Whilst there are enough and more to talk and guide musicians on all the effort that needs to go into developing creative expertise, let’s talk about another important vertical that you’ve probably never got any guidance on – publicity (or even worse, bad advice on). Today, the fundamental problem is the naive idea that most musicians carry about publicity without knowing how to fully capitalise on the avenues that offer it to their full benefit. On the down side of things, most musicians are often too caught up asking for publicity ignorantly without doing the right things prior to it that can automatically generate publicity. Unfortunately, very few have understood and mastered the art of getting famous or even remaining as one. Today, I put together important reminders for every musician after a series of interactions with various music journalists who anonymously wish every musician knew before seeking publicity.
First things first
A publicist is no genie who can grant your desires as you ask for it. They are just a facilitator. Unless you are an actor or a personality of extreme public interest, most often than not, you don’t need to invest in publicity or hire a personal PR yet who can endlessly pitch each of your achievements/ongoings to the media. After all, there is only so much media that even a publicist can reach out to! Whether you are struggling your way to get your big break or you already have a good body of work, unless you have solid credentials to back you, investing in publicity wouldn’t make sense.
Its simple, the amount of publicity you can garner in the media is solely dependent on your content and you. Your share of publicity is a direct derivative of the extent of relevance and strength your content holds with the audiences. Based on the strength of your content, your publicist can only device a strategic plan/campaign to ensure it reaches the right target audience and media. Beyond this, a publicist holds no scope that can determine your success.
Firstly, the most important thing any musician should work on before seeking a publicist is of course, making great music that hopefully is original and truly resonates your inner voice as a musician. Think of yourself as a brand and take sufficient time to build yourself up. By this, I mean working on your music constantly and bringing it to the best shape you possibly can. No bells and whistles in your music can work the charm like honesty can. Creating good content is literally at the core of publicity.
Secondly, have a solid social media plan and work towards building your digital presence as strongly as you can. Having a presence doesn’t mean having more Facebook likes than everyone else. It means having consistent activity online and engaging with your fans. This will not only serve as a testing ground for your content by directly allowing you to receive feedback from your fans, but also give you the right direction. Find more and more ways of digitally engaging your audiences through music, or online contests, or experimenting with newer formats of entertainment like steaming an intimate jam session with your band mates, or even singing your heart out to your fans. Experiment while you can! Your primary goal should be to engage with your fans and target audiences before you can even think of reaching out to the media. A strong social media presence and music publicity is interconnected. Any journalist will verify or check your social media handles to understand how many fans you already have to gauge the readership of their article. After all, who would want to write an article that nobody is interested to read?
Thirdly, while building your brand through offline activities (like concerts, gigs, tours, etc.) and online presence, work on marketing your content as much as possible to the right target audience so you can simultaneously build your fanbase as well. Working on these verticals is crucial for any musician before seeking publicity.
Content is King
In pursuit of wanting fame/more fame, musicians loose track of their creative journey landing in sticky situations. Many a time, musicians fail to understand that publicity stunts aren’t going to increase their shelf life as an artist but only decrease their credibility. What remains true is the strength of their content and consistency. Unlike earlier times, “all publicity is good publicity” no more holds true in the current media landscape. More and more platforms are coming up with content specialised for its audiences. Artists can now take full advantage of such platforms to achieve specific publicity for the exact imaging they desire.
False ideas that one may accumulate in their pursuits, are only blinders! For example, musicians are so sold over by the idea of shifting to a major city where “all the action is happening” that eventually over a period of time, they unknowingly shift their attention from seeking to put out better content to just seeking money to survive in such expensive cities like Mumbai, LA, New York, etc.
In a nutshell, publicity will be an automatic byproduct of good content. Very rarely does good content go unnoticed or vice versa in the name of luck.
Know your worth
Whether you are a debutant or a star, constantly evaluating your choices and worth as a musician will give you a clearer idea of where you stand in your career. Acknowledge the journey so far, realise the journey that lies ahead of you. Never let the zenith of glamour trick you into thinking, “You’ve made it”. Although you may have achieved many milestones in your career as a musician, it is always best to keep a check on your public perception, and constantly know your worth (musically and otherwise). This will not only help you identify the tier of media you already fit into, but also look for the segment of media that you still need to work towards! Let the comfort of yesterday not spoil your learnings of tomorrow!
Whether you’re in denial or awareness, sometimes your name/profile isn’t good enough for you to crack interviews with the big newspapers yet! Sometimes, you just aren’t worthy of that cover yet! Just like how you know the audience your music caters to, also gauge the media you fit into at every stage! Knowing your target media will only help you anticipate!
Your display picture cant be a part of your media kit
Having a great photo is crucial to every musician. This photo should not only be well-lit and clear, but also extremely attention grabbing! Every Journalist receives thousands of pictures that are the usual mugshots, couch shots, standing against the wall shots, nature shots, posing with your instruments, and the most overrated pseudo intense looking pictures. Your photo needs to literally translate your vibe as a musician to the journalist who has probably never met you – your photo is what your brand (you) looks like. Make the best you can.
Understand all the technical elements that go into shaping of your coverage in the media – picture resolution, variety, placement, and relevance! All your most liked Facebook profile pictures from over the years, or an extremely old outdated photoshoot from when you were younger, or photos taken on your phone can’t be a part of your media kit. Filtering content and conveying information precisely without losing its essence is the very purpose of a media kit. Writers are busy people who are constantly working towards a deadline. They get hundreds of emails a day from publicists and artists. Therefore, you should never make a writer work to get any information they may need. So, the artist’s profile (Include important highlights, awards, recognitions, and links to music), professionally shot photographs, previous media coverage, testimonials (optional), technical riders (optional), and some merchandise or music samples compile a media kit.
Be honest about the identity you project
Unlike earlier times, a star image about an extremely famous musician/actor doesn’t quite sell anymore. Fans now want to know who you truly are behind the camera/social media so as to see if they can truly resonate with your personality too besides your music. There hasn’t been a time than now that public perception is looked into with such care and attention. Although on the downside, an artist has to decide how much of himself he has to reveal to the public, honesty and intimacy is what every fan is looking out for. Staged stunts no more resonate with the audiences. Everybody wants the real deal! Realism is the way froward.
Remember, just because fame is the only singular erratic entity in the world that is always welcome, doesn’t mean you welcome it blindly. Be wary of the choices you make as an artist.