Sure every wants to be successful, but the route to success tends to vary wildly across the industry, and while the help of a publicist can do wonders for advancing the career of some artists, hiring one before you're ready, or when it's simply not right fit, can be a huge setback.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Publicists can do a lot for your career, but only if you’re ready to work with them.
Every artist wants to find success in their career, but the path to success is rarely the same. What works for one artist or group may not work for another and vice versa.
For example, some artists get ahead with the help of publicist who uses their connections to land the band press opportunities that offer exposure which aide in the development of an audience. Other artists choose to promote themselves, and in doing so often find a quicker route to connecting with listeners. One way is not better than the other. Both offer success, though how it comes and what comes with may vary greatly.
The vast majority of up and coming talent we engage with mention their desire to find a publicist. Most know what publicists do or at least have some understanding of their role, but very few seem to grasp their role in determining whether or not a publicity campaign will succeed. With that in mind, we put together questions that every artist should ask themselves before investing in PR for their career.
1. Is my career even at a point where I need a publicist?
The idea of having someone in your life who spends a part of their day doing whatever they can to get the word out about your efforts sounds like a smart decision, but unless you have something worthwhile to share with the world you’re going to end up wasting a lot of money. Focus on creating the best album/single/video you possibly can, which I can tell you will likely not be your first release, and then think about bringing in someone to help promote. While many professional publicists will tell a band if they think the band is not ready for such a business relationship, there are a number of those out there who will happily take your money and never look back. It’s not on them to have something worth sharing; it’s on you.
2. Can I financially afford a publicist right now?
This may seem like a rather obvious statement, but the truth is many artists do not fully understand the costs associated with having a publicist. Most PR firms require a minimum commitment of 3-months for any project, regardless of whether it’s an album, video, or single. That means for three months you are expected to pay whatever price you negotiate at the time of signing, and failure to do so will likely result in monetary penalties being issued against your group. Avoid this unnecessary trouble (not to mention looking amateur to industry professionals) and double-check your finances before seeking representation. Set a budget and work to find someone who offers you the most ‘bang for your buck.’
3. What am I hoping to accomplish with this campaign, and do I need a publicist to pull it off?
It’s common sense that artists and bands hoping to promote their new releases turn to publicists to help get the word out, but depending on your situation you may be able to handle marketing perfectly fine on your own. There are a growing number of articles and sites dedicated to empowering independent artists, including the one you’re reading right now, and if you’re willing to put in the work yourself, it’s reasonable to assume you can gain at least a small amount of press on your own. Blogs and smaller publications usually post their contact information online, and by reading up on PR tactics, anyone can craft a pitch letter, so as long as you’re okay with Rolling Stone and Pitchfork not giving you the time of day you may be able to do it on your own.
Furthermore, you need to know what you hope to achieve with a campaign. Getting the word out about something is too vague. Do you want more followers? one-thousand plays in the first twenty-four hours of release? Ten interviews a month? All that and more? Make a list of goals and ask yourself if you possess the knowledge and means to achieve them on your own.
4. Do I have high-quality promotional materials ready to go (masters, photos, etc.)?
Publicists spend their day trying to get the word out about their clients, but that does not mean they’re going to create promotional materials to help get the job done. As the client, it is on you to provide your publicist with everything they need to promote your efforts, and it should go without saying that quality plays a big role in whether or not journalists give you some of their oh-so-rare free time. Before you even consider bringing someone else into your career, make sure you have quality materials you want to be shared with the world. If you turn in mediocre media, the returns will likely be mediocre as well. Publicists work with what they’re given, so be sure you give yours the best material you possibly can.
5. What marketing ideas do I have for the release of my album/music video?
This is probably the most important part of this entire list because it’s the area artists most often overlook. Publicists can make amazing things happen for your career, but without guidance and direction from you, they will have no idea what it is you’re trying to convey with your art. This is why when deciding to bring on a publicist it is imperative that you first come up with your own set of goals and ideas for the release. Publicists want to help you, not do the work for you, and starting the relationship with a wealth of ideas on deck will simplify the promotional efforts on their end. By knowing what you expect, publicists can work with you to craft a campaign that’s designed to accomplish your specific goals, and that will lead to better results down the line.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.
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