You’ve got the music and you’ve got the spirit, now it’s time to take things to the next level and hire a publicist to pitch your album to big review sites and the like. Unfortunately, many new bands don’t realize that sites like Pitchfork, SPIN, Consequence of Sound, etc. require knowing the right people behind the door to even be considered for a review. That’s where a publicist comes in. Publicists have built professional, working relationships with music bloggers, magazine editors, and TV music supervisors and will pitch your music on your behalf. Now, publicity isn’t cheap, but paying people who are in the know and who can get you press around your album to lift you to a national (or international) stage is well worth it in terms of what you’ll recoup from ticket sales, record sales, and other revenue down the road.
How to Find a Publicist
Surprisingly, this isn’t as difficult as you’d think. The best way to find a publicist who can help you is to look at bands at a point in their career that you’d like to achieve in the next 6-12 months. This could be a local band who has played a big festival that you’re eyeballing, or it could be a national act. Have a look on the “Contact” page of these artists websites and there’s a good chance you’ll see a contact email for their “Press” person. Send them an email, explain your situation, what you’d like to accomplish, and what your budget is. I’ll dedicate a separate article to how you should approach publicists and what is expected (minimum 3-4 months of press time, 50% upfront payment, etc).
Tier 1 – Small Time Publicists
These guys are best thought of as the publicists who are working local bands to local press. I’m sure there’s a band in your town that you think has done well for themselves in terms of press coverage both at home and around the state. These bands are more than likely working with an entry level publicity agency who is getting them tour press for their shows around the state, getting interviews in college magazines and college newspapers, and maybe getting them a spot in one or two Sunday newspapers in the local area.
Small Time Publicist Cost: $600-$1000/month
Tier 2 – Medium Grade Publicity
The names of these categories are lame, right?
Medium grade publicists are probably the ones you most want to work with when you’re starting out because of the clout they’ve established and because of the bands they’re already working with. Too bad they might be out of your price range. Publicists in this category are probably going to be able to snag you some blog features on a national level. You may be able to land a Pitchfork mention, and maybe even grab a spot in “Under the Radar” magazine in a few months. If you’re clever about your other marketing around this time, getting these few mentions will help you springboard future song releases, music video releases, etc into higher echelons of press. “ZYX band was in Under the Radar last month and now they have a new single out” type thing. Don’t expect to “blow up” like some bands do with their first album. Short of you writing the next Sgt. Peppers, you’ll probably get some blog mentions, maybe a TV sync, and a magazine mention in some magazines you’ve never heard of. Good start though.
Medium Grade Publicity Cost: $1,000-$2,000/month
Tier 3 – The High Class
This is where things start to get pricey. Publicity takes a huge jump in cost when you start looking at national press. Publicists at this level are the ones who are representing your favorite bands. You know that artist you saw on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week? The same one who was on the cover of SPIN magazine? Oh, and the one who has been receiving rave reviews for his debut album, both on blogs and on social media? That’s the work of a high end publicist (in conjunction with a well executed marketing plan).
As you can imagine, these guys aren’t cheap. But dollar for dollar, hiring a publicist in this tier is the best move you can make as a new band trying to get attention. Without reviews, you have no social clout. Yeah, maybe you, your band mate, your girlfriend, your parents, and your uncle will go broke trying to help your career get started, but once you start getting national attention, you’ll have a GREAT starting point for future releases, tours, and for recouping your money selling records and merchandise.
High End Publicity Cost: $3,000-$4,000/month
I have no tactful way to end this article, so good luck and let me know if you have any questions!