A Few weeks ago I participated in the mentoring sessions at the NYC New Music Seminar.This was special for me because I helped develop the mentoring sessions as an advisor to the NMS. Spending time with active artists in an intimate atmosphere where we could ask each other questions one-on-one got me thinking about the value of having access to music industry professionals and the pure gold in having mentors no matter how big a role they play in your everyday life.
Which, brought me back to a mentoring experience I will never, ever forget. It was 1998 at South by Southwest. Where I signed up to meet David Wild, an editor from Rolling Stone at the one- to - one mentoring sessions in the hallway of the Austin Convention Center.
As a young publicist with a stable full of full-time touring artists, the number one request I was getting from absolutely every artist who came through my agency was, “I want to be in Rolling Stone.” This request came to me no matter how small or how big the client was. And I dreaded this request because I had a problem:
The problem was, I didn’t know how to get an artist into Rolling Stone. I knew how to do PR and had placed a lot of articles in a lot of publications but the mighty RS had alluded me every time….
So I kept mailing CDs to, and leaving voicemail messages for all of the editors. At the same time, my artists and their managers were offering me all kinds of horrendous advice.
“Send them a REAL New York pizza with our CD inside the box!”
(clearly this band was not from New York as REAL New York pizza is procurable every day in midtown and therefore NOT special)
“Go to the office and wait in the lobby until someone sees you.”
(um, lobby? It’s an elevator bank)
“Pretend you are a messenger and hand deliver the music.”
(Ever heard of the delivery entrance?)
“We deserve the write up…The guy who mastered our album mastered an album that fillin the name of the editor of Rolling Stone JUST wrote about in the last issue.”
No matter how many packages I sent, no matter how many messages I left, I couldn’t get a single RS journalist to respond at all, much less say no to me. Which would of been deeply welcomed.
So, when I saw David Wild’s name on a mentoring sign-up sheet, I was freaking out, incredulous and nervous all at the same time. It turned out David Wild was a really nice man, and he’d heard of a lot of my artists. In fact, he’d listened to a lot of the albums I had sent him. He’d even bought albums by my artists (that I didn’t send him for free).
Our conversation changed my life as a publicist.
It went something like this…..
David Wild: “What are you doing for your artists in the media?”
Ariel Hyatt: “Well, I’m getting them in all the regional newspapers and magazines, and on some local television, and even on some local radio shows in the markets they’re touring in.”
DW : “You’re doing exactly what you should be doing”, he told me.
I was floored…. “Really?”
DW: “ Yes. See, I write about “newsworthy” artists. And what I write about needs to appeal to our mass readership of over 1,000,000 people. You represent some great bands, but at this stage of their careers they rare not eady for, nor do they qualify, for the pages of Rolling Stone.”
I walked away from that meeting feeling like I had done something right.
I would still have years of pitching Rolling Stone, because 99% of the artists I worked for still insisted that I do so. No matter what I said. They were paying for a publicist and therefore I was mailing those packages to Rolling Stone magazine - period.
I used to imagine David seeing my logo as my packages came across his desk, and I hoped that he actually remembered what we had talked about in Texas (and I hoped even more that he was enjoying my artists’ music).
That was what 10 minutes of mentoring did for me….
Eventually I did get a 2 of my artists in Rolling Stone:
1. Bruce Springsteen jumped up on stage with one of my artists Jen Chapin at a benefit show, oh and she happened to be holding her one-year-old child on her hip on stage at the time while singing. Oh, and she also happens to be the daughter of the late great Harry Chapin.
2. An artist who was internationally known (I won’t name names) had been arrested on a crack cocaine possession charge and was thrown in jail.