As an artist, the number day to day demands you face in writing, touring, practicing etc. can make it challenging to carve out time to speak with music journalists, a frustrating and often dead-end endeavor. So how do you know when it's time to take the plunge and hire a publicist to do it for you?
Guest post by Hugh McIntyre for the Symphonic Blog
Many up-and-coming musicians dream of becoming the next critical darling, of seeing their new single praised by the collective blogosphere, and of one day gracing the cover of Rolling Stone. These are all very nice dreams, but they’re tough to turn into a reality. Between writing and recording music, touring, speaking with everyone from merchandise companies to fans to booking people, and perhaps even working a job on the side the make ends meet, it can be very difficult for indie artists to also find the time to speak with dozens, if not hundreds, of music journalists.
Reaching out to the press with announcements of tours and new music is time-consuming, and too often, not very fruitful. It’s tempting to simply decide to forget about it entirely (which may keep you from growing your fan base) or hire someone else to do it…but how do you know when it’s time to make that leap?
Here are four signs you’re ready to hire a music publicist.
Ready To Rise To The Next Level
Artists see their careers advance to what we’ll call “the next level” (which can mean very different things for everyone) at different speeds. A lucky few break through into the mainstream with their first single, while others need to hit the road and build a fan base person-by-person over a period of many years. There’s no telling how long it will take, but it’s up to a musician and those around them to decide when they have hit that next level…and hiring a music publicist can be a big part of that rise.
If you’ve already been recording and releasing music for a while, chances are you’ve spoken to some media outlets about your tunes. If you haven’t, it’s best if you do your research on best practices when it comes to sending journalists your music (please do this before sending one CD or email!) and then do some pitching on your own. If you still can’t make close to a living from your art, it might not be the time to shell out a hefty sum for a publicity team.
If you’re on a solid upward trajectory and you’re devoting most, if not all, of your time to your music career, you might be ready for what a publicist can do for you…but you need to do some soul-searching. Are you really ready for the next level, or is it just something you think you want? The right public relations strategy can jumpstart a career, but if that doesn’t come at the correct time, it may all be for nought.
As I said above, at the beginning of your musical career, you should be doing the majority of your own promotion. You should be pushing your shows to your entire network, and you should find the time to email bloggers, playlist makers, and influencers when you have a new song or video the world needs to consume. Communicating with everyone at various blogs around the world can take a lot of time, but at some point, it will become too time-intensive, and you’ll need to find someone else to do it.
Now, speaking with the press isn’t something you should hand off to a friend or assistant who you can hire for a very low price; it’s something you should really rely on a professional for, especially if you want to start reaching for better-known media outlets with larger audiences.
You can opt for cheaper PR firms, though typically it’s easy to predict what you’ll get for your money. So, while everyone might want to argue that they “don’t have the time” to do their own self-promotion, think about what hiring a good publicist will cost. When you look at that number, think about if you wouldn’t rather do it on your own, or perhaps if you really are willing to hire help.
You Aren’t Getting The Coverage You’d Like
Many young artists just starting their careers have a difficult time receiving any attention in the press, and most of the time, that’s simply how it is. There are only so many writers and so many larger outlets, and there just isn’t time and space to cover everyone, even if they are worthy of some solid write-ups. While that may be true, there may come a time when you’ve been at it for a while, and when you have some strong streaming numbers and your tours are going well…but perhaps you still aren’t getting the reviews and interviews you should be (with that being a subjective phrase, of course).
If you can’t seem to attract the attention of writers and tastemakers, no matter what you do, it might be time to put your music, and your faith, into the hands of a professional. They can’t necessarily promise you any coverage (and you shouldn’t believe a publicist who says they can 100% guarantee anything), but many great PR people have relationships with writers, and thus they may be able to finally secure you the attention you and your art deserve.
Something Really Special Is Coming
The vast majority of media outreach campaigns are centered around something very big, as it serves as a timely hook. For many musicians, it’s a new album, and a full campaign can feature many different legs, as songs and videos, and then the full project, are released. Maybe it’s a tour, or some other special event in the not-too-distant future.
Reaching out to the press when you have nothing new and nothing on the way is not a good use of anyone’s time, but if you’ve been working very hard on crafting the album that could be your break, or perhaps on booking a tour that is larger than anything you’ve done before, it might be the right time to finally dig deep into your pockets and hire a publicity firm. If you let this moment pass, you might not see another one come for months, or years, and your situation may be different by then.
Hugh McIntyre is a freelance music journalist based in New York City. His byline has appeared in Billboard, Huffington Post, Mashable, Noisey, The Hollywood Reporter, MTV, Fuse, and dozens of other magazines and blogs around the world. He loves following charts and the biggest and most successful names in the industry, and he's always interested in highlighting incredible feats and discovering what's next.