Musician, author, educator, and music industry consultant Bobby Borg leans on the writing of sales and marketing consultant Ira Kalb to help musicians tackle the delicate task of managing a publicity crisis.
Excerpted from the video, “Crisis Management for Musicians.”
My discussion today is crisis management for musicians. I’m going to focus on two types of crises that might befall a music artist: damaging rumors and unfortunate mistakes. So, let me start by saying the expression, “All publicity is good publicity,” is not always true. Good news travels fast, but bad news travels way faster — which brings us to today’s discussion.
“Don’t Spread the Rumor”
The first piece of music career advice I’d like to give you is about handling damaging rumors. A damaging rumor is an untruth about your brand/band that can diminish trust and erode the connection you’ve worked to establish with your fans. I’m going to turn to Ira Kalb, who was the president of Kalb & Associates, a marketing consulting firm. Mr. Kalb has written a number of books that touch on this subject, and one piece of advice from him is, “don’t spread the rumor.” So, if a rumor starts online, don’t perpetuate it by repeating it.
For example, let’s say someone started a rumor and said they came backstage to interview you and you hit them and threw them off the bus. Don’t respond to that by saying, “News has been spreading that I punched a publicist in the head after our show and threw him off the bus, but this is not true.” If you find you need to defend yourself or refute the allegation, don’t come out and repeat the rumor — you see how this would be damaging, right?
What you want to do, according to Ira Kalb, is promote the opposite. Use the opportunity of getting this attention to remind people of all the great things you do. In this case, what you might say is something like, “Numerous credible news sources will agree that we have always been very kind to the press and have given them an all-access pass throughout our career.” Talk in the positive and don’t help to spread the rumor.
Then, take action and let the people who are spreading the rumor know that you’re serious about protecting yourself. Something like, “Our attorney is contacting the source of the rumor to let them know that we are prepared to take legal action if these rumors continue.”
“Admit and Apologize”
My next bit of music career advice concerns what we can call an “unfortunate mistake.” An unfortunate mistake is a situation where you screw up — intentionally or unintentionally. Again, turning to Ira Kalb, the first thing you should do is “admit and apologize.”
Let’s say, for example, that you were smashed on stage and you were messing up or you just stumbled off stage and canceled the show. Rather than avoid the truth, which is that you realize your drinking is getting out of control, come out and apologize. Trying to hide the truth is a no-no.
This is actually an opportunity to strengthen bonds with your audience because your fans are likely willing to forgive you for making a mistake. If you are forthright and you are transparent and honest and say, “Look, we messed up and we apologize,” that’s probably in your best interest.
You might say something like, “We deeply regret and apologize to all our fans for our bad behavior on stage and our poor performance last night. Clearly, our drinking has reached a point that is out of the control and we are committed to rectifying that.”
Own your mistake and you can actually strengthen your bond with your audience. You also want to limit the scope of the situation. You’re not trying to minimize anything, but you want to put things into perspective.
So you might say something like, “In six years of performing live and playing hundreds of gigs, we have always done our best to deliver for our fans. This is the first time an unfortunate incident like this has ever occurred, and we promise it will be the last.”
Use the opportunity to put the incident into perspective, make it clear this is not a regular occurrence, and outline a solution. In this case, you might say something like, “There is nothing we can do to make up for our behavior last night, but we are refunding everyone who attended the show and we’ll return to give you a performance to remember.”
Want more music career advice? Don’t just read it… watch the videos on Bobby Borg’s YouTube channel.
Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician (Second Edition), Business Basics For Musicians (Second Edition), and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. Learn more at www.bobbyborg.com.
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