Music Publicists: What They Do and When to Hire One
Ever wanted to take the next step in your musical career? If the stars have aligned for you, it might be time to hire a music publicist to help you bring your songs to new audiences.
The question is whether your music is at a point where a publicist can actually help.
If you can justify the marketing expense, the amount of exposure and money-making opportunities that a successful music publicist can bring to your project is huge.
But, you need to be at a point where it makes sense to promote your music at that level.
In this article, we’ll explore what exactly a music publicist or music publishing company can do for your music, whether your music is ready for publishing and how to find the right one for you.
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What is a music publicist?
A music publicist is a music industry professional with the connections, knowledge and know-how needed to push your music to media agencies, film and television companies and beyond.
These music publicists or publishing companies represent your public image as an artist and, for a percentage of royalties, will work to secure the best possible payouts from media members for your music.
Aside from selling your music to media companies, publicists actively maintain, advise and manage the public image of the artists they represent.
That includes building connections with media companies, generating media placement opportunities, and generally overseeing and maintaining their artist’s public image.
A publicist knows how to craft and position your narrative as an artist to the media—whether that includes writing press releases, your bio or managing press and media relations.
When is it time to hire a music publicist or publishing company?
Good music publicists that can actually drive results do not offer their services on the cheap.
It takes time and investment to build their connections and expertise and with the power to open new doors, music publicists inevitably charge high fees for their services.
But, if you’re at the right point in your music career an investment in the right music publicist can pay huge dividends.
Let’s look at some scenarios where hiring a music publicist makes total sense.
You’re about to launch your first studio album
Congrats, that’s huge. Whether you’ve got a record deal, label support or if you did it on your own, you should be proud and excited to put your work out in the world.
At this point, you may have a few releases out and in the world, but this release is the big one—it’s the release that’s going to take your project to the next level.
One way to throw jet fuel on the fire you’ve already started is to hire a music publicist.
In this case, the services you’ll be looking for are additional media attention, interviews, magazine write-ups, tv spots and anything else to get your project in front of more audiences.
This major release is your big moment, so don’t hold back, it’s time to introduce your project to the world at large.
You’re about to go on a large tour
Touring is a special part of being a musician. It’s hard but rewarding, it’s exhausting but exciting and it’s an opportunity to generate hype and build your fanbase.
Since you’ll be on the move, you’ll have a chance to hit various media publications from city to city.
Whether it’s an interview on the local radio station, an interview with a local magazine or a performance at various online show producers like NPR or KEXP—being on tour gives you the opportunity to implicate your music into local and international scenes.
But, setting up all these interviews, knowing who to contact and getting a reply isn’t exactly easy—that’s why having a music publicist who can set these kinds of opportunities up for you is so valuable.
You have a large back catalog of movie-ready music
Have you written a lot of music that would work well in a movie?
Whether it’s a low-key indie rock jam that would fit in the last teenage indie flick, or maybe your epic ambient jams that might fit into a science-fiction thriller are deserving some attention.
Certain music publishers are always looking for quality back catalogs of music to sell to media producers.
Music deals with film, television, video games and other media producers are always incredibly lucrative opportunities where artists get paid well.
The key here is that your tracks need to be high quality and correctly match the aesthetic and vibe of the media they’re presented to.
But, especially with the help of a publicist, you can land this kind of deal and get that big payday.
You’re experiencing some form of unexpected or new success
Uh oh! Is your TikTok account going mega viral?
For one, congrats! That doesn’t happen very often.
You might want to hire a publicist, since navigating the complicated world of media relations is extremely difficult.
Just be careful about the predatory nature of some aspects of the music industry–especially for social media influencers.
You need to find the right fit to help you keep on track with your goals as an artist.
How to hire a music publicist
Here’s a few things to mind, now that you’re set on hiring a publicist.
Attend and perform at music industry festival events
Music industry members congregate at festivals like SXSW, ADE, Pop Montreal or Reeperbahn–to name a few.
It’s performances at these festivals where you’ll have an opportunity to show what your music is all about and build your connections with various members of the music industry, including publicists.
Go to the networking events, invite publicists to your show and make sure you give it your all on stage.
Talk to a few different publicists
There’s quite a few different publicists out there, so don’t be afraid to meet with a few different ones.
You want to pick someone who you get along with, who represents your best interests and who makes sense for your budget and following.
If you can, try to set up a few meetings with different publicists and you’ll have more power at the bargaining table.
Know your niche and your audience
You don’t need the biggest publicist with A-list reach if your music is suited for niche folk-blues fans.
If you’re a hip-hop artist it makes less sense to work with an old-time country music publicist.
You know your audience best and you probably have an idea of what audiences would respond best to your music, so keep that in mind when choosing someone.
You’ll do best if you find someone in your niche who understands your music, vibe and the kind of audience you attract.
Read through any contract and seek advice
If you get a contract to sign, make sure you bring it to a lawyer specializing in music industry laws first.
There’s all kinds of legalese that you likely won’t know how to navigate without the help of a lawyer.
Plus, a music lawyer will be able to offer advice on getting a better deal and more out of your contract.
It’s an expensive investment, but in the long term, a good music lawyer is worth having in your corner.
Congrats on making your big move
You love making music, you love creating and now your hard work is paying off.
Chances are, thinking about music industry stuff like lawyers and contracts isn’t what gets you excited about making music.
But, the fact is taking the next step sometimes means working with people who can help you make connections and grow your career.
So, if you’re thinking about hiring a music publicist, definitely keep these thoughts in mind. Good luck out there!
Alex Lavoie works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and writes indie post-punk tunes in his band UTILS while moonlighting as drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters.
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