Why Every Indie Needs A PR Ninja

1In this piece music industry veteran and experienced music publicist Jamie Roberts shares her knowledge of the world of music PR, and looks at exactly what the role of publicist is, and what to take into account when considering hiring one.


Guest post from indie.ninja.

There are many different jobs in the music industry, but knowing who to hire and when to hire them requires thought and planning. The needs and budgets of developing artists and labels aren’t the same as those for established ones. Making the right decisions and hiring the right people is where indie.ninja comes in. “Why Every Indie Needs A Ninja” lets you know when it’s time to bring in a professional and how they can help take your career to the next level.

Jamie Roberts from FOR THE WIN has a wealth of experience as a music publicist and PR executive, having led departments at Roadrunner Records, Universal, 10th Street Entertainment, Eleven Seven Music, and EMI’s The Enclave. Over 25+ years in the music industry, she has worked with such top­tier artists as Mötley Crüe, Blondie, Papa Roach, Godsmack, Nick Lachey, and Paulina Rubio, among others. She has been an integral part of building the careers of bands like Slipknot and Nickelback and has helped artists like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sloan, and Nothing More reach new heights of success.


I used to wonder how I could contribute to the lives and careers of talented musicians. After using my natural talents to help people on a smaller scale I discovered that my value is my PERSPECTIVE. Artists are close to the art. It’s their baby. They brought it to life. I may fervently love what they do, but I can distance myself enough to come up with the answer to the most important question in PR…

“Why should the press care?”

There are related questions like “What makes you different from the million other people that are putting out music?” and “Can you communicate why you and your art are special?” that are also pertinent. It is really hard to answer all of this about yourself without sounding self-centered. That is what your publicist is for! We figure out the answers and find a way to effectively communicate them to the right journalists.

We do NOT do advertising (paid media), which is why we can’t make promises about coverage when you first contract with us. We don’t want to be paid by placement because of the sheer amount of effort that we put into the pitching for each one. This is EARNED media. Sometimes it takes a while, but we really earn it and therefore need to be paid reasonably.

Your publicist has to make it clear to print journalists, TV talent bookers, bloggers, and radio WHY you are worth their time to cover. We choose to pick those who cover your particular kind of music. We read their writing and have spent years creating relationships based on mutual respect with them, so we know what they like and don’t send them things that are not compatible with their respective “beat” (we wouldn’t promote a country act to a hip-hop blog for instance). They are also HUMANS and have personal likes and dislikes, and sometimes they wake up on the wrong side of the bed (hey, we all do) and don’t like ANYTHING that day. When the door closes, we try a window. When the pitch is stale, we create a new one. Press doesn’t just happen by sending out a press release. It seems there is so much news out there that you have to individually call people to secure pickup of your release.

4If you don’t have the money to hire a proper publicist, then you should get a friend or family member who is NOT in the band to do this for you. If it’s too personal of an exchange it can create problems when your music “is not what (we) are looking for right now.” That is a polite response — if you get a response like that, you can count yourself among the lucky. You will be rejected A LOT, but if you do your homework and tailor pitches specifically to each writer, you will at least have a chance.

Because of the “premiere” culture we live in, outlets are often looking for exclusive content and bands with a significant following. CREATE A LOT OF CONTENT if you want to be a success — lyric videos, music videos, track-by-track commentary, alternate versions of a single (audio to embed), and the like. These blogs don’t cover bands sometimes because there is no upside for them. If their article on your band won’t bring them new readers or bring ad consumers to their site, then they have to move on. Many use 10K Facebook followers (real, engaged ones) as a baseline and will only work with bands that have more than that.

With content, if they can’t have it first, often they don’t want it at all. Use your content to entice bloggers to learn more about you. Perhaps an interview with a video premiere will be possible if you can make your case to the right person. This content, if properly spaced out, can spread awareness and make an artist look like they’re everywhere. That ubiquity can be used to entice labels, get tours, become a priority for your distributor, etc. It can hoist you to the coveted “next level.”

Always be cognizant of the fact that everything you do can be seen as news. Get photos and names of people and TELL your publicist. Whether it is news your publicist can use or not is up to them. If it isn’t publicity-ready, then you can use it to build your rapport with fans via social media. Building your army that way is so important and works in tandem with PR, so make sure whoever runs your socials is in lock step with your publicist.

Your publicist is the cultivator of your image. Involve them in photo shoots, involve them in the planning of tour launches, involve them in everything possible so they can get a feel for how you see yourself. As you grow as an artist, you need to make certain you are in close contact with your publicist, because they need to grow with you. Touring gets you in front of people and being in front of people gets them to feel personal ownership of your success (if you are good to them). Your publicist can introduce you to this regional press.

You would like to believe that other markers of your success (sales, playlists, people at shows) will be mirrored in press coverage, but that is most often not the case. You are still subject to the “why should I care?” question and often all of that does not count with press. There is no escaping their judgement.

Plan well and work with your publicist. Create a long-term strategy and BE PATIENT. I know it’s hard, but sometimes things take a moment. If you are worried, your publicist can make their process more transparent to ease your concerns, but remember if they are on the phone with you, they are not on the phone with press…


Like what you read? You can work with Jamie at indie.ninja. Apply to get into the beta now.

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