After extended stints in publicity that took her to several major labels like Sire Records and The Dust Brothers’ Ideal Records and public relations firms like Motormouth Media, Trevor Seamon decided to start her own company called Score Press. Her clients have included various artists from Dilated Peoples, Kool Keith to Stones Throw Records. Trevor spoke with us about life as independent publicist and gave a few suggestions on how to break into the field.
Give us an overview of the basics of publicity.
Trevor Seamon: There are a million different varieties of publicists but you are basically responsible for getting people into print and TV media. The promotions people handle radio. Some add radio into the mix but for the most part it’s just any print or TV media depending on the level of the artist.
Tell us a little about your background in the field.
TS: I started as an intern at Capital Records my senior year in college. When I graduated, I was a temp and floated around the various departments at Capital Records and Interscope Records. I was a temp at Capital for about nine months in the publicity department as a department assistant. Then I took the summer off and went to Europe and came back and worked for Motormouth Media, a company my friend Brian had just started. So I worked with him and that’s where I really learned how to do publicity because as an assistant you’re only answering phones, doing mailings and just learning who the players are and which journalist write for which magazines. When I started working with Brian, he got me on the phone and I started doing press and interacting with the writers pimping the stuff out. We did a ton of dance music at Motormouth and then we left Motormouth and went to Sire Records. That was whole different experience because it was with a label as opposed to being an independent publicist. That’s a lot different because you basically work whatever is coming down the pipe. You might actually love everything you work or you might work stuff you never thought you’d be working. We actually had a lot of great stuff there at the time like Aphex Twin and Morcheeba. After that the Dust Brothers were starting a label called Ideal and we went to that label and worked with a ton of stuff there like the Wiseguys and Styles of Beyond. When that label lost its funding after a couple years I had a lot of offers to work stuff on the side and I said why not just go out on my own. So I did and that was about five years ago. One of my first clients was Dilated Peoples and as an indie publicist a lot of your work is based on referrals so that’s when seventy percent of my roster became hiphop. The other thirty percent is a variety of things from rock to dance music to art shows.
Considering your vast experience with both record labels and developing artists what are the main differences you find when dealing with media?
TS: If you’re dealing with a massive platinum selling artist everybody in the database is dying for some time with your artist. That job is a different job than a developing artist because your job is to say no more than yes. It’s more of a strategic thing like which magazines are you targeting. When you have an artist that’s brand new and developing you’re asking people to take a chance on the artist and its more of a merit of the record type of thing. You have to be good friends with a lot of writers and editors because you’re asking them to write about something that is not going to move magazines. Potentially they might not even see ad dollars because these are independent labels and their budgets are way smaller than a major label. When you’re dealing with a huge artist that artist can potentially move magazines and give you ad dollars so it’s a two totally different animals.
A lot of times editors and writers dislike or distrust publicists. Have you ever had to deal with this, if not how have you avoided these type of issues?
TS: I’ve worked with a ton of artists over the years. Some of them you will work for one year and others you’ll work with for five years but the editors will always remain constant so you really have to respect those relationships and treat them with care. I’m sure editors have as many horror stories about publicists as publicists have about editors but for the most part you have to respect each other’s time. I’ve never had an editor be outright rude about anything because if you go about it in a respectful way you usually get respect back. It’s hard though because when you first start out doing publicity it feels like you’re an encyclopedia salesman. You’re cold calling people and they don’t know you and they never heard of your artist. There are definitely those phone calls where you feel like damn that sucked but that’s just part of the job. In the beginning it’s going to be like that a lot until you become friends with everyone and then its like hey man how’s your dog doing? It becomes a more human way of interacting instead of a what can I get from you kind of thing. You get your work done but its fun. It’s a people business. Some people like that and some people hate that they have to hustle all day long to get the ink.
What is generally the industry standard for someone doing publicity?
TS: It depends really. The cheapest people would really consider doing stuff for is like $1500 a month with a three-month contract. That’s the bottom of the barrel but it can go up to five, seven, or ten grand a month depending on how large the client is and what it entails.
Now what do they get for this $1500.00-$7000.00?
TS: There is no way you could ever say this is what I can get you. That’s like saying I have ESP and I know what that guy is thinking. Theoretically you could be like I fucking love this thing, it’s the best thing ever so I really feel like these editors are gonna dig it but there is no way to guarantee anything. The only thing you can really say is that you’ll bust your ass with the project. That’s the thing that’s maddening with publicity, you could be on the phone day in and day out emailing and sometimes the results are amazing and the flipside is you’re really challenged and the results may not reflect how hard you work. Even if an editor liked the record, they may not have space that month and the next month it’s too late because of the release date.
What are some successful methods you have used to push a project?
TS: It really comes down to the merit of the record. I can call and email everyone everyday and if people are saying they aren’t feeling the record that’s when you get into editors being annoyed at publicists. Our job is to not take no for an answer but the flipside of that is that if you are not listening to the person you are talking to and you keep pushing but they don’t like the record you are really endangering your relationship because you’re not respecting what they have to say. The thing that really works with press are a kick ass record, but there are other things that go beyond the record like people becoming established with a popular single or they’re in movies and now you have a million reasons to write about this person including their record. All those things are great and that’s the good thing about working with major labels. You know that there are three or more departments hitting hard and helping so it’s a team effort.
Do you give out any reports to let artists know what went on with the campaign?
TS: Yes, definitely. You might do a weekly, or biweekly report or monthly. People do their reports differently but I find when you give a little detail it saves a client from calling you saying what’s up here? You tell them the confirmations like they have a feature in this issue, a pending section like I talked to this guy on this day and he hasn’t listened yet, I emailed this guy on this day or this guy said he wasn’t feeling it. It’s just to let them know where they stand. If the editors does pass on the record we need to come up with a more creative angle for this magazine or think of new ways to go about it. Keeping the line of communication open between the client and the publicist is the best way to make people happy. Most people are reasonable. If it’s a debut artist they understand it’s gonna take a minute to get people’s attention.
What do you feel are the most important qualities for a publicist to have?
TS: Patience, perseverance and being able to judge people’s reactions. If someone is like I don’t know about this record, are they on the fence and you can help them to the side you want them to be on or are you pushing too hard and pissing off the editor? It’s a fine line because on one end of the spectrum you have your client that you’re trying to get press for but on the other end you have all these relationships you spent years building. I think the best way to do it is have compassion for both ends. Push it to a certain extent but know when its time to come back with a more creative angle or just know your limits before you become that annoying publicist they never want to talk to.
What tips or suggestions do you have for any aspiring publicists looking to work for a major or start their own company?
TS: Get an internship or if you can’t do that there are always temp pools that record labels use. Figure out which temp pools record companies use and sign up with that company and let them know you are more interested in entertainment companies. You’ll bounce around and that’s actually a good way to get to know people and also get your foot in the door. Once you get in there you gotta show up. Be a good worker because there are so many people that come through that say they want to do this and then on the third day of work they’re late or bailing.