Do You Need a Publicist?

by | Jan 1, 2011 | Music Promotion

What to Look for in a PR Firm

One of the hardest and most unpredictable tasks for any independent artist is getting the press to take notice of your band.  Whether it’s a feature story, a record review, or a show preview that is sought after, every musician has encountered the frustration of getting overlooked by the press. As difficult as it might be to get a publication’s attention, it can be just as hard to decide whether it’s time to pay for representation from a public relations firm. To help make this determination, several publicists have offered their perspective on when to seek out PR and what an artist can expect from a PR campaign.

Publicists are the intermediary between press and artist. Ever Kipp, of Seattle-based Tiny Human, has been in PR for over a decade, with clients such as Death Cab For Cutie, Barsuk Records, and Ra Ra Riot. He is convinced that there is a better way to describe what publicists do, other than “public” relations, acknowledging, “It’s actually media relations.” A good publicist has many media contacts and has gained the respect of editors, bloggers, and writers on a national scale. They have easy access to important contacts in every touring market and can reach media people with ease.

An entry-level PR campaign can cost $500-$1200 per month, and usually the artist has to sign a 3-6 month contract. The prices can be five times this amount, if done by a seasoned representative who has been running campaigns for record labels and breakout artists. Obviously, the cost is an important consideration for a band that wants help with publicity. Galena Mosovich, who runs her own boutique public relations firm in Miami, GMPR, suggests holding off on paying for publicity until a band has “a clear vision of who they are, what their sound is, and how far they want to go.”

If a band is just starting out and only playing local shows, Kipp suggests that its members can handle much of the publicity. He recommends, “Go to your local music publication, send music with a letter introducing your band and tell them that you hope they check out your music.” Kipp believes it’s a good time to get a publicist “if you have a record that’s going out nationally and when a band’s too busy recording or playing.” Otherwise, Kipp thinks it’s a “mistake” to pay for PR.

PR firms, such as Team Clermont work with a slew of both signed and unsigned artists. When considering a PR firm, it’s wise to check a publicist’s client roster to determine whether your music would be well represented by their company. Both Kipp and Team Clermont’s Bill Benson agree that ultimately, the quality of the music is enough to consider taking a band on for publicity. Benson explains, “All that an artist needs to be ready [for publicity] is a great record. The fewer accomplishments they have, the more of a challenge it is for the publicist. And we love challenges.” Finding a publicist that represents your genre of music is important, as Kipp notes, “If I don’t like your record, you don’t want me to be your publicist.”

The PR campaign varies based on the publicist, who knows how to package an artist with the proper audience in mind. In Miami, Mosovich helps the bands she works with by “securing high profile gigs at highly coveted venues.” These gigs lead to valuable media attention in the Miami market. This an advantage of working with a boutique PR firm, since most publicists don’t help manage or book a band. The larger firms have a methodical approach to publicity. Benson reveals his multi-faceted method, “What I like most is constant dispersing of assets.” Benson works a two-fold campaign of press releases, one that goes out to print publications months in advance and another pursuing constant online presence, which includes MP3 posts, record announcements, a video premiere, or a remix. He concludes, “From then, it’s up to us and the band to stay relevant. Touring is the best idea here.”

Mosovich’s current client, an Atlanta-based band, Stokeswood has benefited greatly since deciding to work with GMPR. Mark Godwin, bandleader, explains, “Having a publicist has really increased our media presence and in turn has put our music in front of a broader demographic.” He warns, “Make sure you’re ready to take that step. Once you have a PR rep, the game changes. It’s more face time than you can imagine, but it’s all for the betterment of your career.”

In short, publicity should be considered for a band that is serious about music as a career, has a quality record with national distribution, or is touring and being introduced to new markets. Though it’s not cheap, many PR firms will work with a band’s budget when negotiating a campaign. The key is researching the firms to find the right fit for your band.