Published on April 19, 2019, at 10:50 a.m.
by Michaela McLean.
Due to the ever-changing digital landscape, the music industry has drastically evolved in the last decade. For example, vinyl records and cassette tapes have been replaced by streaming services, such as iTunes and Spotify. According to Forbes Magazine, streaming is officially the lifeblood of the U.S. music industry.
The implementation of new technology creates more hyper-competition amongst artists than ever before. With artists vying for consumer attention, the role of publicity is indispensable and imperative. In the midst of a digital revolution, how can publicists effectively attract the public’s attention to their artists?
To maximize artist publicity, today’s publicists must understand the industry’s demands while collaborating with both artists and managers. Three music industry insiders share their different perspectives on gaining and maintaining music publicity.
From networking to marketing, music publicists act as liaisons between the artists and the press. They highlight and promote the artistry, creative works and personalities of their clients. Publicists possess stellar writing and editing skills to create content for the artists and media contacts. In addition, successful publicists understand how to cultivate relationships in order to make themselves trusted resources.
Shannon Walker served for over two decades as senior manager of publicity for Christian music label Integrity Music. From album reviews to broadcast interviews, she promoted artists, projects, songs and the label itself from the initial pitch to placement of all earned media. She also served as the label representative for industry awards shows, such as the Dove Awards and the Grammy Awards.
Digital advancements in the music industry affected her job on multiple platforms. Alongside the rise of streaming options, she experienced a rise in digital media outlets, including those covering her focus genre, Christian music. Over the last few years, she watched an increase in fan-driven media outlets (websites, blogs, podcasts) run by enthusiasts who do not have a journalism background. She claimed, “While the level of storytelling/writing/editing may have declined in some cases, the passion for the subject matter remains strong.”
“Both professional and fan-driven media outlets are often run by a skeleton crew, including volunteers, who don’t have time to create ‘from scratch’ content,” added Walker. “This means fewer journalists and more curators. Both factors have helped shift the landscape, requiring publicists to think and act as content creators and to push their clients to do the same. For example, where I once would have pitched a story, provided related materials and coordinated the interview, I am now creating copy that can be lifted directly from a press release, bio or email pitch to be used as ready-made content.”
She went on to explain that the music industry is “moving from an ‘album culture’ focused on one big project promoted across a limited time span, to dealing with a song-driven digital economy in which artists release multiple songs on an ongoing basis. This only adds to the urgency of content creation so that there are continuous touch points for your client.”
Publicists must always have artists’ reputations and images at the forefront of their minds. Most importantly, publicists must create the habit to truly know their artists and their music. Walker said, “You can’t represent someone well if you don’t ‘get’ them. For me, nothing beats believing in what you represent.”
Managers are looking for publicists who cultivate strategic connections to propel their artists into the limelight. They are seeking a professional who communicates clearly and succinctly, while understanding the artist’s target audience.
Eric Champion is an artist manager for Multiplied Management, a “360-degree management and coaching for artists, producers and songwriters who want to change the world.” He consults with artists on major career decisions and assists in expanding the artists’ brands and reach. Moreover, he communicates daily with publicists regarding each artist’s brand and vision for future goals.
Eric Champion stated, “Publicity is one of the first things we contract out. We need someone with the connections we don’t have to help us get the word out.” Moreover, he strives to always be on the same page as the publicist to determine “what publicity avenues we’ll spend our dollars pursuing.”
According to a Cyber PR Music article, artists must have a compelling story, also known as a “signature story,” that attracts potential fans before they hear the artist’s music. The artist’s story is the foundation that a publicist works with when seeking publicity.
Champion helps artists discover and craft their stories to make them unforgettable to their publics. “There is a massive population of talented people releasing new music every day,” Champion explained. “There has to be some unique twist that can highlight what makes you different. That’s the story that publicists use to help them get traction to promote the artist.”
Artists pursue publicists who will partner with them. Walker stated, “They want to know their music is safe in the hands of their publicist because representing someone’s artistic expression is far different from representing software. There is a deep emotional connection for the artist and for their fans. Trust is essential.”
In his search to find the perfect publicist, Noah Schnacky desires a professional who specializes in his specific markets and understands the ever-changing digital landscape. He struggles “to find publicists who understand your vision and how you’d like to portray that to your audience like you would yourself.” He added, “Any time I’ve tried outsourcing a task or content it’s always felt like the people were trying to put what we were doing into a formula.”
As a millennial pop-country artist, Schnacky is uber-active on all social media platforms and hopes to break into the world of subscription-based media. He mentioned that Netflix is a powerful tool for content, and he would “rather have connections to a show on that platform than a morning show opportunity, even if it’s untraditional to our current standards.”
In today’s evolving digital landscape, the publicist, manager and artist must establish and prioritize a harmonious relationship to propel an artist to the top of the charts in the music industry.