Publicists can do wonders for the success of a release, a tour, and ultimately a music career. However, you first need to sign one on to your team. To complicate matters, you need to find and sign the right publicist, who works well with your genre and level of success, and most of all, loves your music.
Often, publicists are the easiest team member to bring on board, simply because you pay for their services, and they don’t take on a whole lot of risk by working with you. That being said, some publicists are better (or better suited to your needs) than others, and sometimes they are hard to nail down.
So how do find and work with a great publicist? Here’s what you need to know.
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Determine Whether Or Not You Have Something Worth Publicizing
Ask yourself: what do I have to publicize right now/in the future? Do you have a new album coming out? A new single? A tour coming up? If not, then you probably don’t need a publicist right now, so spend your energy elsewhere.
The best thing for a publicist to work with, hands down, is a new release. The bigger the better. Even if you have a great tour lined up, without a release, it’s difficult for publicists to attract the attention of the media.
However, if you have something sufficiently “cool” or unique, it may be worth spending dollars on a campaign. For example, I have seen successful publicity campaigns run on a major contest win, like Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk (who won CBC Canada’s Searchlight Competition) or simply a great story, like Vulfpeck raising $20,000 on Spotify by putting out a “silent album”.
Lay The Groundwork Before You Hire A Publicist
Publicists don’t want to work with a band that was 53 Facebook “likes”, a profile picture made on MS Paint, and a recording done on an iPhone.
Make yourself attractive to the industry (and to fans) by having a solid, professional brand. Professional graphic design, a great website, a great bio, good promo photos, etc. Everything contributes to the impression you’ll make when a publicist reads your email. As an added bonus, your publicity will be cheaper and more successful if these things are already in place, and your publicist doesn’t have to waste time waiting for you to get better promo photos or to write a more interesting bio.
The fact is, if you’ve already been at work building a buzz around your band, a publicist will be far more inclined to work with you. This means going after small to medium sized publicity targets on your own, building a strong social media presence, touring, and showcasing. This kind of momentum gives a publicist more to work with, and it’s always encouraging for industry professionals to see that people other than the band’s friends are interested!
If you’ve spent time developing your brand, you may already have an idea of what your story is. Publicists pitch stories and if you have one ready-made, they will be more excited about working with you. Think about what angle you will take with the press; are you the “young up-and-comer”, or the “old-soul traveling folk singer”? If you already have a good story, your publicist can only make it better!
Finally, you should be discussing publicity goals with your band mates/trusted associates. What do you want out of this campaign? Reviews? Television? Radio interviews? Do your research! Find out what blogs, magazines, and shows feature your kind of music. Which ones are the most hip? Target those! Focus your publicity dollars on things that matter.
Find The Right Publicity Company
Different companies have different specialties, and you should be pitching companies that work for artist’s in the same realm as you.
For example, Hold Tight PR is a publicity company that specializes in rock and metal. Do not pitch your indie-folk act to them. Instead try Green Light Go, a company that specializes in indie folk and indie rock.
I found these companies with a quick Google search. Alternatively, look into artists you like and artists like you. Their publicity company can often be found in the “Contact” portion of their website under “Press Inquiries”.
A word of caution: If you are an unsigned/indie act, be wary of major label publicists. Sure, these guys got your favorite band in the Rolling Stone, but your favorite band is signed to a major label, with major label connections. Most of these publicists will not be comfortable working on indie projects, and won’t have the connections to make things happen.
Always research a publicist's past and current roster and ask other bands what their experience was like.
Pitch Well & Pitch To Many
You never really know who is looking for new clients until you ask, so do your research and pitch as many companies as possible. Even ones that seem a little out of reach for your current success level, or perhaps ones that aren’t quite the right fit. You never know what opportunities may arise, and it never hurts for more people to see your name and listen to your music.
You should be pitching eight months before your campaign. A good campaign takes three to six months to complete, and sometimes it takes a while to finalize a deal. If you haven’t left yourself this much time, don’t fret, pitch anyways. Some companies have options for short timelines.
My policy when pitching to anyone, be it a venue, publicity company, label, whatever, is to phone first, and have an email already typed up and ready to go. This way you make the all-important personal contact, and can follow up immediately to stay top of mind. Plus, if they ask for information you haven’t already included in your email, you can add it and send them everything at once.
Do not be afraid to follow up. Publicists deal with journalists, and understand (even appreciate) a follow-up email. Many people will tell you when to check back. If so, make a note of it and be punctual. Show your professionalism! If not, I recommend emailing no more than once per week.
Publicity can be fun and very rewarding. It feels great to get some validation from a positive review, or see the reaction to a great interview. And if you’ve ever done your own publicity, you’ll know that it’s nice to have someone else doing it. So if you’re interested in working with a publicist, use this article as a guide and get after it.
After all your hard work, it will ultimately come down to people loving your music. Building a great team is a long process, and can be filled with frustration. If you get someone interested and working with you, congratulate yourself on a job well done!