Publicity Spotlight: Dan Bogosian (Shore Fire Media)

Hello and welcome to the final Spotlight feature of the week. We have highlighted a number of brilliant minds this week, and the person at the center of today’s article is himself quite exceptional. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

We talk about this a lot, but it bares repeating that very few individuals working today in music have the same job – let alone the same type of job – they had when their careers began. The key to success in the modern music business is versatility. You need to be able to work hard, adapt quickly, and always keep an open mind about new ideas and challenges because you never know where the path of life may lead.

Dan Bogosian may not have started his journey in music hoping to land a career in publicist, but today he probably could not imagine himself doing anything else. He’s spent the better part of the last decade cutting his teeth in various capacities throughout the business, including time spent performing in bands, but it wasn’t until a friend suggested a new type of role to him in late 2013 that Dan finally moved to New York City and found his true calling.

Everyone worries about the future of the business and whether or not they will still have a job five years down the line, but what separates people is whether they take it upon themselves to prepare for when hard times come their way. Dan has been in this business long enough to know things can change at any moment, and over the years he has made extra effort to learn as much as he can about various elements of the industry. That hard work is now paying off with his gig at Shore Fire Media, and we’re confident he will continue to succeed with whatever he chooses to do next.

If you would like to learn more about Dan and his ongoing adventures in the music business, please be sure to follow him on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

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H: Before we dive in, would you please tell everyone your name, job title, and company you work for:

D: My name’s Dan Bogosian; I’m a publicity coordinator at Shore Fire Media.

H: We find these pieces work best when we start at the beginning, so before we get to your career we need to cover your history with music. When you think of formative moments in life that lead you to pursue work in this industry, what comes to mind?

D: Formative moments in music, in general, were listening to Queen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time. Pursuing work in this industry comes from one of my friends (hi, Emma!) saying I should get into that sort of thing, and my friend Randy from Finch telling me that I would be good at publicity. I was never that guy going “oh man, I want to work in the industry!” I played music and hung around it as much as you could in a local scene, and then… things happened.

H: Has music always had a large presence in your life, or was it something you grew to appreciate with age?

D: Music really didn’t take off until I was 15 or 16 and started playing bass guitar. I was raised on Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, The Cranberries, and the Indigo Girls, and my favorite band was Queen till my teenage years. Lots of female lead and homosexual lead bands growing up, which I guess is weird to think about.

Then when I started playing bass, I really studied music. I got obsessed with classic rock, then it bored me and I got into modern rock. Then it bored me and I got into indie rock. Then it bored me and I got into classical, then it bored me and I got into jazz. Then it bored me and I got into punk, emo, and math rock. Now people just think I hate everything, when I really just don’t want to be bored by music that sounds like everything I’ve ever heard before. But that’s off topic…

I definitely grew to appreciate it with age, as my taste has always and will always constantly evolve. There’s records from when I was 15 that I hated that are now personal favorites. Before playing bass, I was just a normal kid with music – probably even listened to it less than your average Joe. Then I started playing music and studying it. I’m obsessed now.

H: What was the first album you purchased with your own money (and the format)?

D: On CD, I bought The Godzilla Soundtrack and Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP” on the same day. Needless to say, 5th grade me thought he was a badass and had no idea who Jimmy Page was. I did karaoke of “My Name Is…” a few months ago. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, so I’m not ashamed of my terrible beginnings.

H: Do you remember the first band you were infatuated with? How did you discover them?

D: Queen. I honestly think I discovered them through the end of the Mighty Ducks. I think I re-watched the credits a few times before my parents were like, “You know, we can just play the album…” And then for a handful of years I was a kid weirdly obsessed with Queen. That actually came in handy at a job interview later on, too – but we’ll get to that.

H: Before we get to the world of publicity, we need to first address your early efforts in the business. What was your first gig in music, paid or unpaid, and how did you land the position?

D: My first gig in music was an internship at a radio station. I wanted a music industry internship but had already finished college, so I needed something that didn’t require college credit, and there was virtually only one internship in the state of Connecticut that qualified at this radio station. I called the guy in charge of promotions, and I had met him a few years before at a bar and knew his favorite band was Queen. I got him off track at the interview, talking about how his favorite album was “Day At The Races” and not “Night At The Opera.” My favorite from Queen is still “Night At The Opera,” but just being able to hold my own in that conversation I think made me seem intelligent.

From there, I also freelance wrote at ultimate-guitar.com and blogged for Under the Gun Review. Under the Gun was ultimately my first real networking hub, and something I actually put heart into. The radio station was cool at first, but I could quickly tell it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Under the Gun Review was like, “You mean I can make bitter remarks about bands I don’t like and go to shows for free if I write about them?!”

H: You have dabbled in the world of journalism quite a bit in recent years. What initially attracted you to the field?

D: I’m somewhat of an opinionated ass, and my friends would often tell me that I should just down my opinion instead of yammering on about it. Only later did it dawn on me that people actually do write things down for a living, and that people actually read things and care about them.

Sometimes, I still wish I was Chuck Klostermann or David Bevan or even Dan Devine. I have all the respect in the world for journalists and writers – their job is to inform a misinformed public and to state an opinion that, regardless of which way it leans, is going to be torn apart.

H: What inspires you as a writer?

D: I haven’t done as much writing as I’d like to lately, but in general, a handful of friends keep me moving forward. And not in like a, “Oh, this girl, she’s my muse, sigh” sort of way, either. I mean, I have friends who I consider more intelligent, more creative, and generally better at life than me… and yet people think we’re on the same level? It’s almost a competition. “Can’t fall behind Josh,” you know?

H: Do you have any pieces from recent months you’re particularly proud of? Go on, share a link or two with our readers:

D: My first time getting in print was with Drum! Magazine in March of 2013. I’m still super proud of that. I’m proud of the Nine Inch Nails review I did for Under the Gun, as I still feel like press really praised that album blindly, with little merit: http://www.underthegunreview.net/2013/08/29/review-nine-inch-nails-hesitation-marks/

H: In more recent efforts, you have begun working in the world of publicity. Where did you learn of the gig you now have, and what can you tell us about the application process?

D: Like all true music industry things, I heard about it through a friend of a friend. The application process left me sweating; I applied in August and felt like I was qualified, like I was the best candidate for the job, and that I made it clear no one else wanted it more than me. And I didn’t hear back for six or seven weeks… and then within two weeks had a career as a publicist going.

H: What attracts you to the world of publicity?

D: At first, I wasn’t attracted to it. Before the company I work for now, I did publicity on my own with a few bands – notably Finch, Giraffes? Giraffes!, and The Guru. I started doing it with Finch because, long before Finch reunited, Randy Strohmeyer, one of the guitarists, caught me paying attention to who wrote the reviews rather than just the outlets. What I mean is, I wouldn’t go “Rolling Stone said that album ruled,” I’d go “David Fricke said that album ruled.” So when Finch got back together, Randy’s first thought for publicity was “Hey, Dan’s a freelance writer who understands pitching and knows the writers; he can do it.” And he had to talk me into it, because my initial reaction was to avoid impacting someone I cared about’s success.

But the tour went well, and I enjoyed doing the publicity. Around two years later, here I am.

H: There are probably more than a few aspiring publicity professionals reading this feature right now. What advice would you offer those hoping to one day have a job like yours?

D: My advice would be to just do it. I remember reading a lot of that sort of advise when I didn’t know anything about the music industry; “I want to manage bands, what do I do?” “Just do it!” “I want to become a tour manager, how do I do it?” “Just do it!” And so forth.

But it’s good advice. If you know the basic thing to do for the job, you CAN just do it. Can you do it super well on your own with no experience and only a vague idea of what you’re doing? No. Absolutely not, especially with something like publicity. But you’ll never get better at it if you don’t do it, and you’ll never have the body of experience to stand above the dozens or hundreds of other kids who want to get a job if you’re qualifications are “But I want it, despite never doing it and never doing anything to show I wanted it.”

H: Without going too in-depth, would you please run us through a typical day at work?

D: I respond to any outstanding or urgent requests, make a list of the things I need to do that day, and then start cracking down on the list. In the event that I finish the list – and I almost never do, because you can always pitch a review to another outlet, or call one more writer from a magazine – I add things to do that require more time. Depending on the day of the week, I’ll have a client call or a report to go through. It probably sounds tedious, like everyday is the same, but it’s more like the first hour of every day is the same, and then I’m calling different people for different things around the clock.

Also, lunch is at 1:30.

H: As someone who watches young artists and their promotional efforts, what is one common mistake you see groups make when attempting to market themselves?

D: A better question would be, what is one thing groups don’t screw up when they’re marketing themselves. So many bands don’t come up with a brand, don’t come up with a marketing plan, don’t create any assets to market it. About the only thing bands do right is make a new record – and I’d argue most of them screw that up, too.

For one piece of advice, though? Be realistic with your goals. If you have 100 Facebook fans, Billboard doesn’t care about you. It’s OK, some people read other things, and you can later on get more than 100 fans. But there is no winning the lottery in the music industry.

H: When it comes to receiving or sending music for review/feature purposes, which promotional distribution platforms do you prefer and why?

D: When I was at UTG, I loved Haulix. It let me download, but from a publicist’s perspective, it also gave the watermark to who you gave it to and limited the number of downloads.

H: Piracy is as much a hot button item now as it was a decade ago. Do you think we will ever see a day when music piracy comes to an end?

D: I obviously don’t know, but I don’t think so. It’s not even a matter of offering a great free streaming service that has everything on it. Until you take off physical downloads from an iPod, or make free physical downloads impossible – and that’s not going to happen – music piracy will be a problem in the USA.

I really respect Japan, though; they just punish you way too hard right from the start, and they don’t have a music piracy “problem.” I don’t necessarily want it that way in the US, but I respect it. That’s why you hear about tiny little bands touring and making money in Japan. The next time you hear someone say they love music more than anyone they know, ask them if they would ever download anything illegally, because no one in Japan does. Two years in prison and/or $25,000 in fines. Yeah, they love their music.

H: How do you measure success at your job? What is a ‘good day’ like for you?

D: Success at my job is when a client comes to town and thanks you for everything you’ve done and really means it. Every day’s a good day in it’s own way, but great days are when the people you work your butt off for around the clock are visibly happy with the effort.

H: At this point in life, what are you career goals? Are there any areas of the business you would like to work in that you have not yet had the chance?

D: My career goal as a publicist is pretty short term; that’s not to say I don’t see myself working in publicity for long, I just try to only think in terms of the campaigns I’m working on now. I don’t sit and wonder “oh gosh, in two years am I going to work here? where will my desk be? Bla bla bla.” My career goals are succeeding with everything I’m working on today with publicity, so that tomorrow I can do even better.

Outside of publicity? I’d like to get into reprinting vinyl. I’ve e-mailed a few bands and labels about licensing an out of print record for repressing, and I’m 0 for 2 so far. I’d like to get writing again; I’m going to apply to do a 33 & 1/3rd book, but we’ll see if that pans out. I’m also in a band called Spillway; I’d like to see someone other than myself care about that.

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

D: I secretly believe there is one person in charge of everything. I call this person “the man.” If I could change anything, I would make myself “the man.”

H: I think that covers everything. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or observations you would like to share with our readers?

D: The best advice I ever got was to do what you want to do and not to let anybody stop you. Obviously, don’t apply that advice to dating, but please do apply that advice to your career, your band, your music, and your goals.

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.