Ahead Of The Herd

Originally published December 29th 2015:

It has been quite a while since a subject grabbed enough attention to draw an article out of Underground In Prydain. Last time, we posted an overview article on the opinions and issues surrounding PR for underground bands. Some PR campaigns at lower levels can be truly amazing in their level of success, but there is no shortage of the shared opinion that, for smaller bands at least, it can be a wasted effort. As in the past, UP set out to get some inside information from those in the know.

A mention as one of the UK’s most impressive underground metal PR campaigns of 2015 surely has to go to Krysthla’s A War Of Souls And Desires. Astounding a release as it may be in musical terms, the breadth of coverage and activity it received was truly impressive to behold as it unfolded throughout the year, and it was due in large part to the sterling work of Stampede Press. Underground In Prydain dragged a chinwag out of head honcho, Rob Town, to see if he’d spill the beans on the much sought after magic formula.

Underground In Prydain: Hey Rob, how are you today?

Rob Town: Hi, I’m very well thank you.

UIP: Have you been having a good winter season/Christmas so far?

RT: It’s been an interesting year/month for me so far for sure. Lots of meetings, winding down projects for the year and making plans for 2016.

UIP: What we’re looking at in this article is the effectiveness of PR, and whether, as well as when, it’s worth a band’s time and money investing in the practice. Do you think that seeking outside help with PR can be a poor choice for smaller bands?

RT: The realisation of the internet, especially over the past few years, has seen a huge upturn in bands being profiled. With the online tools available to everyone, some may argue the need for PR. For me, PR will always be relevant, especially if the band/artist has something that needs to be brought to the attention of people, and a reputable PR company can reach relevant people faster.

UIP: What do you think of artists running their own campaigns? Have you seen any recently which have impressed you?

RT: I’m of the opinion that a lot of bands, especially those in their infancy, can do a heck of a lot themselves to bring attention to the band and shouldn’t need the services of a PR company. I come from a background where I did PR for my own bands. It doesn’t always work but you can gain a heck of a lot of experience and exposure from doing it yourself. You just need to be realistic and focus as much of your energies as you can on making the best music possible.

UIP: What, in your opinion, is the best thing a band can do to raise their profile, if they can’t afford to pay for external PR?

RT: Basic things like gigging, contacting local press and media, getting them to shows to watch them live. That’s the key for starters; live music is where you really make the connection, and help change people’s perception of bands. I’ve seen some bands involve other passionate people that have helped put them under the noses of important people, and its produced results. The trick is to ‘create a demand’ whatever the level you’re at.

UIP: Your campaign with Krysthla this year was really quite the business. How do you go about starting off something like that? What was ‘phase 1’?

RT: Krysthla have great music, and are doing something a bit different. They’ve a good attitude, and are prepared to do whatever it takes.  I had a fantastic platform with the band, and was able to ‘go to town’ with this project.

UIP: The band roots in Gutworm seemed to play a major part in the early stages. Was that an important factor for you, in terms of getting the ball rolling?

RT: Absolutely. Gutworm achieved some success in their time, and that resulted in connections being made, connections that I also have.  So, when it came for the time to service the album, we were in a really strong position to kick things off.

UIP: It really seemed effort was put into getting an even spread of coverage between online media and traditional publications. Was that a conscious approach?

RT: We had/have a lot going on. My work ethic has always been to never saturate, nor to rely just on the end result. There’s things you can do yourself to reach a wider audience, and expose them to key news pieces over a longer period of time. That’s when things can really get interesting.

UIP: What many people may not know is that paying for PR isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes the results you want or expect don’t materialise. Was there anything you were hoping to achieve that didn’t quite get the results you wanted?

RT: There’s always something you might not get, or may not get straight away. The days of a 3 month PR campaign producing results that can help elevate bands to another level are no longer here. Sure, it’s important to have a strategic service period for new releases but in my opinion, it’s what happens before, during and after a PR campaign that matters. Bands are now their own marketers, and this is where it gets tricky as to what works and what doesn’t, and where it places bands in the grand scheme of things.

UIP: As someone who was originally a musician, what was it that prompted you to take the dive into PR?

RT: Pretty much since I was a kid I had an interest in music and marketing, and as I grew and got into bands I would try and help develop our profiles. 2003 was a massive change for me, a life changing event where I threw caution to the wind, left my full time career and took the plunge with a band. Thankfully, it was the right move, and all throughout that time I carried out a lot of the PR and marketing for the band whilst, experiencing some incredible events, and gaining a wealth of knowledge and skills. After I decided to leave the band, and the fact that I couldn’t get a job at the time, forming my own PR company seemed a natural thing to do.  What’s really interesting has been the need to diversify and become a consultant, helping bands navigate the music business, and prepare them for upcoming releases, prepare for a PR campaign etc. It’s led me to meet a lot of different people. It’s through my experience of being in a ‘semi successful’ band (that led to co-owning a record label, co-promoting prolific tours, co-management, etc.) that I can justify my position, and help talented musicians avoid pitfalls where possible and move forward.

UIP: In past articles, I’ve closed with asking interviewees if they have any closing advice. In this case, I’d really like to split this one in two. Firstly, would you like to add anything for bands trying to decide whether to get help with PR or to go it alone?

RT: I think, in this day and age, getting your ‘road legs’, and crafting your music to be the best it can be, is the most important thing for any band. Do whatever you can yourselves to gain interest, in a positive manner, through live shows and clever online profiling. There’s lots people can do for themselves to start with to gain interest, and it’s crucial to experience basic things that all bands should in order to really understand what’s going on. If a band is at a level where they’ve caused a stir, a real strong buzz and don’t have the means to connect to more press/media outlets – that’s the time to approach a PR company.

UIP: Secondly, what about those who fancy sitting on the other side of the equation – people who are thinking about getting involved in working in PR?

RT: PR is a passion, just like making music. I tend to work with bands that I’m passionate about, and can relate to what they’re trying to achieve. Whilst it’s not a necessity, I believe my experience of being in a band has helped me in my role as a publicist. Understanding your clients’ needs is a must in my book, and managing their exceptions can be tricky, but if you’re honest with them from the start, and work hard and smart, it can produce some fantastic results.

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