Do you know what a philosophical razor is? It's a concept that focuses on a simple truth, helping you avoid thinking (or doing) far-gone and unnecessary things.
The most well-known one is Occam's razor; you can find it through the link above. But let's check out the phrasing of Alder's razor there:
"If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, then it is not worthy of debate."
Avoid ___, unless ____. I'll come back to that format, but first, we need to go on a journey:
- The music at-hand
- A comment by Laila Biali
- The culture of music publicity, and why people sometimes break it
Let's start with the music.
"It Might as Well Be Spring (feat. Kyle Pogline)" - Caity Gyorgy
Caity Gyorgy released this single on Friday, April 8, 2022 via La Reserve Records:
Caity's success around this release has put her in the top tier of Canadian vocal jazz artists on streaming platforms. As of the time I write:
- Her songs have 25 placements on Spotify's editorial playlists
- The majority (14) of those placements were added this week, on the occasion of releasing "It Might as Well Be Spring"
This doesn't happen by accident, and these results show that La Reserve and Caity have a strong campaign together. It's not a free lunch – someone's paying for the publicity service through a flat fee, a revenue share, or both – but this expense on publicity is working.
Caity's La Reserve era includes her EP Now Pronouncing, which got nominated for a Juno; but she had plenty of momentum, which you might call organic success, before this era. It came from things like the liftaday account on Instagram, the generous disposition that the best teacher-performers carry everywhere they go, and the work ethic that made Angela Verbrugge say on the Rhythm Changes Podcast about Caity, "I know that [...] she's going to be on the road and in high demand as a headliner".
La Reserve wants to pitch Caity's music professionally and get these great results, but they can't manufacture it out of whole cloth. They need their reps to say in the correspondence with Spotify editors, "Look at the work she's been putting in."
And they have these conversations beyond just Spotify – which is how they also get Caity featured on Amazon Music editorial playlists, as well as on Pandora.
Speaking of Pandora, Caity's post on Instagram about Pandora is where Laila Biali left the comment that sparked this Update.
The comment by Laila Biali
To get into why this exchange is fascinating, let's talk about the culture of publicity.
The number-one thing that music publicists and media figures complain about is the high number of pitches that they get every day.
But sometimes, I'll go out and swipe right on my own time, and ask artists if they'd like coverage from me. That's what Laila did here. She went around the queue in which artists put "ATTN: Saturday Night Jazz with Laila Biali" in the email subject line – weeks in advance – to try getting played on her show.
She asked for it, one day before the show aired.
Why people break the queue
The queue and its long lead time are comfortable, insulating me (the music media person) from interacting with hundreds of artists. Why would Laila break the queue?
It's the same reason why Spotify, Pandora, et al. want to feature Caity: she's putting in the work, I should back her, and if I don't I'm missing out.
That's also why I check-in with various excellent people – like those from the Ostara Project and the Sister Jazz Orchestra – about what they're up to. I can't expect all artists to pitch me directly; if they're not paying publicists and I want to make sure I can cover them, I have to initiate.
Now, I don't think Laila believes that Caity will big-time her unless she reaches out on 24-hours-notice to ask for a submission to CBC. She's just so enthused about backing Caity that she wants to make a nice gesture out of it.
And here's what clicked for me when I saw it: unless an artist has at least one person or interaction like that in the business, they have no business spending money on professional publicity.
I wrote in the intro of this Update that the philosophical razor helps you avoid far-gone and unnecessary things. And I paraphrased the format of Alder's razor: Avoid ___, unless ____.
Here is Caity's razor, for your creative project: avoid publicity expenses until someone's asking for it.
And I mean someone in the sense of, "They are someone in this industry." Doesn't have to be big, just has to be relevant and in your scene.
Many clients of music publicists can't actually afford the service from a profit-margin perspective. (Why do they do it anyway? That's a whole other question.) But if you really want to profit from a creative project, spending thousands of dollars on a professional campaign is far-gone and unnecessary. Rather, you should do that only after at least one person in the business already knows about you and likes you.
Maybe you're wondering how they'll know to ask for your project, without the marketing campaign to get the word out.
But they do. Is Laila commenting for Caity to submit "It Might as Well Be Spring" to CBC because Caity has 25+ editorial playlist adds? I say no, that's more cynical than the truth, and it's actually the other way around. Caity is the kind of artist whom Laila knows to ask; and that's how La Reserve, and/or the publicist, pitch her in the professional campaign.
No, she did not get Laila's attention by doing numbers on Spotify. She got it by putting in the work.
This goes all the way down to me. I know that the artists I cover – whom I ask for, sometimes – are the people putting in the work, and if publicists pitch me, I want the artists they pitch to also be those kind of people. Or I'll turn them down.
And I wish that you'll find the world of music publicity a bit less cynical given this concept. Artists still pay their dues, other people watch for who's doing that, and the bigger stuff comes later when you throw money on top of it all. Hard work hasn't gone out of style yet.