“A publicist is a liaison between the artist and the media. Our main purpose is to get our clients media attention, with blogs, traditional print, radio, television, etc.” Ryan Romana, founder of Press Junkie PR
Ryan Romana is a music industry and PR professional with over a decade of experience successfully publicizing artists, albums, tours, labels, and corporate technology companies.
Hello Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
Thank you for the opportunity.
So let’s start from the very beginning – what does a publicist do in the music industry?
A publicist is a liaison between the artist and the media. Our main purpose is to get our clients media attention, with blogs, traditional print, radio, television, etc. We do this by using press tools like a press kit that consists of a biography, press release, photos of the artist, and previous press clippings. We also offer MP3s and videos to the media as tools to populate their sites. We have to work closely with manager’s, record labels, booking agents, venues, and more to ensure the team behind the artist is aware of the press exposure and can feed us the publicists with new information, angles, and ideas.
A seasoned publicist usually has great relationships with key media folks. This relationship gives artists a better chance at getting exposure than the artist doing their own publicity. If the media trusts a publicists taste or enjoys working with them, they are more likely to give the new artist a chance.
Who actually hires you? Is it the band, the record label, the manager?
All of the above. Traditionally it used to be mostly record labels, but with the age of the DIY and the Internet, many artists come to me with self-released albums and no labels. Sometimes managers want to find the right publicist, because the label won’t hire one for the project.
How important is getting the right publicist? Do you all do the same thing or do you specialize in genres or areas of expertise?
I think its important for an artist to do their homework on publicists to see what clients they’ve worked, what genres, and what press history they’ve landed. It’s also key to find out how a publicist is accountable for their work. Although press is never guaranteed, regular press reports are essential to keep the client posted on media updates good or bad. My clients are always surprised when they get consistent detailed weekly reports from Press Junkie, because many publicist just don’t think its important. Genre specific publicists are OK, but it also means that all the artists by that publicist are competing for coverage with each other in a niche field. At Press Junkie PR, we strive for our roster to be as diverse as our own musical tastes. Our clients range from the “queen of dubstep” Mary Anne Hobbs to “African guitar hero” Vieux Farka Touré, to the digital cumbia label ZZK Records, to the indie folk rock of Lonely Drifter Karen, and the hip hop sounds of Illvibe Collective -helping our clients land a varied range of press with minimal competition between each other. We don’t pigeonhole ourselves as a one-genre PR firm because we know quality music comes in all shapes and sounds.
Does a publicist help get a band played on the radio?
Great question. A publicist doesn’t get radio airplay, that’s what radio promoters do. But a publicist still works with radio in more of an editorial role by pitching interviews when artists are in town and trying to get album reviews and “song of the day” features. Working on landing press stories with public radio outlets like NPR, PRI, etc. is a key part of my job.
OK – so listen – there are a LOT of bands – millions of them. How do you find new and fresh things to say about them each time? I mean, it must be a challenge. How do you describe in words how someone sounds? They are such different languages.
Just like how each person has a unique story, so does each artist. Sometimes it takes a lot of brainstorming and ideas to get down to what it is an artist wants to say and how we can tell it in a compelling and creative way.
Do publicists rely on media contacts or are there new tools that help your end of the industry? Do you send out press releases like traditional PR firms?
Yes media relationships are very important in music PR/publicity. It’s important to realize that you are working closely with two sides; your client and the media. They are both equally important to maintain relationships with.
We still send out press releases to announce tours, albums, etc. I don’t think the press release will go extinct anytime soon. I do recommend personalizing your pitches, so it’s just not a press release going out with no personality.
You recently started your own firm – why was that and how has it been going for you?
I’ve been doing public relations for over a decade mostly in music, but a stint in technology as well. After working in-house at a record label, I realized that in order for me to grow and work with more diverse artists, I’d have to branch off and start my own thing. Press Junkie PR launched in August of 2009 and we continue to grow and work with amazing artists that I feel lucky to have worked with. A few highlights have been working with Mary Anne Hobbs, who got me into dubstep music and is a musical hero of mine, and watching her break on a national level to working with skater turned musician Tommy Guerrero of Bones Brigade fame – who I’ve looked up to since I was 12.
And lastly, what advice can you give to emerging bands that are just starting this process?
If an emerging band is starting to do publicity on their own, I’d recommend putting a “Google news alert” and “Google blog alert” on bands they think they sound like. That way they can find out what media has been covering them and use that as a starting point to target their music. The easiest way to start getting reviews is to make sure you’re sending your music to writers that you think have a similar taste. It’s also good to keep sending the media new tools, like MP3s and videos, so they have new reasons to write about your band.
For an emerging band looking for the right publicist – I’d recommend asking around on who other folks used and liked.
Thank you Ryan!
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears