I have come to notice over the years that one of the main reasons many Liberian artists fail to profit from their careers despite attracting thousands of followers at some of their shows has been because they do not have a publicist (public relations officer or team).
While many have blamed their struggles on the government’s neglect of the entertainment industry, that is not entirely the cause; and this line of reasoning demonstrates a lack of understanding of the business concept behind music on the part of our artists.
All musicians must have a great publicist or team behind them in order to become a living legend.
Liberia-Senegal base artist, Peter Barchue Cole explains why:
“Publicists are very important to the entertainment industry, and music is no exception. And one of the reasons many Liberian artists and entertainers fail to hit regional or international [status] is due to them not having publicists; and this makes it difficult for their image to sell.
“With a publicist, an artist can make his/her act have an impact as their counterparts in other countries in the sub-region as well as abroad do.
“The job of a publicist is quite important (and expensive too); but in Liberia where artists can barely survive of their act, hiring a publicist may not count. However, this is not totally an excuse. They need to do research or [solicit] a publicist, and the deal can go for long term. Not having a publicist is a major handicap for the Liberian entertainment industry.”
The music industry around the world has always been competitive. But have you ever wondered why only a few musicians continue to dominate the music scene no matter their ages? A few even make a name quickly for themselves, but their careers quickly evaporate within a short period of time after gaining stardom.
It is the publicists that make these artists dominate the music scene by displaying a unique and catchy branded image that can attract anyone. And those who reach stardom quickly on their own, without hiring a publicist fail to maintain that stardom.
Far too many Liberian artists that I have talked to think that having successful shows or performing at concerts make them living legends with a monetized career. And with this notion, many dreams have been killed, and this is still occurring – sadly.
One artist who has benefited from the services of a publicist in terms of helping to shape his career and drastically branding his image is Hip- hop rapper and sensation, Scientific.
“In the entertainment industry,” he explained, “a publicist is like a marketer who plays a vital role to get your name out there. Every Liberian artist needs a publicist or PR Team, if they want their name and their work to be heard outside (across borders). The industry is too huge, and you do not have the time and expertise for the job.”
Scientific furthered that one question every Liberian musician needs to ask themselves is why the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, just to name a few, are continuously attracting large numbers of followers and record sales regardless of some of their negative lifestyles, which has crippled other artists.
“Although these artists have good management teams and know how to drop hit after hit, it’s the publicists behind them that maintain their presence in the media (whether good or bad), which them bring them more followers then translate into a monetize career,” Scientific added.
It is the publicists or PR teams behind them that brings value to them far above and beyond album sales, since publicists put their creativity to work by creating and building an image for them – creative publicity stunts, developing catchy bios and so forth.
While every artist’s image changes from time to time when the need arises, that is not what keeps their name in the minds of the fans. It is the publicists that do just that by developing articles that excite fans, thereby creating an appetite for more.
Reaching full stardom in the music world is totally about the image an artist presents to his or her target audience through his or her publicist at the right time and at the right place.
For example, people like Madonna and Britney Spears became living legends during the rise of pop music; and this happened because they have the right publicist or team that did the dirty work by marketing their images to music lovers and controlling the media with exciting news.
However, in order for Madonna and Britney to continuously be in the spotlight, their publicists or PR teams have to plan some publicity stunt, including some controversial lifestyle (such as the men they sometimes date) in a way that brings lots of media attention and arouses the interest of the public.
Yet the positive and negative (sexual) images of both women, that they perfected over time, draws the attention of the press, the media, and fans, thereby creating an insatiable interest in their public and personal affairs. This kind of publicity strategy succeeds by putting the artists’ names in the mouths of fans and the media, which helps them to maintain their power in the entertainment industry as well as marketing the work, ranging from music to merchandise.
Basically, a publicist makes an artist’s work new to the public through his/her position as media advocate, working to make sure that the artist is featured and his/her work is reviewed in newspapers, blogs, TV shows, and magazines.
A publicist will also work to develop well-designed strategies for his or her client before any album release or tour and take the front line in implementing it, which then has the desired effect of attracting media attention and buzz from the public.
A musician has a full plate already – writing new music, planning tours, and so on – which is all very time consuming. There is virtually no time left to do publicity work oneself; and even if an artist does have the time, he or she may lack the expertise in that area.
Scientific said: “The work of my publicist has benefit me in many ways, and I think every artist needs their efforts to get them more media attraction. With the proper publicist, you will get the chance to tell the world whatever you think they should know, in the most effective manner. With my publicist, I can land a radio interview on a hot morning show and discuss the importance of the message behind my new album.”
A publicist, however, knows what to write to hit the news, how to sell that artist’s new project effectively from a good angle, and where to send it to have the most impact. The process is similar to having goods to sell; but in order to sell sthem; the public needs to know about them. That is where marketing comes in.
While advertising can help spread the word about an artist’s work, the most efficient, least expensive and best way is through a publicist because publicists have very strong contacts with the press as well as the expertise to grab media attention. They can tailor strategies to produce the best results for your particular target market. They have the contacts to arrange TV, radio or newspaper/magazine interviews for an artist, whereas a blanket ad may appear too impersonal and target the wrong audience.