Think Like A Music Publicist

The following information is summarized and improvised from an interview with the legendary music publicist and father of modern music publicity, Howard Bloom in the "Billboard Guide to Music Publicity" (out of print book).

Howard Bloom (now a retired music publicist and well known author of books such as the "Lucifer Principle") is responsible for the publicity for such legendary artists and bands as: ZZ Top, Prince, Talking Heads, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, REO Speedwagon, George Michael, and countless other artists.

The 25 Tips

1. Learn to be a writer for magazines, newspapers, and any online publications.

2. When going in to work with an act for the first time, go in as if you were a journalist and interview them at great length, spending as much as two or three days in the interview.

3. The purpose of this is to find out all the facts, but more than just bland facts - find those things that will make an interesting and compelling angle.

4. Having found the angle, build your publicity campaign on it.

5. Then, write your Bio, which will incorporate all the information you have discovered.

6. Writing your Bio is like a good encyclopedia article. It tells all the facts that would be useful to other writers you will send the Bio to, and to yourself, as you approach media contacts who will be eager to take your phone calls and work with you.

7. Publicity by itself cannot sell records, but it will be a strong addition to your other marketing tactics if done right.

8. Don't worry about generating tons of press. Concentrate on appropriate media contacts within your geographic and budgeting limits. Then work those contacts with constant, but polite communications that will provide your contacts with useful information to do their job.

9. If done right, and in cooperation with a professional record label that is dedicated to building slowly and consistently the careers of their acts, publicity can do wonders - to the point that as an act grows, and more and more articles and print media appear, people will ultimately say something like, "Oh, that band (or artist), I've been reading about them."

10. Aim to get consistent press, month after month. No haphazard publicity planning!

11. Remember this truth: When it comes to the music publications, like Rolling Stone, Spin, Uncut, or Mojo (or even local and regional music outlets), there is a key group of critics that run through this country the way a nerve runs through a lobster. These critics are all friends and talk to each other. They have certain acts that are fashionable among them to like or dislike.

I2. Is your act one of those acts that these critics are likely to respond to? Research who these critics are, and try to determine if your artist or band might be appealing to them. If not...

13. Keep your acts away from any critic who you suspect doesn't like your act's kind of music.

14. Get involved with choosing the photographs that will be sent out with other publicity material. Keep photos 8x10, black and white, glossies. Nothing else.

15, Music publicity is just one of many tools used to promote an act: get involved with the act's management, record label, and publishing company. Communication is everything. If anyone drops the ball the whole campaign can collapse.

16. The first step in planning a music publicity campaign is doing research; the second step is creating one's materials (bios, fact sheets, cover letters, quote sheets, business cards, websites, and other online materials); the third step is creating lists of those people you think are good contacts for your particular act. The next step is sending out or emailing the materials to those people you think can help your act, so that after a week to ten days, you can begin contacting these people and have people on the line who are willing to work with you.

17. Research and write down the 'lead times' for every publicity contact you make. Depending on whether a contact is a newspaper, a website, a blogger, a national or regional publication these lead times can vary from hours to days to weeks, or even months in advance of the publication date.

18. If you have done your job with your contacts, you then have to wait and see if they have done their job helping you get the word out, (the buzz) on your act. If someone gives you bad press, don't make a big deal about it, just remember who said what about your act, and do not include them in any further publicity plans.

19. When working with a record label always remember that a record company will put out many obstacles to the development of the career of an artist. Being signed to a label is not the beginning of stardom, it is the beginning of your difficulties. A label will throw every obstacle it can in front of you, and it is up to you to find out how to get around, under, over, and through them.

20. You must be willing to work 12-18 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week until your act is successful, and be sure their label reps and management are going to be up working with you all the way toward success.

21. There is no such thing as a short term publicity campaign. It goes on eternally or until the act breaks down and quits. But as a publicist you will never stop working, you will just move on to the next project that comes your way. There are no vacations in this profession.

21. Today, more than any other era, acts are broken on the road, and your publicity work should encourage that, and be in there helping plan the tours and all that goes with working the publicity angle as you move along.

22. When you are planning a publicity project you have to work out your strategy from the get go, like you are building a building. If you don't build the foundation right, it will tilt just like the Tower of Pisa, except this tower will fall without proper planning.

23. Be sure there is only one contact to the press with your act. You are that contact. Do not let members of a band switch around talking to the press. All these types of interviews or press conferences must be part of your plan, and going back, if you did your initial interview with the act successfully you will know what bandmember to work with to get the right information out to the press, and that information should be what you said to your act as you train them for working with the music press.

24. Choose your media carefully. We live in an era of many press possibilities: From local papers and magazines to the bigger national and international music publications. In addition there is radio, AM/FM, HD Radio stations, satellite radio, and thousands of Internet broadcasters. And don't forget television and the hundreds of cable channels out there. If that isn't enough, there are more music bloggers out there than there are websites these days for music exposure. The trick is - which of these is right for your act?

25. Lastly... well, there is no last thing to know. There is just more to know all the time. You must be possessed like a demon in this business, or you - or worse yet, your act - may suffer. Keep your eyes and ears open for new publicity opportunities. Remember the old saying, "Better look behind you, you never know who is gaining on you."

Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab

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