Haulix Advice: 5 Questions Every Artist Should Ask Themselves Before Hiring A Publicist


Hello and welcome back to the Haulix Advice series. We have covered a lot of ground in recent weeks, and this afternoon we’re returning to the world of PR for a quick conversation on what should take place BEFORE bringing someone in to represent your art. If you have any questions, or if you have a suggestion for a future installment of this column, please do not hesitate to email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts.

Last week we wrote to you about the roles various people can play in the life of your band. We covered lawyers, managers, publicists, and beyond, but one thing we forgot to include is how to know when the time is right to bring these people into your career. Today we aim to fix that, or at least do a better job of supplying you with the information you need by offering a series of questions bands need to ask themselves before bringing on a publicist.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that every single artist’s career is different, and just because something is right for one group does not mean it will work for you. The questions we’ve put together today are relatively vague, but it’s of the utmost importance your answers be as detailed as possible. Discuss the questions below with your bandmates, debate the pros and cons of each response, and together formulate a plan for yourselves before bringing anyone else into the mix. This will save time, patience, and most likely a little bit of money as well.

Now without further ado, here are 5 questions you need to ask before hiring a publicist:

1. Is my career even at a point where I need a publicist?

The idea of having someone in your life who spends a part of their day doing whatever they can to get the word out about your efforts sounds like a smart decision, but unless you have something worthwhile to share with the world you’re going to end up wasting a lot of money. Focus on creating the best album/single/video you possibly can, which I can tell you will likely not be your first release, and then think about bringing in someone to help promote. While many professional publicists will tell a band if they think the band is not ready for such a business relationship, there are a number of those out there who will happily take your money and never look back. It’s not on them to have something worth sharing, it’s on you.

2. Can I financially afford a publicist right now?

This may seem like a rather obvious statement, but the truth is many artists do not fully understand the costs associated with having a publicist. Most PR firms require a minimum commitment of 3-months for any project, regardless of whether it’s an album, video, or single. This means for three months you will be expected to pay whatever price you negotiate at the time of signing, and failure to do so will likely result in monetary penalties being issued against your group. Avoid this unnecessary trouble (not to mention looking amateur to industry professionals) and double-check your personal finances before seeking representation. Set a budget and work to find someone who offers you the most ‘bang for your buck.’

3. What am I hoping to accomplish with this campaign, and do I actually need a publicist to pull it off?

It’s common sense that artists and bands hoping to promote their new releases turn to publicists to help get the word out, but depending on your situation you may be able to handle marketing perfectly fine on your own. There are a growing number of articles and sites dedicated to empowering independent artists, and if you’re willing to put in the work yourself it’s perfectly reasonable to assume you can gain at least a small amount of press on your own. Blogs and smaller publications usually post their contact information online, and by reading up on PR tactics anyone can craft a pitch letter, so as long as you’re okay with Rolling Stone and/or Pitchfork not giving you the time of day you may be able to do it on your own.

4. Do I have high quality promotional materials ready to go (masters, photos, etc.)?

Publicists spend their day trying to get the word out about their clients, but that does not mean they’re going to create promotional materials to help get the job done. As the client it is on you to provide your publicist with everything they need to promote your efforts, and it should go without saying that quality plays a big role in whether or not journalists give you some of their oh-so-rare free time. Before you even consider bringing someone else into your career, make sure you have quality materials you want shared with the world. If you turn in mediocre media the returns will likely be mediocre as well. Publicists work with what they’re given, so be sure you give yours the best material you possibly can.

5. What marketing ideas do I have for the release of my album/music video?

This is probably the most important part of this entire list because it’s the area artists most often overlook. Publicists can make amazing things happen for your career, but without guidance and direction from you they will have no idea what it is you’re trying to convey with your art. This is why when deciding to bring on a publicist it is absolutely imperative that you first come up with your own set of goals and ideas for the release. Publicists want to help you, not do the work for you, and starting the relationship with a wealth of ideas on deck will simplify the promotional efforts on their end. By knowing what you expect, publicists can work with you to craft a campaign that’s designed to accomplish your specific goals, and that will lead to better results down the line.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.