[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
First, thank you for asking.
The number of times my job as a publicist gets confused with that of a manager, marketer, or booking agent is ridiculous.
And I get it.
There’s not a lot of information out there about what it is a publicist actually does, and depending on what industry you’re in and how big of an artist you’re working with, your responsibilities can vary to a pretty large degree.
For this article, we’re going to be focusing primarily on publicists for indie artists, but know that much of the duties are the same, just a little more flexibility and fluidity when a publicist is working with an indie artist (ain’t that always the truth!) vs a major label artist.
So first, here’s what a publicist doesn’t do…
We don’t book your shows.
We don’t manage your career.
We don’t run Facebook ads.
We don’t increase your Instagram followers.
We don’t work miracles.
I know, it’s a lot of stuff. But here’s the deal: a publicist’s job, in a nutshell, is to tell your story in a way that makes people want to listen and to do that through the press.
The reason we get confused with marketing so often is that people seem to think PR and marketing are the same. While they’re similar, and in an ideal world, the two campaigns would work in unison, marketing is more about numbers and sales, whereas PR is about showing the world who you really are and why that should matter. PR is what gets people ready for marketing, and marketing is what gets people to buy. Make sense?
Also, we don’t work miracles. Just because you pay us doesn’t mean we can get your brand new band into Billboard. We’re flattered you think we have magic powers but please, don’t be too disappointed that we don’t.
Here’s what a publicist actually does:
We help you build your brand.
This is trickier than you think—but a publicist will work with you to really hone in on what your brand is, and how you can convey that through all channels—your social media, your press interviews, and even into your live shows, tours, and the opportunities you secure. The clearer you are on your brand, the more features your publicist is able to secure. Which means, we want to help you get crystal clear.
We shape your story.
It’s not enough to simply have great music—you also need a great story, and your publicist will help shape that. Sometimes it’s something obvious—if your album has a strong theme of falling in and out of love, we’ll find the unique spots within that and play that theme up.
But if your song or albums are feeling too broad, we might dig deeper into the song and the process to tap into a more interesting, workable angle. I’ve worked campaigns with themes on everything as universal as love to as niched down as bringing awareness to climate change.
There’s a place for everything, it’s just a matter of finding yours.
We get you features in press outlets.
This is the most obvious thing we do—we secure you features in different outlets (usually blogs, but sometimes others—more on that in a minute). We do this to get your music out there and to spread that message and brand we’ve just worked so hard to create. This is where your reviews, interviews, and guest blogs come in.
Sometimes, we do Spotify too.
We know how much you want to land on a popular Spotify playlist. But listen, it’s not easy. Those gatekeepers are tucked away pretty tightly and getting in is no easy task, even for your most seasoned publicist. Still, if a blog or industry influencer has a playlist, we’ll try to get you on it. It may not be the Spotify official, but those streams add up.
And sometimes we also do print + TV (but not everyone does).
As a US-based publicist, I was surprised when I briefly lived in Canada to find out most of the publicists there are doing print, radio, and TV features for their music clients as well as digital outlets. Some PR firms do this, some don’t—but I’ve noticed it does tend to vary a lot on where you are. So, if print/TV is something you’re interested in, don’t forget to ask your publicist if they do that.
As a publicist, our job isn’t always easy—there are a lot of unexpected hurdles that can come our way, and it can be a lot of pressure to try to make our clients happy—and it’s what we want more than anything, to make them happy. To help them succeed. To tell their story and spread the message of their music and help everyone else see them as the amazing artist we do. So yeah, it’s a lot of work. But it’s totally worth it because we have the coolest job in the world. Working with you.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.