Blogger Spotlight: Kayla Guyette (The Sound Alarm)

We read every letter sent to the Haulix inbox, and before we get started on the first Blogger Spotlight of the week I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your continued support. We’ve been planning a lot of great content for the fall and winter, but we’re always on the lookout for new ideas as well. If you have a writer you feel deserves a moment in our spotlight, or if you have an idea for a future ‘Haulix Advice’ column, email and we’ll be sure to respond as soon as we possibly can. Now, back to your originally scheduled programming…

New England has long been a hotbed of talent for the alternative music scene, and in today’s Blogger Spotlight we’re featuring a Boston resident whose responsible for giving many recent genre favorites their first big break.

Kayla Guyette did not set out to change the music industry when she and co-founder Matt Nistler launched The Sound Alarm back in 2009, but over the course of the last four years they have each played a role in doing just that. By moving the focus away from constant news updates about bands you can learn about on any of the seemingly endless number of so-called ‘news’ sites, The Sound Alarm has opted to focus on nurturing developing talent and doing whatever they can to share new ideas with those willing to listen. This passion for pushing the industry forward is evident in everything Kayla has done with TSA up to this point, and her insight on finding success in an overcrowded industry is indispensable.

As always, if you enjoy this feature please do whatever you can to support the efforts of Kayla Guyette and the entire Sound Alarm family. Like their Facebook, follow their Twitter, and whenever you have a chance, drop by and see what’s new on their front page.

H: For those unaware, please state your name, the site you work for, and your role at said site:

KG: I’m Kayla Guyette, better known as Kayley Guyette, and I am the co-founder and editor of The Sound Alarm.

H: Everyone has to start somewhere. When did you discover you wanted to write about music, and at what point did that transition to writing online?

KG: To be honest, I only started writing about music as a way to promote a couple of local bands I loved. It was my soul motivation behind becoming a writer for University Of New Haven’s Pulp Magazine in August 2008. While writing for them I discovered I really enjoyed writing about music.

H: The Sound Alarm launched in 2009. How did the site come together, and what inspire you to set out with your own publication?

KG: Before The Sound Alarm I was an editor of another site and wasn’t happy there. I decided I was better off becoming my own boss and began planning the launch of my own site. I had reached out to Matt Nistler, the other co-founder and editor of TSA, to help with the graphic design. I had covered an artist he managed and was really impressed with how easy he was to work with. Much to my surprise he wanted to start up a site of his own and both wanted the same things – for the site to be fun and a place to support the underdog artists.

H: What is it about The Sound Alarm’s coverage that separates your efforts from those of your countless competitors?

KG: The Sound Alarm is completely volunteer based. Everyone on staff, including myself and Matt, do some combination of working full-time, part-time, going to school and have other obligations. Due to this we all only work on the site when we have the time. Matt and I don’t assign articles instead our staff signs up from a database we keep. A writer chooses to cover an artist from the database it’s because they want to not because they have to which is something I find makes for better articles.

H: Many sites we features post dozens of updates every day, but TSA tends to be a bit more selective in what makes the front page. What do you look for when seeking fresh content for your site?

KG: Well I avoid doing news posts with a passion. I’d rather focus my time on original content than posting news other sites have had up for hours. As for seeking new artists, it all depends on if I like their sound or not, if I love an artist I’ll find a way to cover them. I feel as though the TSA readers and I have similar tastes and music so if I love an artist chances are they will too.

H: One of your most popular features has been your ‘Six Picks’ column. How do you feel about people who think the rising popularity of list-based content, or ‘the Buzzfeedification of the internet’ is a bad thing? Do you feel they’re overdone? 

KG: I love our Six Picks feature and back it 100%. I can only assume those who think it’s a bad thing haven’t done countless interviews with the nearly the same questions in each one. It honestly gets boring after a while for me and I’m sure for the artists as well. Six Picks are short and fun for the artists while giving their fans something new to read. I do think list-based content has a risk of becoming overdone since it’s easier to do than full-length interviews. With TSA I aim to have good balance of Six Picks and other coverage.

H: Like many sites, you and co-owner Matt Nistler are located in different parts of the country (different time zones, even). Do you see the distance as a challenge or advantage? Why?

KG: When it comes to TSA I only know distance and different time zones since our writers are also all located in different parts of the US, UK and Australia. I do see benefits to this because now we have access to local artists from many different places rather than being limited to one central hub. If I woke up tomorrow and TSA had an office in one location we all worked out of I’m not sure it would run as smoothly as it does now.

H: When it comes to discovering new music, what sources have you found to be the most reliable?

KG: I’m an avid TV watcher and discover a good amount of music from TV shows. If I hear a song I like, right away I track down the artist and listen to more. I also use social media to help discover new artists as well. I’ll start on the page of an artist I like then check out artists they’ve played with, tweeted about, etc. till I find one I enjoy.

H: Let’s say the bands are coming to you. What advice would you offer to those hoping to make an appearance on The Sound Alarm in the months ahead?

KG: This is a topic that in general I could go on and on about, so I’ll limit myself to three. The first would be make sure the pitch email you’re sending is clear and well written. It doesn’t have to be perfect but if it comes down to decoding what is said in an email or hitting delete, I’ll be hitting delete. The next would be make sure your sound fits with what TSA covers, which is mostly pop-rock. While I won’t turn away a heavy metal or hip-hop artist chances are our staff won’t choose to cover them. My final piece of advice is a part of a long running TSA joke and that is make sure you’re asking us to cover music. Matt and I receive a good amount of requests to post about mental health, legal and environmental issues. All these requests are individually addressed too, not a result of a mass mailing.

H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, which services do you prefer and why?

KG: Since there is no central hub for TSA we prefer streams and downloads. It’s easier, quicker and much more cost effective to send a link and a password to the writer than it is to send a CD. I’ve had artists send me every track they have ever recorded by email attachment and it’s nearly maxed out my inbox and had my phone freaking out. So when it comes to TSA send us streams or a download link.

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

KG: I’d like to see record labels, publicity companies, etc. reaching out to publications of all sizes to see what artists are on their respective radars. It’s not something I’ve heard of happening and seems like it has great potential to benefit all parties involved. Off the top of my head I can name three artists who I think have what it takes to make it onto a label. However, I sadly don’t think they ever well since they don’t have the means to get the attention of a label on their own. So I’d like to be able to tip off higher powers in the music industry to up and comers.

H: Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about what you have planned in the months ahead?

KG: With the summer winding down and us approaching holiday season (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) I’m thinking ahead to doing some holiday based Six Picks. I am planning on recruiting some new writers for TSA in the coming months. Other than that it’s just business as usual for us.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.