Most bands need a publicist. Even the biggest band in the world requires a person whose dedicated job is looking after, curating, and protecting their press image and their media profile. Someone has to shepherd the story, be the liaison between the band and the media, and serve as the conduit of information. It's not the kind of thing that can or should be done directly once you've reached a certain level as a band.
That said, there are certain types of bands and artists that do not need a publicist or PR efforts yet. Here are three of them.
1. Bands that are too new
If you're too new and don't have much to talk about yet, then you aren't ready for press. Make some music, make some fans, and get some organic buzz. Find some friends in the local media. Then you're ready to enlist the support and efforts of a publicist. When there's nothing to talk about, simply because the story is zygotic, then there's less of an urgent need for PR.
2. Bands unsure of what their story is
If you don't have any releases, live shows, or buzz going on, you don't yet have a story to tell. That means you need to get all your ducks in a row so that you can eventually start to tell that story when the time is right and when it'll be most effective.
But there's also the case of bands that just don't know what their story is yet. They either haven't thought of it or haven't developed it deeply enough. When you can't tell it, you can't expect someone else to tell it or sell it to the media. So it's good to have an idea of what story you want to share and portray in the media and be able to translate that to a PR rep, who will in turn relay it to the media in the proper strategic way.
3. Bands that aren't interested in image or interviews
Yes, these types of bands actually exist... for better or worse. There are acts that simply don't want to do interviews and don't care about crafting an image. They're either more interested in mystique and leaving fans guessing, or they don't want to get caught up in media hoopla, which is both an occupational perk and hazard.
Media and imaging avoidance is certainly their choice, and that can be creatively noble. That said, it doesn't really get the media jazzed up unless that mysterious and enigma-like nature is so organic and so real that the media cannot deny it. Think Ghost. Even a band like that needs and has a publicist to keep the story train moving forward. But if you genuinely DGAF about reviews, interviews, or what anyone thinks, a publicist might not be necessary.
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.