent a lot of time running PR campaigns.
PR has played a foundational part in my business since before it even really was a business.
So here’s why I’m quitting.
There are two reasons, really. The first is probably the biggest factor:
1. I just don’t enjoy running PR campaigns anymore.
I used to – well, in theory. But, increasingly, I’ve found that the process of PR just hasn’t been fun for me.
I think my loss of enthusiasm for PR is partly due to changes in my own interests, and partly due to the way the PR landscape itself has changed over the past five years.
That leads me to the second factor:
2. I’m increasingly skeptical that indie PR is a worthwhile spend for indie artists.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think that, in many cases, indie PR services still provide very good value.
I know a lot of the people running PR firms in this space, and I like pretty much all of them. Some of those people I consider very good friends, and many of them are doing very good work.
But I just think that it’s far harder to provide value as a PR agency in 2023 than it was five years ago.
Here’s why PR is increasingly difficult:
The challenge of PR today is that the biggest outlets – the places that you probably think of getting into when you think, “Oh, I’m going to pay for PR!” – are increasingly owned by media conglomerates.
Media conglomerates run on ad revenue / clicks. Indie artists don’t drive ad revenue, so there’s no incentive for big outlets to cover indie artists, even when they’re represented by a PR firm.
And then, on the other side of things, there’s been a huge change in the past five years with the rise of platforms like SubmitHub.
I’d say 80% of the mid-tier independent blogs are now on music submission platforms. I’ve used SubmitHub / Musosoup / Groover in most of my paid campaigns for the past two years, because that’s just where the editors are, and it’d be stupid to cut out 80% of the potential coverage opps for a campaign.
This didn’t used to be the case 3 or 4 years ago, but the migration was kind of inevitable once there was a monetary incentive. And the thing about this migration, of course, is that you don’t need to hire a PR firm to submit to editors on SubmitHub.
To be clear, I do think there are cases where professional PR is still worthwhile.
For instance, if you don’t have time to filter through the mass of indie blogs / submission sites and you just want to pay someone to do it, I get it.
And if you get to a point where an objective observer would think, “Huh, an article about this artist might drive some clicks / ad revenue,” then yeah, you should probably think about hiring a PR firm. Because PR firms still have relationships at the bigger outlets, and those relationships do still pay dividends.
But my take is that, for most indie artists, the value of professional PR has declined over the past five years.
And that’s why I’m out.
This year, I’m going to focus my energy in other directions. I’m fortunate to not be as dependent on PR revenue this year, so I’m going to pivot toward other things.
If you’re looking for PR and you still want professional help, let me know. I’m happy to provide recommendations to other firms.
But I’m even happier to not be doing the work myself.
All right, that’s all I’ve got.
Thanks for reading this semi-rant. I hope the thought process is semi-helpful. And for what it’s worth, I hope you quit something that needs quitting this year, too.
Good luck out there. I’ll see you next week.