Matt’s introduction to hiphop business came behind the pen writing for the Source, Vibe, and Urb. After leaving the freelance game he got into publicity and founded his company M.A.C. Media. With an impressive roster under his belt he decided to merge with Movement Marketing and combine their services. He has dealt with major and independent artists and gives us a glimpse into the life of a publicist on the rise.
Halftime: Can you tell us a little about how you got into the publicist game?
Matt Conaway: I started out freelance writing. I paid the usual dues and after a few years I broke through and started writing for The Source, Vibe, Urb, a couple other spots and of course Hiphopsite. In many ways, I felt like I had gone as far as I could go with freelancing. I didn’t want to move to New York and pursue things further, which would have been required. I somewhat soured on freelancing for various reasons. I just didn’t feel like that was where I was making the most difference. Over the course of the years and after making some good relationships with artists, and seeing how they weren’t reaching their full potential, simply because they didn’t have the necessary people behind them to get them where they needed to be, I decided PR was where I could best utilize my talents. It’s a huge change because publicists don’t really have a very good reputation throughout the industry and aren’t looked upon very favorably by some editors. Rather than jump headfirst into PR without the required knowledge, I interned under a couple people from home for close to a year just to get my feet wet. I also used that as a gauge to see if it was something I truly wanted to immerse myself in fully. Once I decided that [this is what I wanted to do] I started my own company, which was M.A.C. Media. From there it was just 15-18 hour days just grinding it out. First you have to get a roster of clients, which is challenging in itself, but finding financially stable Indy labels is even more challenging. Luckily I had a jump on that from freelancing. I knew quite a bit of people and they were more open to covering what I was working.
I had my own company for about two years. Then when Landspeed Records went under a couple guys from there that I knew quite well and respected started doing their own thing and we just collaborated and brought our stuff together because they had the Street Team aspect of things locked down. So we had a trial run. I was still running under M.A.C. Media, they kept the Movement Marketing banner, and we brought clients to one another and tried to keep everything under the same roof and ensure that everyone was being taken care of and that things were running as smoothly as humanly possible. From there it really sprouted to where we were doing six to eight projects a month. People really saw the work we were putting in, the results we were getting and from there we decided to take things a step further. So rather than continue with two different companies, we decided it was more advantageous for everyone involved too merge both companies into one. We united together for the sole purpose of taking Movement Marketing to the next level and to maximize the many things we bring to the table.
Who are some of the artists you’ve represented?
MC: Right now we’re doing The Beatnuts, Theodore Unit (Ghost’s group), Ice City which is Freeway’s group, KRS-One, Triple Seis, Mainflow, Truth Enola, AZ, Jim Jones, Alchemist, Krumbsnatcha. And were preparing for Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Royce’s new mixtape and a few other surprises. In the past, we’ve handled Goodie Mob, Juggaknots, Big Noyd, Blueprint, Consequence, M.O.P., Saigon, Littles, Rahzel, Louis Logic and Tony Touch to just name a few.
I think we can sum that up as a lot.
MC: Yeah, right now I’m working a veritable stew of projects. We’re doing so well and people really want to use us so unless it’s something that I feel is not going to be a good look for our company we’ll pursue it. Opportunity only knocks for so long. If you do a good job for the labels and their artists they are very loyal in terms of who they use so whatever they do from that point on, if they like your work, they are going to want to use you.
How do you decide which artists would really be a good look for the company?
MC: Obviously [I look for] if they have had some kind of a proven track record in the past, if there is any buzz surrounding them, do they have a story behind the music, etc. Right now, the industry is very competitive, It’s not like it was ten years ago when there were limited releases, it seems like everybody is putting out records now. So, you have to pick and choose your clients wisely, the same can be said for the artists when it comes time to choose a publicist, it’s an extremely important decision. Nowadays, just getting a news blurb on a net site can take an extreme amount of effort, because there is just so much variety out there.
What do you feel are the most important qualities for a publicist to have?
MC: I think the best publicists are the ones who can think outside of the box and ones who are adept at prioritizing and time-management. Efficiency is a huge asset!! Also, you have to be very proactive and treat people they way you would want to be treated. I’m handling ten projects this month so I’m getting 150-200 emails a day, so you have to have a handle on things at all times. Obviously, with the workload, that is a very time consuming process, so I can’t really take a day off. Developing relationships with the artists you’re working with is also very key. Personal relationships go a long way in this and any industry. It’s challenging too get people to do things they oft-times don’t want to do. And contrary to popular belief, some artists are not amped about giving the time it takes too make a successful press campaign. Everyone’s personality is different and you have to take that into consideration. Some artists feel they have been burned by the press in the past, etc., there are numerous variables in play at any given time that you have to juggle. Doing interviews three or four times a month, at 6-8 hours a clip, is not something some artists enjoy taking the time to do, as you’ve got to consider they are pretty much exhausted from the recording process, touring, and the other various promotional activities they have to do too properly promote an LP. That seven or eight hours they spend on the phone with interviews could be spent doing what they want to do, spending time with family, personal time, whatever it maybe. But most artists realize that finishing an LP is the easy part, promoting it properly takes time and is one of, if not the most important aspect of the puzzle. My writing background also helps me tremendously, as a big part of this job is coming up with interesting ideas to pitch. It also helps in regard to press releases and Bio’s as you have a more intimate knowledge of what editors and writers are looking for, if I can make their job easier, it in turn makes my job easier. Simple things in the work environment like being prepared, or being on time are taken for granted and unfortunately don’t come to pass in the music industry. I guess you could say it’s a hazard of the job.
I noticed lately that you have been setting up a lot more press days where you schedule interviews for the artist for specific days. Is that preferred by the artists or just easier on the publicist?
MC: It’s what I prefer to do but some artists are more willing then others. I’ll set up as many press days as an artist wants me to set up. There are priorities in this job and if the big magazines (and everyone wants to be covered by the major print outlets) want something done that’s obviously a priority, but I’m of the thinking that any coverage is good coverage whether it’s The Source, XXL, etc., or some no name website in Finland. If you want to set up an interview and it fits in the timeframe that artist specifies I’ll set it up. There are many examples that come to mind, but to be specific, Krumbsnatcha called me up today and said ‘œset me up with everything. I don’t care who it is I want to do anything and everything.’ There are many artists like that who are hungry and want and or need to be heard! Then I have had other artists relay the same sentiments and don’t even show up or pick up the phone for press days. It really depends on the artist and how hungry they are. If the artist is hungry, that also translates to me as well, as it makes me work that much harder, you get what you put into the process.
Do you give out any reports?
MC: Of course, it’s standard to send in press updates once a week. Whoever you are reporting to can basically specify what they want. If they want one once a day or once a week I’ll get it to them. Usually the typical thing is to submit them once a week and I like to send something in at the close of business on Friday’s.
How about guarantees?
MC: I try to stay away from guaranteeing anybody anything. Like I said, cultivating good relationships is essential, but at the end of the day if editors and writers are not feeling the album then there probably going to look elsewhere for coverage. For the most part, people understand that I grind it out and go 110% for everybody I represent, so that alleviates any need for guarantees. Assurances over the phone are just that, its not prudent to assure people A,B,C will happen before you can really tell—because no one else but you will get blamed if things don’t pan out as planned.
For an up and coming PR company what would be the minimum standard for charging a client?
MC: That’s a tough one. When I first started out and was trying to build a roster of clients I didn’t charge near what I charge now. The further you get up the ladder and the more your services are sought after, then your prices obviously go up. Right now I have a set fee, but if it’s a good look for the company, arrangements can be worked out, it really fluctuates. A lot of it depends on budgets; because a lot of labels don’t have the budgets they should to enlist the right PR people. But again, as things progress it opens you up to a new level of clients, ones who have proven track records, ones who have been around the game a lot longer so they are more versed and have already had numerous dealings with publicists and publicity companies. For the most part, publicists who are successful are quoting people similar figures, so its basically who they (label and artist) feels more comfortable with or who they feel is going to get the results they are seeking.
What tips or suggestions would you have for any aspiring publicists?
MC: Good Luck! Ahhh!! Basically go with your heart, pick good clients, be professional and respectful at all times. There is a lot of pressure involved in being a publicist because you have label people, managers, group members to contend with and answer too and you’re the person that they are depending on to have the answer for everything. Be honest, if you don’t know the answer tell them you don’t know but you will work on getting it immediately. I realize the importance of this job, it is in many aspects a make or break job, and of the utmost importance to an artists career and development. Basically, I represent people the way I’d want them to represent me if the situation was flipped; that’s how I run things now and will continue to do so in the future!!