How To Get A Music Publicist
Music publicists are essentially your ‘press’ agent. Just as your booking agent secures you live performance opportunities, your ‘press agent’ secures all your press and media-related opportunities. They are responsible for pitching news items and stories to media outlets such as blogs, magazines, satellite and online radio, newspapers, television, cable, both online and offline to earn more awareness for your artist. When you’re signed to a major label, they have a built-in publicity department that does all of this for you. When you’re signed to an independent label, depending on the size of the label and where they spend their budgets, they may have a full-time publicist in house, but they will more likely have a 3rd party publicity company representing some or all of their roster.
Nonetheless, as an independent manager of an unsigned artist, you also have access to these independent music publicists or publicity companies. Even if you are signed to a major or an independent and they provide a publicist for you, you may also want to hire additional publicity representation so that your artist may receive more attention. This is because the publicists provided by the labels are splitting their attention across a very long list of artists, so you may want additional support from someone who can focus on your artist(s).
Before you pitch, sell, or try to build relationship with anyone, it’s important to deeply understand what exactly it is that you’re selling to them (meaning you need to know your art/your client/your product); and you need to understand the person you’re selling to and what exactly they want, or what they’re in the business of doing.
Before we get into it, please keep in mind that getting an publicist (or any team member) is much less about “pitching and selling” yourself to them than it is about building relationships. The thing is, often before you get the chance to build the relationship, you have to pitch something, or sell something, to get the persons attention in the first place. This article is about doing the best you can to get the publicists attention, and provide them exactly what they’re looking for.
1. Understand the Role of the Publicist
In summary, publicist’s daily activities and responsibilities include:
- Writing press releases
- Creating press kits
- Pitching stories and music news to media
- Securing great media coverage
- Developing media contact lists
- Continuously building media contact relationships
- Always in-the-know of the latest media outlets relating to their clients
2. Understand Who Publicists Work With
The main music industry people that publicists work with on a daily basis are:
- Tour Managers
- Record label and distributors
- Media outlets (editors, journalists, bloggers, publishers, producers, etc.)
- Radio hosts and on-air talent
- Program and music directors
- Venues and promoters (when the act is on tour)
3. Understand Publicist Fees
Publicists are hired on a project-by-project basis or on a monthly retainer fee, so the fees range dramatically depending on the scope of the project. As an independent manager of a newer artist, you’ll likely be working with a publicist on a project-basis for an upcoming album release and/or tour, or you may be hiring them on a monthly basis. For a monthly fee deal, this can range from $1000 to $2000 for a well-known publicist. For a one-time project this can cost anywhere from $2000 to $10,000, depending on how long the project timeline is, and if photography sessions are included or not, and how sought after the publicist is.
4. Understand What Publicists Look for in Their Clients
- Great music that matches the taste of the publicist
- They have to like it enough to want to tell the world about it
- Must be able to perform live on stage, on television, or on radio
- Relationship compatibility
- Sometimes based on current workload and existing client base
- Try to diversify their client base so they’re not promoting all the same genres of music
- A good story behind the music
5. Understand How Publicists Find Clients
- Mostly from referrals from industry friends or existing acts on their roster
- Attending networking events
- Saw them perform live at a conference, showcase, festival or live show
- Found them online
6. Look for the Right Publicist
Firstly, as mentioned above, you want to find a publicist that not only works with artists and music similar to you and yours, but also that they genuinely like your music.
Additionally, the best publicists have reputations that include the following:
- Great people skills
- Outgoing personality
- Great writer and creative storyteller
- Very good memory
- Works well under extreme pressure and last minute changes
- Massive contact database with every possible media outlet
- Never gets ‘star-struck’
7. Reach Out And Build Relationships
Now that we fully understand what they do, who they work with, how much they charge, and what they look for in their clients, we can take it a step further and start reaching out to them. In any scenario where we find the contact for a publicist or anyone we would like to work with, we first need to ask ourselves, what are they looking for? And, what are they in the business of doing?
Publicists are in the business of selling memorable stories and brands that the media will want their readers and listeners and followers to eat up. So, you want to sell them your UNIQUE story. Yes, you’re hiring them, but you want them to eat up your story so that they’ll want to take you on as a client.
Send them a short email with your music and your story, conveying the reasons why you believe you should work together. Include links to your best work. Explain your plan, briefly (even if it’s a very rough plan) and your accomplishments so far. Ask to set up a meeting in the coming weeks if they are available. Invite them to a live show.
Have you hired a publicist before? Let us know how you built that relationship, how much it cost you, and what they provided you in the comments!