Early in my career, I met a person that I still to this day think was the greatest publicist in the history of the music business. His name was Paul Wasserman, and during his career, he worked with the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Jacksons, Tom Petty, The Who, and later in his career- U2 and Depeche Mode. He passed away in 2007 after his career unraveled at the end. But during the active part of his career, he was the best there was. He had the incredible ability to say NO in such a way that no one went away angry, something he had to do often, as most of his clients were such big stars that they didn’t need to ask for publicity, they had to manage it.
Probably the most important piece of information he ever told me (during a flight in a small plane that we all thought was going to crash in central Florida while on the road with Tom Petty) was this:
There are two kinds of publicists-
The good ones– they are the ones that tell their clients what they should do, as the client is paying a lot of money for the publicists advice!
The bad ones– they ask the client what they want to do (when of course the client will agree to do as little as they can get away with). These kind of publicists are basically just glorified secretaries!
Unfortunately, these days there are many more of the second kind than the first kind in the business today. When I ask for more access than what is usually given, more often than not the response will be, “I wish I could help you, but the band doesn’t agree.”
A good publicist talks the band into granting more access, because he or she knows that this will help the band.
Final thought: When we were flying in that small plane, through a thunderstorm, toward Gainseville, Florida, to meet Tom Petty for his first major hometown concert, one of the thoughts going through my head was:
Legendary music publicist Paul Wasserman dies in plane crash, music photographer also perishes!