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Monday
Aug302010

(Not) In The Pages Of The Rolling Stone.... A Little Music Business Ditty


Here’s a little music business story for you… This one is all about MENTORING and Rolling Stone Magazine.

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.”
(oy vey.)

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. 

Newsworthy…  Yep.

Reader Comments (8)

This pizza story reminds me of when in my "earlier days"... i purchased a 40 ounce of malt liquor.. created a label that fit over the "old E" label that was branded with my group.. and sent that up to the Source magazine with a copy of my groups cassette.

They didn't run the story but they thanked me for the alcohol.. lol

I've been on all sides of print: as a freelancer, as an editor, and as a publicist.

The very best way to get a story into any publication is to study the publication. Read at least one month of issues if it is a daily. Read at least 6 months of issues if it is a weekly. Read at least a year's worth of issues if it is a monthly. You don't have read them as they come out. Go to a library or get online and read all of those issues.

Learn what the publication writes about. Learn the style of the publication.

Then look at who writes the articles and look at the names of the editors on the mastheads. (When it comes to editors, look at recent publications. If you are looking at anything more than six months old, the editors may have changed.)

Now if you actually want results, think in terms of a story for that particular publication. Tailor your pitch to the individual publication and then write a personal letter to the writer or editor who might be interested.

Good PR is time consuming because you are going to do a lot of individual pitches. When there is a tour, become familiar with who covers the music scene in each city and then tailor the pitch to that publication and that city. If you have certain target audiences in mind, look at publications that reach them and tailor pitches to fit.

You will be able to place stories if your story is newsworthy. But what is newsworthy varies by publication and you have to know each publication well enough to know what editors will find of interest. Of course, you still have to get through to those editors, which usually involves writing good emails, releases, and proposals, but that is more than I can cover here.

September 2 | Registered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Interesting piece, Ariel - thanks for the insight, And considering RS is pretty much the pinnacle of pop press, not really surpriing you had such difficulty...plus seems those covered are on majors (or label connected to same), which may not be a coincidence...

@ Suzanne

Wow, as tough an assignment as your suggestion is (tiring to even think about!!), no doubt would make a big difference getting exposure. I suppose a good example of why professional help with PR is vital - I mean, how many artists or their managers have the time, energy, inclination - or sheer ability even - to dig in like that...certainly not me or any I know!!

But quandery is getting established enough without pro PR to afford it - WITHOUT it...

September 4 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Here's a really good list of tips. It's not about music publications, but still very useful and applicable.

How to Approach a Magazine Editor - The Entreprenette Gazette

September 4 | Registered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Well, I think as an artists... you should be living and breathing these publications anyway. There wasn't a magazine in my genre (at that time) that i didn't purchase every month religiously.

@ Dg It is time consuming. Unfortunately hiring a professional music PR person isn't an option for most bands/artists. Either it's going to cost you a bundle, or the PR person is going to be making very little per hour, or the PR person isn't actually going to be putting in much time on your behalf.

I did music PR for three artists/bands for an extended period of time pro bono because I really believed in them and they were early in their careers and had no money.

I've done some brief work for some others either for free or on projects where I charged less than $300. Usually it was a case where they contacted me and needed something immediately and if I didn't do it, they would be out of luck. But I really try to avoid taking on those because I run into the same dilemma as above: either they have to pay too much, or I don't make enough money to make it worth my time, or I don't put in enough time to do a good job for them.

Doing the time consuming stuff for PR is probably a good job for an intern or a band member who has the time. It's looking up contact lists, finding music calendars in towns you are going to play and getting the gigs listed on them, etc. On the last project I was asked to help out, I was able to do a bio, and email a press release out to my list of media contacts. But what I needed to do, and didn't have the time to do, was to compile a list of all of the Colorado music bloggers. I've done this for years for the print media and have a list I keep updated, but this particular CD would have been good to pitch to bloggers and I haven't taken the time to find contact info for all of them.

Trying to figure out what to write for a bio or a blurb is harder and won't come easily to someone who doesn't write well or who has no marketing sense. In fact, I've seen some musicians hand this job over to their friends who are attending or recently graduated from journalism programs and even they do it badly. Just because you aspire to write doesn't mean you can do it well. That's been a hassle: trying to tell the band/artist/journalism student that what they have put together isn't newsworthy.

Another reason I don't do music PR as a profession is that I believe in going to several live performances by the artist/band before even starting on a bio. So that means I've put in 10 hours at least before even starting. But I think you need to see the performance and how the audience reacts to be able to capture the essence of the person(s) involved.

September 4 | Registered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

I'm a prolly ruffle some feathers with this one, but I clowned Rolling Stone long ago. They've been right about things less than Joe Biden. My relationship with them as a reader finally ended when I read a review for Neneh Cherry and Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe (YES minus Chris Squire) side by side in the same edition. They shower praise on miss Cherry, the be all end all of everything cool and right about music giving the max 4 star review, no one Remembers who Neneh Cherry is to this day. Then they eviscerated the YES album which was a musical masterpiece YES is still touring and selling Albums Rolling Stone hates and Ignores. Since then they've proclaimed the Strokes to be the next big thing and other things that were so far off they may as well have never been printed. I hope they eviscerate me too if they ever are aware of who CrowfeatheR is.

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

Wow, Ariel...so I just learned two lessons from this article. Two mistakes that I won't make when I speak with you now! Thank you :)

September 16 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Frost

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