Advice: Be Your Own Publicist

Hello, everyone. Today we are continuing our efforts to advise current and future musicians by sharing a guest post from our friends at Behind The Curtains Media focusing on the importance of understanding the ins and outs of music publicity. The person behind this feature has spent years in a band themselves, and it’s because of the lessons learned through those experiences that we are able to share this information today. If you have any questions about the content of the blog, or if you would like more information regarding the distributional services offered by Haulix, please email and share your thoughts. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Since 2006 I’ve been on the artists’ side of the publicity world. I’ve worked with amazing publicists such as Raybee, Stunt Crew, The Cornerstone Agency, Big Picture Media and The Catalyst Publicity Group, to name a few. My job at the time felt like nothing other than reading up on features and occasionally doing interviews (which even then I needed numerous reminders). Thinking back and being in the position I’m currently in, I feel we were all spoiled brats and never truly understood the work that was being done behind the curtains.

It wasn’t until the 2012 Warped Tour that I became very active on the band side of publicity. I wanted to make sure we were making the most of the service while also making our publicist’s job easier by organizing and assigning the daily interviews to members of the band. Each day, I would go down to the press tent, take a look at the 3 or 4 interviews we had, shoot the outlet a text confirmation and chat with Warped Tour Press Coordinator, Bethany Watson. She really opened my eyes about the world of publicity and I remember her saying, “You have 3 or 4 interviews today out of that list of 40 outlets that are going to be here. Why don’t you publicize yourself and just talk to all of them and who knows, maybe they’ll interview you or feature you.” That really motivated me by bringing a whole new challenge to the table. From that point forth I would come in, take a snap shot of the daily press sheet, respectfully approach all the outlets in between their scheduled interviews and some days I would land 10+ interviews with outlets that I wasn’t even scheduled for, not to mention I had the contact sheet available to follow up with anyone I spoke to.

At this point I wasn’t even remotely close to thinking about being a publicist, I was just trying to do as much as I possible to get my band, The Venetia Fair, to the next level. In keeping in touch with these outlets and becoming personal friends with a lot of them, they were often happy to assist with getting my band and even bands on my label (SwitchBitch Records) some extra exposure and features.

In August 2011 my amazing friend and publicist Chrissy Borsellino did some solo publicity work for my label (prior to her joining Catalyst). She introduced me to some new outlets, taught me how to write up proper press releases and basically gave me a general understanding of how to do the work on my own. Even at this point I had no interest in doing publicity, but I didn’t want to rely on her for favors all the time, so I took on publicity for SBR artists.

When Chrissy joined The Catalyst Publicity Group we used them for all of The Venetia Fair releases until the day came where being an independent band and not having any funds caught up to us. Unfortunately it happened at the worst possible time, right when SwitchBitch Records was to release The Venetia Fair’s ‘Every Sick, Disgusting Thought We’ve Got In Our Brain’. Being that this was my label’s first vinyl release and it was for my own band, it was a blessing in disguise in that it was yet again another motivational pivot point that really lit a flame under my ass in that I needed the release to be huge!

At that I had so much support from friends at outlets. Christian from Absolute Punk taught me how to intro my emails, Dave from HellHound Music taught me various ways to write up press releases, Matt of Under the Gun would literally get on the phone and not hang up until I knew the ins and outs of everything. Would you believe between that from exclusives on the vinyl to reviews to interviews to contests I landed 88 features from 8/1/13-9/20/13 to the point where I stopped keeping track after 9/20. Eighty-fucking-eight! Don’t believe me? Shoot me an email and I’ll send you all the links. I was told that the average from professional publicists was about 8-15 posts per month. The excitement that that brought me was/is hands down the nerdiest thing in the world.

A problem I ran into was that I was running campaigns as a SwitchBitch Records in-house publicity company which was fine for this particular vinyl release however even though SBR released TVF’s vinyl, it was important that TVF as a band was/is labeled as an “independent” artist in order to keep potential larger opportunities available. That said, in future TVF campaigns, outlets would inaccurately post TVF as an SBR artist, which is not their fault at all, but would cause confusion and require me sending a follow up email requesting the edit. Hence the birth of Behind The Curtains Media!

Avoiding confusion was one of many reasons for launching Behind The Curtains Media. A main reason to be honest is I really love the fact that it keeps me in touch with friends at media outlets. I know that sounds really stupid, but if you ask any outlet that has posted or done anything with us, they will tell you that not only do I respond, but I probably am a little too curious as to how they’re all doing and being sure they are all doing well. I know, lame right? But I really do care about them all and am extremely appreciative for everything they do. You have no idea! Aside from that I like the freedom to pick and choose artists that I think are good people, creative musicians and deserve some assistance in obtaining some visibility.

The last and final key to Behind The Curtains Media was getting our SBR general manager/coordinator Hanna Yando on board. She is just about to graduate with her degree in Public Relations and I can’t stress enough how smart, hard working and easy to get along with this girl is. If she weren’t on the team, I honestly don’t think I could have been able to have the courage to take the last few and major steps needed to lead up to the launch of the firm. The combination of my first hand connections to outlets and her 4 years of school training truly allow us to pull off some amazing stuff. 

Big thanks to everyone for all the love and support and giving me a fun project to work on while driving around the country with my stupid band!

Thanks for having me James and Haulix!

Love Always,

-Mike Abiuso / Behind The Curtains Media

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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.