Working with publicists is really fun and rewarding, especially when they’re good at what they do. Getting calls for interviews is very exciting and having your name mentioned in the media can do wonders for your career.
However, there seems to be some myth and mystery surrounding what a music publicist actually does and what they can do for you. I want to unravel some of this confusion for you.
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What Does A Music Publicist Actually Do?
Essentially, publicists run the press and media side of a marketing campaign. There are publicists working for authors, business owners, speakers, and musicians around the world.
You’ve probably heard people in the music industry talk about publicists before, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered, “what is a music publicist?”
Well, a music publicist is someone who has many good contacts and relationships with press outlets and the music blogospher. They make their living suggesting (pitching) good bands to the media, who will (hopefully) publish something about the act.
Publicists are generally marketing experts and can help you develop a voice and an image for your brand. They will work with you to develop a story for your act, your album, your music video, etc.
A good publicist will let you know if your image needs work, and help you develop your image/brand. They’ll tell you that if your Facebook page needs updating or if your website looks shabby. They’ll also probably have some good recommendations for graphic designers that can help you kick your image up a notch!
Publicists can also be great sounding-boards for new songs, ideas, artwork, etc. The nature of their job means that they have their ear to ground. They know what the media and the public like, and will help you reach further.
Finally, here’s something that a music publicist doesn’t do: they don’t usually put butts in seats. Publicity is great, but most of the time it simply doesn’t increase your attendance at shows. If you have a tour full of effective shows, you’ll be building your audience that way. Your publicist will help build excitement for your fans and industry, and make your tour or release a much bigger deal.
How Much Do Publicists In The Music Industry Cost?
Like most things in the music industry, music publicists are expensive. In the U.S you’ll be paying between $1,800 – $3,000/month for a publicist who is worth their salt.
Note that this is for a full-time, three month long album release campaign. A two week long tour should cost less than that, and if you’re publicizing a one-off show or story, it should also be less than that. I’ve paid around $1,500 for 20+ days of tour publicity and around $500 to publish a big “story” for the band.
Don’t let the hefty price tag scare you away; publicists are an important member of your team. Instead, budget for a proper publicity campaign. Below, I will detail ways to save some money on publicity, and make the most of your publicist.
When Do You Need A Music Publicist?
Some would argue that you need a publicist as soon as you can afford it. I say nay. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an advocate for artists keeping their money in their pockets.
Here’s the truth:
You only need a publicist when you have something to publicize.
Here are some things that are worth paying to publicize:
- An album release: you’ve put too much effort into making an album to not publicize it. Album releases are worth spending the money on.
- A single release: I would pay for a single release, if only to have a music blog feature it as an exclusive. This way you build a relationship with the blog and can contact them for future releases. Having press around a single is a great way to build excitement with fans.
- A music video release: you want views and blogs want exclusives. Let a blog release your music video! It builds credibility and excitement around your act as well.
- A tour: tours are exciting and absolutely worth publicizing, but as I will outline below, you DO NOT NEED TO PUBLICIZE EVERY SHOW.
- A great story: I paid to publicize my band’s name change, and it was worth it. The articles were with very reputable news outlets and it was a very cool way to announce the change. Fans loved it! Having press around a single is a great way to build excitement with fans.
I personally have wasted too much money publicizing things that don’t matter to tell you that you need a publicist right now.
Here is a list of things that I have paid a publicist for and shouldn’t have:
- Publicity in some small town/city for a tour stop on a Tuesday: unfortunately, this is probably a waste of your time and money. Press in small markets does not do much for your career and I, anecdotally speaking, have not seen an increase in attendance when a show is publicized. Instead, be your own publicist! Small print outlets will not mind you contacting them personally. If anything, get a show review in these smaller cities/towns. Show reviews are great press for a tour and you can use the quotes on your website. Plus it’s one more person in the audience – a win-win!
- Only went after print publicity: I do not want to discount print media. There is a certain prestige around being in print. However, being in the “Small Town Times” is not really something you should spend your money on. This seems obvious, but there is more to media than just print these days. Often, the best articles written about my group are the ones by music bloggers. Music blogs have a built-in audience of music lovers. If you can find a blog that covers local music, a piece with them may translate into increased attendance!
- Paid a publicist to put my tour stops in a whole bunch of event listings: seriously, I did this. Not necessary. Now, I just research the best listings in every market and do it myself. I ignore listings that are not popular, or aren't relevant to my music.
- Publicizing some show in my own home town: This can be worth it sometimes. But you should make a priority of meeting and forging relationships with local music journalists. This way you can reach them directly, for free.
If you have something to publicize and you have the cash, hire a publicist. But make sure to hire a good one!
What Should You Expect From Your Publicist?
The first time I hired a publicist, I had no idea what I was doing and it ended up being a somewhat negative experience. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know how to get the most out of a publicity campaign. This is what I’ve learned:
Most (good) publicists have this trait. They will tell you if something isn’t good enough, if something won’t get publicity or if something isn’t going well. In return, you need to be upfront about what you expect from them; i.e. show reviews, placements in certain magazines, blogs, or papers.
Expect Some Press Coverage
No (good) publicist well ever promise coverage. They simply can’t! However, you absolutely should expect some coverage. If they’re coming up with zilch, they either haven’t been honest with you about your prospects, or they're not doing a good job.
Information (Open Communication)
Most publicists send bi-weekly reports of their activities. You absolutely have the right to know how your money is being spent.
In return, give them all of the information they ask for! If they tell you they need some bit of info from you, they mean it!
Good Client-Provider Relationship
As with any relationship, it’s a two-way street. Expect that your publicist will be respectful to you, their client. And in turn, always be respectful to them.
It’s not an easy job, and getting placements is very difficult. When they do get you a placement, be grateful, make sure you’re on time, present yourself professionally, and be courteous. No one has time for divas!
Ultimately, a publicist can be one of your closest allies and an extremely important member of your team. As much as I’m an advocate for doing as much as you can yourself, I would never sell their work short. They keep long hours and work extremely hard without much thanks.
So get out there and get some press!