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Friday
Jan112013

The Low-Down on Music Publicists

A common question for many new bands is “what do publicists do and do I need one?” Although brief, I hope I can expand upon the idea of hiring a publicist to do your promotion and press for you without boring you to death.

What Does a Music Publicist Do

In short, a publicist is someone who (theoretically) has contacts within the music blogosphere and with press outlets and who has a proven track record of suggesting good music and bands for them to cover. Publicists are like taste-makers in their own right. Because their worth hinges so much on their word, if they don’t consistently pitch good bands to media outlets to cover, they’ll eventually be blacklisted and shunned (maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea…)

So, when you’re looking to hire a music publicist, you should hire one that you trust and one who has a proven track record with getting placements for indie bands.

Side Note: A music publicist will never guarantee placements. Because the tastes of the listeners on the other end of an email will never line up perfectly with the publicist, expecting guaranteed placements is ludicrous. You can however establish contracts with publicists to only pay them if and when they deliver results of a certain kind. A common one is after “proof of attempt,” meaning the publicist can show you a list of emails or phone calls they sent out in an attempt to get you placement.

How Much Does a Music Publicist Cost?

This varies wildly, but typically, any publicist worth their weight in gold will charge about $2,000 – $3,000 per month. This is for a full-time publicist who will work to highlight your record for about 3-4 months before the release date. In some cases, these fees will include the cost of postage to media outlets, so be sure to ask your publicist if they’re going to need extra green down the road to pay for postage!

When Do You Need a Publicist?

As soon as you can afford it! That’s with a caveat though. Publicists are only valuable if they have a proven track record. Online, it’s often hard to tell who just has a giant email list they scraped from the internet and who has actually been a publicist for a while. Ask to see their previous artists and placements if they don’t have them listed on their website (they should have them listed), and make your decision from there. If you can’t find a publicist who is of sufficient quality, keep doing things yourself. You’ll save money and learn plenty of things along the way.

I’d also like to add that you want to make sure that there’s a market for your music as well. Publicists try to work with artists they know they can pitch. You have to hold up your end of the “bargain” as well when contacting people, as going into it without any proof of success (meaning plenty of downloads, shows, and show attendance), you’ll be hard pressed to find someone to represent you. The “as soon as possible” recommendation only holds true if you’re already proving things on the scene and need someone to put in a good word for you.

Finding a Publicist to Help You

After you’ve figured out whether you can afford a publicist to help you, it’s time to start looking for one. This is where being well-versed in the local and regional music scenes can be very beneficial. A good place to start when searching for a publicist is finding bands that are similar to your own sound and seeing who currently represents them. Bands with publicity will usually put their publicist’s name and email address (and hopefully a website) on their Facebook/Website etc. Find a dozen or so bands that you think might be a good fit publicity wise and send an email to their publicists to request more information and a…

Request for Proposal

When you reach out to a publicist, you’re looking for them to send back a proposal and information packet about what it is they can offer to you along with their rates. A request for proposal is a simple way of asking for a reply and information about the publicist’s career. You should include who you are, links to your music, current “stats” such as downloads, press, and tours you have going on, as well as an outline of what you’d like to achieve. The more specific you can be (i.e. “we’re looking to get more people to come out to our shows on the following dates in a few months), the better results you’ll get.

Notes

1. You should contact a publicist about 5 months before you plan on releasing your newest album or project such as a tour. 3-4 months of “lead-time” are required for a publicist to do their job well. This is generally the amount of time needed to get all of the radio stations, blogs, and newspapers in an area interested in covering a particular story about a band coming through town.

2. If possible, try and negotiate the rate they’re charging to best fit your band’s finances. Not all bands have $8,000 to shell out on the front end of a project, so try and figure out some sort of payment plan with your publicist over the course of the next few months as your record sales start to come in from the new release.

3. BEWARE of cheap publicity rates. As said earlier, anyone worth your time is going to charge a modest sum that can’t be avoided. Paying $150 to your friend’s buddy’s brother in law to promote your band for a few weeks may sound great, but it ISN’T.

4. Check out this post from a music publicist about what they’d like to see when you contact them and what they expect of musicians.

——

David Roberts is the founder of the Sunshine Promotion company. Based out of Nashville, TN, his blog “Sunshine Promotion” at sunshinepromotion.info helps artists achieve real goals with hard facts, case studies, and templates of music business plans to follow. 

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