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Photo by Karolina Grabowska

It’s the age-old question: what’s the difference between PR and marketing? They work together to move a brand forward and are vital to a musician’s career, but are not the same thing. To be a successful musician in today’s fast-moving industry, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of these two fields. Hence, we’ve compiled a starter guide to help you differentiate between them! 

In theory, both PR and marketing will work in tandem to promote a brand with speed and consistency. But the truth is, these complimentary pieces of the puzzle are very different. And yet, both are crucial for a musician’s burgeoning career. Well, what exactly is the difference between them? First, let’s look at what each individual role does: 

Public Relations (PR)

A publicist wears many hats – depending on the industry, their client’s needs, and so on. For this article, we’ll be focusing on the music industry. PR supports your brand holistically –  from brand messaging and maintaining a positive public perception to securing press. In a nutshell, public relations is how the world sees you. 

You would hire a publicist to:

This is the simplest way to think of PR. It’s often the first role you engage in growing your career. Effective PR will help you refine your messaging and bolster your overall reputation, which will help you secure more opportunities. 

Marketing

Marketing, on the other hand, is focused on promoting a brand’s products with the goal of selling. When it’s done well, it’s nuanced and involved. While PR focuses on brand image, persona, and messaging – marketing takes that and pushes it to the masses.

It can mean so many different things depending on who you speak to, but some of the offerings you’re bound to see when it comes to marketing are social media marketing, launch strategy, advertising, creating launch materials, researching new sales opportunities, and more! 

You would hire a marketing agency for:

As with PR, this is just a starter list, but should give you an idea of what marketing is. If you need another way to remember it: PR builds the brand, so marketing can sell it.

Which one do you need?

This is the real question—which one do you need? The short answer is: it depends on your goals, your budget, and your needs as a musician.

Ideally, you would work with a publicist to build your brand, tailor your messaging, and grow public awareness through a press push. This could include working with your publicist to craft a compelling message and building out a release plan for your song or album. Your publicist would then coordinate opportunities to connect with the press, and help you score interviews, reviews, and spotlight features to build awareness around your brand – that is, you and your music!

Then, you would take the amazing material you’ve built and utilize it in your marketing. Using the industry attention and interest garnered from the press, a marketing team would help you open doors to new opportunities. For example, the branding that your publicist has helped craft may in turn get you better social media engagement, because the messaging is in tune with your audience and resonates with them.

If you’re at the early stages of your career and trying to decide on one, here’s my suggestion — think about what is going to move the needle the most for you, and put your money there. It can be tempting to jump straight into marketing as it correlates to sales, but if you don’t already have a solid brand and fans waiting to hear your next single, you might be jumping the gun a bit.

Ask yourself – do I already have a thriving fan base? If the answer is no, you might need PR first. If you haven’t built a following on social media, you may not want to sink a large sum into trying to go viral. Try tightening up your messaging and building your influence to reach the right people.

However, if you’ve built strong branding and a track record of engaged fans – you might be ready to take that up another notch! Marketing would be a great place to put your money and start pushing a message that you know works.

Remember, neither of these is a one-and-done service. Throughout your career, you’ll want to implement them over the long term, time and time again for every new release, tour, album, etc. They are a part of your musician toolbox now, so don’t be afraid to use them.