Publicity in the Music Industry - Are They The
People Behind The Success of Artists?
By MuzikMan, MusicDish.com
[MuzikMan] How important
is it to get a good review for an artist? Conversely, how difficult
is it, and if so, why?
Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) It is very important, but a good
review alone won't break an unsigned artist. Just as a radio campaign
alone won't. It's the combination of all marketing and promotion
mixed together; radio, press, webzines, internet radio, advertising,
in-stores, performing, touring, CD compilations (Lollipop,Magnet,
CMJ), street teams, postering etc. To create an industry buzz you
need reviews in national magazines like Billboard, Performing Songwriter,
Spin, Alternative Press, Relix, CMJ, Rockpile, Music Connection
Magazine; it makes a huge difference. But, always remember, word
of mouth is still the best advertising a band can get.
How difficult is it getting press today? For publicists,
it is much easier because there is double the amount of space than
there was just 3 years ago. Look at Music Connection Magazine; they
actually have 3 writers that specifically write about Indie Bands
& Companies. Performing Songwriter has doubled their space & added
a Managing Editor. Relix has "Bands You Should Know About" in every
issue; Rockpile has "Under the Radar" and so on. We also have new
magazines that are proving very successful like Women Who Rock,
Alarm Magazine, Venus Magazine, Varla Magazine, & Harp to name a
Terri Hinte (Fantasy Jazz) Obviously good reviews
are desirable. However, if there are too many of them, or they are
TOO glowing, it all starts smelling like "hype." Let the backlash
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) It
is very important to get good reviews for your artist. Usually an
artist thinks they should never be criticized. Their egos normally
do not allow for such things. I had an artist once who was criticized
by the NY Times for his voice style on a particular genre of music.
The artist fired me because of the review, which said, "The screechy
sounds of his voice are an insult to the style of music." I told
the journalist what happened and he was shocked at the artist's
reaction. Artist do not like being wrong. Good reviews are hard
and you have to bring out all the positives and the hooks when presenting
an artist. You also have to create a good image for the artist.
In this case, I did not by telling the journalist what happened.
[MuzikMan] What kind
of feedback can a publicist expect from an artist that wants to
use their services?
Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) Bands ask me, how do you measure
a successful press campaign? Are there any guarantees? Can you make
me a rock star? (Seriously, they ask that). I just tell them honestly,
publicity & public relations is very subjective business and there
are no guarantees or promises. However, I do think that the personality
and style of the publicist should match that of the bands. Expectations
should be spelled out at the beginning of a campaign.
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) A publicist
should have a completely open rapport with the artist. A good publicist
should be like a mother/father, sister/brother, shrink and stylist
at times or confidante, whatever it takes with the artist. This
relationship creates a trust and allows you to get what is necessary
from the artist to get the job done for them. Remember this is for
the artist's benefit not the publicist.
[MuzikMan] What is the
knowledge level of most artists concerning the ways (and evils)
of the media, technology and the Internet?
Rhonda Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) Most musicians
and artists in general would rather not deal in the business aspects
of the music biz; that is why they hire us. Some of the myths are:
If you spend $30,000 on the production of the CD and
the cover art, the music will sell itself - FALSE!
We have to have brick & mortar distribution before
releasing the CD? - FALSE! (CDbaby.com/The Orchard work just fine)
If we buy a few ads in the magazine, they have to
give us a good review! - FALSE!
Terri Hinte (Fantasy Jazz) Varies wildly.
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) This
is too broad a question. It depends on the experience of the artist.
Some are media savvy because they have been around that block before.
Some are more tech savvy and today I would imagine many are internet
savvy. All are anxious and you have to use "kid gloves" with them
most of the time.
Anne Leighton (Leighton Media) I find that
musicians are probably more knowledgeable about the ways of the
web than publicists are. In general, the internet has very few outlets
that the hordes go to for updated info and publicists choose to
work with the small websites because the reporters are polite. The
mentality is that record companies want what is called "real media,"
meaning print newspapers, magazines, national or regional TV shows
and then the popular sites like ALL MUSIC GUIDE and ROLLING STONE
ONLINE. To see well-hyped sites like ALLSTARMAG.COM cease its existence
or combine into CDNOW, which ended up cutting its staffers is a
significant statement on how insignificant the web is to media outreach
However, most artists are grateful for whatever media
they can receive because it is a struggle to get into ANY media
outlet. So if I can get a placement in a junior media outlet that
20 people go to every month, there may be hope I'll sell two CDs.
For a baby band, I will take that attention.
[MuzikMan] What are some
of the hardest barriers and attitudes to overcome when you are dealing
with tours, recording studios, and labels?
Rhonda Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) In a word,
TIME. In a perfect world, we would have 2 months prior to a CD being
released nationally and 1 month before a tour started. The reality
is that very few Indie musicians realize how far in advance magazines
work. It is November and I am getting confirmations for reviews
& features for February-March 2004 issues.
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) Getting
the information needed to do the job, especially tour info. Everyone
in the business knows what is needed to do tour press. It's a matter
of having a good tour manager that can do the job, feed you the
tour info, travel info and also be sure the interviews get done
(if the press agent is not on the road.) As far as the recording
studio - this should never be a problem as the artist is paying
for the studio time, so the studio should always be cooperative.
Labels are usually very cooperative as they are pleased to have
someone outside handling artist that is a priority.
Leighton (Leighton Media) When I am dealing with labels, who
are generally my clients, I have to follow their directives, so
there are no barriers and attitudes to overcome. They are the boss.
Tours... I like getting tour dates six weeks in advance for an unknown
band. It is easier to find media placements if you had a hit or
were a mainstay at some era in rock & roll history and you are going
after the media three weeks out, but ideally, you want to set up
interviews and make calls six weeks out for everybody. It is purely
an organizational issue.
I have not dealt with recording studios at all.
[MuzikMan] For those
of you that work directly for a label what are some of your daily
challenges promoting artists? What is the difference (if it applies
to you) from working on your own and a label?
Rhonda Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) As an Indie
publicist, I get to choose the bands I work with. A label publicist
does not choose the roster, the label does. That is the main difference.
Terri Hinte (Fantasy Jazz) Effective communication
between artist/manager & label is the single most important factor
in a successful partnership.
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) The
challenges start with getting the press to notice your artist, especially
the unknown ones. Most artists that can afford press agents are
established. The ones that cannot are the ones that need the most
help. Because of the barrage of product today (worse than ever)
journalist do not seem to have a chance to listen to many CDs. They
usually go for the ones that are familiar to them. It is less work,
and when they do, it is usually under trying circumstances.
I have artists that deserve and should get the attention
because their product is good or sometimes great. It is difficult
to get a journalist to listen and in my case, most of the time,
when they finally do they LOVE what they hear, focus long enough
to hear. Over the course of my career, I have been an independent
press agent for usually an established artist (as they are the ones
who have the money to pay.) If you are good at what you do, you
can usually pick and choose the clients you want. I always go for
the ones I admire the most and love the product so the passion shows
when I am selling it. I try to always be professional and that counts
for a lot as well. Another words, follow through and deliver what
you say, do your homework as well.
[MuzikMan] What are the
different forms of Payola you see today opposed to 25 years ago?
Has it become more insidious and complex than ever because of the
Rhonda Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) I have
only been doing this for 71/2 years, not 25, but I find it is actually
more open than it has ever been as far as I am concerned. Many of
today's music magazines release compilation CD's and clearly have
an asking price to be included and many follow with a review. Musicdish.com
has Artist Express, a great service that will syndicate a good review/article
and profile it to over 200 (and counting) presses outlets for a
price. NYROCK.com has asked for a $20.00 donation for reviews for
over a year now. I guess it is an individual choice.
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) The
scanning of records given to retail that they don't really sell.
Other than that, I don't know.
Anne Leighton (Leighton Media) I don't know.
I don't do radio promotion. None of my artists can afford to pay
a radio station to play them. Well, some can but I think they would
rather spend their money on other things like their pets.
[MuzikMan] What advice
do you have for young people that want to get into publicity for
a career? What are some of the do's and don't's?
Terri Hinte (Fantasy Jazz) Do's: learn how
to write & SPELL. Read widely. Listen to all kinds of music. Don'ts:
using the word "brilliant" in any of your press releases more than
once a year.
Rhonda Kelley (Rainmaker Publicity) 1) ONLY
work bands you love; Your reputation is all you really have at the
end of the day; 2) Learn how to WRITE; 3) know when to delegate
Victoria Rose (Lightyear Entertainment) It
is a tough business today more than ever. You have to have the energy,
the passion, the stamina and a thick skin to handle what is thrown
at you. First, believe in what you are selling or the people you
are trying to sell will smell your lack of passion and will not
give you the time of day. Always try to stay credible because if
you do not the press will not trust you and you will lose. Doing
press is about as much as creating relationships as anything else.
Anybody can get the lists is the relationships you create that make
My background is 30 years in the business doing press
and marketing. I have worked with artists including David Bowie,
John Melencamp, Lionel Richie, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop. I headed
Farm Aid I and worked with The Talking Heads, among many others.
I am now at a label/distributor Lightyear for the first time and
have been here just under a year.
Anne Leighton (Leighton Media) Publicity is
goal setting. First, you need a project to hype. Then you need to
figure out what media you can get the project into, and then you
approach the media. Obviously, there are fine points like understanding
how to make a phone call and write a press release.
A few of the most important DOs and DON'Ts would be
DO BE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR. If you want a journalist to call you
back (and you do!), leave your number at the beginning of the message
and at the end of the message-at least twice. Leave your number
clearly; don't imitate a top 40 D.J.
The other important point is that you need to shepherd
a story. Once someone wants an interview with your artist, ask them
about photo needs. Find art for them, yell at your artists (or record
company) if there is no art available.
Fantasy Jazz - www.fantasyjazz.com
Leighton Media - www.leightonmedia.com
Lightyear Entertainment - www.lightyear.com
Rainmaker Publicity - www.rainmakerpublicity.com
by the MusicDish
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It 2004 - Republished with Permission