When To Hire a Publicist
Has your band (or you, as a solo artists) been growing its following and creating a buzz in its hometown? Are you at the point where you're starting to wonder if you can handle the "day job" aspect that goes along with a music career, and if it's time to start assembling a team of professionals? Well, you may be at that point, and you may not be. But hopefully you'll read on and I can help you determine that for you.
I am a full-time music publicist representing both signed and unsigned acts. The signed acts come to me through a record label, and usually have a manager and booking agent in place already. Basically I'm hired to promote the band, landing them newspaper, magazine and online coverage as well as radio and TV opportunities. But I work with unsigned acts as well, the ones who are trying to get the attention of record labels, or just trying to build up their own hype machine when they get too busy to do it themselves. If you're reading this, that might be you.
First of all, you have to determine if you are truly too busy. Many of you have full-time jobs and are part-time musicians who hope to one day be full-time musicians. You play shows in and out of your own town on the weekends and work in the evenings (or at your day jobs....don't worry, I won't tell) to promote your band. This involves writing and sending out press releases or newsletters about your band to your fans and to media types such as music editors, radio programmers and concert promoters. Basically, if you are at the level where your shows are increasing and your fan base is increasing steadily, and requests for interviews are starting to come in, it's time to at least think about hiring outside help.
A good music publicist is not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1000 per month or more for an "entry level" music publicist. And most of them have campaigns with a three-month or six-month minimum. But many bands are able to pay this if they are making enough money through touring, or if they have a budget for hiring outside help (many artists today even attract investors for help).
The upside is that hiring a good publicist can help you get to the next level. They have contacts at a national level and in each touring market that you probably don't (other than in your hometown) and can reach out to them with ease about the artists they represent. What's more, they have earned the respect of the people they are pitching to, because those music editors and radio/TV producers equate certain publicists' legitimacy by the roster they represent. And that kind of connection is invaluable if you are trying to accelerate your band's recognition.
Additionally, if you are this level and you have a manager already, often it is your manager who will hire a publicist and deal with them on a day to day basis.
So what should you expect from a publicist once you hire them? You should expect someone who is professional, friendly, courteous, a good writer, and someone who has a wealth of contacts and a track record for landing media coverage. You should expect a weekly or monthly report that details all of the placements, and you should also expect online links to coverage or hard copies of articles that have been published.
What you shouldn't expect is repeated media coverage in your home market. Most bands overplay their hometown, and generally newspapers as well as radio will only cover your band for a CD release show or big event, not for every pub gig you play. For that matter, you make things much easier on a publicist if you give them a big event with an angle, such as a CD release, or a string of tour dates across different markets, even if they are just weekend shows.
Now, if you've read this all and still feel like you have the time, and either the contacts or the sales ability to tackle this yourself, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. This way, you can save money, learn how the business works, and build your own buzz. There are reference guides such as the Billboard Guide to Touring or the Musician's Atlas. Both of these have great contact information broken down nationally, or by touring market.
Good luck, and if I can ever help you, feel free to contact me via my company's website.