I can remember when a band’s public relations campaign amounted to nothing more than tacking up posters on any available light pole or wall. Nowadays, indie bands have more effective options for getting their message out. Among the available tools, numerous PR firms handle acts ranging from established to newbies. My day job as an entertainment writer brings me in frequent contact with agencies big and small. It seems reasonable to ask, at what point should an act invest in hiring a PR pro, what can that person or persons do for you, and what should you have in hand when you come to the table?”

One LA-based public relations firm specializing in unsigned bands is Off Central Public Relations, headed by Meghan Pochebit. Meghan handles a small roster of acts including Southern California bands Science Fiction Theater, Regarding Jack, Hundreds & Thousands and Nightfur. She also serves as the publicist for the new LA record label Infrasonic Sound Recordings and its affiliated studio Infrasonic Sound Recording Company. She recently shared her insights into the business with me.

On the question of when to call in the pros, Pochebit explains, “The bands I’ve been working with lately have all kind of been in different stages, but the one thing that they have in common is that they’ve either got a record release on the horizon or an upcoming tour on the horizon; (while) conceptually and musically their band might be great, (they need) something really tangible that they would want the public to know about and be able to react to.

“So, whether that be to purchase a CD or to buy a ticket to a show, or something a little more off the cuff, like if they’re starting some new online fan group or if they’re re-launching their Web site, there almost needs to be an event, I would say, for an indie band to really approach a PR firm. If you don’t have that substance, then it might not necessarily be financially worth the band’s while to instantly sign up for a media relations campaign and hope for the best.”

Pochebit said that if a band is putting together its first EP or going into the studio for the first time, timing is important when approaching a firm. “If a band comes to me, say, a month before their debut LP is about to drop, that’s not necessarily enough time to launch a full-scale PR campaign. That gives you a really limited window.

“For something like a record release, you want to allow ample time and you want to have everything in place so that you’ve got a good idea of how the tracks are going to fall on the CD, you have enough background information compiled on your band so that you could hit the ground running with the campaign rather than spending a great deal of time at the beginning compiling all of the information. Even if you don’t necessarily have a bio, if I were to sit down with a band and ask some specific questions, they should be able to readily answer those.”

Bottom line: don’t wait until the last minute to call in the troops and have your message together before approaching them.

Next issue, we’ll look at some of the things a public relations firm can do for you and how they bill you for them.

Originally posted 2009-09-05 03:23:09.