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Also known as a “spokesperson” or “representative," a music publicist is a communications professional who handles public and media relations on behalf of a musician or music group. A music publicist usually works in tandem with a musician’s manager, booking agent, and entertainment lawyers, although some musicians may employ one general manager who fulfills all of these roles at the same time. A music publicist’s main function is to ensure that the overall image that the client wishes to project is maintained at all times. To further this goal, the publicist will perform such tasks as arranging and supervising interviews, releasing statements to the media, and overseeing the marketing and communications material that's distributed to the public on the client’s behalf.
A music publicist is usually the first point of contact for media members seeking an interview with a musician. When publicists are approached by a member of the media for a client interview, they’ll first consider the media outlet itself, whether it’s a website, national newspaper, TV show, or radio show. The publicist will then weigh different factors to determine whether or not the interview will have a positive effect on the musician’s image and sales. Some of these factors include: how many people the media outlet reaches, what its target demographic is, and whether it’s likely to garner good press or bad press for the musician. The music publicist will also consider factors unrelated to the media outlet itself, such as whether or not the musician has an upcoming album or tour that could benefit from the publicity of the interview.
Music publicists will often prepare carefully-worded statements on behalf of their clients concerning aspects of their private life that have become public knowledge, such as a divorce or the birth of a baby. Publicists may also speak on behalf of their clients when entertainment publications and shows call the publicist with a specific question. It's up to the music publicist to decide whether to issue a statement at all, or simply reply with “no comment.” A music publicist also handles requests from charities and other organizations to determine which causes are best suited for the musician to represent.
The age of the Internet and social media has largely impacted the nature of a publicist’s function. It’s allowed musicians and groups to communicate with fans and the media more directly and without the intermediate of music publicists, by penning blog posts, engaging in online chats, Twittering, and creating YouTube videos. While some musicians still consult with their publicists prior to any form of communicating with the public, others take to the Internet on impulse, making statements they may later regret and which require their publicists to implement public relations damage control.
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