What Does A Music Publicist Do?

Music publicists work with artists, labels, and management for their PR works. Their goal is to make sure everybody knows about their clients whether they are getting ready to release singles, albums, going on tour, or anything related to their big news. When people are flipping through a newspaper, a magazine, or scrolling through the internet and they see an article about an artist – a publicist sets that up; anytime a photographer is in a pit at a show – a publicist sets that up. They are the reason people know everything that is going on for an artist. Therefore, publicists are the external version of artists that face the media. As proactive beings, publicists chase after publications for them to cover their artist’s news, and on the other hand, they are also the reactive beings for they know how to spin back or propel forward if anything comes up about their clients.

Although the end goal is to make people see the artist’s name everywhere so that they can’t forget about the artist, music is subjective – people like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. There is not much a publicist can do to change people’s music taste, however, what they can also do is to make people connect to an artist on a deeper level. So, a publicist’s job is not only to promote albums or tours but also to introduce artists to the masses as an individual by humanizing them with different aspects of lifestyle press.

Skills Required to be a Music Publicist 

Publicists need to be a doer, good at time management, and problem-solving. In this job, sometimes they need to go with the punches and read the room carefully. For it is a job that requires a lot of communication with a lot of different people in the industry, publicists need to be very good at communication.

Working Relations with Artists

The work relations vary from artist to artist – some artists are DIY, so the team consists of the publicist and themselves. A lot of times, on the other hand, publicists are hired by labels or management directly so there will be daily emails with the management/label/marketing team.

As previously mentioned, publicists are the voice of artists. If they don’t connect on a personal and professional level, doing their job would be a challenge. Some artists are really interested in getting involved and are on every single email, some artists are filtering things through management. It just depends. But publicists and artists always have some sort of tangible relationship to keep things going.

Different Ways that Artists Get Their Publicist

Some labels have in-house publicists that are their employees, and they work on that label. Some publicists are indie PR firms, so labels hire them and employ them, or artists come to them, or they find artists to work with.

Office Days for Music Publicists 

Every day can be a little different for a music publicist but the general flow of things is that they wake up and check anything that’s coming overnight, and they are in their inbox all day long. They are also monitoring all of the media that goes live by searching Google and social media platforms multiple times a day to see anything that’s gone up about their artists, if so, they send those links over to their artists’ team so that they can share them on socials.

When their artists are on tour, publicists coordinate all of the press requests that are coming from photographers and writers that want to come out and review; put all those into a press schedule and send those to tour managers; they also coordinate interview times.

Plus, they are drafting the press releases for sending it to managements/labels for approval; they are getting all the assets that they need sending it out to a trusted press embargo.

What is a trusted press embargo?

A huge part of what a publicist does and why they are paid and valued is because of their relationships with the press. They make friendships and professional working relationships with the journalists, with the photographers, and with editors and they get to a point where they have these people that they trust and that trust them. Publicists can reach out to those trusted press embargoes and say that their artist is going to be doing something, they send all the assets and tell them not to post until a specific time. They know that the people they send assets to will not be leaking the material and post it when the time comes.  

There’s a level of responsibility on a publicist part where they need to understand the world of the press; they need to take it, analyze what is written, what needs to be written, what’s already been done, and then they have their output. Therefore, a publicist needs to do their homework, and strategizing goes into it.

Out of Office

Having Facetime with People

Other than the office work, a publicist’s job is to have relationships with people in the industry, to be humanizing, and to connect with the people they work with so that the communication can be the best. Publicists aren’t paid for the concerts they go to, however, it’s just something they have to do for their job. It can be tiring after working 9-10 hours in the office and then going to a show that is five bands long. Yet, that is a huge part of just going and supporting the artist and having facetime with them. Plus, going to shows and hanging out with writers and photographers is important. It’s not just working – it’s also being able to bro down and build friendships that can eventually make them be able to do their job better. Knowing genuinely who those people are, what they love, and what’s going on in their lives can help balance things out accordingly. It’s got the teamwork aspect down on a whole other level.

Backstage

Every day can be a little different for a publicist at a show. If their artist has press interviews, they’ll be there to help coordinate that – they get the journalists backstage, they help meet with the artist and do the interview, and get the stuff done.

If it’s a normal show day for hanging out, the publicist goes to the tour manager and lets them know that they are present. They say hi to the artist whenever the artist has a second, but it is important to be mindful that the backstage room is the artists’ home, and no one should linger there unnecessarily. People should not be in backstage when the artist is trying to zone out before a show or warm-up. So, whenever they have time, the publicist goes there and says hi, hangs out a bit, wishes them luck; sees the show, tries to stand with colleagues or people from the industry, and just have a good time. A little reminder that they are there to work as much as they are there to have fun; they are there in a professional role in a professional setting and they need to make sure that there’s a level of respect on both sides.

Getting Passes for Shows from a Publicists and How It All Works

Sending Emails

The people who are in an office job or who work with so many different people are busy. You need to understand what their day looks like before you send an email to them in order to respect their time. If you send a few paragraphs and you don’t even know this person, it’s probably not getting read because people simply don’t have time. Just give the information needed so that they can go run with it. If you want to come and cover a show, write who you are, what show you want to cover, where, when and what outlet you’re from. Give the information you need to give.

Three sentences for a mail are a good length. First, humanize yourself, ask how they’re doing. Then request your request. The best way to think of it can be like this: When you send an email to a publicist, do they know everything they need to know, or do they need to email you back to ask questions? Because if they do need to email you back with questions, you didn’t do a good job writing that initial email.

On the flip side, that’s what a publicist needs to do with their emails when they are sending stuff to journalists as well. They need to make sure that they have everything they need, and they don’t want them to have to ask for anything because that’s going to delay everything.

Timing

So, when should you be reaching out to a publicist as a writer/photographer if you want to do some sort of press for an artist at a concert?

  • If you want to do a preview interview with an artist, six weeks ahead of time is good timing. (Depending on your deadline for your outlet)
  • If you want to come to a show and shoot it or write a review about it and if you are in LA, NY, Chicago, Miami three weeks ahead of time should be enough. If you are in the mid-level market (not in LA, NY, etc.) two weeks ahead of the show should do it.

Please be mindful and understand that publicists only have a certain number of tickets that are allocated for press on each date. If you’re not in, it’s not personal. Accepting no for an answer plays a huge role and your response to that defines your professionalism.

What is a good response then?

Just a very simple response along with the lines of: “Thank you so much. If anything changes, let me know. I live in this area and have a pretty open schedule. If any other tours come through, I’m down to show/review.”

People who respond like this are the people that publicists will keep in mind and reach out to if any availability comes up. Just don’t get discouraged if it can’t happen at that time, it will eventually happen as long as you keep being nice and great.

How are the tickets allocated and how do publicists choose the press?

There is a certain number of tickets that a general consumer can buy because venues have a capacity that is set by the fire marshal, with that being said, when artists go on tour, they are told an X number of tickets that are free that they can get per city. Artists can allocate those tickets however they want (for friends, family, guests, giveaways, press, etc.)

Publicists are told a number ahead of a tour kicking off so then they know how many tickets each day they have to give out to press complimentary for them to be able to review the show and give press coverage in return. 

If a publicist only has five spots, and twenty-seven people have applied, then they have to go through and analyze who is going to make the most of it and what outlet is going to be the most impressive for their client, etc.

They want to be respectful and make sure photographers have the opportunity to get the shots that they need. If there are no spots available, a publicist could offer a photographer who is not reviewing the show a photo pass if they can get a ticket.

Publicists try to get as many people in as they can, but they also know that there’s a limit and for the sold-out big shows, it gets difficult. If you are trying to get press, you can try smaller markets because then there’s not as high of competition. You can use that to your advantage.

The Size of the Publication

If you are wondering if the size of the publication plays a major role in whether or not they granted access, there is definitely something to be said about the numbers and stats that are much more easily digestible to managers and artists, especially if it’s a notable press outlet. But something that the publicists try to be mindful of is who they would much rather approve. It could be somebody who they know is going to write a beautiful review and have strong pull quotes or a photographer who can shoot incredible shots with a smaller publication rather than maybe something that’s going to be two lines in a major publication. However, publicists also have to weigh things if that major publication is going to be their artist’s first time – new territory for them – so, it’s very much calculating and strategizing.

Tips 

  • Sometimes it might be hard to read the room because everybody backstage is down to chill and happy to hang out. However, it is important not to be the last person in the room, and no one wants to feel like they are intruding on people’s time and space.
  • Backstage etiquette is a learning curve. Be aware that not everybody knows you, not everybody knows your intentions. It is a nonverbal place; you don’t get the chance to go up to everybody and introduce yourself. A lot of people are talking to you without talking to you. They only see you and they see how you act. 
  • First impressions are everything. It starts from the moment you enter the door, the way you interact with people from the box office, the way you interact with security when you’re walking backstage.
  • Make sure you are best friends with the tour manager. They are your saving grace. You want them to love you.
  • Become very good friends with publicists. People in the industry trust them and trust their judgment. A tour manager or a band or someone in the industry looking for someone to work with reaches out to the publicists for recommendations because they know that publicists know everything and everyone.

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