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In praise of PR people

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:55 am
by Charlie
Norman has started a thread concept so I'm keeping it going, hoping this subject does not demean the idea

After the many tributes to the late Rob Partridge, I was wondering if any PR person has ever established their value outside their field of endeavour. Their function is to place items in the media, either getting DJs to play their records or getting journalists to write reviews, interviews or features on their precious subjects

In the UK, Max Clifford is surely the best known and most notorious member of the species, often hired as a consultant by people suddenly finding themselves to be newsworthy and with stories that can be sold.

Apart from Rob, there have been very few such people who got past my defences, the notable exception being a radio promo man called Gareth Davies, who endeared himself to me by continuing to send me records in the five year gap when I had no regular radio show, 1991 to 1995. I soon fell off everybody else's mailing lists, but Gareth made a point of keeping me in the loop. One remembers these things, and feels well disposed toewards what comes next from such people. Garth is my point of contact for Damon Albarn (outside his main projects for EMI) and Brian Eno.

In the world music field, a woman called Sally Reeves has been PR for World Circuit Records and a few independent projects, which she promotes with such hesitance, it is impossible not to be charmed by her humility. A female Max Clifford she is not.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:07 pm
by garth cartwright
This thread is rather limited to us who Des once described scornfully as "professionals" but, sure, let's list.

Richard Wootton: once a music writer and great fan of country music (so much so he wrote Honky Tonkin' - a guide to the best country music bars in the US) - then moved into PR with an emphasis on country music. A very pleasant and professional man; Sally Reeves, who is lovely, used to work in his office. Am I the only person on this forum who likes country music? RW has definitely helped country win a wider audience in the UK.

Riot Squad; Kerstan, Julie and Sean are 3 jazz PRs who have come together. All have been working incredibly hard to promote jazz in the UK for years with Kerstan and Julie managing some UK artists. Passionate, engaging people.

Florence Halfon; mentioned on the forum recently as a singer and not really a PR but definitely passionate in what she has to promote. Helped establish Jimmy Scott's UK career and ensured a lot of old Atlantic jazz and soul has been reissued.

Nita: does a great job with underground American noisy stuff. From a small village close to the Welsh border.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:11 pm
by howard male
And what about Ilka, who has an above average hit rate as far as getting the stuff she promotes covered by me. She's also good at following things through without ever seeming pushy.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:03 pm
by NormanD
garth cartwright wrote:Am I the only person on this forum who likes country music?
C'mon, Garth, there's lots of us here. Look at all the YouTube clips and remembered birthdays from Mike, and Philip Ryall's constant mentions of new Americana performers in his great concert / festival reviews - to name just two.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:22 pm
by Charlie
howard male wrote:And what about Ilka, who has an above average hit rate as far as getting the stuff she promotes covered by me. She's also good at following things through without ever seeming pushy.

While there will inevitably be some obscure references in this thread, I think it's necessary to give an indication of what any recommended person actually does.

Ilka Schlockerman has been the patient but insistent pressure behind a number of the projects I have championed on air over the past few years, starting with JJC & the 419 Squad and most recently culminating in the albums by Bassekou Kouyate and Sir Victor Uwaifo.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:29 am
by Jonathan E.
It seems to me that there has to be distinction drawn between those PR people who have a regular gig and those who work project-to-project. After all, if you're on the payroll, or the client is yours in perpetuity, it's easy (relatively) to keep feeding promos to those temporarily off the air or without a column. Otoh, hand-to-mouth asks for a quicker bite at the morsel because they must continually prove themselves more adept with the prey.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 9:57 am
by Philellinas
garth cartwright wrote:This thread is rather limited to us who Des once described scornfully as "professionals" but, sure, let's list.

Richard Wootton: once a music writer and great fan of country music (so much so he wrote Honky Tonkin' - a guide to the best country music bars in the US) - then moved into PR with an emphasis on country music. A very pleasant and professional man; Sally Reeves, who is lovely, used to work in his office. Am I the only person on this forum who likes country music? RW has definitely helped country win a wider audience in the UK.

Riot Squad; Kerstan, Julie and Sean are 3 jazz PRs who have come together. All have been working incredibly hard to promote jazz in the UK for years with Kerstan and Julie managing some UK artists. Passionate, engaging people.

Florence Halfon; mentioned on the forum recently as a singer and not really a PR but definitely passionate in what she has to promote. Helped establish Jimmy Scott's UK career and ensured a lot of old Atlantic jazz and soul has been reissued.

Nita: does a great job with underground American noisy stuff. From a small village close to the Welsh border.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:43 am
by Charlie
Jonathan E. wrote:It seems to me that there has to be distinction drawn between those PR people who have a regular gig and those who work project-to-project. After all, if you're on the payroll, or the client is yours in perpetuity, it's easy (relatively) to keep feeding promos to those temporarily off the air or without a column. Otoh, hand-to-mouth asks for a quicker bite at the morsel because they must continually prove themselves more adept with the prey.

Most of the people we recommend here are liable to be free lancers, but not always. In the case I cited, Gareth Davies was spending his own money. In any case, you might be surprised to learn how people in companies don't like to expend a second of their time or ounce of energy that cannot be directly accounted for; they particularly don't like to deal with non mainstream media people, which accounts for how hard it is to get world music albums out of PR people at major companies, who usually don't realise these artists are even with their own company (and will fend off requests with a very dismissive tone). Paid to get their records on Radio 1, the couldn't care less about Radio London, for instance.

The relevance, in my case, is that some of these PR people manage to generate a sort of loyalty in me that results in extra exposure for their projects

I used to think this was a sort of corruption, but now understand it is just human nature

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:46 am
by David Flower
i endorse Sally Reeves, who I generally refer to as "the First Lady of Press". Or sometimes "The Hoover" as she's so effective she can sometimes clean up the media on one album or tour, leaving little for next year!

For our American friends a plug for Dmitri Vietze at Rockpaperscissors (great name) who is generally regarded as extremely effective in our field in North America

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 7:34 pm
by Jonathan E.
Charlie wrote:
Jonathan E. wrote:It seems to me that there has to be distinction drawn between those PR people who have a regular gig and those who work project-to-project. After all, if you're on the payroll, or the client is yours in perpetuity, it's easy (relatively) to keep feeding promos to those temporarily off the air or without a column. Otoh, hand-to-mouth asks for a quicker bite at the morsel because they must continually prove themselves more adept with the prey.

Most of the people we recommend here are liable to be free lancers, but not always. In the case I cited, Gareth Davies was spending his own money. In any case, you might be surprised to learn how people in companies don't like to expend a second of their time or ounce of energy that cannot be directly accounted for; they particularly don't like to deal with non mainstream media people, which accounts for how hard it is to get world music albums out of PR people at major companies, who usually don't realise these artists are even with their own company (and will fend off requests with a very dismissive tone). Paid to get their records on Radio 1, the couldn't care less about Radio London, for instance.

The relevance, in my case, is that some of these PR people manage to generate a sort of loyalty in me that results in extra exposure for their projects

I used to think this was a sort of corruption, but now understand it is just human nature

It seems that perhaps I have managed to draw the distinction exactly wrong! Not for the first time — and, I suppose, unlikely to be for the last time. My apologies to all independent PR people and, you lot with the corporate jobs, listen to what Charlie says and get with it!

Don't get me going on "human nature." I share at least part of Gary Clail's opinion as so fervently expressed in the song of the same title on Emotional Hooligan — there's something wrong with it. Of course, in interests of fairness and full disclosure, etc. etc., there are also a few things right with it.

And back to regular programming: an independent PR person of my long ago past who transcended "their value outside their field of endeavour" is Sep, founder of San Francisco's long-running Dubmission club night. If you're ever in town on a Sunday night . . .

prs

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:30 am
by Peter Culshaw
yes, hats off to them - they have to face regular rejeciton for music the best ones have a great feel for ...

sally reeves, riotsquad, kerstan, julie, maja at sound UK,will mcarthy, - just communicating with Ilka re: Watcha Clan in Brixton, venue prs like Alex at the Barbican, Miles at the south bank, classical ones like the peerless Nicky Thomas, Lucy Bright was great at Warners, Louise and Caroline at Universal....now I'm thinking of all the ones I left out...(Jody Gillett for one..)

They also have to deal with often neurotic writers and often unfriendly editors.....

then you have the rubbish ones who haven't a clue, who for now will remain nameless

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:47 am
by Adam Blake
Can I have a shout out for my old mate Versa Manos? I first met her when she was "doing" Whitney Houston. Long since sadly decamped to Lost Angeles, she has represented so many artists since the early 70s. Now running her own PR company - Gorgeous PR.

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:59 am
by Chris Walsh
As a regular employer of freelance pr, here are my faves:

Steve Ager (the man responsible for the early successes of Gogol Bordello, he's also worked a few other titles for me, including: Niyaz, Cheb i Sabbah, Karsh Kale and Spanish Harlem Orchestra)

Jody Gillett (not used her for long, but she's really good to work with - tells it like it is, relaxed and measured in her campaigns - she's recently worked on the following titles for me: Sonantes, Ceu, Best of Mr Bongo [Various], I Like It Like That - Fania/Mr.Bongo [Various])

Ilka Schlockermann (Issa Bagayogo is the first project I've worked with Ilka on, despite having known her for some time. It's easy to see the sort of success she's had on that - so I'm hoping to have something great and African to throw her way sometime soon)

As a side note - it's also quite dispiriting when a pr person does very well for me and the impact on sales is negligible. It's a shame that the powers that be at music retail pay almost no attention to what's covered in the national press. I've often had great coverage for an act and it's come to nothing, simply because that vital follow-up exposure of simply having a record nationally stocked is missing. I'm sure many of the other label managers here have had similar issues... vent, people, vent!

PR People

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:08 pm
by Simon Broughton
A lot of very good comments about PR people above. The best ones are those that know what they are selling and know who they are selling to. Over the years I've been a radio producer, TV director, music journalist and Songlines magazine editor and the best people have been those that know what you do and the stories you need. No surprise that Sally Reeves' name keeps getting mentioned - Ilka Schlockermann and Kerstan Mackness too. The ones I despise are those that come from people I don't think I've ever met and come up with some automated mail-out that goes "Hi Simon! How you doin? I've got something really cool for you......"

Basically, I'm not interested in something really cool, but a good story.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 9:52 am
by David Flower
speaking of PR, I'm tickled by the tag "In Person' on the new ads for Dylan's next concert tour. This sets off a few speculations. Are they aiming to reassure us that such a Mighty Legend does indeed occasionally descend to earth to appear in mortal form for us? Is it to reassure us in these days of techno trickery that the performance of such a Mighty Legend will not somehow be beamed in remotely? Are they reassuring people with doubts that he is in fact still alive and the shows will not be some Sinatra-like on screen recreation ? Or is there a film out that his live shows might be confused with? Curious