Music PR: The need for negotiation


I’ve always been a music lover, attending live gigs when I was younger with my Dad and then evolving my genres and experiencing live music from unknown small bands that no one has even heard of. For me, it paid off because the majority of the bands I got to see in small local venues are now big worldwide artists; artists such as Bastille, Royal Blood and Twin Atlantic. You can find some real gems within local venues, it’s just a shame that the majority of them are closing down because of a lack of interest from locals. However, it was this that pushed me into the music sector within PR.

So, what’s the point of this post?

I want to explore the music PR’s role and its link with negotiation.

The need for negotiation as a skill within Music PR’s is considered a must.


What happens when a newspaper rings you up saying they have a negative story coming out about one of your up and coming artists who has generated a lot of fans over the last few months? Their career could potentially be ruined because of this story.

You negotiate with them! Offer them something better, because all they want to do is get readers. If your artist is releasing an album soon, launching a new brand or going on tour, allow them to have an exclusive piece of material in exchange. This, in most cases, can work wonders. Not only has that negative story blown away, but you have also just gained a new piece of publicity confirmed for the future. Sorted!


Now this process could work differently for those well-known artists that are not currently in the limelight but are still household names. For example, the issue that arose with Cliff Richard and his house raid, this is a whole other issue. However, it can be controlled with negotiation with the press and releasing information in a timely, efficient manner so that press don’t speculate you’re hiding something.

This method was generated when I was apart of a mock PR team for a crisis simulation event, we used a similar process and when mistakes were made we learnt that keeping people up to date was the most important thing.

Now I have given you my advice, what is yours? You might not work within Music PR but what is your negotiation technique with the press, when dealing with negative situations?

Let me know below!



11 thoughts on “Music PR: The need for negotiation

  1. Jennifer Bryant says:

    I don’t know a whole lot about PR in the music industry. However, I would argue that crises in this industry are a whole different monster than business crises. I say this because music is an element of pop culture and society generally tends to be more informed about pop culture than the business world. We are desensitized to gossip and things of that nature. They often pass quickly because the next big rumor has surfaced. One of the risks for popular music groups is that you are going to receive coverage, good and bad. When it’s bad, it’s often rumors or gossip of some sort. This may be bad press but because music is a different kind of tangible product, I think it would affect the group less than if a business organization were to receive a lot of bad press.

    For example, someone might say, “I know that this band has a terrible reputation but I like their music…so I’m still going to buy it.” It’s different from an organization. “This business supports X belief and I don’t support it so I won’t buy their products anymore.”

    From a PR perspective, I would never recommend saying “no comment.” This implies you have something to hide, that you are scrambling for an answer or you don’t really know how to handle the situation. Is that the message you want to send to your public? Probably not. In my opinion, honesty and transparency is best. The public wants to know that they can trust you and that you aren’t sneaking around behind their backs. The follow up statement is a good idea, but saying something along the lines of, “We acknowledge and apologize for the situation and are doing everything we can to correct it” is more effective.

    Keep in mind this is coming from a mindset of someone who lives in the United States so these beliefs are reflective of our culture and society. I’ve never been to the UK (unfortunately) so things may be totally different there.

    Also, what bands/music do you listen to? Just curious 🙂

    • paigehileypr says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you for your comment! I guess in some or most cases, a business perspective vs. a PR perspective is going to be different. For instance with the ‘no comment’ part – for a business who is in trouble, this probably isn’t the best option like you said but for a PR who is strategically trying to find a route around the bad press it can be used and that’s just what I have been taught at University and heard from music professionals. However, you do make sense in business terms and I agree! 🙂
      I took part in a crisis simulation once and in that instance ‘no comment’ is a no can do. You’re right – it can make the business look very unprepared! so your example would suit it well.

      In reply to your question about my music taste! At the moment, Royal Blood, Hozier, Sia, Courtney Barnett, Swiss Lips, Biffy Clyro – anything rock and indie really!

      What about yourself? 🙂

      • Jennifer Bryant says:

        A crisis stimulation? That’s super cool! In my classes, we have been taught that “no comment” is never a good response. However, I’ve yet to take a crisis communication class so perhaps that will change! Also, I know next to nothing about PR in the music industry so hopefully I’ll gain some experience for those situations also. Where have you learned about music PR?

        Rock and indie is great! I only know a couple of those groups but I’ll have to check out the rest!

        I love pretty much any kind of music. Some of my favorites are The Dirty Heads, Sublime (and Sublime with Rome), Queen, Bob Marley, and I’ve recently gotten into a group called Fleet Foxes! I could go on forever but I’ll spare you 🙂 I’ll have to check out the Swiss Lips video you posted!

      • paigehileypr says:

        Yeah it was an interesting exercise – but with a Crisis it is better not to say ‘no comment’ for most of the part because it will let people to assume you haven’t been prepared for this situation (even if you haven’t you don’t want to show that to people).
        Yes try and get as much experience as possible, especially if you don’t know what sector you want to work in. A variation before you need full time employment will allow you to understand which is best suited to you. I worked as an Intern for Warner Music Group last summer and also at an entertainment agency in London. I also did some paid freelance work at a music festival in Southampton for two years, but anything within that area, if you can get your hands on some experience you can get a lot out of it! Even if it is unpaid, you could try and negotiate to have your expenses covered for travel etc to make it a bit easier for you.

        Yes check the bands out! They’re great. Ooh yes! Fleet Foxes are great, used to listen to them a few years ago.

        Swiss Lips are a band to look out for! You can download some of their stuff for free on their website so check it out.

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Paige, Jennifer,

    I think you both have good points As with you Jennifer, I don’t work in the music industry but I think the main principles for both would be the same or very similar. Firth you need to understand who you are negotiating with and about what. And is it really negotiation or is it PR or both? Negotiation is about getting the best you can out of a two way transition. So the first think to understand is do you have anything to trade and what is it worth to you and the other party. Now this trade can be anything. It could be information, it could be services, it could money. It could be anything you have that they what in exchange for something they have and you what, and that both of you are prepared to ‘negotiate’ over.

    The things that you need to try and understand in any negotiations are:

    1, How valuable to the other party is the thing you have, and they what, and you are prepared to negotiate over
    2, How valuable to you is the thing they have that you need/what and what would you be prepared to ‘give up’ to get it, or part of it.
    3, What is your bottom line. That point were what they have is not worth that they are asking, or you are prepared to give, for it.
    4, What is your ‘Plan B’. If you can’t get the item, what can you do to mitigate this. In the case above, do you get the information out there first, putting the ‘slant’ on from your or the artists prospective. If it is that bad, do you separate from the artist and distance yourself/the company from the allegations.

    In general business, can you live without what it is you where negotiating for, or can you get it from somewhere else?

    You also need to know what you are going to do if you win the negotiations. What does it mean, how do you use it and so on. Winning the negotiation can just be the start.

    Negotiating is a bit like poker. you need to understand the strength of both hands and also when it is time to work away

    • paigehileypr says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comment! A very good strategy you have pointed out there and I completely agree. A plan B is always necessary, because there will and are usually times where negotiation just won’t work with some parties. So having a back up is always a need.

      In terms of winning the negotiation, you said that it is just the start, how would you go on to develop your strategy – what would you say needs to happen afterwards?


      • Steve says:

        That’s a whole new blog Paige. But remember, what you have negotiated, you need to be sure that both parties get something out of it and, more important, that both parties can, will and do deliver on it. I have seen main negotiations were either the one side has pushed the other into signing up for what both parties really know is either not going to be, or can realistically be delivered.

        As I said, the negotiation is just the start……..

      • paigehileypr says:

        Hi Steve,

        Thanks for the comment again, I appreciate you getting back to me so soon! I think my next step will be to figure out how the negotiation process carries on, like you said, and possibly do another blog post as well. Will be interesting to see some case studies about how the process continues.

        Thanks for the help and your view.


  3. alexrbee says:

    This is a great post and I think negotiations with PR companies are a really important skill for journalists to have.
    As a journalist I would have to say that in a negation it would have to be a really great story about the artist to disuade me from writing something negative – bad news sells! I think good relationships with publications are also important because then journalists will know they can rely on you as a source for future stories and are less likely to want to upset you by writing something negative about one of your clients.

    • paigehileypr says:

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comment! You are very true, a lot of journalist will publish the story no matter what. However, like you said having a trusting relationship with the journalist or PR in your case, does bode well. In this industry as well, it is very likely to know a lot of the top journalists anyways – so that element of trust is always there.


  4. Charlie Hislop says:

    Sorry, I’m really rushed and after the post I have only skimmed the later conversation.

    The point I would make from the outside, is that lots of PR treats us as stupid. Within the wider news sphere, I read a story that is well researched, evidenced, etc. that has something bang to rights, and the response quote is PR speak that either says the exact opposite of what the evidence shows (eg states company policy that is proven untrue by the evidence); or says something completely off at a tangent; but never actually addressing what is put to them to respond to. If I were a journo, I would simply say xxxx issued an irrelevant statement ! It has become a big part of our public conversation, and now seems to apply to public institutions that we pay for.Everyone is protecting their brand, and its the same as politicians saying “But first if I could just say……”, and never answering the question they are asked. I think it undermines general levels of trust within society as a whole. –

    Within music, I think what you say is right Paige – give them something they can use instead as they are only interested in getting readers – but music doesn’t actually have a direct effect on the world, peoples’ lives etc. (oh – am I allowed to say that ?!) (and unless you are Cliff Richard – his singing affects me a lot ) But the principle is the same – protecting brands at the expense of addressing the issue honestly is a trend in PR that doesn’t win it any fans.

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