Matt Caldwell PR is one of the UK’s leading PR-agencies for electronic music. Since 2012, they’ve successfully worked with everything from chart-topping DJs and producers to up and coming talent fresh out of the bedroom. MCPR’s modern approach to PR reflects today’s complex digital landscape and unlike many other agencies, they also offer artists support in areas such as booking and management. We caught up with founder Matt Caldwell who shared some insightful tips on how artists can sharpen their PR-game, decide if they need a professional PR agency onboard and how the business of music PR is changing in the age of social media.
What was the original idea behind MCPR?
The concept for MCPR back when it was launched in 2012 was to provide a platform for artists and record labels to better manage their press and marketing endeavors. I’d been in and around electronic music from a very young age and even when I was working on my own music projects I had a habit of managing to get myself bookings, press coverage and radio support in places that were way beyond my level.
I was just a kid making beats in my bedroom but somehow managed to get myself on the likes of BBC Radio 1 and secured myself onto line-ups DJ’ing at some of the biggest and best clubs in London, Ibiza and around Europe. I figured that if I could land all of this on my own projects, which were hardly groundbreaking, I could very likely make myself useful in handling promotions for others.
It all came together pretty naturally as I had been pretty heavily involved in working in promotions for some great brands such as Privilege in Ibiza, Ministry of Sound in London and many others up and down the UK. I used to spend most summers working in Ibiza as most die-hard House and Techno music people tended to back then so upon arriving back in England for the winter season, I decided to make the jump and start up my own agency and MCPR was born.
What makes MCPR different from other PR agencies out there?
We’ve evolved somewhat since the project started and have always tried to find new and innovative ways to provide a service to professionals working in the electronic music industry.
Over the first few years, we heavily prioritized working with big brands, producers already topping the sales charts and DJs that were already very much at the top of the food chain. These kinds of clients are always going to be top priority for PR agents in general as everyone wants the biggest names around on their roster as that gives them a reputation of their own by affiliation. It is also in many regards an easier job to manage the PR efforts of artists and brands that are fashionable, in demand and already famous. A lot of agents in the music industry will shy away from clients that are not already generating a substantial amount of hype regardless of the talent and quality of the music.
A few years ago something clicked in my brain and I decided to start thinking about the bigger picture in regards to the kind of clients we wanted to work with. We changed our ethos somewhat and started to gravitate towards up and coming artists and labels that were releasing great music, but for one reason or another were going under the radar.
Any particular types of artists you prefer working with?
We work with a wide range of clients from your DJ Mag/Resident Advisor Top 100 acts right through to start-up projects that want to present themselves as professionals right from inception. These days, we put a lot of time and energy into being the go-to agency in our field for talent that’s making strides towards a larger global reach but need that bit of expertise and guidance to help with important decisions, strategy, and overall PR work.
We’re very much music-centered and way more interested in how good your output is over how big your following is. We’ve got all of the tried and tested tools and practices at our disposal to help talent grow so we’re very much focused on finding projects that are musically strong but perhaps lacking in the promotional side of things. It’s this way of thinking that drove us towards launching our Artist Progression & PR Management setup which is our frontline service.
We’ve picked out parts of traditional PR management and fused it with a lot of services that you’d expect to receive from an artist manager rather than a PR agent. We realized that the vast majority of projects out there just can’t afford to have the full range of booking agents, artist managers, social media managers, PR agents and the like.
What we offer is more towards the 360 management deal in that we try to offer services that otherwise fall outside of the realm of typical PR. Our work is designed in a way that an independent artist with no representation or managers can come to us and find solutions to the majority of their needs without having to work with multiple agencies or services.
How has the business of PR evolved over the years since you’ve been doing it?
We have a lot more information now than ever before and data is powerful when it comes to PR. When I first started in the industry you had no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You had very little data to work with beyond things like record sales or tickets sold for shows, so having so many measuring sticks now means that PR can get very deep indeed.
With the development of the internet, social media and the way that we all consume media and news today, it’s more important than ever to be busy in the eyes of your fans and followers.
Your options for promotion now are unlimited and are only constricted by your own creativity and hard work so if you’re not constantly engaging with followers in a variety of ways – you’ll quickly get left behind and forgotten about. You now have to juggle your followers on an endless stream of social media networks and absolutely must keep your foot on the gas as the average modern music fan is not willing to wait long for new music, news and content.
It’s become much more in-depth and requires more energy than ever before, but because the media circus is so huge, there is an endless supply of opportunity for those that are willing to get out there and find it.
At what point in their career should an artist consider working with a PR agency?
This varies from project to project and there is no one answer for every case.
You should consider professional PR representation when you’re ready to put what you do in front of a large audience. You should be confident that your music is up to a standard that you’d be willing to stand in front of anyone in the world and say “this is my work and I’m proud of it”. If you can honestly say that what you do is at that level and if you have the energy, work rate and passion for your project required to make it count, then PR representation will certainly give you results.
On the flip-side of that, if you’re in a situation in which you’re releasing a new track every month and still finding that your sound is drastically improving with each new release, you’re probably still developing your sound and you’d be wise to let that development continue until you’re at a level where you’re still excited about and proud of the music you made 6 months ago.
What should a good PR agency be able to do for an artist?
The PR business in the music industry is broad and getting wider every year as technology and marketing evolves. For a starting point, your PR agent should be able to manage your presence in the press, make sure that you are regularly providing content beyond just music for followers and facilitate moves and strategies to help you move to the next logical level of your career.
A good PR agent will also make sure that your presentation is strong by handling your public biographies, social media profiles, assisting with any written documents that end up in the public domain and working with you to establish a plan for your goals. Some agencies are more in-depth than others and there is no right or wrong answer. You should research PR agents well, look at who they work with, judge their credentials, speak with them in detail and be sure that they share your vision.
Is it possible for artists to succeed today without the help of PR agencies?
Sure, it’s possible, but it’s a lot of work. The networks and contacts that a professional agency will have is not something that you can buy or develop quickly. It takes years to establish connections with press outlets and develop relationships with decision makers that have the final say on who’s posting what in the press.
There are thousands of sites and blogs out there looking for new music to talk about but the reality is that the majority of these desirable places to be featured are well stocked for content via their contacts at PR agencies and management firms. We live in a world now where having a professional sounding track is not enough anymore. It’s a contacts game and working with a reliable PR agency will enable you direct access to relationships that have been many years in the making. This is not a luxury that can be quickly established independently.
Any tips for contacting media and getting coverage if you don’t yet have a PR agency?
1) Don’t send anything that’s not 100% complete and ready to be used publicly
2) Never e-mail blast press contacts with 100 other sites on CC
3) Always be personal and professional in your e-mails
4) Spend time on presentation and artwork. Your cover art is often the first thing a reviewer will come into contact with before hearing your music and if the design is poor, your promo is not getting listened to.
5) Offer exclusivity
6) Make sure you’re sending your e-mail to the right person
7) Give the press contact everything they might need to arrange a support feature for you
8) Be sure to leave all of your social media links
9) Don’t forget your manners, ask politely and never demand anything
10) Do your research. Don’t send music genres that a press outlet does not regularly post, they will know you’ve not done your homework