Last updated on May 18th, 2023
All artists – especially those at the outset of their musical journeys – need all the support they can get, as they look to communicate their stories to the masses. Of course, that means building a fan base full of people ready and willing to engage with their art. To do that, artists also must find opportunities to connect with new audiences. Building that buzz is no easy task – especially in the beginning, and especially when attempted alone.
That’s where a publicist comes in! Publicists are the great connectors between artists and opportunities such as media features, public appearances, sponsorship opportunities, and more. The right publicist will believe in their artists and advocate on their behalf, ultimately ensuring that they find opportunities that are the best fit for their career vision.
As part of our series on the 10 People Musicians Need on Their Side, we sat down with Sarah Bennett. Sarah is a Senior Publicist at IVPR, a narrative-based music and culture public relations firm located in Nashville, Tennessee. Sarah graciously shares her insights into the world of public relations, including:
- Her role in helping artists tell their stories.
- What she looks for when assessing taking on a new client.
- What artists need to be “ready” to work with a publicist or PR firm.
- The importance of relationships for every artist.
- What not to do when trying to grow your artist brand.
- …and much more!
First, tell us a bit about what you do.
“As a Senior Publicist, I work with artists, festivals, and brands – primarily music adjacent – helping to get their name and story out to the world. As a lifelong music fanatic and former freelance writer, the story is the crux of everything I do.”
What types of artists do you work with (think genre, as well as career level)?
“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a diverse roster of artists. My current roster ranges from well-established country music legends, to debut Americana albums, to Canadian indie rock. Genre and career level aren’t as important as loving the music. Would I listen to the album? Would I read the story? Truly believing in an artist, band, or brand – that’s what’s important.”
How do you find your clients – or, do they find you?
“Most of my clients are referrals via word of mouth. Either they’ve seen my work with other artists, or have been recommended by fellow industry friends. Other great resources are music conferences like AmericanaFest, IBMA, and Folk Alliance. I’m always looking for new ways to make genuine connections, and I value the space that these festivals provide for both publicists and artists.”
What makes an artist “ready” to work with a publicist or PR firm?
“Commitment — when we take on a new client, we’re not only looking at the current project or album. We’re looking at long-term career goals, like building a sustainable media presence and dedicated fanbase. If someone is passionate and committed to what they do, it’ll come through in multiple channels – especially interviews.”
How does a publicist help artists build better relationships with media, talent buyers, and other industry tastemakers?
“Our distribution lists include people from all over the industry and world, from media, to label execs, to Spotify playlisters. We also pitch for and value “non-traditional” media, like live sessions, podcasts, opportunities to speak on panels, philanthropy opportunities, brand deals, and more. We are here to help tell the story, which in turn, creates organic buzz.”
What part of that responsibility falls on the artists themselves?
“It’s always helpful if the artist immerses themselves in the “scene,” as well, connecting with both industry folk and fellow musicians. You never know who you’re going to meet at a show! I also recommend building a team that can work together with your publicist. Shout out to radio promoters, managers, social media managers, and booking agents. They’re all important figures with unique skill sets that will further your career.”
We’ve talked about the “dos.” Now, what about the “don’ts” – what should artists not do if they want to be considered for opportunities?
“Don’t be an asshole. The music industry is big and small, all at once. Word travels fast. Get to know people for the sake of knowing them, not for what they might be able to do for you. My personal motto is to always be genuine and always be kind—you’ll never regret it.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“Mainly just a thank you. Journalists make the world go ‘round!”
Looking For The Right Publicist?
Hire a qualified music publicist to boost your career, secure press coverage, interviews, and expand your fanbase. Don’t let your music go unnoticed!