I had the chance to interview Jerry Graham, who is a PR person for various bands and artists. In this interview we talked about his story as a PR person.
Rob: Who inspired you to become a publicist?
Jerry: Nobody inspired me to be a publicist. My first job in the music industry was interning at Some Records. When I got there, I didn’t know what publicity was, they weren’t too organized so I asked them what I should do and they had me call zines/magazines and ask for updated advertising rates/media kits. Back in those dates you could call editors on the phone and there usually wasn’t a separate person handling ads, so I realized I was good at the gift of gab. The job fit my personality.
Rob: Who was the first band you did publicity for on your own?
Jerry: I started Warm Fuzzy Publicity in May 2001. My first client was Hydra Head Records. My first band was a band from Geneva, Switzerland called Knut. They were doing a US tour with ISIS, The Thrones, and I don’t recall who else, perhaps Anodyne.
Rob: What are qualities you’re looking for in bands?
Jerry: Well there are bands that you personally love and either have a history with as a fan or have been following professionally. Then there are those that perhaps I don’t have a direct musical connection with but I find musically interesting and know which media outlets would help them expand their audience or find media supporters with.
Professionally I find satisfaction in finding the story in the band and bringing it out to the world. A big segment of indie P.R.’s don’t want to write bio’s or turn them over to freelance writers. Whenever I start a new campaign 99% of the time I take on this responsibility, I do this so I can interview the band and by this process I can usually glean info from the band that I think are compelling angles or info that they themselves may not recognize as interesting to media or an audience.
Some examples of this include shining a light on a band member’s musical training,academic background, side job, travel experience. In the case of a heritage band where there’s a generation gap and younger listeners don’t understand their relevance, it may be finding out which newer bands were inspired by them and try to obtain quotes from said artists and try and line up cross-interviews with those artists.
Rob: What bands are currently on your roster?
Jerry: Just talking current as of this writing I am working a number of releases for Fysisk Format Records out of Norway. They have a variety of artists on the label who are doing cerebral but aggressive music using metal, hardcore or noise as a base. I connected with them while visiting Norway a few years back and really enjoy what they do.
I’ve been working with Fit For A King on and off for the past four years and they are amazing guys and the new album Slave To Nothing is killer! I will also be re-uniting with long-time clients, Haste The Day on their forthcoming release, Coward for Solid State Records. Madball is a long-time client and I just finished working the new album and Freddy has some new things in the works.
On the hip-hop tip I am working the forthcoming Black Rob album for Slimstyle Records and also A&R’ing forthcoming album by DJ Doo Wop & Lord Tariq for them. Lastly Xemu Records, which is co-run by Steve of Dead Meadow has some new spring releases that we are setting up. I’ve been working P.R. for Dead Meadow and their related projects on and off since I started Warm Fuzzy Publicity.
Rob: What did you mean when you told me earlier a client was “off-cycle”?
Jerry: Most album or tour P.R. campaigns are only budgeted for 2-3 months. After that you aren’t really actively working the band aside from helping to wrap up and collect press you set up during the active phase. Then there are retainer clients. Retainer usually means that you are an independent contractor and being paid to either work a band or an entire label for length of publicity agreement. This is usually contracted in semi-annual or annual increments. For example early in my career I worked Coheed and Cambria’s album The Second Stage Turbine Blade for Equal Vision Records. Initially it was just a normal 2 or 3 month campaign but towards the end of that length it was evident that the band was blowing up and that they needed to keep P.R. active. I kept getting re-upped to continue album and tour press and I believe that album cycle went on for a year and a half in total. There was also at least a year, possibly two when I had something like five whole labels on retainer and that was my entire roster.
Rob: What are the benefits of a band hiring a publicist?
Jerry: A publicist will usually know which outlets would be the best places for you find an audience in your respective genre. They will also be familiar with the style of each outlet, their unique columns and in so, know what angle of each respective band/artist would make sense for coverage. He/She ideally would also have relationships with said outlets, editors and freelance writers which would make it more likely to check out their artists. In the case of bands that already have an audience and demand, another benefit is having a publicist act as gatekeeper for interview and ticket requests. As social media becomes more prevalent in every respect of our lives, it also acts this way for an artist. There is a lot of access to bands now and they don’t have the time to credential every press request.
Rob: How has social media changed your job?
Jerry: On the plus side Social media is good because you’re able to reach different demographics of people in a short amount of time. It’s become a way for writers or artists to share their opinion or build interest in new artists or help artists promote. Therefore I now include social media in my press reports as there are metrics that are quantifiable. For example if Anthony from The Needle Drop mentions an album he digs on twitter, even though he is not going to do a full review, it still reaches his audience and it has his co-sign. Therefore his tweet is reaching said number of followers and that is going in the press report.
Rob: What is the biggest misconception on being a publicist according to Jerry?
Jerry: There is a stigma I’ve dealt with at times from certain people I pitch that we are like telemarketers. That we are less passionate about music, that we all don’t care about which projects we work, that we are all going to call media without knowing what type of music they cover or what interests them. Yes, I do realize that they have had dealings with people who gave them that impression but I say something something blah blah book by the cover.
Rob: Do you have anything or any group you want to plug?
Jerry: If you check out my Tumblr page, you can get the lowdown on my current artists and what I am working on. http://jerrygrahampublicity.tumblr.com/
Rob: Thank you Jerry.