At any given time, my email inbox has over 9,000 unopened emails.

Some are newsletters I regularly read, while others are unsolicited offers on office supplies and pet medications. But a large portion of my unread inbox contains email pitches sent to me by music publicists, begging for a plug of someone’s new album or asking me to retweet a photo of a celebrity at a new hot spot. In almost every case, a client spent a good portion of their budget to pay a publicist to craft an email for me that I will never read.

I don’t open most email pitches. On any given weekday, I’d say my inbox holds well over $10,000 worth of pitches, 95 percent of which get tossed in the trash without so much as a glance. That’s a lot of wasted money by bands and young companies that could be used in far more productive ways.

Why do I throw most away? It’s not out of spite —  I simply don’t have the time to read it all. In the three years since I’ve launched Amplify, my email address has been added to hundreds of PR media advisory lists, traded among ad agencies, bought and resold by large clearing houses and constantly added to press lists that I really have no business being on. Even if I dedicated myself full-time to answering these emails with a simple “no thanks” or “sorry this isn’t germane to Amplify,” there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to make it through every pitch and offer. In order to get my work done and carry on with the business of running a small media company, I have to ignore the bulk of things sent to me. That information overload takes a toll on my productivity and buries the small percentage of useful press releases and publicist communications I rely on to do my job.

There has to be a better way. Not only are millions of dollars being wasted trying to get journalists’ attention, it’s silly that the communication and PR industry in 2017 still relies on a shotgun approach to dealing with the mass media. I don’t have the answer — this isn’t that kind of column — but I would think that some combination of algorithm-learning, social networking, and opt-in communications has to work better than the blast-everything-at-me-all-the-time approach.

Entrepreneurs: This is your opportunity to disrupt a massive industry with tentacles that reach every major media outlet. According to the Holmes Report, the PR industry generated $15 billion in 2017, up 7 percent over 2016. Much of that money is wasted on campaigns that will have absolutely no traction with the media, leaving potentially thousands of customers frustrated by spending money with publicists to no avail.

I don’t see why a group of smart individuals can’t come up with a pitching and press release system that allows journalists, social media influencers and bloggers to find press releases and news that matter to our readers, organized by relevance and ranked by suitability. Kind of like a Facebook or Slack for press announcements. Somewhere we can opt in for information, get served up useful stories via algorithm and block the ones who constantly bug me with pitches that are inconsistent with what Amplify readers want.

Regardless, something has to be done. Yes, there are great publicists out there who read my work, subscribe to Amplify (financially supporting the media organizations they rely on) and regularly help me connect with clients and sources that lead to great articles. But for everyone one good publicist, there are ten that take money from young bands and startup companies for what amounts to spearfishing exercises where they blast out a press release and hope something sticks. If someone smarter and richer than me puts some dollars and brain power into finding a solution, he or she could come up with something superior to the current system.

And a small piece of advice to the young bands out there — if you’re a developing, growing act, don’t waste your money on hiring a publicist. Instead, focus on improving your craft, building an audience and putting on the best live show possible. If you’re good and catching fire, the media will find you. You don’t need to pay a middleman. If you have to hire someone to get our attention, you’re probably no quite ready yet. Keep practicing.

Rant over. Brooks out.

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Dave Brooks
Dave Brooks