The Paying Customer Public Relations Department

By

From the Proprietor:

I didn’t ask Russ to write this. We spoke on the phone several weeks ago about this issue and I expressed the awkwardness I felt about the age-old conversation. He responded with this post.

Andrew Peterson has a problem. He’s not alone in what I’m about to describe, but since he is the proprietor of this fine Rabbit Room, he’ll be my exhibit A. See, here’s his problem: his hope is that this site will serve to promote books, music, art and ideas he and his contributors think are worth your time. The problem is that his own works would be counted among them by his contributors. But Andrew doesn’t want to appear narcissistic, and worries he’ll appear to be promoting himself if his works are reviewed and recommended here. What to do, what to do?

Luckily for Andrew, I have a solution.

Lean into it, Andrew. Lean into it. This site was your idea and it does exist to promote your music and books. And I for one, hope you become filthy stinking rich as a result. I hope your grandchildren–may they be many, smart and ruddy–can go to the college of their choosing, twice, as the result of Rabbit Room.

I pick on Andrew here, but this whole “online community” thing has me thinking a lot about how things are changing for artists today. In particular, I’m thinking of how artist promotion takes place– and I really like what I’m seeing. The Rabbit Room is just one example, but since you’re here, lets go with it.

Here’s how I see it. Of course there’s a place for critical reviews. You should be able to go places to find, for example, that So-and-so’s new album is generally being met with a collective yawn. Such places (Billboard, Paste and Relevant, etc.) do exist. If people are looking for a webzine to objectively cover the media coming out in today’s market, there are places they can go–professional establishments.

This site, as I understand it, is not that. The Rabbit Room exists to introduce visitors to thoughtful art and engaging discussions. And because it does, most if not all you find here will be written about in a positive light. And that’s okay. In fact, its good.

When Andrew roped his contributors into this venture, he said “With reviews, I imagine them reading as if you were telling a buddy about this book that you experienced and that you just love. Or film, or record.” So, dear reader, that’s what we’re up to here.

Now for a word on the artist promotion aspect of this website. Andrew’s contributors are here because we like Andrew Peterson, and most of us like him because we’ve gotten to know him through his music. And Andrew, along with the other Square Pegs, have many times come to a professional fork in the road, faced with the choice of taking the industry’s highway to contractual obligations in return for corporate promotion or going it alone on the grass roots level, hoping and praying it all works out.

Andrew, and many like him have chosen the road less traveled.

But for this to work out, one must promote oneself often, shamelessly and with an eye toward turning that self-promotion into cold, hard frozen pizzas, electric bills and mortgage payments (not to mention all the other strange things one has to buy that the rest of the world doesn’t even think about, like 15 passenger vans, t-shirts with your own name on them and Stuart Duncan’s time.)

So Andrew Peterson bears a responsibility to promote Andrew Peterson. He’s one of THOSE grassroots guys! Hence, his problem.

At least it would be a problem if his music was bad. But its not. And we don’t need Andrew to tell us its good to know its good. Same goes for Peters, Phillips, Gullahorn, Goodgame, Osenga and the rest of the Square Pegs.

What we do need, however, is to find our way to their music. And that takes promotion.

Shameless self-promotion? Yes, in part.

But it also takes something more. It takes rabbit rooms, blogs, virbs, street teams, iTunes, artistic alliances, online stores, myspace, youtube, noisetrade and a million other inter-related, cross-referenced, just-a-click-away opportunities for fans to add to their collections and future fans to discover folks like the Square Pegs for the first time.

For those “grassroots” artists who have elected to depend upon word of mouth, street teams for local shows, those shows themselves and the world wide interweb to draw and retain their audience, they are, in effect, relying on their “paying customers” to also be their PR department. And it follows that the “Paying Customer Public Relations Department” would want to do their job well so that there might be more product for them to both purchase and promote in the future.

It is really backward from what used to be, if you think about it. It used to be the PR people were employed by the label to accumulate from the audience as much money for the label as possible, which would in turn bring greater revenue to the artist. But in the grassroots paradigm, the PR people are the audience, essentially handing over their own money directly to the artist, buying recorded music, attending concerts and sometimes even outright “underwriting” future releases so they can be imagined, written, recorded, packaged and purchased by the very same people who promoted the previous records and underwrote the newer projects in the first place. (Read this paragraph again. Its awesome!)

So if the Rabbit Room is meant to draw our attention to art worth having (which it is), and if Andrew’s art can be counted among that (which it can), and if this site was his idea (which it was), and if he has bills to pay (which he does), and if you, dear reader, are here because you’ve already ponied up some cash to buy an AP record (which you may have done, or maybe you’re a pirate) or see a concert or get an “I Like Cheese” t-shirt, can’t we all just live at ease with the fact that if Andrew sells some units through this site, we should count that as a success and say, “Good for you, Andrew. Here’s another $15”?

It didn’t used to be this way, but I, for one, am glad it is, because what we all get out of this new deal is the confidence of knowing that what makes it to our iPod is what the artist meant to deliver–not some guy in a corner office trying to figure out the best way to make the most money out of a musician who started writing and singing for love of the song.

So with this, dear reader, are you aware that Rabbit Room has a lovely store? The holidays are approaching fast.

Profile photo of Russ Ramsey

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003). Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


10 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    The music business is changing drastically, and looks very different than when my career began a decade or so ago–but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Labels will collapse, downsize, reconfigure; radio will still rule the roost with the promotional power they wield (sometimes poorly); people will steal music; the industry will move tidally. But none of that can keep a guy from picking up a guitar and pouring his story into it, and as long as there are people making music there will be people who value it. Russ has some good things to say about the nuts and bolts of the way the music business works these days.

  2. Joy Carren

    Guys, I have no problem with this whatsoever because of the honesty and trust I’ve already experienced through the music and websites. The hearts ring true so it is a real joy to be able to be a part, by contributing my thoughts, prayers and money. I like the idea of the Rabbit Room and the Square Peg Alliance very much. We live in a “mixed” world, but you are attempting to navigate it with integrity, and I very much appreciate that. Blessings.

  3. Dan Kulp

    I love the idea of the rabbitroom. Honest reviews from people you trust. I know AP music and relate to the influences. I can now put more trust in him saying something is worthwhile (worth hearing, worth reading) over general radio or PR hype.

    I hate getting burned by buying a CD for a great song I’ve heard and the band is vapor (PR hype) and the CD is terrible.

    In my view, 2 things are required to avoid the self-promotion trap. Honest about the gains (as previously mentioned, I could have guessed that buying an AP cd benefits AP) and honest about the reviews. Since many reviewed items are genrally available (CS Lewis) the site is much more than self promotion.

    Another nicety (made up word?) but not requirement would be reasonable if not better pricing than elsewhere (not that it isn’t now). My big constraint is the same as the artists, paying bills. Given unlimited supply I’d buy everything recommended on here. Given unlimited supply on the other end you’d probably given them away. Pricing issues are a seperate issue from self promotion so I’ll stop my rant in that direction.

    Bottom line is I think RR is a doing well on honest reviews/discussion and not being strictly self-promotion. Very refreshing to see. The more it stays in that direction the more it will grow.

  4. Peter B

    I thought Russ’ next words were going to be “Get over it, Andrew”… but the actual quote was a bit more gentle 🙂

    Seriously, though, how will they know if nobody tells them? I’ve been out doing some unofficial promo work (I say “unofficial” because I didn’t think I’d have time to be a worthy member of the street team) for the Dallas BtLoG concert next week… and I’ll be ecstatic if anything I can do helps AP to rake in a few more bucks for all his hard work.

    As for one user’s comment about pricing… these guys have to make a living, you know. If you buy it here, though, you actually contribute a significant amount to their cause, as opposed to funding Amazon or some other bookseller with a minuscule margin of profit actually making it through to the artist.

    In short, keep at it, guys/gals. This is a great place you’re building here.

  5. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    I’ve only got two things to say on this topic (probably a blessed relief – I think I win the award for most words per comment).

    1Ti 5:18, “For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn.’ And, ‘The laborer is worthy of his reward.'”

    The real reward of doing well (here in making good art) is the well doing itself; there’s a real satisfaction in seeing something and being able to say, “It is good,” and especially in the end to hear Jesus Christ say, “Well done.” But cash is also necessary and not evil. I’d remind also any artist reading this to stick to reliance on God through Malachi 3 and Matthew 6.

  6. Ron Davis

    Well said. I’m thrilled that we’ve got this little room, and I hope it makes these guys piles and piles of cash.

    What I really enjoy out here is that I get a closer look at the art that influences the artists I like. Knowing the artist’s influence for a particular song makes me appreciate the music even more.

    For example, “After the Last Tear Falls” is probably more dear to my heart than any other song Andrew has written because of some very stressful doctors visits my wife and I went through with our daughter in 2005. Andrew mentioned C.S. Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” in an email he sent me, and I quite literally ran to the bookstore to buy it. The book, along with the song, really meant a lot to me at that point in time.

    Now when I hear that song, my mind goes back to that time when I was scared for my little girl’s life, and yet I knew that those tears we shed were “caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all.” Almost 3 years later, I really do look back on those tears as old tales.

    So keep this place around. Keep making and selling art. I’ll keep doing the PR thing wherever I go.

  7. Tom Bubb

    I heartily agreee with everyone’s comments and I add my own: I LOVE the Rabbit Room! Andrew I wish you all the financial well being you can stand! 🙂 Your album Love and Thunder is being used by God in powerful ways to encourage and strengthen me when I need it most and I will gladly promote you whenever I can and I’ll pour every spare penny I can into your amazing music as well as into all the great items I’ve been introduced to on this fantastic site! Ron Davis, thank you for mentioning The Weight of Glory! I’ve been reading a C.S. Lewis year long devotional and most of the quotes that have hit me the hardest have been from that book- it and The Great Divorce are officially on my must read list. Long Live the Rabbit Room!

    In Christ,
    Tom

  8. Micah Ballew

    The promotion aspect make sense amongst friends. If I were to sit down over a meal with friends, we wouldn’t spend much time talking about how awful a recent movie, album, or book was. If I want bad news, I’ll watch it at 5 o’clock. If I want good news I’ll talk to my friends. I don’t know about you & your friends, but I know that I’d rather hear about something that is good.

    And as a fan of music who doesn’t listen to the more radio & label friendly artists, I’m more than willing to promote Andy by wearing my “Andrew Peterson is my Fri” shirt. (it used to say “friend” but through 8 years of wear and tear has faded)

  9. Chris R

    Is there any way that someone can design a banner to go on a blog promoting The Rabbit Room and AP? Cause I will admit, I am completely at a loss on this stuff. I have a blog (c-ruleinrome.blogspot.com) that at least one or two people read (aw who am I kidding, it is probably just my mom and dad) but I would like to promote in someway besides simply a link on the side of the blog (there already is one of those).

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *