Last year I got a call from a veteran musician. He told me how he did his homework and avoided hiring one firm with a reputation for not delivering strong music blogger results. He thought he’d done his research, and checked all the boxes. He should have been good right? Fool me once and all that. However, after hiring another firm he shelled out all his money only to have it taken by music publicists who never answered another email or phone call the day after the check cleared.

Unfortunately, we hear this kind of horror story more often than I’d like at Cyber PR. Artists come to us having experienced disappointing results or straight-up scams and it can leave a bad taste when it comes to music PR. It’s bad for artists, bad for business, and bad for music! I swear, music PR does not (and should not!) be this way. Knowing some of the things to look out for when hiring a music publicist is a key part of having a great experience. Here are a few misconceptions and things to know when hiring for music PR.

You Need A Few Things BEFORE You Need PR!

Here’s a secret: it’s not always the right time for PR. In fact, I spend a lot of time telling artists who come to me wanting PR that it may not be the right time for it.  And that’s ok! The music industry has changed so much over the last few years, and while hiring for PR was often the first step for many artists, things have changed. Now, there are a few things you want to have in place before hiring a publicist. Including:

Foundation: at least SOME real fans who know you and like you enough to come to your shows or comment and listen when you post new music. This is crucial. It is not the job of PR to build an audience for you. While yes, getting new fans is a part of any PR campaign and will come organically through different features, you must have a starting foundation for us to work with. Publicists can only accelerate what we already have to work with—not create it out of thin air.

A great signature story: this is what a PR team will be working with. Part of what we do at Cyber PR is to help you create your signature story, but if you already have a little bit of an idea what yours is and have been properly conveying it to your fans for a while, that can really help set a PR campaign up for success.

A solid social media strategy: which a publicist will be creating from scratch if you don’t have one so get one and save her the agony.  I know, this part can feel unfair and overwhelming and make you question why the music isn’t enough. But having a solid strategy is going to put you way ahead of other musicians when it comes to attracting the attention of not only the press, but fans as well.

Don’t forget you’ll also need an actual plan that addresses a 360 degree view of your whole career and not just “PR” .  I

When Bad Music Publicists Happen to Good Artists

It happens. It isn’t fair, or right, but quite often, artists get taken for a ride because they don’t actually know what music publicists do, or what to expect from one. This allows the bad guys to take advantage by promising the world and under-delivering. Misconceptions about music publicity can also create false expectations and disappointments down the road when you realize that your publicist might not be able to get you that massive blog you were hoping for. It’s on your future publicist to educate you about what’s realistic and what’s not, about what to expect from a campaign —everything from timeline to the type of features you’ll get—and how the whole process works. However, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself on these things, as well as ask these things on your inquiry call or email.

I’d like to do my part to prevent this from happening to you by presenting – and correcting – the five most common misconceptions about music publicists.

Misconception 1: Music Publicists Call Me. That Means I’m Ready!

This is the biggest problem I see. There are a few music publicity firms out there who hire teams of sales reps and force their publicists to get on the phone, work the socials, and get artists to sign up. In fact, a publicist who worked for me came from such a firm and told me she had a “quota”. They would threaten her if she didn’t reach out to 25 new potential artists a day on top of her huge workload. She sought to keep the clients coming in the door at a steady rate so her greedy boss (who never did a day of PR in his life) could keep money coming in.

Here’s the thing: 100% of the publicists I know are way too busy to be cold calling and reaching out to artists on socials.

Now, if that publicist sees you play and goes nuts (I’ve had many fangirl moments), or you are introduced through a legitimate source – that’s another thing altogether. Sometimes very new PR companies will also take this approach. The thing is, your gut will tell you what’s legitimate and what’s not. If the outreach feels genuine and is personalized or feels like they took the time to get to know you and fall in love with your songs, it might be worth exploring. But most cold calls or a random reach out is something to be very suspicious of!

Request A Proposal Outlining What The Music Publicist Will Do

If you do get a call and you are in the market for a publicist, MAKE SURE you reach out to a few other firms and get additional proposals. This is a standard practice called an RFP (Request For Proposal) and all real publicists who are serious about working with you will be delighted to create a comprehensive proposal. You should also do your research and talk to at least three PR firms to inquire about their approach and methodology. You’re going to be working with your publicist for several months, it’s worth making sure it’s the right fit!

Remember, this is a BUYER’S market, and YOU, dear artist, are the buyer! Don’t forget this!

Misconception 2: If I Hire Music Publicists, They Can Create Magical Opportunities

Nope. She can’t work miracles, but she can introduce you to the media and help you create a defined strategy and roadmap. Hiring a publicist is just the beginning of your work. You need to keep her busy with stories, angles, and events to work throughout her time managing your campaign. Also, you MUST have a consistent social media strategy throughout your time with your PR team. Every single outlet they are pitching you to will look at your socials. If you suck at posting and you don’t have a well-defined brand and narrative on social media,  your PR results will not go well.

A music publicist is only as good as whatever she is publicizing, and it is critical to give her as much to use as possible. Understanding these key points of music publicity will help as well.

Misconception 3: She Works For a Huge Band; She Knows All The Writers; She Will Get Me in Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, and NPR Tiny Desk 

Oof, if I had a penny for every time I had an artist ask if I could get them in (insert major outlet here). Music Publicists should absolutely be hired for who they know and other clients they represent. Their relationships at national publications are critical.

That being said—if you are a brand new band with a small (but mighty!) following it is probably not reasonable to expect Pitchfork to take an interest—yet! Any publicist who guarantees this (or any placements) or doesn’t mention the stepping stones associated with most PR campaigns, is something to be wary of. Please be warned: Larger bands, on labels with big followings and history (not to mention sales and tours) get placed over smaller, up-and-coming artists, especially on these very large outlets. If you are an emerging artist, you need to build up to the larger publications. Sadly, there is no jumping to the front of the line, no matter who else your publicist represents!

You Must Be Newsworthy

Simply having a new EP, album, or show is not grounds for national coverage. This is where the story building that I mentioned earlier becomes so crucial. It’s not just about the music or event, it’s the story and brand behind these things that make people care; and that many outlets (especially larger ones) will look to when considering coverage. Because of this, many larger publications may pass you up the first campaign around. That’s okay; this should be considered a building block and not a rejection. So, the more (appropriate) journalists, blogs, and outlets your music publicist reaches out to, the better.

This does not mean that the publicist won’t try to get you appropriate placements, she will! Just know that even the tightest personal relationships don’t always equal results. Of course, the publicist knows these people and can always ask, but it is absolutely not a guarantee.

Misconception 4: I’m Gonna Be On National TV

Television shows such as Late Night, Ellen, and The Tonight Show, sometimes showcase independent artists. But this is extremely rare, and not all publicists have the connections to get you on these shows. In order to avoid a major letdown, discuss this with your publicist before hiring her. Ask: “Have you ever placed anyone on national TV?”/ “How many artists have played and on which shows?”. She will be honest both about her ability and about what chances she thinks you may have to end up on one of these shows. There is another secret that they won’t tell you. Most major national shows charge the bands’ backline rental and union fees for moving the equipment. The charge for this can be $10,000 and up. This is the real reason you don’t see non-major label artists appear often – someone has to pick up that bill.

If you are just starting out, music blogs and Spotify Playlists are much better places to focus your energy.

Misconception 5: My Music is Good Enough, I’m Going Straight to The BIG TIME.

This is a misconception we see a lot. Yes, once in a blue moon, a completely unknown artist will go straight to the big time. But this is a matter of LUCK (and usually a team behind them). It’s a lot of right place and right time and simply put, it should not be your strategy or expectation.

The vast majority of artists labeled an “overnight success” have actually been toiling away behind the scenes for a long time, and paid their dues in smaller blogs and publications – no matter how good their music is. It’s never the only part of the story—just a piece of that larger puzzle.


There is no fast track to the top. I hope this happens to you, but in the meantime, be realistic with your expectations. Do your work, create a long term plan for yourself, and keep grinding and hustling. Remember, you’re in this because you love what you do and while you’re building towards those larger publications or opportunities you’re still getting to do what you love every day. That’s a good thing!

In the meantime, your publicist will get you the best possible press. But it’s going to take a little while to get major press.

Be okay with starting small and building your reputation organically, which is something a good publicist can help you do.

Final Note… 

I know this post sounded a little ominous, but I speak from experience when I say that most music publicists are hard-working, talented, and trustworthy people. They will do great things for you! Just do your research first, and make sure you know the real benefits and get the right person for the job!

Make sure your plan has all bases covered with this Free Music Publicity Checksheet. You’ll learn all the strategies, hacks, and platforms we use right here at Cyber PR for artists just like you.


Download the Musician's Publicity Checksheet, for FREE!

Learn the strategies, hacks, and platforms we use right here at Cyber PR to execute successful campaigns for artists just like you every day.

You have successfully signed up to get the Musician's Communications Map! Check your email.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This