Industry Profile: Jerry Graham (The Syndicate)

Hello again, everyone. Welcome to the first industry spotlight feature of the week. We originally began working on this specific article in the first weeks of the year, but due to delays and scheduling troubles we were only able to complete it in the last week. We think the information received was well worth the wait and hope you will as well. 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

Last week, the website I started a few months after beginning my career as a music critic turned six-years-old. It was the first ‘birthday’ I had spent away from SXSW, and instead of spending my hours strolling Sixth Street debating which pizza place(s) to indulge in I spent time reflecting on all the opportunities that had come my way as a result of taking those first steps to put my name out there. I thought of my first interviews and reviews, as well as the people who made them happen. Today, in a somwhat full circle moment, I have the honor of sharing the journey of one of those people with all of you.

For the better part of the last decade, Jerry Graham was known as the man behind Warm Fuzzy PR. It was his company from the very beginning, and during its existence Jerry was fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest names in modern hard rock. In 2011, however, he decided the time had come for a change and joined forces with The Syndicate as the director of publicity. 

The rest, as they say, is music industry history.

I originally met Jerry during the first few months after the site mentioned above came into existence. No one knew my name or anything about my writing, but Jerry offered me the opportunity to work with several of his smaller projects. As time went on he aided me in contacting bigger names, and even helped me in setting up several interviews in the hard rock arena I will never forget.  

The music industry is an insanely difficult place to make a name in, but thanks to people like Jerry driven young people are able to find opportunities to showcase their skills before entering the workforce. He’s an industry lifer who only wants the best for his team and everyone they’re connected with, which in this business is essentially anyone able to read this post. He’s kind, intelligent, and one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet.

You can learn about Jerry’s journey in music by reading the interview below. If you would like to know more, if you just want to keep up with everything related to Jerry’s latest publicity efforts, please take a few moments to follow The Syndicate on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: Hey there, thanks for joining us. We ask everyone the same question to begin. Would you please share your full name, job title, and the name of the company where you presented work:

J: Sure, Jerry Graham, Director of Publicity at The Syndicate.

H: You have a long history in music, so we actually have a lot of ground to cover today. I’d like to start by learning a little about your history with music. When you think of your earliest memories with music, what comes to mind?

J: I grew up in Brooklyn in the late 70s, so disco and funk were all over, blasting out of car speakers and those giant portable boom boxes. Rock was happening, but the first real memory I have is the song “Don’t Stop The Music.” It’s this 8-minute, big funk song that has this chipmunk voice that says, “aw, you don’t want to stop.” I remember my dad took me took work in Manhattan when I was like 5, and that song played somewhere in the office, and I just remember being fascinated by it. 

What’s funny now, is that when my son was born a few years ago I got that CD for him and started playing it. Now he and my daughter love it as well, and they actually sing it on their own. It’s funny how it came back around like that.

H: Speaking on music purchases, can you remember the first album you bought with your own money? 

J: Probably not. I mean, I can guess, but it will probably be wrong. One of the earliest ones I can remember is Living Colour ‘Vivid.’ I also remember, as far as hip hop, there was Kid-N-Play ‘Too Hype.’ Those two in particular stick out to me.

H: This answers really showcase at what point in music history you began purchasing your own records. 

J: I guess [laughs]. I always grew up around hip hop and stuff, but my love of rock and metal didn’t start until later. I don’t really have a point of reference for that.

H: That’s a good point. When do you think rock and metal come into the picture for you? Those genres have played a big role in your career.

J: I remember being in high school. There was a girl who wore a Gorilla Biscuits shirt, and people who wore Misfits t-shirts. I guess it was Metallica’s ‘Garage Days’ EP in high school that made me aware of that stuff, but as far as loving it, what really kicked it off for me was hardcore. I’m more into hardcore than metal, and that stuff really kicked it off for me when the post-hardcore era started happening. 

…THAT’S WHAT IT WAS. It was Helmet. It was Helmet, ‘In The Meantime.’ I remember seeing Beavis and Butthead talking about Helmet and how they didn’t even dress like they were cool. I’m butchering their delivery, but that is what captured me. Orange 9mm, Helmet, Quicksand. That whole genre drove it home for me, liking hard rock and punk that is.

H: Moving a bit forward, you went to college before jumping into the music industry.

J: I graduated from University at Albany. It was called SUNY Albany at the time. 

H: ..And you studied Theater at the time? Did you have aspirations for life in Hollywood?

J: Oh geez, yea, I wanted to be an actor. I got a degree in Theater and ended up working in the entertainment industry for about 3 years. I had a variety of jobs, including casting and extra work. Dabbled in standup comedy as well. 

Then I got sick of that lifestyle. I really didn’t enjoy it as far as…doing it. Basically, if you’re going to do those things you have to really commit, you know, ride or die. And I really didn’t have that mindset, but what I did have was music. No matter what was going on in my life, I turned to music. I didn’t turn to entertainment or standup comedy, but music was always there and dear to me.

I had a lot of day jobs as well, which I was not good at because I could not focus on them. I remember, at the time, Walter from Quicksand was starting a label. I said to myself that I really wanted to be a part of it and be involved. I called the office and they told me they weren’t hiring. I told them I didn’t care and that I wanted to be involved. It wasn’t really an internship. I came and worked for free, basically. Whatever they would let me do I did. It wasn’t even that I gravitated towards publicity right away, it was just something I tried while there and it fit my personality really well. 

H: Not long after this period you ended up launching your own PR firm, Warm Fuzzy Publicity, which you ran for a decade. How did that come together?

J: When I decided I really wanted to do this, I started going to NYU at night for a certificate in Public Relations because I thought having an education would help me get ahead in the business. What I learned there was great, but I definitely learned more doing things on my own. 

So I did that, then I worked at another company for 18-months and hated it, but I did get to work with heavier bands. When I parted ways with them, I immediately started my own company because I felt like I couldn’t really get a shot otherwise. I was supposed to speak at a conference in Boston through my previous job, but when I left that gig they filled my role at the conference. I decided to go anyway, and emailed Hydrahead Records, who were based in Boston at the time about meeting up to talk about PR.  When I got home I was very pleasantly surprised to have an e-mail from them and they became the first client of  Warm Fuzzy Publicity.

H: You ran Warm Fuzzy for a decade, and in that time worked with a number of artists and labels. Then you joined The Syndicate, which is where you remain today. How did The Syn come into the picture?

J: The Syndicate had a PR person back in something like 2004, and she was awesome, and then she left the company and for one reason or another they did not formally offer a music publicity service for a number of years. My colleague Matt, who I believe you featured before, did that and Comedy, which began to really take off. They decided they wanted someone to aide them in offering more music publicity services and I connected with Moose, the general manager here and Tracey, one of the partners.  We hit it off from the interview process and yea, that was two-and-a-half years ago now.

H: I’ve noticed that anyone who joins The Syndicate seems to stay there for a long time.

J: For me, everyone here is very down to Earth. Everyone is genuine and not too guarded about being themselves, and that’s what I like about working here. It’s not like I wear a cardigan to work or have to go to certain shows to be seen. The people here are very passionate about music and we’re all very normal, if you know what I mean.

H: What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the music industry?

J: That’s a tough one, man. It’s not the same as when I started, and I am sure people before me said the same thing. It’s like…I don’t want to compare it to a gang, but it’s the kind of thing where you’re either a lifer or you’re not. This industry is going to give you knocks every day, and you’re either going to take the knocks and keep coming back or you will find something else to do. I don’t know if there is really any advice, but I guess mine would be that if this is what you want to do you have to be available 24/7. That’s it. Especially for management. If a band a band is stuck somewhere at 3am you need to be prepared to handle that. If you’re in publicity, you need to be prepared to cut a vacation short if need be or pull an all-nighter to correct a project. 

H: Do you have any career goals or lifelong aspirations you feel you’re working towards at this point, or are you more in the groove your professional life?

J: That’s an interesting question. I will say I really enjoy the international opportunity that being at the Syndicate has allowed me. For example, we just did the US publicity for the M For Montreal festival. A couple years ago I went to Oslo, Norway. I greatly enjoy that because 1. it allows me to see other aspects of the world and 2. it’s nice to be a part of these major events, bringing people together and such.

There are just these great experiences outside of the normal artist, album, tour area that I spent so many years cutting my teeth in. It’s exciting.

As far as career aspirations I will say that I am enjoying how things are moving, and how these new aspects of what I do are beginning to open up. 

H: That’s great to hear. What can you tell us about The Syn’s plans for 2014?

J: Well, we just had a very successful run at SXSW including our Hype Hotel presented by Taco Bell showcases, The Laugh Button Live comedy shows as well as running U.S. PR for the French Tech party, M For Montreal and artists from Germany, Brazil and all over.  Andrew W.K. is a whirlwind of activity for P.R. at all times so we have a lot of fun things to promote for him in the coming year.  There’s a lot of coming projects for the P.R. dept so I can’t talk about all of them here but I will say on the music side that we have a well-balanced roster of indie rock, heavy music as well as some global music, hip-hop and EDM. 

H: That covers everything, I think. Before I let you go, do you have any final thoughts or observations to share with our readers?

J: No, not really. It’s not like I’m an editorial person or anything, but I will say that I am very thankful for the people who have given me a chance to work with them over the years. 

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.