iC Media Poll Results: Part 5

July 24, 2009

Receiving announcements and info

The fifth and final section of our survey was called Improvised Communications because it focuses on the intersection of our own efforts with the work of these jazz writers and editors, but we also asked some general questions about both what they want from publicists and what they get.

Before we talk about that, though, we first asked about the preferred method of receiving information regarding forthcoming recordings and live events. The vast majority (88.2%) chose e-mail.

Somewhat ironically, given the results of yesterday’s questions, the next most popular answer was our interactive PDF one sheets (a version of digital promo service) with 8.8%. One person chose snail mail and another submitted a write-in vote for the telephone.

Clearly these folks like the convenience and level of detachment offered by e-mail, but it’s also worth noting that not one person chose any of the remaining options, which were: our Web site, our blog and its RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter.

Except for two questions where we asked respondents to rate various aspects of our services (we’re extremely proud to report 87.1% rated our reputation as above average), the remainder of this section was fill in the blank.

The first of three questions relevant to this discussion was: “The most important thing I need from a publicist is…”

There was no limit on the answers, so some people picked just one thing and some mentioned a series of issues that are of particular concern to them. Overall, the responses fell into six primary categories.

The most common request was for timely information, followed by quality information and promo service. The other three were understanding (knowing something about them and what they do, giving them time to process information and write reviews, etc.), hi-res photo options and cooperation/response to inquiries.

To briefly recap, according to these results, the jazz press wants nothing more than to get the information they need in plenty of time to write about a project. Getting the music itself came in third, which strongly implies that delivering professional level content in the right time frame should be one’s top priority when courting their attention.

This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how infrequently it happens, or how often we speak to musicians and labels who don’t start thinking about promotion until a record is already out.

The next two questions were related to each other.

The first one was: “The last thing I want from a publicist is…”

Answers were more diverse this time, though a few more people skipped this one. The most popular pet peeve expressed had to do with pushiness and pressure to cover music they had received, especially the unsolicited stuff.

Next on the list was a combination of too much information and too much irrelevant information (too many CDs at once, wordy press releases, bulky press kits with photos, solicitations about projects that don’t fit writers’ focus or taste, etc.).

Other don’ts included phone calls, excessive hyperbole in the promotional materials, bad music, infrequent contact, and, of course, digital promos.

In this question, we learned that showing respect for a writer/editor’s time and intellect is a key concern, and that much of the so-called conventional wisdom about adjective-filled writing and firm follow-up can be faulty when put into practice, especially when these folks are dealing with both on a massive scale.

Finally, we rephrased the question a bit to ask: “The biggest mistake publicists make with me is to…”

Even more people skipped this question, but again the answers fell into a half-dozen categories. Way out in front was issues concerning follow-up, be it getting the hard sell, perceived incompetence (the publicist did something specific that negatively impacted his/her reputation or the project itself) or an unnecessarily high volume of e-mails.

The next most popular mistake involved variations on hyerpbole and/or a lack of key information in pitches and press releases, which was followed by publicists sending music from either the wrong genre or just outside of the writer/publication’s established tastes, coverage areas or expertise.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to “know” each person you’re contacting, but a few people also gave examples of publicists being too friendly by either not maintaining a professional demeanor or by engaging in clichéd pleasantries before getting down to their inevitable business.

The lesson, it seems, is to remember that underneath it all, media relations is a one-on-one business, and it’s important to remember that what works for some may not work for others. The best we can do is work the fundamentals of our craft, represent our clients with integrity and keep the lines of communication open.

And with that we’ve given you a complete recap of the results of our survey.

We’ve enjoyed reading all the e-mails and comments these posts have generated this week (please keep them coming!), and we hope everyone found at least some part of this survey interesting and useful in their own various musical endeavors.

iC Media Poll Results: Part 4

July 23, 2009

Number of promo CDs

Today we’re looking at the fourth of five parts of a recent survey of prominent jazz writers and editors from around the industry.

This section, called Professional Listening Habits, sought to address such issues as how much new music these writers and decision makers are really seeing, how much they’re asking for and how much is just showing up unannounced, how they’re listening to it once it arrives, and—the big question on every publicist’s mind—in what format are we going to be sending them promos in the future.

We started by asking each person to tell us how many promo CDs they receive each month.  As in the previous section, every respondent answered this and the other questions put to them in this part of the survey, giving us the most accurate sampling we could hope for.

The most popular answer was 25-50, one of the smaller categories, which earned 29.4% of the vote, but 100+ was a close second with 23.5%. 1-25 was third with 17.6% and 50-75 and 75-100 each received 14.7%.

These numbers almost seem low when you’re used to telling your clients about the monumental amount of competition out there as you urge them to create the strongest, most above reproach projects possible.

But then I thought about it another way.

The majority of those surveyed (52.9%) are telling us they receive at least 50 promos CDs in a given month. If they’re estimating correctly, that’s a minimum of 600 CDs in a year, with roughly 1/4 of those surveyed claiming more than 1200 per year.

Imagine how much time it would take to listen carefully to that much music, let alone write about it in a succinct and insightful way.

Plus, if you recall, we found out in the previous section that more than 1/3 of these writers and editors are purchasing at least 100 more CDs per year, just for their own personal use.

Unsolicited promos

Next we asked what percentage of these incoming promos are unsolicited. The majority (55.9%) said that 3/4 of the promos they receive are uninvited guests in their homes and offices, and 1/5 (20.6 %) reported asking for none of the music in their mail box.  Mind you were still only taking about CDs and not digital downloads (yet).

Everyone said that at least some of the CDs they receive arrive without an invitation, with 1/4 and 1/2 getting 11.8% of the vote each. I know this isn’t rocket science, but that means 88.3% of those surveyed get at least one potentially unwanted CD for every one they ask for. And, for more than 75% of those people, at least three of every four CDs is unsolicited.

That kinda thing may start out fun, but I bet it gets old quick once you run out of space, both the physical and mental kinds.

Listening for work

When it comes to listening to all this music for work purposes, the traditional stereo system is still the favorite, with 94.1% saying that’s a regular listening method, but we didn’t limit them to just one choice. 64.7% reported regularly accessing CDs and music files through their computer, while 44.1% said they both used a computer to access streaming music files on the Internet and used an MP3 player.

If that’s not enough to make you think writers and editors still favor a CD to pop in their favorite hi-fi, we next asked them directly about their attitude toward digital promos, giving them specifically worded choices.

Feelings toward digital promos

Here’s how the numbers came out:

I love it! The future is now!: 26.5%
Tried it, but prefer a CD: 41.2%
Open to the idea, but haven’t tried it: 5.9%
It’s not for me: 17.6%
Themz fightin’ words!: 2.9%

5.9% chose the N/A category, and we got 15 write-ins, in which people basically explained the answers they’d given above. Those were harder to summarize, but people brought up ideas like disposability, environmental friendliness, collectibility, lack of artwork, convenience, reduced cost for the musicians and preferences about the different ways digital music is sent.

For those keeping score at home that was 61.7% of the target jazz press audience telling us that despite more recent and instantaneous innovations in technology, they prefer a physical promo CD.

Digital promo service

We then asked how many of the respondents had ever received digital promo service from a label or publicist. 85.3% said yes.

Digital promo service in 2009

The number was exactly the same when we asked, more specifically, if they had been asked to listen to a digital promo by a label or publicist in 2009.

Looks like 85% were offered digital music this year and 62% did NOT care for the experience. That hardly sounds like a digital revolution is brewing in the professional ranks of our industry just yet.

Vinyl promos

Finally, we swung the pendulum in the opposite direction and asked if these jazz aficionados would like to receive vinyl promos if it once again became an option. Believe it or not, the numbers were pretty even, but the majority (55.9%) said they’d like to see a giant, flat square show up at their door. Long live the LP!

Too bad we didn’t ask how they suggest we fit it, and 600-1200 of its friends, in their mailboxes.

Tune in tomorrow—same blog time, same blog channel—when we talk about the fifth and final section of our survey.

Truth be told, it was mostly about us and what we could be doing better, but we also asked questions about these tastemakers’ interactions with publicists in general, and the answers were very enlightening.