Thinking it’s time for a publicist? Check out Mike King’s short video Finding And Working With A Publicist. He and lots of others have also written some great music biz articles which you’ll find at artistshousemusic.com, a valuable resource site. Meanwhile, here’s some of my thoughts on that industry player known as the publicist.
This person is basically the bridge between the independent artist and all media, including the web. He/she is the one who gets the word out for an act, so they can be critically important for the building of a fan base and industry recognition. They answer to the act’s manager, or the act itself if it has no manager.
An adept publicist will do more than simply get the message out to media. They will arrange media appearances or other special promotional appearances, co-ordinate the radio-play strategy with in-store promotion and your tour planning, come up with an angle that makes your story appealing, and so on.
This is where it becomes key for you to have a defined identity in terms of a genre. It is vital that the publicist is able to direct their efforts to the appropriate media outlets and any other parties appropriate to your genre, whether it be radio, zines, the web, stores, distributors or whatever.
It is a huge plus if the publicist actually specializes in your genre, or is at least very familiar with working in it and also digs your music, for they will then know all the roads to the right places without having to go through a learning curve at your expense, and they’ll be enthusiastic to boot.
Look for one who seems confident and professional, but who also wants to take the time to get to know your act, your goals, your wishes and needs, so that they can best relate to others what your act is all about. They should listen to you, but you need to pay attention to them too, because they know the business of publicity and marketing a heck of a lot better than you. At the same time, you don’t want to see stuff going out there that doesn’t reflect who you are, so don’t be afraid to speak up if there is something you don’t like about a piece of material intended for the industry or the public.
How do they charge, and how much? That depends on a number of factors, including the time required to meet your needs, their experience level and status in their field (which usually translates into how in-demand they are), their business overhead (a fancy office space needs to be fed!) and what you can negotiate. A well-connected publicist who has lots of established contacts and credibility is a real plus, but will probably come at a premium. Perhaps somebody straight out of college could meet your needs at substantially less cost.
It’s important to be aware that you only really need one when you have an important project happening or about to launch. Most often they work on a per-project basis, although a per-month arrangement is not unheard of in cases where they are being retained for an extended period. If it’s a tour, they might even charge you on a per-date basis. Depending on factors such as those I mentioned above, you could be paying anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. A single project fee would be based on the amount of time the person anticipated would be involved. If they insist on billing you by the hour, make sure their invoices clearly itemize how they’ve spent their time and the make-up of any extra expenses that they’ve charged you for.
Whichever the billing method, they will almost certainly charge you for any out-of-pocket expenses they incur on your behalf (travel beyond their locale, mail-outs and so forth), much like a lawyer or manager does, and they may require a “retainer” deposit up front.
As an important liason between you and a world of companies and individuals out there, the publicist’s job requires a special and varied skill set. It is a pressure-packed and challenging role involving a constant weight of demands and looming deadlines. Considering how much you may be shelling out for such a person, it is therefore incumbent upon you to be as well-prepared as you can to meet their needs during the relationship so that you can help them do their job most efficiently and effectively.