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Thursday
Dec152011

What Publicists Need From Musicians – Guest Post by Anne Leighton

Screen Shot 2011 11 27 at 11.37.28 AM 300x199 What Publicists Need From Musicians   Guest Post by Anne Leighton

Posted By: Michael Brandvold (Michael is a 20 year music marketing veteran who has worked with unsigned indie bands and international superstars. Michael owns Michael Brandvold Marketing a site dedicated to providing tips and advice for musicians.)

This is a guest post by Anne Leighton.

The best, savviest musicians listen to their publicist’s expertise.  Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Tower of Power’s Emilio Castillo pay attention to what I tell them when I disagree, find a wrong fact in their bio, or if they NEED to do an interview during a vacation.  They also tell me when something needs to be fixed.  We’ve never had an argument.  Sure, we’ve all made mistakes that were based in misunderstood e-mails or my faulty research for an address. All my artists have missed interviews, but we rebound and reschedule.  We’re human.

Your publicist interfaces with you: the media, other world and industry tastemakers, or gatekeepers to get you more known in your career.

We work together.  Whether it’s you or Ian, artists have to realize the type of coverage (radio, print, TV, internet) they will receive in conjunction with where they are at the time of their album’s release.  If you’re at Lady Gaga’s level, most everyone will devote space and time to you.  If you had hits more than three to 40 years ago, selected national outlets might be interested, but chances lie more in local print and radio. If you’re still determined to wake up early in the morning, you could get some local TV coverage.

If you’ve never had a hit, you need a fireball publicist who believes in you to get media coverage.  You may get newspaper, radio, maybe even TV.  As far as national coverage, you might get whoever that publicist has contacts with, plus some new outlets, and significant web coverage.

A good publicist will help educate you on how to work with the media.  I’ve combined thoughts based on both my experiences and those of other publicists I’ve grown to know over the years.

As the artist, your responsibilities are divided up into Three Categories: Personal Responsibility, Information and Customer Service.  Technically it is all about personal responsibility, but I’ll show you what to emphasize.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

For your career and the publicist.

At the independent level, you are probably underpaying your publicist, who is always responsible for getting more media people to cover you with the hopes that fans will read those articles.  Let’s say you’re paying them $2000 per month.  The standard pay for publicists is $150 to $250.00 an hour.  And yet, these folks will be working for you, probably over 20 hours in the next month.

That work will include summoning the press to your tour dates,  posting on the internet and in social media, writing a bio (unless you already have one….then it’s tweaking your bio).  It’ll include follow ups with journalists who did interviews with you, rescheduling interviews you missed, event planning. The publicist’s agenda might include mail outs.  Even journalists they know don’t respond.  It’s a challenging job to be an advocate for talented musicians, but it is rewarding.

The publicist is also taking your phonecalls, coming to your shows, then going home the rest of the night trying to catch up on e-mails.

If you ask publicists for some advice on your career, don’t be insulted by thier answers.  They are not jealous or gossiping, but giving feedback for you to be aware of, and—at least—file away in your head.

Decide that you’re going to take criticism because that publicist cares about you, wants you to grow, flourish and prosper, so he or she can work with you forever.  If you disagree, be logical not accusational.  Don’t be insulted if the publicist says, “You’d look better in tight pants.”  Discuss why you don’t want to wear tight pants.  Then, while you’re alone, look at the photos of you in the pants she hated, and assess how they really look on you.  Sneak out to the clothing store, and try on some different pants, making sure—of course—that you evaluate how your ass (the only one you’ll ever need in this business) looks. Think about the feedback you’re getting.

Accept where you really are in your career. Look, you know you’re special, but just in case you weren’t warned, neither America, the media, venues, other rock stars and their entourages agree… yet.  One or two people, yes.  Maybe a few more every month you gig, but at the end of the day, this is a country of starfuckers.  Just know that nobody in this business is going to make your way easy unless, after they listen, they decide you’re good.  And then it’s just one person; who knows if their hot shot music industry colleagues will agree or if they’ll be pushing their unknown fave.

Oh, and make sure you get to know your fans.  They already know you or think they do—pay attention to their expectations, you’ll learn something.  Never travel incognito.  If you’re waiting on line at a pitstop, talk to the people next to you, give them a flyer, ask them about their musical expectations.  Engage the whole line in conversation.

Everyone in the industry gets lots of music; the bigger media outlets (like JAY LENO, ROLLING STONE, NEW YORK TIMES, ELLEN DEGENERES) and their counterparts receive more pitches and music than you can imagine.  The talent booker or a major writer only has two ears, and they pretty much need to listen to the same thing at a given time… and there’s only so much time.  In fact, I’ve seen name publicists NOT get THE placement in ROLLING STONE, RELIX, NPR SONG OF THE DAY, PITCHFORK, and national TV over and over again, even for a seemingly-hip act with a track record.

I can’t tell you the amount of people—including best friends—who didn’t listen to some really great musicians, even some semi-famous folks over the past few years.  Busier people listen to two notes, or click a YouTube page, turn it on, walk away to get a snack, come back, and go, “nah…”  I have no idea what “Well, they’re really talented, but it’s not my kind of music” really means, but we get that line a lot from media people.  DON’T TAKE ANY OF THOSE ANSWERS PERSONALLY, EVEN IF IT’S THE OUTLET YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE IN; KEEP PLUGGING.

A west coast publicist stresses that artists need to manage their own expectations of what publicists can deliver.  Be realistic about knowing where you are in their career when a publicist starts working with you.  The general rule of thumb is if you’re not new on a major or super hit roster, where a record label is funding a full-on media outreach campaign like you saw over the last year for Florence and the Machine, it will be harder to get mass media attention.  Know that your publicist will be sending out more albums to more media people and getting less results than what a glorified major label artist receives.

Again, if you are absolutely an indie artist, consider doing a long campaign in which the publicist works your album intensively for three to five months before an album’s release, and then on a maintenance plan where he or she would follow up over the course of a year to at least18 months.  After all you’ll be touring and building your career during that time.  Records should not be left on the curb to die.  The idea is that you’ll be at a higher level with your career for the next album, and will receive some automatic placements with journalists who covered you over the last album, and—if you have a story that’s bigger than just great reviews–bigger media could be interested.

These three months get a minimal amount of placements and only start the awareness for artists (even those with the humongous push).  Hiring a publicist for just three months—well that time is pretty much prep for the releases and mail out.  Those CDs are now lying in wait along with dozens of packages.

Be grateful for the placements, especially if you go with a three month campaign.

INFORMATION

At the beginning of the campaign, the band and the publicist need to develop a collaborative working relationship when it comes to the media.  A recommended way to get everyone on the same page is to have the bio, press release, song description sheet actually originate from the band.  They should talk with the publicist, brainstorm on angles and the most important reasons their new album exists.  What’s it about?  The band will write a draft, and then the publicist builds on that.  Depending on how throrough you were, she might ask you, “Well, since we’re aiming to work what a great live act you are and how you broke the songs in live, then maybe we should talk about some of the festivals you played at.  Do you have a list of festival you played it?”

Bands should be maintaining their web sites and social media pages.  Bands should add the publicist to their fanlist.  Publicists should be posting the best articles on her social sites, and telling industry colleagues she’s working with these artists.  Create a buzz about them with everyone, including industry tastemakers.

As soon as a show is confirmed, let the publicist know via e-mail.

Communicate.  If you won an award, are collaborating with someone famous, tell your publicist.  If you’re planning a charity event, plan the event with your publicist.  How it should be named, who are the priority acts are on the bill.  Send your publicist any extra thoughts related to the event, keep the publicist up-to-date.  I worked a concert that was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events.  After the event was a critically-acclaimed success, I heard from two musicians that a special guest was not happy with how the show was billed.  All through the campaign I had sent him e-mails and also private messages through his Facebook page about the press release, but had never heard from him.  So don’t be disappointed in the marquee if you don’t communicate either in the beginning or as the work progresses.

Take advantage of the publicists’ expertise.  If they specialize in sponsorships, pay them to do a campaign to reach out for sponsors.  You can negotiate up front money along with a percentage.  Supply them with information.

Give the publicist your media contacts, including phone number, e-mail, and special comments.  Who has covered you in the past?  Bands need to always be updating their contacts; be prepared for the future.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

I know stern taskmasters and I know assholes.  There’s a difference.  When my workers don’t do something right, I have to give criticism, “Let’s work on this,” and I tell them exactly what I want.  If they don’t follow up, I repeat myself.  At some point I plead, even cry but without an insult; “I’m trying to help you be better at this work, it’s pleasing the customer.”  I explain why something should be the way it is.  I listen to them.  I also get a good vibe about whether they can take criticism.

If you yell at a person, it makes criticism hard.  If someone yells at me a lot and doesn’t let me speak then I know they’re not able to have any dialog, then I’d rather talk with them at a time they’re capable of expressing themselves.  Look at criticism as something that needs to be fixed. Think “constructive criticism.” Insults are another case—people who give insults need to fix themselves.  Constant rants and rages show they’re problem clients and it’s best to stay far away from them.

These are actual lines clients have insulted their publicists:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results and I’m not going to drive myself insane” on something little.

“You’re driving me crazy,”

“Why are you so lazy?”

“You’re jealous,”

“I was being sarcastic when I said, ‘Let’s do the bloody interview.’”

“I want your report, which probably has nothing on it.” The publicist sent the report with plenty of placements and got back, “There’s nothing on the report!”

All of those are rude and nasty things and have no place in a business relationship.

Being late is another way some people feel insulted, so being prompt is good.  If you’re scheduled to do an interview at 3 PM, call the journalist at 3 PM.  (Of course the publicist has to check with you to make sure you’re available for a 3 PM interview!!!)

Sometimes you have an interview scheduled for 3 PM the next day, and something else comes up.  Whether it’s a family outing or a last minute gig, you need to notify the publicist as soon as something comes up, so we can notify the journalist and reschedule the interview.  Chances are if you tell the publicist at the last minute, the journalist will not give you a second chance.  It’s hard to build careers, and harder with a diva.

Yes, there are times where there is a family emergency. My client had to take his wife to the hospital one time when we had a slew of interviews.  He called and e-mailed me 10 minutes to the first interview.  That was a name act, and all interviews were rescheduled.

If you have apprehensions about a media interview, discuss that with the publicist.  Technically you should be doing all the interviews you can, but you might not want to be in something like a very poorly produced cable show, blog that just started, interviewer who seems scary, or an early morning TV show.  Discuss that with your publicist enough in advance so that the journalist can find a replacement if this was confirmed.  If it wasn’t confirmed,  it will be up to the publicist’s diplomatic skills to figure out what to tell the journalist.

It’s funny. I recall a diva who was really upset about doing a late night radio interview.  So the publicist said, “I want you to take a break and think about why you want to cancel the interview tomorrow night.  Then get back to me with your decision.”  And now that diva is great friends with that late night radio host.

You just don’t know where your career is going to go, what unique path you’ll be working as you become more known.  Will you be a household name or will you be the sound that music fans from 2015 and 2025 discover? If you use common courtesy, and keep the channels of good communication open with your publicist, you should be able to develop some great relationships with most media people. And at least your unique road will be happier.

Anne Leighton believes artists can create their own opportunities to grow their careers, and has done this with her own career.  These days she handles publicity and music services for a range of master musicians including up-and-comers Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius, Mike Keneally, KJ Denhert, Emily Hurd, Jann Klose, plus classic artists Vonda Shepard, Jethro Tull, Tower of Power, Grand Funk Railroad, the Strawbs, Yardbirds/Jim McCarty, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.  She also works with America’s Got Talent audience favorite The Kinetic King.  Anne’s books include USING YOUR ART & THE MEDIA TO COMFORT PEOPLE (Free to Run books, US) and PAWS FOR THOUGHT: HOW TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR CAT IS THINKING (Rockwell Books, UK).  Her web site is http://www.anneleighton.com .

References (1)

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Reader Comments (22)

Nice article.

I think it's worth noting that these days there are plenty of folks calling themselves publicists & running campaigns for $500 (or less) & in my opinion it's not until you get up to the $2000 price range that you are getting a competent professional really doing work & getting things to happen that you could not get yourself. That said, it is a huge investment for a small struggling band; but if you aren't willing to get along over investing a few thousand into your band together, your band was probably doomed to break up eventually anyway.

Thank you so much for the glorious details! We all need to learn what it's like from the inside!

December 15 | Unregistered Commenterhudson k

Brian,

Much as I'd love to always get paid $2000 plus (actually $3000) per campaign, the reality is independent bands don't always have the bucks to do that kind of campaign, and may only need a publicist for tour press. If you do a $500 per month campaign, you have to prioritize what needs to be done.

Also I believe that when you build a career, the publicist should be on hand for a year or more, because you get only a limited amount of placements for a three month run on album press. Very few acts will find press in the idealized outlets like DEATH & TAXES, PITCHFORK, UNDER THE RADAR, ROLLING STONE. It's just how it it.

December 15 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

You had me until $2000... Really?!?! Once again, what indie act has that kind of money??? To spend money on the countless other things while not making much back (or at all) how is it even possible to have the much to spend on a publicist? I think this is yet another article strengthening the fact that D.I.Y. acts can't make it. Don't get me wrong, I believe that every act has to market and connect with whoever they can, but the reality that you describe is not plausible for almost all indie acts.

December 15 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

it's also at that $2,000/month level where a newbie band runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle among the bigger artists/priorities.

December 15 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Chancius, all rates are negotiable.

For both David and Chancius, the reality of a standard independent band expecting to get into the same mainstream outlets as those with a budget and multitude of promotional avenues is not reality as I mentioned in the article. See the part where I wrote that publicists even working some of the hip bands with a track record are struggling.

Who is an independent artist competing with or is he breaking new territory in order to get to at least Point B, C, D or E? It's about doing what's right for you at that level as opposed to "I have to be on NPR and in Rolling Stone and Pitchfork." There really is a lot of media out there, and each placement adds up if the artist is also working.

I'd like to see a full year campaign with the goal for artists to work and build a following, and have media supplement that. It took me over three months--sometimes a year or two to get some of my artists in outlets that included Blurt, NPR, and Popmatters. But during that time we were able to build their careers and let the media support that by whatever markets they played or whatever mainstream media suddenly became hip to an act. Two of the artists that I worked with who had long term media and industry development are Jann Klose and Joe Deninzon. Google them. Their career was local when they first started, and--although both cross into the jam band scene--they each got to a place with their previous album that got them both media, fan, and industry attention...and work.

Consider having a full year media campaign for approximately 7500 to 13,000 with a percentage deal for placements for the full campaign.

December 16 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Thanks, Anne, for a really valuable article on a subject which is not very well covered elsewhere online. The work of a publicist has long been a bit of a mystery to me, and, I suspect to many others.

I'm now at the point in my career where I can just about imagine the possibility of hiring a publicist.

So far I've only spoken to one, who suggested a figure of around $1500 per month and, like Anne, also said that he was also prepared to tailor that amount considerably depending on circumstances and requirements. It's still beyond me at this point but if certain things happened to fall into place it wouldn't be at all inconceivable to spend that much for the kind of valuable work a publicist performs, and, in fact, I can easily see how it would cost that amount. Imagine doing all that stuff yourself - you would have no time left to make music!

I'd be interested to know Anne's thoughts on how the rapidly changing shape of the music business is affecting the role of the publicist. The rise of the internet and social media, the demise of the old model of "signing to a major label", the diversification of the music scene, the fall in CD sales, the 360 deal, the ability for artists to record and distribute their own music, and the "long tail" are just some examples of changes that must also affect what a publicist does.

~ DC

December 17 | Unregistered CommenterDC Cardwell

Hey DC,

Glad to hear you're working on some music! Would you be doing a $1500/month campaign for a full year or just three months? Why?

I don't think labels or major mass media come into play, in general, if you're a developing artist these days or really any time. Yes, artists should reach out to labels if that's what they want and publicists should also reach out to selected major mass media, but choose your battles as there is so much to do when it comes to developing lesser known artists.

It's not about the record business which isn't always necessary for artists, as it's about building a business. It's about your business.

Why? In general, I think the idea for a developing artist who doesn't have all that backing behind them is to self-invest on the avenues of finding work, developing a fan following (and possible partnerships for gigs and other reach out), Establish channels throughout the world; they would help you develop your career each time you perform (the possibility of the best and most steady source of income) and whatever else has paid off for you in making income or whatever ways you define success. This will help you with the long process of seeing where the attention does come from and then exploit along those avenues.

Once a story is made, the media will get a grasp of the type of person you area. That is usually over the course of two albums or more, because the media that exploits you out of the box is basically the folks who discovered you over the last album AND outlets that have a similar readership, then you can "see where the music business is," and build on the contacts plus new ones that you've made over the years. In addition a story is picked up if you can define your personality in your media materials. "Joe Deninzon is the music world's go to guy for all things strings and violin, and his band Stratospheerius is wild--he's a great singer and electric violinist."

Realize that change happens all the time--30 years ago and today. You can be very close to finishing a label negotiation for one artist, when the A&R person says, "I'm leaving the label in a month. See if the new person wants you." She had her own ideas on artists she wanted to develop. Or you sign to a label, and suddenly your contact is out. Life and our careers are about risks and relationships. You're in the same boat together, so treat everyone the way you'd like to be treated, and work-deliver. Get on the same page with your team, who are you going to be diplomatic to and who are you going to not beat around the bush with? As a publicist, the only things they're responsible for when working with a big label machine is the assignment.

Now there is also a changing shape in the media, and there alway has been. We adapt on how music is delivered, adapt our lists as friends move from media outlets and new folks come into our scene everyday. And then there's inspiration as the publicist's gig progresses--we're very A.D.D.. Delivering music is now basically two methods--cds thru the mail and mp3s and zip files and streaming via the web either via e-mail, through streaming sites or the writer picks them up.

Artists have to get coaching on a lot of their internet presence. I'm seeing flawed sites from majors and top indie artists and bands where there are no updates for tours, an e-mail might have something but the web site is not reflecting it. There are many artists who don't have an online press kit. A lot of publicity firms only have web sites that hype themselves and their services but have no internet presence for their artists. There's tour press which--along with a campaign that helps folks get more media attention than just an album release. (Some of the major sites will pick up on independent artists as they see them touring, and then you build a relationship with them.) There is other outreach, as well, exploiting songs. You want to also build a campaign that could bring your music money--pennies at first--through royalties through web and terrestrial media. That is based on both touring and your actual recorded music.

So in the changing shape of the full music industry--not just labels--publicity is also an evolving art.

Note again that my article emphasizes an artist's relationship to working with a media outreach collaborator. It's not about the record business which isn't always necessary. It's about an aspect of your business.

December 17 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Thanks for the post, Anne - definitely an area of mystery to most artists.

However, I am still left with a vague feeling that, say, $10k spent on a publicist over the course of a year will produce...hmm...no offense as it's obviously difficult to quantify and will vary for numerous reasons, but without more knowledge of at least what a range of results may be, it seems a rather large leap of faith for an independent artist to make.

That same amount spent in advertising (FB, Adwords to YouTube, Jango, etc), would have to be weighed. Or perhaps split the spend in some proportion...

Any further specific light shed is GREATLY appreciated!

December 18 | Unregistered CommenterDG

Ps. Sorry for the omission, Michael - thanks for passing this on!

December 18 | Unregistered CommenterDG

Thanks for your detailed reply Anne! You've answered a lot of my questions and also given me further food for thought.

Regarding your question to me of how long my hypothetical campaign would be, I'm not far enough ahead to have thought about whether it would last 3 months or a year but I feel much closer after reading your article to understanding the dynamics of a publicity campaign and how it might work in different scenarios.

As for me right now, I released an album over a year ago with no professional publicity behind it. However, I recently won a national Australian songwriting prize with the lead-off track, and also have had some good response to a video for the same song (http://youtu.be/VIQ4r_5Nkmk). I'm getting some interest from various corners of the business and am wondering what the next step should be.

Rather coincidentally, as part of my prize for the song contest I have short-term benefit of a publicist and we met up for the first time just today! Very quickly my reaction was, "Oh my - this person is exactly what I need and she'll be able to do all the things that I don't have the time, ability or nerve to do! Now I know the value of a publicist!"

I was very impressed at how quickly she weighed up my particular situation, aims and needs, and started to build a detailed plan of action. That's the kind of stuff I could dither over for months and years! I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders and I could go home afterwards and focus on music, not all the other stuff.

We decided that a good strategy at this point might be to release the prize-winning song as a single, along with a couple of new tracks to make it attractive to my fans, and use the contest win and (excellent) video as leverage to try and get attention from major radio stations and press.

So, for at least a short time I'll have the benefit of a publicist's expertise and energy, but most of the time I'm still in that Catch 22 situation, with which many of my peers are familiar, of not being able to afford to hire a publicist to get the attention that would bring in the income that would enable me to hire the publicist... That leaves most of us indie people back in the old-fashioned position of needing some kind of income or support to get the ball rolling. There's no point whingeing about it though, as it's just the way things are! We can't (usually) expect someone to do it for free, and do it properly.

I love what you say in your reply about the fact that a career has to develop over time, and I think we need to accept that hiring a publicist is not generally something we do right off the starting block (unless we have a wealthy mummy and daddy). I knew when I released my first album that it wasn't going to have any kind of promotional push, and so the attention it has garnered has been slow and limited, but hey, I had an album out! Still pretty exciting and a dream come true, really. And the fact that a lot of people liked the music was success enough to make it worthwhile. You have to build on things one step at a time, but every new fan, every play on the radio, every person who comes to a gig, every iTunes download, is precious and is a step in the right direction.

Would you say the balance of power today is actually moving towards publicists and music publishers? And away from record companies and managers? It seems to me that publicists & publishers still do stuff that artists can't easily do themselves. With technology and the internet we can put out albums and organise tours more easily than ever, but publicity and music publishing are still areas that need a lot of experience, skill and know-how.

December 18 | Unregistered CommenterDC Cardwell

Hey DC,

I think everyone's balance of power is different as far as industry types go. A lot has to do with who is open to your kind of music.

I'm marketing Stratospheerius in Japan to shred and jazz and hard rock magazines, mainly. That is the main avenue that will give this artist (who has never played there) attention. There are some U.S.-based Japanese ad agencies that I'll also be pushing him to, and that's it.

It's both different in different markets and for different genres, but at the end of the day, it's also different by who picks up on you.

In general, I don't think you can evaluate the results of publicity in a monetary value totally. Yes, some of us publicists do get music placements on TV or through a lot of internet exposure. I don't know all the reasons people do publicity, I know some:
let other journalists and industry people know you're great, and if their friend covered you, they should, too.
hope that the general public will notice an article, TV or radio spot and gets excited by your music (it happens)
become good acquaintances with journalists and gain their insights
teach the musician to do a better job at doing interviews and relating to people

You tell me why you want someone to publicize your music and you as an artist.

I want to know the most lucrative channel for every band who is serious about getting the music out there is the fans. They're gonna either spread the word on what you're doing and that you're great, or they'll tell people what a dick you are, but your music is still good.

Artists can do initial three month campaigns and then add on to them. If you like your publicist, hold on to her. I don't believe some of these media outlets listen to product sent to them in those first three months. Ii also know we've had to reservice music all the time for an outlet an artist really wanted to get into. Sometimes we got the placement and sometimes we didn't. I would be faithful to your album's life by the feedback you get and the amount of belief you have in the music, basically.

December 18 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

That's an amazing piece of knowledge.
Thanks for sharing. As an indie musician I've been developing my career by creating new ideas, or new projects in the same realm, but once I reach the level I need help from a publicist, it's really ahrd to find someone who can work for an affordable price.
$2000 dollars a month is my full budget for my life at this point, so how do I get that money to pay a publicist and how do I know what publicist to hire? That's a real risk. It would be great if you can write an article with some recommendations for publicists in the market right now that are affordable and trustable.
Thanks for guiding us all through this amazing yet difficult world of the Muic Business.
Felipe

December 19 | Unregistered CommenterFelipe

There are many ways to grow careers, and some of the cool ways are to grow your careers together--with friends. Look local, Felipe. Do you have any diehard fans who are great communicators? Folks who can write and work from 5 to 10 hours a month, depending on how often you play out. Maybe a band member is good at this.


Ideally if you're in a band, everyone should be pulling weight and collaborating beyond just the music.

Also regarding professional publicists who generally get at least $2000. per month, for bands who might not have a big budget but have some steady income, you can negotiate with publicists (and anybody) on what you can pay them and what work they will do. You'll be a lot more responsible for supplying written copy and having the publicist edit. Maybe you can do the mail outs and MP3 servicing, so the publicist can focus on follow ups and outreach.

December 19 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Thanks for your further comments, Anne. I think that expands upon what you said earlier about "choosing your battles" and that's one of the things that is sometimes hard for an artist like myself to do. It's easy for me to feel overwhelmed with all the possible paths I could follow to try and get some coverage, so more often than not I just throw up my hands and say "I give up!" That's where an experienced third-party like a publicist can really come in handy. Stepping back, taking an overview of the situation and then focusing on the most productive opportunities.

I've found that by just "putting the music out there" as much as possible good things do happen, and people find you. But a publicist would be able to put the music strategically into the right areas with the highest chance of the right people "getting excited" about it.

I guess another thing that a skilled publicist can do is hone in on an artist's "story" or "angle". I think most of us artists find it really hard to figure out what is interesting about ourselves. We tend to just think about the music and feel that it should speak for itself. But music doesn't jump off the printed page so someone else has to figure out how to make the story engaging.

If I can dare to pick your brain even further, Anne, sometimes I'm a bit unclear on the differences (and overlap) between terms such as publicity, PR, promotion and marketing.

In other words, what are some of the things artists sometimes expect a publicist to do that aren't really part of their role?

~ DC

December 19 | Unregistered CommenterDC Cardwell

Thanks for the response
I really appreciate it. I have 2 different projects, one with a band and the other by myself. In the band we have assigned different tasks to cover all the business related things we need to do. Each person pick something they are good at it and that they like to do, but after 3 years doing that we have noticed that our business knowledge have improved, but we left the music aside. So we are looking forward to come back to be better musicians and let other people to do the business. Which is a difficult transition when there is not much financial resources available. But like you said we are looking for friends who can help us for the love of or believers, people that believe in the value and the power of our music and are willing to help spread that message to others.

I appreciate that you took the time to write a response, Thank you so much.
Felipe

December 20 | Unregistered CommenterFelipe

Hey DC,

Sometimes you can expect a publicist to do marketing and/or promotions--it has to be worked out with the publicist what she can do for you, and what you should in regards to her duties. Should she just focus on real world media or a combination of internet and real world media outlets?

There are various articles that you can google to get definitions of marketing, promotions, etc. To me, "public relations" has always been about how the public regards you and it's more used for BIG products where suddenly you're thrust into the world, and a story comes up that has everyone saying something negative or positive. Lady Gaga or anyone major running for President, a corporation needs public relations. These folks do contact the media.

Indie bands can apply public relations through their fan relationships and if they cross-promote a show or involvement with a big charity, sponsor, corporation. For a moment they're thrust into the mainstream.

Publicity is more so dealing with media.

Promotions can be geared to radio or to promote a gig.

Marketing is just anthing that establishes outreach channels for you. An agent markets an artist.

I hope the 21st Century "Publicist" for independent acts can become more of a co-marketer with the band. I don't know if that's possible for most of us. It's funny, because all these years in developing Jann Klose as a manager/publicist, I did feel I was promoting and marketing him to media, industry, businesses, government, educational organizations both in the States and internationally. I started as his publicist but became so much more because that's where the artist was in his career. When they get to a certain point, then you have more people who can help.

The fact that you PUT THE MUSIC OUT THERE--that's marketing. It's nothing deep, it's just the action (often w/ verbal and written communication), "hey, check this out!!"

Felipe.

It's scheduling time. If you're an average band, meaning you're not making money off the music, don't over market yourself to hard-to-get-into places, and focus on building realistic clients. You'll find you have made time to make music. Figure out who you can work with to help the band get into new gigs or media outlets that are little bigger than you. Talk with some local journalists, see who they recommend.

I had another thought about making enough money and that is to go about promoting yourself to community and regional festivals. Start calling your elected officials' offices, see what concerts they present. Is there a tourism office in your town, call them. You can get $200. to $2000. for community shows. Maybe you won't get hired for many gigs each year, but see what you can do. Create a concert and workshops you can do for high schools and for colleges; go beyond just talking about songwriting or something related to music.

December 20 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

"The standard pay for publicists is $150 to $250.00 an hour". Oh please, that's the high end of scale, NOT standard.

January 5 | Unregistered Commentervc

Many indie bands who cannot afford a publicist are doing it themselves. I am a publicist, and if a band can't afford to pay me (or even pay another publicist) then I'd rather help the band to help themselves. That's why I created a customized "DIY Publicity Kit" for artists to take on their own publicity while they are starting out, until they can afford to hire a publicist. I also suggest that bands starting out should do their own publicity for the first while, so they know how much work actually goes into it, and learn more about the importance of building media relationships. If anyone out there would like more info about DIY Publicity (or are looking to hire a great publicist in Canada!) contact me at www.ras-creative.com. Cheers!

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterRAS Creative

RAS Creative. Great web site, by the way.

I'm a big believer in artists knowing how to promote themselves, and also getting into more of a human being mindset in the different situations where they meet with people. It's one thing to be totally self-promoting when you're working on "the strip," doing flyers (though even then you should be flirting a little with folks), but you need to take on the head of a human being in most cases where you're trying to sell CDs at shows or rubbing elbows with either folks in the industry or civilians. Have your cards or flyers on hand, but really talk with people about themselves.

RAS, I like the fact that you did put yourself in a struggling band's position when you created this DIY publicity kit. I don't know what's in there, but you basically created a service that can help better people, and you did that by understanding a big need. Cheers to you, my dear!!!

January 6 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

I recently contact a Publicist about my daughter's singing career. Right off the bat he said he could represent her for 500/month. Then I went ahead and sent three Youtube samples as links for him to view. This morning he got back to me with a new figure of $300/month.

After viewing her work his email went like this: "Hi Don,

Sorry I had to cut it short. You have something really special here, honestly.

My concern is your marketing / PR budget. Can you swing $300 per month? We can talk on the phone if you'd like to go further with this, but this price is exclusively for you and your daughter. I normally charge $500 and up which is still rather inexpensive for Public Relations services.

Please advise.

Anne, what are your thoughts off the cuff? I'm a well published writer and storyteller myself with work across the planet. I'm relatively unknown also, but that could change over night.

Where eagles fly,
Don (Greywolf) Ford
Naive American Storyteller
Author of "Death & Taxes" at Amazon and Amazon Europe. >> http://tinyurl.com/8cfhalz

http://beyondwordsblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/author-and-artist-don-ford.html

February 10 | Unregistered CommenterDon Ford

Hey Don,

My apologies as I missed this post, initially.
I've never heard of a publicist who swang lower than his/her usual rate, especially in today's economy without hearing a potential client plead poverty! But if this publicist can come to you with a focused outreach plan (yup, ask them for ideas), and promise he'll do the reach out, go for it.

Most of us try not to go below $1500. a month for four months in today's economy. Ideally we all want $3000. and up, but it's all negotiable.

I'm wagering this person is new, your daughter is new. Who knows, you may end up building a career together.

That is what ends up happening. I grew as a better craftsperson with all my artists. I think I've had the most stunning work relationship and evolution with Jann Klose, a real inspiring artist, who now has the reputation as a great singer of our time.

The team that I cite to everyone, who is looking for a manager or team member, when I say, "see in your gang/superfans/family who has good communicaton skills and believes in you," is Ronnie James Dio and Doug Thaler when Ronnie had Elf in Cortland, NY. All workers, talented, guys with ears, who did big things in the music world. They climbed the rock and roll towers together.

April 1 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

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