Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to check off one of my by starting to work for a New York-based music publicity company I’ve admired for a long time. While running Pop of Colour puts me on the receiving end of publicists regularly, this was my chance to learn about their world and how it operates underneath the visible surface of PR iceberg.
The most common complaint I’ve heard from musicians about publicists is that they asked to be paid a fixed amount on a retainer for a few months, whether or not their efforts reap their artists significant media coverage. In today’s article, I’m going to explain why they operate that way, hoping help everyone get on the same page to create the best partnerships possible.
A lot of prep work is involved.
The publicity campaign does not roll out the day the deal is finalized. Any music publicist who knows what they’re doing will sit down with the new artist client, and go over their brand, target audience and goals of the campaign. Sometimes a new bio is written, sometimes their website is given a makeover. All these things that prep the artist for the best possible results when it comes time to start pitching are done during the publicist’s work hours.
There is no end prize.
While publicists ask to be paid a flat rate for their work, other industry professionals, such as managers and booking agents, get paid on commission. The traditional reason that managers are expected to live on 15% of whatever measly sum their emerging artist makes is that for the longest time, the manager’s summit goal was to get the artist signed to a record deal, where they would pocket 15% of the large cash advance (with the rise of the independent artist and decrease of label advance money, this model is slowly changing in the world of managers too). However, as artists do not get paid to be featured in the press, there is no sum for the publicist to reap.
They don’t control the results.
It’s a fact: no matter how reputable or talented your publicist is, they can’t force a media outlet to cover you. Maybe the city paper is choosing the cover a play your release week; maybe the blog just booked all their interviews for the next three months; maybe the magazine landed a bigger name; maybe the podcaster had other plans; maybe these people just didn’t like your sound and style. It happens. Obviously, a quality publicist will be keeping you in the loop as to who they are pitching, and what they are saying, but it’s entirely out of their hands after the email goes out.
On a side note, some results only become visible after the campaign is over.
All in all, remember that a publicist’s reputation and brand is on the line with their network of connections when they pitch an artist. This calls for impeccable people skills and poise, along with other talents. Pay them fairly. I may be biased, but the results are worth it.