Book Review: Ariel Hyatt – Music Success in Nine Weeks (Ariel Publicity, 2009)
Ariel Hyatt is a music publicist who’s reinvented her practice to utilize social media and other on-line channels. Her book provides nine weekly lesson plans for developing your own on-line profile, including suggestions for optimizing your website, blogging, building a mailing list, creating a newsletter, involving your fans with surveys, and building a “continuum program” that incentivizes on-going purchases. The book is task-driven rather than theoretical, with the first written exercise happening only four pages into chapter one. This necessarily leaves out some detail that might be helpful; for example, the suggestion of offering a free MP3 doesn’t indicate you must clear all the rights (including a mechanical license for cover songs), and the section on optimizing your website doesn’t mention SEO. One could argue these topics are outside the book’s scope, but a pointer to follow-up resources would be helpful.
Hyatt stresses the point that many musicians are reluctant to market themselves, and she wisely reframes the musician’s career as a business. She points out that a musician who thinks their only job is to make good music is an idealist who’s not really interested in having anyone hear their work. The steps she outlines will be difficult for some artists to carry out, but taken one at a time, and broken down into smaller tasks, they become part of your larger job as an artist. Her experience as a publicist, and particularly her understanding of what will get people’s attention, is the key to her pitch. She provides compelling advice on how to connect with those who can help advance your career, garnering you more fans, gigs, rehearsal space, private shows, interns, and, eventually, money. She provides valuable guidance on how to make your press kit work on a web site, noting who will be visiting your website and for what purpose.
The downside to this book its brevity. The 184 page count includes 25 pages of fill-in-the-blanks worksheets (which can more cheaply be completed in the blank notebook Hyatt advises you to get), 11 lined end-chapter notes pages, and 43 “bonus” pages on traditional PR. The bonus sections are helpful, but don’t speak to the book’s stated on-line theme. Finally, though one might expect a publicist to publicize herself, the promotion of Hyatt’s PR services on page 82 and the four pages of her company’s offerings (including the ethically ambiguous ReviewYou.com) at the back of the book seem opportunistic, especially given the book’s high list price. Hyatt knows her stuff, and these exercises will methodically help you develop your business as a musician; just don’t be disappointed by the page count.