MARKETING AND PUBLICITY - Publicity: Independent Publicist • Press Agent • Publicist • Public Relations
Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessMARKETING AND PUBLICITY - Publicity: Independent Publicist • Press Agent • Publicist • Public Relations, Director Or Fan Club President
PUBLICITY: INDEPENDENT PUBLICIST • PRESS AGENT • PUBLICIST • PUBLIC RELATIONS
The publicity staff strategizes campaigns and coordinates all publicity efforts, including national media, television, syndicated radio, and tour press.
To succeed, you should have good phone and organizational skills, an outgoing personality, enthusiasm, self-motivation, creativity, and the ability to write.
“Creativity is the most important part of the job,” says Sarah McMullen. “It is manifest in the ability to write a great pitch letter and the ability to verbally sell and inspire the journalist, who thinks he's heard every kind of angle known to man, into writing about your artist.”
Mark Pucci says, “To be a good publicist, you've got to have the gift of gab and know what you're talking about. You've got to know what the person on the other end of the phone wants to hear in order to get them to be interested in what you're working on. You've got to be a good researcher. The fact that I was a music writer was helpful to me, not just knowing the mechanics of writing, but having been on the other side of the phone with people pitching stories to me taught me a lot.”
“I found as my career moved forward, if I didn't love the person for whom I was doing the work, it meant nothing. I was blessed by loving the two main people for whom I did most of my work: Elton John and Roy Orbison.”—SM
“It's all about your relationship with press people, who tolerate us as long as we have a creative thought.”—SM
“Understand early in your career the importance of stress management. When the day comes that you can't turn your head to the right or left, understand that you are the only person responsible for your massage and acupuncture appointments. I say that with humor, but know that I'm serious. The publicist is the person who has to keep the eight plates spinning in the air, like the guy in the circus—you can't drop a plate.”—SM
“When I start working with an artist, I try to read everything that has been written about them already and I try to see them perform as many times as I can. I listen to their music a lot and try to pick up things about the artist that make them special and different from other artists; things I think make them unique. Then my job is to try and convey that information to the people that I work with.”—MP
“You've got to have a passion for music above everything. There are going to be so many things that come up against you—obstacles—unless you love it, you're not going to be able to hang in there and put up with the discouragement.”—MP
“Learn as much as you can. Don't be afraid to find out about other areas of the business so you can become a more complete person.”—MP
POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH
Many colleges and universities offer a degree in publicity and marketing. Make sure the school you select has an internship program affiliated with music businesses, where they can place you to gain experience. “There is no substitute for actual experience. I would suggest that people get into some music company as an intern and learn as much as you can about the business. Even if it isn't the particular area you want, the more you know how publicity fits into promotion, marketing, sales, A&R, and all the other aspects that make up the big picture, the better you're going to be able to do your job.”—MP
SARAH McMULLEN, PUBLICIST/PRESIDENT/OWNER, McMULLEN & COMPANY
THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“When I start drowning in the administrative side. It happens if you own your own business, but it is my least favorite task.”—SM
“The only thing I don't like about my job, and fortunately it has never really been bad, is to chase people to get paid.”—MP
THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:
“The thing I love the very most about what I do is that it is creative and hands-on.”—SM
“This is not a 9 to 5 job; you put in a lot of hours and work weekends and holidays, so you've got to love what you do. I love listening to music. I love seeing people perform music, and I love to be around people that are creative. For me there is a real joy in starting out with someone at the beginning of their career, when they are virtually unknown. When that whole thing sort of takes off and happens, there is no feeling like it in the world.”—MP
With interests in music, acting, and writing, Los Angeles seemed an obvious destination for Sarah McMullen to seek her fame and fortune. “My cousin was already in L.A. working in the music business and she said, ‘Come out to the wealth of creative opportunities in California. You won't be alone. I'll help you.’” McMullen recently had graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English and speech. She had postgraduate writing courses in creative, feature and non-fiction genres, and had done a brief stint at a Dallas advertising agency. She felt ready to take on the world. McMullen started out as an actress. She showcased in little theater productions, then graduated to spokesperson in a long-running television commercial series for a local nursing school, and finally appeared in an American Film Institute production. Eventually, she grew tired of the “struggling” part of being a “struggling actress.” When faced with the choice between waiting tables and a job offer at BMI, she chose the latter. As assistant to a department head, she faked her way through many of her duties. “I had no training in dictation, but I had been memorizing scripts for plays. So when my boss dictated letters, I would pretend to be writing it down in shorthand, but I would memorize them. Of course it didn't always work; I could never remember the important figures he gave me, but because I was a writer, his letters were always beautifully composed.” After a year on the job, her boss retired and McMullen became assistant to the directors of writer relations, where she learned about the business of songwriting and publishing. After three years at BMI, she was recommended for an assistant's job at Planet Records, which proved to be short-lived.
Out of work when her boss was let go, McMullen's business contacts rallied to help her find a job. One of the interviews they secured for her was in the publicity department at RSO Records. On the strength of her friends’ glowing recommendations, and the college writing portfolio she brought along, she was hired as assistant to the vice president of publicity. She learned her craft publicizing the label's monster sound track album Saturday Night Fever and the subsequent career relaunch of the Bee Gees. After being promoted to director of public relations, she found herself out of work once again, when the label closed in 1979. This time, it was her boss that recommended her for a job in the music division of publicists Rogers and Cohen.
Now the account executive over more sedate corporate and theatrical events, she was surprised when rock acts like Wham and Rod Stewart began requesting her services. In 1983, she took on her biggest project to date as publicist for Elton John. Encouraged by the managers of artists she had worked for, McMullen went out on her own in 1985, but when the dust settled, she was left with Elton John as her sole client. Once again, a business contact stepped forward to help. While the two were planning a strategy over lunch, the contact introduced her to an attorney who had worked with Wham. He recommended client Roy Orbison and set up a meeting for that afternoon. Borrowing the contact's office, and quickly making it appear she had been in business there for years, McMullen signed her second client, and landed two more the following week.
For the next few years, McMullen devoted herself to re-establishing Orbison's career; mounting a successful Grammy Award campaign for Jefferson Starship that won album and song of the year honors; publicizing the ongoing career of Elton John, and taking on special fundraising events for clients from her days at Rogers and Cohen. In 1990, McMullen began producing the fundraising events for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the first year in conjunction with World Team Tennis, and the second year as an alternative Oscar Awards night party. At that point, devoting nearly all her time to John's career and foundation, she effectively closed her doors to all but a few long-term clients.
In 1998, McMullen took stock of her life and starting dividing time between Los Angeles and Austin while making plans to eventually relocate. She and John amicably parted ways professionally the following year, but she maintained her position on the executive board of his foundation. She was retained as a consultant to the college of communications for the University of Texas at Austin. In 1999, she returned to her earliest interest in music publishing when she joined the Internet entity Supertrack, which protects the interests of songwriters, publishers, and artists by providing secure solutions for the digital downloading of recorded music.
MARK PUCCI, PUBLICIST, PRESIDENT/OWNER, PUCCI MEDIA
In high school, Mark Pucci pursued his three major interests—music, playing basketball, and writing—and dreamed of being a sports journalist. After graduation, he worked for an insurance company by day and took business courses at night, saving up enough money to attend college full time. He earned a degree in personnel administration from the University of Tennessee at Memphis, hung around the city's music scene, and wrote articles for fanzines and various underground publications. A job as music editor for River City Review led to writing and producing radio advertising for regional promoter Mid-South Concerts. He also submitted articles on speculation to national magazines, two of which were published in Rolling Stone.
Through writing local music reviews, Pucci got to know the head of publicity at Capricorn Records, then the home of bands like Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker, and the Allman Brothers. A huge fan of the music, he accepted the job of tour publicist at the label's Macon, Georgia home office in 1974. As the label expanded, he was handling up to 20 bands on the road. He was promoted to department head in 1978, but found himself out of work the following year when the label filed for bankruptcy.
Wanting to remain in the area, Pucci opened Mark Pucci Associates in Atlanta in 1979. Initially he worked out of the offices of a music publisher client, and within two years his business grew and he moved into his own location. Gaining clients through word of mouth, he worked with some of the great alternative bands emerging out of Athens, Georgia in the mid-1980s: R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary, and Love Tractor, as well as roots and blues musicians like Delbert McClinton, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musclewhite, and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.
Late in 1991, Capricorn Records had reopened in Nashville, and Pucci was brought in as vice president of publicity. He worked with such artists as Hank Williams, Jr., Kenny Chesney, Widespread Panic, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He rose to the position of vice president/general manager of the label, but six months after being promoted, he was let go when Capricorn began having financial difficulties. The same afternoon, he called HighTone Records, with whom he had a long-standing relationship, and secured his first publicity client. He returned to Atlanta in January 1996 and formed Mark Pucci Media. Pucci's firm has handled publicity for HighTone Records, Trainwreck Records, and Blue Bella Records, as well as individual artists on BNA and Columbia labels. His clients reflect his own musical tastes, running the gamut of blues, jazz, R&B, rock, alternative rock, rock-a-billy, hillbilly, country, and alternative country. www.markpuccimedia.com