The Localist: Pitching Publicists
Just because you have money to be able to pay a publicist does not mean that a publicist will accept you as a client for your upcoming record release. I repeat, just because you have money to be able to pay a publicist does not mean that a publicist will accept you as a client for your upcoming record release. The power that a publicist has to be able to pitch records is, in part, dependent on the reputation that the publicist has themselves. Given this, at least as a rule, publicists will not take on a record that they don’t believe they will be able to successfully pitch. This isn’t a reflection on the artistic value of the record per se, but a reflection of what the publicist believes they will be able to pitch to get actual writeups or reviews or what have you for a record.
Keeping this in mind, despite pitching being the publicist’s job, it helps to be able to learn how you can pitch yourself to publicists. As I see it, there are a number of things that you, as a musician, can do in order to maximize the chances of your being able to secure an arrangement with a publicist for a record release.
- Have A Fully Mixed and Mastered Record: If a record is not fully mixed and mastered, there is no guarantee that the publicist has as to what the release date of the record will be. In fact, there is no guarantee that there will even be a record at all. Having a record that is fully mixed and mastered and otherwise “final” assures the publicist that you have put your stamp of approval on the record and have moved on to other phases of the record release.
- Have a Release Date Set with Enough Lead Time: A publicist has many other clients to work with and has to come up with a schedule that works for them. Record releases also don’t just happen overnight, with publicists pitching writers for writeups often months in advance. If you talk to a publicist and give them a release date that is only a month out, then it won’t make much sense for them to take you on as a client, as there is not very much they can do with the release at that point.
- Have Material for Pitching: A publicist cannot just pitch a record without having materials to pitch. At the very least, you will have several singles for the publicist to pitch before the actual record release date. Ideally, you will have some music videos that form part of the single release – and ideally the single and videos will have something about them that makes for an interesting story. You can certainly try and ask a publicist to only pitch 3 singles with no other materials. But if you are hoping to maximize your chances of getting the publicist to agree to work with you, you will need to do better.
- Have an Electronic Press Kit: Ideally, you will already have a press kit, which will contain, among other things, a bio, a copy of the fully mixed and mastered record, artwork, lyrics, and prior press quotes. Of course not everyone will necessarily have a list of prior press quotes, especially if you are working on your first record. But having a polished looking press kit containing everything else will still be of help. The idea is that by working with a publicist, you’ll be able to build on that press kit with a new set of press quotes that you’ll be able to take with you when you release another record.
Lastly, it’s important to be able to have a short one-paragraph explanation of what the record is about, essentially an “elevator pitch”, which also makes clear why the album is noteworthy and/or unique. Too often, musicians put together a record, and have only an abstract explanation of what the record is about. The explanation should be something that, by its content, draws interest in the listener as something that resonates with their life. And, it bears repeating and repeating, but the unique thing about the record cannot be simply that it is about *you*.
The Localist is a column focusing on issues relating to aspiring local musicians in New York City. In his free time, the author performs as St. Lenox. In 2021, St. Lenox was named one of Rolling Stone’s Artists You Need to Know, with comparisons to Mt. Eerie, The Hold Steady and The Mountain Goats. St. Lenox’s most recent record, “Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times” was placed on Best Albums lists at AllMusic and Ghettoblaster. AllMusic credits St. Lenox with “some of the most unique and unconventionally thrilling pop music in the late 2010s.”