Tom George previously worked for FiXT Publicity but is now self-employed.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My name is Tom George. I am a self-employed publicist with about 5 years experience doing music publicity. Previous to being a publicist was A&R for a music sponsorship company for about 3 years.
What drove you to choose your career path?
The company I did A&R work for phased out their music department so I was left without a job. Then and there I decide that become a publicist. I had been doing PR for a band I was managing at the time, and I was doing a pretty good job at it. It was the best work related decision I ever made.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
I honestly started from scratch. I did countless hours of research, and I learned by trial and error. I’ve picked up many ideas from others that have helped me along the way, and I try to pay it forward when I can. I graduated from Music Tech (now McNally Smith) in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the “guitar performance” program. Though it wasn’t “music business” related, I learned the importance of networking and met some really great people. I then ran various record stores for years. So I’ve been a musician, worked in record stores, worked A&R, managed bands, booked bands, and now I’m doing PR. My advice is if you want to do this for a living work hard and make your own way. Learning to do several different things well will help you find constant work.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
I spend a majority of my day responding to emails and Facebook messages. I am also pitching new music videos, albums, tours, etc. When you are working multiple clients at the same time, organization is a requirement. If you screw up, it is on you. As a publicist, you really don’t have “off days” either. There is always work to be done.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
I think some people may think that being a music publicist is an easy job. Don’t get me wrong, it beats the hell out of all the previous jobs I’ve had, but it is HARD WORK. It doesn’t allow much time to do things other than work. Maybe that is just me. I care SO MUCH about getting results, and I never want to let someone down that is counting on me. You can make money as a publicist and do a half assed job, but I’ll never be “that guy.”
What are your average work hours?
The honest answer is 60-90 hours a week depending on what is going on. If you don’t LOVE doing this job, I wouldn’t recommend it. You can’t do it in a 40 hour work week.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Surround yourself with good, positive, talented people that have the same vision that you do. Don’t waste your time with negative people. No one has to be a jerk in this industry. They CHOOSE to be that way. I don’t work with people like that. And most importantly LISTEN to what works for others and LEARN from them. My way isn’t always the best way. You never know when someone will bring a new idea to the table that is a game changer.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
The publicists I’ve worked with in my career have always been a tight knit unit. We learn from each other and share ideas. I do constantly ask writers about what other publicists do. They tell me what they like and dislike. Feedback from writers and photographers have made me so much better at what I do. Another bit of advice I have is NEVER be rude to anyone, ever. I’m no better than the next guy. I treat everyone as equals and I always will. I will NEVER forget where I came from. I’m a small town Iowa kid, and I always will be.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
Do your homework and ask lots of questions. There are lots of great publicists out there, but there are also money hungry sharks that just go through the motions. Ask around about a publicist if you can. I know if I’m not right for a project I’ll refer other publicists that do a great job that could be a better fit. I prefer to be friends with the publicists that I respect even if we are often competing for the same clients. It is good business to help each other out.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
Dealing with the rude, arrogant, and/or entitled people in this industry. There are FAR more good people than bad, but dealing with this kind of person can be stressful and a real drag. If you treat me like crap, I won’t forget it. No publicist will forget it. The music industry is small. Be good to everyone always.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
My favorite part has been the awesome friends I’ve made all over the world doing this. Many of them I will never “meet”, but I interact with them daily on Facebook. They are real friendships. We don’t just talk work. I talk to them the same way I do to any of my friends. It is the best part for sure.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
That is a REALLY tricky question. The longer you do it the more money you will make. Being a publicist takes time. It isn’t a job you can just jump into and make money. At first I would expect to make little to no money, but as you grow and word spreads you can make a good living doing this. One thing is certain, if you run your own company (and you are great at your job) you will make more money than working for someone else.
How do you move up in your field?
If you do an awesome job for ALL of your clients, word spreads. When you are in demand, you get bigger name clients. When you have bigger name clients you make more money. It all comes back to doing a great job at all times.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
If you are looking to jump right in do an internship and LEARN HOW to do publicity. I honestly, personally think that is MUCH more important that going to school. Even if you go to school for this, you still need to know someone to get in. SO MANY people want to work in this industry. Doing an internship will give you much needed job experience that can get you noticed.