In this social media age musicians have never been closer to their fans. Still, behind many artists there is an industrious publicist helping them to connect with potential fans via placements across a variety of media platforms. Interaction is now the name of the game, so independent publicists have to find a balance between marketing and social media management, with artists always just one post or click away from reaching out to an audience often hanging on their every word. Anna Loveys is a music publicist working in Auckland with her own boutique publicity company called Saint Lachine. Sam Smith spoke to Anna about life as a music publicist in a small industry.
I had this really long-term dream of being a music journalist pretty much since I was five. And that is quite a hard job to do in New Zealand and be able to live day to day so I have a lot of respect for journalists in general. Part of me kind of realised when I was finishing my Bachelor of Music that I had this obsession with organising. Like it sounds really boring, it is probably, but I love spreadsheets and I just love when a good plan comes together, so I was kind of thinking along those lines.
I started thinking it would be cool to be an artist manager or something. And I think it was in my honour’s year that Silke Hartung mentioned that there was an internship at The Label, which is where I worked previously. They were looking for someone to do some PR assistant work.
So I just jumped straight in basically from university and it was really fun and I thought this is the job that I was looking for, something that was organising but you still write about music. You can geek out completely and you can listen to lots of music all the time, but you are also organising people.
In September last year I set up on my own. I am currently self-employed doing music PR and more marketing as well and social media management. I think you are constantly rethinking PR and what it can be and just trying to make it organic. Also I have just started managing an artist called Lucky Boy as of a few months ago, so I am dabbling in that side of things as well. The two roles of a publicist and a manager, they are very different but they have some overlaps if you really wanted to go there.
Usually, I will get into the office and do an hour of emails and it is mainly keeping your clients on track with deadlines. So making sure they have all the right assets done at the right time, then also dealing with media and making sure they have what they need at the right time. Then after that usually I will be doing a lot of writing, so at the beginning of the year, the first quarter is usually writing press releases, any bio work to be done that is quite time consuming, picking imagery, writing pitches about people, and picking the right journalist for the job.
So for example Sam Smith really has a lot of knowledge about progressive and jazz rock, he would understand jazz musicians. So you would go, ‘Okay he would do a great article on this artist I have got.’ So a lot of it is just doing day to day campaign tasks that just keep it moving along.
It is a bit of both. Usually, if an artist has something coming out they might scout a few publicists and then kind of compare them. So it is a bit of both and especially during the quiet season I might see artists who I am a massive fan of and I might reach out to them. But most of the time it is artists seeking you out when they have got work ready.
It is a tough one because I think it is knowing when you need a publicist. It is picking the right time to engage a publicist and a team around you. So I think the best time to do that is when you see a community forming around your music and the community could be your friends and extended whanau types at say the Wine Cellar and Whammy, there is quite a community of people that go there often and see the same bands. So I think once you have formed a bit of a community around your music… a band that has done that really well is Soaked Oats and so they got The Label in and engaged them at the right time and it has taken off for them because they were at a point where they needed to reach a wider audience – reaching people that may not necessarily be in Auckland for the shows. I have seen a lot of artists spend a lot of money on PR campaigns when they’re not quite at the level they need to be… it is like establishing the foundation first and then spending your NZ On Air PR funding well because you have already got the community.
So I think every publicist is different and everyone has different styles, but personally I get very attached. When an artist has to deal with bad reviews I definitely feel it too because I pretty much will only take on something that I know that I can work with. I would say I have got a bit of a mum technique. I am a bit of a mum publicist so I am very close to the artists I work with, especially if I have been working with them for a long time then I have got contexts. And that is good because you can get into the music and what they are doing and I think i’s quite important to have people that are 100% behind you.
Overall I think we are all a bit of a friendly community. We definitely have got publicist friends, like if you are at an event and you see other publicists you instantly flock together. There is definitely a friendly community I would say, and usually if I get handed something that is not something I would be comfortable doing – like metal music, I am not the publicist for that genre – I would hand it to someone else who is. That’s how it works and I think the cool thing is that in NZ we are all friends.
I look at Ariana Grande at the moment and watching everything that she does, because she has really changed the game I think around social media and connecting to fans. And I think the general public likes to imagine the artist is completely controlling their teams, but the fact of the matter is there will be a large-scale machine behind an artist like Ariana and all of those social media drops and things will be planned out for months.
I think it plays into this idyllic idea of authenticity that we want to believe about artistry. I think it is really powerful, I think that you do need to think about social media in your campaigns now, it is not just PR.
Depending on who it is, like if it is a young band like someone in the millennial generation you can leverage the fanbase they have. Lexxa is a band that I work with at the moment and they have got a really good strong and loyal fanbase. Like, they could get 200 likes on a post if they post at the right time of the day and they have got 1800 followers on Instagram, and they can utilise that more. So we think of things like that where I guess it is giving the artist power, but you do, I think, need a good strategy behind what you are doing.
That is scary. I think about that all the time. I think in any job you need to think about what is happening right now and constantly assess every month what is happening, because the media landscape has changed so quickly. Even in the last six months music media is scaling back quite a bit and that is scary. So I think with PR there will be the classic dealings with media and press and setting up interviews but I think also becoming a social media community manager as well, managing those things, and creating content.
Yeah, I think so. Definitely. And that is cool, it is like we are at a turning point, I think. It is scary, change is always scary, but I think to keep going you just have to keep adapting.
One thing that I get asked a lot from artists when we are going into interviews with the press is how am I meant to be in the interview, how am I meant to conduct myself? And it makes me sad that so many people think that they have to be something, to begin with. So I guess that if you are really worried about going into an interview or worried about how you come across, even in photos or being in front of a camera, just be yourself because there is a reason why these people want to talk to you. I think what you think others’ ideas are of you is kind of irrelevant – just be yourself and connect however you connect with people.