Welcome to the first PR Spotlight of September 2013. We debuted this feature in early August, and the weeks since have been met with a flood of positive feedback. Moving forward we hope to dive deeper than ever before into the lives lead within the music industry, starting with the story of a man who knew from his day in high school that music was the life for him. If you know of a company or publicist you feel should be highlighted in an upcoming edition of this column, please do not hesitate to email email@example.com and share your story.
Bill Meis has spent more than a decade working his way through the ranks of the music business. From his days as an intern at Sony, to now being the Publicity Manager (Rock and Metal) for Entertainment One Music, Bill has never shied away from a challenge because he knew deep down this was the industry for him. His passion for music and drive to succeed knows no bounds, and in today’s spotlight we learn about the journey he took to find his start, what lead him to join the team at EOne, and a little bit of everything in between. You can read about his adventures below.
On a personal note, I’ve known and worked with Bill for the better part of five years, and in that time I have met no one quite as kind and helpful as him. His love of music comes from somewhere deep in his soul, and his genuine desire to help artists further develop is evident from the moment you meet. I’m proud to call him a friend and am thankful for his guidance. Sharing his story is a bit of an honor for me, and I believe the insight he has to offer will go a long way towards helping a new generation of talent get their start.
If you want to know more about Bill’s work, be sure to check out everyone on Entertainment One Music’s website. Additional questions or comments can be left at the end of this post.
H: For those unaware, please state your name, the company you work for, and your role at said business:
BM: Publicity Manager (Rock and Metal) for Entertainment One Music
H: Everyone has to start somewhere. To what or whom do you attribute your interest in music?
BM: My family. My grandfather was an avid piano player and my uncle showed me my first guitar, I’ve been playing ever since. I have some older cousins to thank for showing me my first records when I was around 11 & 12 years old.
H: What was the first album you purchased with your own money? Do you still own it today?
BM: The Pearl Jam “Alive” maxi single. I probably have it somewhere. I bought it at Slipped Disc in Valley Stream, Long Island.
H: You actually went to school to study music business. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in entertainment?
BM: When I was in high school I played in bands with other kids that weren’t into sports. Once we were ready to play outside our parent’s basements and garages we set out to play local shows. That was my first attempt at the music business and when I knew I wanted to do it more professionally, I was about 17.
H: You interned at Sony’s marketing department in early 2002, then joined the team at Red a year later as a production coordinator. After then your own business, and slowly moved away from the major label space. What lead you down the path of small, more independent companies?
BM: It wasn’t something I set out to do. I wasn’t thinking major versus independent while I was making those decisions. They each seemed like the no brainer choice at the time. In hindsight, I feel like I made the right moves. Both for stability sake as well as integrity.
H: There will many roles on your resume before publicist. How did you first find yourself in a PR position, and when did it become your specialty in the business?
BM: When you thrust yourself into this business, you start to wear a lot of hats all the time. When I was in my band from 00-05 I played tour manager, manager and publicist. When I worked at Facedown I worked along side their publicists and saw what they did on a day by day basis. Then when I was working for Ryan Downey / Superhero I was on the other side of the table dealing with each artists respective publicists. Looking back it gave me a good perspective to start with at eOne. It wasn’t until I came to eOne where that’s what my focus was 100%. It was a nice change of pace to only concentrate on one area of the business.
H: For the last four years you have been a part of eOne Entertainment, one of the more diverse labels operating today. What attracted you to the company in the first place?
BM: I had been working with the band Throwdown that was (and still is) signed to eOne (Koch Records at the time), so I was vaguely familiar with the people that worked here and their track record. I had met Scott Givens before and knew he was making some big moves with artists like Hatebreed, In Flames and Otep. So, between that and the fact that their offices had just conveniently moved close to my hometown, it was an easy decision.
H: As someone who has spent a decade in paying positions throughout the industry, what advice would you offer to young professionals aspiring for a career in music?
BM: You really, really have to want to do it. Anyone I’ve seen that has been successful in this business lives it on a daily basis. I’m not just talking about the passionate part either, it doesn’t take much to be passionate about music. I’m talking about the bad parts too, the parts of this business that aren’t attractive. You need to love all of it.
H: eOne is known as much for breaking new talent as it is delivering strong releases from it veteran roster. When you want to find new music, where do you turn?
BM: The internet. Plain and simple. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a press kit or physical demo in our office. Our A&R arm was recently boosted with our partnership with Good Fight Music. Carl Severson is another veteran who has brought a lot to the table. Personally I like to troll Rdio, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter and recommendations from friends for new music.
H: If you could offer one piece of advice to young bands hoping to make a mark in the current music industry, what would it be?
BM: Do everything yourself before you ask, or even get the idea in your head that you need to have someone else do something for you. If young bands did that, they’d accomplish so much more. The young bands that distribute their own records, get themselves on their own tours, print their own merch, run their own merch stores, run their own marketing and social media campaigns (successfully) that impress me the most. If you do that, managers, agents and labels will come to you.
H: As a publicist, what advice would you offer writers hoping to work with your clients?
BM: Read their bio first! No seriously, read their bio first.
H: Piracy is one of the most discussed topic in the industry today. Do you feel album leaks are preventable? If so, how would you advise an artist to keep their music safe while still getting the word out?
BM: I don’t think album leaks are preventable, but it is manageable. The more accessible and affordable you make music, the less people will steal it. Plain and simple. There’s not much I can say here that hasn’t been said before. We spit the bit about 10 years ago and we’re paying the price for it now. Hopefully we can keep playing catchup and stay afloat. It seems we have done that so far.
H: When it comes to working with your clients, how do you prefer to share their music with press? What is it about this method that appeals to you the most?
BM: Haulix, obviously! It is my tool of choice when it comes to digital promo distribution. This appeals to me because it’s instantaneous. There’s no envelope stuffing, no costly postage and no paper cuts. It’s also a daily battle between the old dogs who prefer the piece of plastic in their hands and the writers and editors who can work with streams and download links. The ones that do are waiting around a lot less for packages to arrive.
H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
BM: I wouldn’t change much. It’s really exciting to see where things are going. I know I’ll look back on my time here and be able to say I was a part of a historic time. I would change the way our industry treated technology in the early days. I really feel like if we embraced it back then we would not be in as deep of a hole we’re in now. But like Mustaine says, hindsight is always 20/20.
H: Your roster is as eclectic now as ever before. Do you have any plans or releases on the horizon you’d like to share with our readers?
BM: Black Label Society is releasing a live DVD/CD called “Unblackened” on 9/24. It’s a toned down version of BLS fans might not have seen or heard before. We just debuted the first single via Rollingstone.com last week. A Bill Withers cover of “Aint No Sunshine.” Our metal roster is as strong as it’s ever been. Bands like Within The Ruins, Impending Doom, Reflections, Fit For An Autopsy are setting the bar really high for the bands that come after them. We’ll also have new studio albums from High On Fire, Overkill and Black Label Society next year.