Industry Spotlight: Rey Roldan (Another Reybee Production) – Part 1

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Today we are excited to unveil the first in a two-part interview feature with Rey Roldan, founder of Another Reybee Production. We originally started working on this feature way back in August of 2013, but due to email troubles and scheduling troubles we had to start, stop, start, stop, and start all over again. It’s okay though, because we have finally had a chance to learn the story behind this powerful force in Music PR and are now prepared to present his journey to you.

It would be pretty difficult for you to find anyone working in music today who has not crossed paths with Rey Roldan at one point or another. From working with top 40 acts like Britney Spears and Duran Duran, to helping develop more buzzworthy alternative acts than I could possibly attempt to name here, Rey has spent the better part of the last two decades helping the world’s greatest talent find attention in the public eye. He started in the label world, but it’s when he decided to step out on his own that his career really began to take off.

I have known Rey for over half a decade at this point and can say beyond the shadow of a doubt he is one of the nicest, most professional, and often funniest people you will ever meet in the music industry. Everybody has a Rey Roldan story, and every single one makes him out to be someone you want as your new best friend. The insight he has to share is priceless, and we thank him for taking the time to share it with us.

As we mentioned above, due to the length of this feature we have decided to cut the final interview into two chunks, starting below with Rey’s life before launching his own PR firm. We will bring you the second half, which focuses on Another Reybee Production and the possibilities that lie on the horizon, later this week. If you would like to learn more about Rey and his efforts in music PR, please take a moment to follow him on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

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H: For those unaware, please state your name, the company you work for, and your role at that business:

R: I’m Rey Roldan of Another Reybee Productions, Inc… or Reybee Prods, for short… or Reybee, even shorter. I’m the Prez guy at the company. I founded in back in the Fall of 2004… and ten years later, we’re still going strong!

H: Let’s start at the beginning. When you think of your earliest interactions with music, what comes to mind?

R: I think of sitting on the stairs of the home I grew up in with my sister Joy. I’m gonna date myself here, but we were listening to a radio broadcast on an old radio/cassette player… and I remember hearing the radio DJ say that Elvis Presley has died. I know I was aware of music before then, but when I think of my most vivid memory concerning music, that comes to mind. I was still a wee lad, but for some reason, that sticks out.

H: What was your first concert experience like, and who took you to the show?

R: You know, it’s funny… I kinda don’t exactly remember my first concert. I remember going to tons of concerts before the age of ten, but was my “first concert” when I went to Disney World and saw a live cover band do disco classics? Was it when I went to see U2 in a tiny little club before they even had a full-length album out? Was it seeing Bruce Springsteen with my brothers and sister when we tailgated in the parking lot? I can’t remember. I was going to live shows even before my age hit the second digits.

H: How about the first album you purchased with your own money? (Bonus points if you remember the format)

R: The very first album I purchased… well, there were two. Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks” and Meat Loaf “Bat Out of Hell”. I bought them on vinyl for $2.77 at a local grocery store where I grew up in Parsippany, NJ (interesting trivia: Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” was also one half of my very first two CDs I ever purchased. The other was Psychedelic Furs “Mirror Moves”). I’d spend hours in that store, flipping through the six racks of vinyl. At that age (8? 9?), I didn’t know what I was looking for… I just picked up records because I liked the band names or titles. My dad gave me a great allowance the time ($20 a week!) and I spent most of it on vinyl and at the arcade. I remember seeing Sex Pistols and it screamed “buy me”. I didn’t know anything about them. But I liked the cover and it just reeked of debauchery. It had “sex” in the name, and that just made it “feel” naughty. Meat Loaf’s album… well, my older sibs liked it and I wanted a copy of my own.

H: Thinking back on your life now, are you able to pinpoint any pivotal moments or experiences that steered you toward the career you have today?

R: I used to read music magazines ALL the time… I remember reading this magazine “Song Hits” and watching videos of New Wave bands like Missing Persons, Duran Duran, Romeovoid, Devo, etc. on a local channel called U-68 (pre-MTV) and thinking that I wanted to be surrounded by music all the time. But what made me want to be on the “other” side (instead of being just a listener) was when my brother Rex brought be backstage to a Paul Young concert when he played at Boston College’s student center. I remember walking back there and meeting Paul, and seeing how much fun it was backstage, and thinking that I wanted to be backstage all the time. I had been backstage lots of time before then, but this time, I felt like I wasn’t just a fan taking up space but part of an elite group since my brother helped put on the show.

H: I know you studied creative writing in college. Are there any long lost Rey Roldan manuscripts sitting in your closet/attic that may one day see the light of day?

R: There are TONS… I have two novels written, one screenplay done, a whole slew of short stories, and my memoirs that are still being written. They’re all on 3 ¼” floppy disc though… Hmmm.

H: Was publicity the first thing you wanted to do in the music industry? If not, can you tell us what initially sparked your interest in the world of PR?

R: God no… I wanted to be a journalist. And for a while, I was. I was a staff writer for my college newspaper (as well as the weekly cartoonist about a drunken, lazy rabbit named “Chester”… Yeah, he was modeled after myself). I was writing record reviews, interviewing artists, going to concerts, hanging out backstage, etc. When I graduated from Boston College, I joined a group of five people who were starting up a brand new entertainment biweekly newspaper in Boston called The Improper Bostonian (it still exists). I zoomed up the ranks from Staff Writer to Music Editor in a few months. But I was far too impatient to write for just one media outlet, so I started writing for magazines across the US like Meanstreet (in Los Angeles), QRM (in New Orleans), Cake Magazine (Minneapolis), ROCKRGRL (Seattle), among many others. I started a bunch of magazines in Boston too, but I wasn’t making enough money to make a living, so I decided it was time for me to grow up and get a real job. Since I dealt with publicists all the time and learned the tools and tricks of the trade from my friends in the industry (I’ve always been REALLY observant and inquisitive), I set my sights on a job in the industry… I moved out of Boston and back home to Jersey, and started my trajectory as a publicist.

H: Your first role in PR came from I.R.S. Records. What do you recall about the application process, as well as the world of music PR in general at the time?

R: Getting that job at I.R.S. was the easiest thing ever. I didn’t even have to apply. The head of publicity at the time, Steve Karas, was one of my mentors. He told me about a potential job opening up there… and so I set up a visit to the office. What he didn’t tell me was that he was quitting I.R.S. and moving to A&M, and there would be a new head of publicity that I’d be meeting instead. I walked in and the new head of publicity basically asked me, “What can you start?” The new guy didn’t really know what he was doing (I think it was one of his first jobs running a press department)… so I basically taught myself how to do everything. I basically had to train myself how to set up press days, how to organize press campaigns, how to pitch. Luckily, I.R.S. had a great roster and a great history, so nearly every call I made (again, this was pre-internet, so emails didn’t exist yet) was returned. Among the first projects I spearheaded was The Go-Go’s greatest hits double disc set and a new album by late 80s legend Kirsty MacColl. It was amazing… but again, since it was pre-internet, there was a LOT of phone calls to make… I even remember having to pitch via fax machine. Each pitch had to be personal because of that… Unlike today where there are tools that can send emails in bulk, I had to make each phone call individually… It was a very hands-on experience back then… and there was a LOT of real, human interaction.

H: From this point you begin a decade-long run of publicity gigs, switching labels/companies every few years. You are now your own boss, so I do not want to dwell on the past too much, but what can you tell us about those experiences and how you eventually settled on stepping out with a company of your own?

R: I don’t mean this is any negative way, but when I worked for people, I was more interested in learning what NOT to do… My previous bosses were all good at their jobs, and while I paid attention to how they landed press, I was more interested in what made them fail. I worked for mean bosses (who would yell and scream all day), “too nice” bosses (who would let their artists and press walk all over them), pretentious bosses (who were too concerned with their own careers and not their artists’ lives), and bosses who were too scattered (and never could run a solid campaign). So, when I felt confident enough in my own abilities and learned how NOT to do publicity, I set out on my own… It was scary but it all worked out perfectly. I won’t say that I didn’t have any rough patches, but truthfully, I’ve been very lucky.

H: Before we get any further, what was the first Reybee Production (as this is ‘Another’)? As a follow-up, where does the name ‘Reybee’ come from?

R: Haha… You’re the first person to ever ask that. When I was a kid, my nickname was “Reybee”. I’ve always had an active imagination… One of my lifelong hobbies is painting… I paint “portraits” of cheeses and bees. For the longest time, I would sign my paintings “A Reybee Production”… I’m also a writer/author/journalist and some of my short stories were published as “A Reybee Production”. So when it came time for me to come up with the name of my PR firm, I decided to refer back to that and coin it “Another Reybee Production”. Since I’m so creatively restless, I didn’t want to limit my company to be JUST about Public Relations, so when I’m ready to branch off into another direction, the name “Another Reybee Production” can encompass that too. It’s very open-ended.

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.