As musicians, we can’t control how we compare to our peers. While we should strive to be the best musicians we can possibly be, there will always be somebody who can do it better. We can’t control how good other people are but we can control how pleasant we are to work with. We believe that being awesome clients can be a key differentiator. We are thus starting a series to inspire other musicians to use this strategy to advance their careers.
Hiring a publicist: Expectations vs. reality
Expectation: Getting a publicist means you can focus on the music and let the publicist do her thing.
Reality: Getting a publicist means you have to write guest blogs, do interviews, and possibly other stuff. It’s work but it can be fun.
Expectation: The publicist will find you more exposure because your music is great.
Reality: The publicist will find you more exposure because you have an identity as an artist. The publicist may be familiar with your musicianship but they don’t know your strengths and weaknesses as an artist. Are you good at public speaking? Are you a good writer? What else can you talk about? What else are you passionate about that might resonate with potential fans? The more you know the answers to these up front, the more angles your publicist can use to pitch your story.
Expectation: The publicist will also get you featured on Pitchfork and Spotify.
Reality: You’re probably not getting on Pitchfork or Spotify unless you’re at that stage of your career.
Help them help you
The whole idea is to help them help you. They are part of your team and you’re the boss. What kind of boss do you like best? The boss who makes demands and does nothing, the boss who passively exists, or the boss who works tirelessly so that the team as a whole succeeds? We prefer the latter, and we try to set the example. As with anyone we hire, we were prepared to work really hard, and work with them to get us to the next level. We want to be partners.
A publicist’s value
What is the most valuable thing that a publicist brings to your team? What is it that you are willing to pay them big money for? Publicity, of course. How can you maximize the amount of time they are publicizing you? Get rid of anything else they need to do for your campaign that is NOT publicity. That includes doing all the tedious stuff they would have to do to set up your campaign, and anything they would have to do during your campaign that isn’t using their time efficiently.
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Maximize results by eliminating boring tasks
Every job has tedious tasks. For the publicists, we figured it would be to gather all the materials that will be necessary for each pitch. Having done some of these ourselves, we know that websites have various preferences. Some like full bios, some want one paragraph. Some want tweetable snippets. We realized that our publicist would have to adapt her pitches to all these different formats. What a waste of energy! Her time would be better spent creating valuable connections for us.
If we could eliminate all the tedious stuff, that would free up a few hours of her time. She could use these hours to start pitching instead! So here is what we prepared and sent her on day 1 of the campaign:
1A text file with all our relevant links. These include social media links, shortened social media links, links to our private album on soundcloud, link to our latest video, shortened link of latest video, website address, website bio page, email addresses, links to older videos they might want to share.
2A text file with all our blurbs for easy pitching. These include short blurb about our release show, 1 line bio, 3 line bio, 1 paragraph bio, short bio, medium bio, long bio.
Less work, more play
When we got on a call with her the next day, she said:
“I almost fell off my chair when I saw this. I have been doing this for a long time and have NEVER had a client do this for me. This will save us so much time!” — Ariel Hyatt
Being well organized and professional is a good sign that you’re likely to succeed. Going the extra mile for your publicist means that you are mindful of their time and value, and it shows that you’re smart, driven, and considerate. The fact that you’re treating them with such thoughtfulness gives them confidence that whomever they refer you to will also be pleased to work with you.
This opens up more opportunities for you. A good publicist will not send all their artists to all their contacts. They select carefully. The more influential, the less likely the publicist will contact them about a smaller act. Remember that a publicist’s value is in her connections. All these people being pitched are connections that the publicist wants to keep! Therefore, if you’re hoping to be introduced to a higher tier of contacts than your current status merits, you have to give them a very good reason to.
Asking is not enough. Actions speak louder than words. Start with genuine thoughtfulness. It might not get you on Pitchfork, but it might get you a tiny bit further than you would have gotten.
Your future publicity
You might think of your publicist’s job as a service. You pay, they deliver some press, and you move on. However, that’s a very narrow-minded view. Especially if you ever plan on hiring a publicist again. You want to be part of growing your publicist’s business, or at least not hurting it. So take the long-term view and remind yourself why a publicist might want to work with you again.
For every pitch that goes out, your publicist is taking a chance on you. Long after you’re gone, the publicist will still want to maintain a relationship with that blog/paper/writer. If you’re ungrateful (or worse, unpleasant), that reflects poorly on your publicist too and it could reduce your publicist’ chances of getting other artists featured in the future, including you (especially you). Don’t be that guy.
Your publicist is giving you an opportunity to develop relationships with these outlets. The least you can do is thank each person, like, retweet, share their post on your social media. It takes time to create a feature, and these people did it for you. Be thankful.
Small actions that publicists love
When your publicist gets you a spot as a guest on a podcast/radio show:
1Listen to at least a few episodes of the show and get to know what they’re all about. Don’t go in cold. People like to know that you took the time to get to know them in return for them taking time to feature you on their show!
2Prepare and send all the materials they ask for ASAP. This usually includes a one-paragraph bio, website link, and maybe talking points.
3Prepare your topic if there is one. If there isn’t, ask how you can help prepare for the show.
4Make sure you know when the show is going to air or be released and promote it.
When your publicist gets you a guest blogging opportunity:
1Read the blog to get a feel of the style and type of content that resonates with its audience.
2Take note of the preferred length. Some like to be brief, some are very detailed.
3Keep the readers in mind, write in a way that will inspire them to engage with your post AND with the blog. Again, you want to leave everything a little bit better off.
When your publicist gets you featured on a blog:
1Go wherever the main post is, and like/comment, and thank them.
2If you have the person’s email, also email them a thank-you note.
3Go everywhere else they’ve posted it and repost (eg retweet, share).
4Add it to your website with a link back to the original website’s post.
5Like their page, follow them, and engage with other content that isn’t about you as well from time to time.
6If you want to go the extra mile, sign up for their mailing list. Everybody loves more people on their mailing list!
That’s all folks!
Did I miss anything? Can you think of something I could do to be an even better client? Let me know in the comments!