“Shhhh-it!”: Idolator’s Super-Secret Music-Biz Interview Series Continues

Dec 6th, 2006 // 10 Comments

shhhhhh_it.jpgIn October, we launched our AnonIMous Interview Series, in which we anonymously grill a seasoned music-biz veteran; it’s all part of our double-headed effort to get more industry dirt, and to run more pictures of cats (we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: cats are nature’s little clip art). This time around, we talk to a big-wig music publicist who’s worked with both Grammy winners and Pitchfork faves:

MusicPublicityBigWig: if all youve got is a single or one or two, maybe four good songs
MusicPublicityBigWig: then yeah a leak is going to hurt. hurt you good.
MusicPublicityBigWig: records always leak. it just a matter of when.
MusicPublicityBigWig: but all my clients seem to be doing just fine

More anonIMous(TM) anecdotes, zingers, and boasts after the click-through!

VivSavage1984: alright, so first: can you give a thumbnail–for the kids–of what your job entails?
MusicPublicityBigWig: lets see…
MusicPublicityBigWig: conceptually
MusicPublicityBigWig: managing the media, image, print and TV appearances of the big stars and making sure the little ones get something, anything at all!
MusicPublicityBigWig: non-conceptually
MusicPublicityBigWig: taking and making calls and e-mails about all of that, organizing mailings and/or listenings (ugh) for reviews, features, organizing guest lists for shows, scheduling interviews, coming up with press and tv strategy, gameplan, all that fun stuff
MusicPublicityBigWig: generally staying up the ass of people like you–but just far enough
MusicPublicityBigWig: just far enough that its pleasurable but not far enough that it becomes painful
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats pretty good huh?
VivSavage1984: for someone who sits on their ass all day like me, it can be painful. so, in terms of magazines: what are the big gets? what magazines do you lobby for with the most urgency?
MusicPublicityBigWig: depends on the client
VivSavage1984: right. well, let’s say for the top-tier clients. rolling stone? spin? Ew? blender? murder dog?
MusicPublicityBigWig: Blacktail
MusicPublicityBigWig: Bird Talk
MusicPublicityBigWig: seriously though…
MusicPublicityBigWig: for top tier clients it has to be a good balance
MusicPublicityBigWig: like yeah a rolling stone cover is a big get of course
MusicPublicityBigWig: but again depending on the client
MusicPublicityBigWig: an NPR show combine with a Sunday cover of a major newspaper and and SNL appearance that week could be the way to go
MusicPublicityBigWig: its funny though that so many smaller places react to interview denial with “oh sor-ree we’re not ROLLING STONE!”
MusicPublicityBigWig: which is amusing to me as I haven’t had an artist on the cover of RS since i think 2001?
VivSavage1984: yeah, which mags/outlets are a pain in the ass to work with?
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats an odd one too
MusicPublicityBigWig: youd expect the biggest stars to be the biggest dicks, right? totally not the case.
MusicPublicityBigWig: while there are angels and assholes (isnt that a band?) at every level
MusicPublicityBigWig: its mostly smaller fry who think they’ll get A-list attention by acting like assholes
MusicPublicityBigWig: who are the biggest problem
VivSavage1984: examples, please!
MusicPublicityBigWig: i dont know if youve even heard of em
MusicPublicityBigWig: AMP, a magazine from the west coast
MusicPublicityBigWig: AMPLIFIER from mass.
MusicPublicityBigWig: quite a few freelancers, zinesters
MusicPublicityBigWig: these are people i have to tell its not that youre “not ROLLING STONE,” youre NOT GOOD
MusicPublicityBigWig: or unique
MusicPublicityBigWig: and that if they threw in the towel and stopped publishing tomorrow NO ONE WOULD CARE
MusicPublicityBigWig: its very zen
MusicPublicityBigWig: “if a new issue of AMP doesn’t come out and no one notices… does it not come out?”
MusicPublicityBigWig: grasshopper
VivSavage1984: but surely, there must be some dick moves at spin, stone, blender? right? are they still the big 3?
MusicPublicityBigWig: yeah i guess there are but they’re just tons more professional
MusicPublicityBigWig: in general
VivSavage1984: so they never, ever drive you cocnuts? ever??
VivSavage1984: i meant coconuts
VivSavage1984: but cocnuts is better!
MusicPublicityBigWig: eh i dunno its been a long time since ive had a knock down drag out with any of those
MusicPublicityBigWig: i mean i have
MusicPublicityBigWig: but i think we all understand one another if that makes sense
VivSavage1984: ok, well what about these so-called “music blogs”? do you or your clients even care about them?
MusicPublicityBigWig: well theyre the flavor of the moment
MusicPublicityBigWig: but they’ll get strip-mined and co-opted just like everything else that was the way to instant sales for 15 minutes
MusicPublicityBigWig: college radio, late night TV, street team marketing
MusicPublicityBigWig: film syncs and soundtracks, TV ads
MusicPublicityBigWig: theres always something
VivSavage1984: bloggers must drive you crazy with requests
MusicPublicityBigWig: dont get me wrong. i think its great to have such a dialogue, direct w/the fans, and an actual community
MusicPublicityBigWig:: nah they dont really
MusicPublicityBigWig: most of the bloggers think my clients are inaccessible
MusicPublicityBigWig: so they dont even bother
MusicPublicityBigWig: and i aint complaining
VivSavage1984: which do you like/dislike?
MusicPublicityBigWig: but i help ‘em out whenever possible
MusicPublicityBigWig: well i have been enjoying idolator… youre the greatest, no YOU are… OK now that we’re done sucking each others dicks
VivSavage1984: yeah, until we leak one of your clients new mp3s!
MusicPublicityBigWig: never happen!
MusicPublicityBigWig: i got that shit on lockdown
MusicPublicityBigWig: anyway
MusicPublicityBigWig: i like a lot of the mainstream writers blogs, like sasha frere jones, alex ross, like people who can actually WRITE and have some concept of factchecking
VivSavage1984: factwhating?
MusicPublicityBigWig: and i like some of the uberfans like stereogum, brooklynvegan
VivSavage1984: ok, so what about pitchfork? do they really have the power to make/break a band?
MusicPublicityBigWig: depends
MusicPublicityBigWig: their power is sort of the opposite of the major labels, stay with me here
MusicPublicityBigWig: they can propel a band from selling like 3000 to 30,000 or whatever, they can start that whole process
MusicPublicityBigWig: and yes they can impede a travis morrison or whoever they give a zero, but he doesn’t sell any goddamn records anyway
MusicPublicityBigWig: but if you’re on a level of some of my bigger clients and they slam you, it has no effect.
MusicPublicityBigWig: no effect on anyone who already sells half a million or more
VivSavage1984: i love when that example comes up–like it was “james cameron’s travis morrison album.” that thing wouldn’t have sold no matter what!
MusicPublicityBigWig: exactly
MusicPublicityBigWig: see the major labels specialize in taking people who can sell 200,000+ on their own to selling 500,000 or 1 million
MusicPublicityBigWig: but they don’t have any apparatus for taking an artist from 0 to 30,000
MusicPublicityBigWig: they have no effect
MusicPublicityBigWig: at that level
MusicPublicityBigWig: these days though the indie labels are behaving just like mini-majors though
MusicPublicityBigWig: but thats another topic entirely
MusicPublicityBigWig: why is travis morrison or any number of similar records
MusicPublicityBigWig: being worked by a marketing team–PR, distro, radio, etc.–when it would sell just as many–or as few–off the dude’s own site or myspace or at his shows
VivSavage1984: hmm. speaking of major-label apparatus, how much time do they have left? will it just become catalog sales?
VivSavage1984: and 1-2 million sellers?
MusicPublicityBigWig: eh
MusicPublicityBigWig: no kid cares about catalogue
MusicPublicityBigWig: once our generation is gone, the box set will go the way of the brontosaurus
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats just the impression i get from my work
MusicPublicityBigWig: some major corporation or sponsor will always exist as patronage for the arts
MusicPublicityBigWig: digital distribution, whatever
MusicPublicityBigWig: and there always has to be some support team helping consumers or fans or whatever sort through everything
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats where people like me come in
MusicPublicityBigWig: same w/radio, retail, etc
MusicPublicityBigWig: the balance of power has shifted so much
MusicPublicityBigWig: used to be image of what i do was gatekeeper, like the only way to the publics eyes and ears was through big media, big tv
MusicPublicityBigWig: now it’s all realigning
MusicPublicityBigWig: but i think we’re getting off topic.
VivSavage1984: ha! ok, so let’s turn to the sexy, sexy world of digital music: how bad do these mp3/album leaks hurt? how crazy is the lockdown going to get? i got an indie album with like three stickers and a watermark this week, and i thought, “really?”
MusicPublicityBigWig: its retarded
MusicPublicityBigWig: i heard this quote the other day
MusicPublicityBigWig: some label kid at a meeting said the mistake the music biz is making
MusicPublicityBigWig: is like the bottled water companies trying to turn everyone’s taps off
MusicPublicityBigWig: great analogy
MusicPublicityBigWig: my answer would have to be
MusicPublicityBigWig: if all youve got is a single or one or two, maybe four good songs
MusicPublicityBigWig: then yeah a leak is going to hurt. hurt you good.
MusicPublicityBigWig: records always leak. it just a matter of when.
MusicPublicityBigWig: but all my clients seem to be doing just fine
MusicPublicityBigWig: having strongest first week sales ever
MusicPublicityBigWig: i cant name names of course but you know who i mean
VivSavage1984: yeah but because a lot of your clients are bigger, don’t their management hate leaks and try to stop them?
MusicPublicityBigWig: well they try to protect it and forestall the inevitable
MusicPublicityBigWig: but the smart managers–and i could have an industrial bandsaw accident and still count them all on less than both hand
VivSavage1984: tee hee
MusicPublicityBigWig: realize that the future of their artists’ financial well being is not in plastic discs
MusicPublicityBigWig: the labels, who are the owners of these master recordings, are the ones who are more paranoid
MusicPublicityBigWig: and with good reason
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats their only real revenue source
MusicPublicityBigWig: but i dont want to sound like either their enemy or advocate
VivSavage1984: ah, of course
MusicPublicityBigWig: thats not my business, literally and figuratively
MusicPublicityBigWig: whenever a civilian, like a relative or non-business friend asks me
MusicPublicityBigWig: “oh the music business is in trouble, are you OK?”
MusicPublicityBigWig: i say
MusicPublicityBigWig: “the CD-selling business is in trouble. im not in that business”
MusicPublicityBigWig: im in the business of my clients and theyre all doing fine.
MusicPublicityBigWig: i think this year will be the 4th consecutive year weve been up
MusicPublicityBigWig: but thats also because of the kind of clients i take on/turn down
VivSavage1984: alrighty, speaking of clients, you have to shepherd them through award shows, parties, etc. so you’ve had a lot of run-ins with other musicians. tell us some assholes you’ve met! and why.
MusicPublicityBigWig: hahahaha
MusicPublicityBigWig: britney spears wanted one of my artists’ VIP tables at a VMAs aftershow like 4 yrs ago
MusicPublicityBigWig: but my wife wouldnt get up for her so they couldnt have it!
MusicPublicityBigWig: what else
MusicPublicityBigWig: i had an ex-client who was so upset about getting shut out at the grammy awards 6 or 7 years ago, he ran away from me and my staff and did the press room without us
VivSavage1984: ha!
MusicPublicityBigWig: i used jedi mind trick to get rid of that fool
VivSavage1984: have you ever wanted to throttle anyone?
MusicPublicityBigWig: well yeah of course
VivSavage1984: one zesty name!
VivSavage1984: you’ve got more dirt than neil strauss!
MusicPublicityBigWig: shit i dunno
VivSavage1984: it can be anyone you’ve met in your travels. anyone!
MusicPublicityBigWig: well most of those have become kinda public
MusicPublicityBigWig: so i cant say without giving myself away
MusicPublicityBigWig: i wish i could do what uwe boll did
VivSavage1984: ah, yeah, but who would you spar with?
VivSavage1984: you set yourself up for that one!
MusicPublicityBigWig: i cant name one
MusicPublicityBigWig: cuz it was public
MusicPublicityBigWig: lawsuit yada yada
VivSavage1984: right
VivSavage1984: carol channing?
MusicPublicityBigWig: hahahahaah
VivSavage1984: she wanted that AP cover, goddamnit!
MusicPublicityBigWig: lets come back to that one
MusicPublicityBigWig: though when some writers do get snippy like that im always thinking
MusicPublicityBigWig: like ghostface killah
MusicPublicityBigWig: “thats whats wrong with these kids, they dont they ass beat no more”
VivSavage1984: ha!
MusicPublicityBigWig: seriously
MusicPublicityBigWig: a writer once said to me
MusicPublicityBigWig: well it would be nice if i HAD the album to WRITE ABOUT
MusicPublicityBigWig: and i was like
MusicPublicityBigWig: shithead, did you talk to your folks like that when you wanted something? it would be NICE if had SOME DINNER
MusicPublicityBigWig: if i was your dad i would have that belt out like NOW
MusicPublicityBigWig: they just have no character
MusicPublicityBigWig: no social skills
MusicPublicityBigWig: its sad really
VivSavage1984: are you telling me music writers have no social skills??!
VivSavage1984: zounds!
MusicPublicityBigWig: well as an ex-writer myself…
MusicPublicityBigWig: well, look
MusicPublicityBigWig: we’re all MUSIC publicists and MUSIC writers and MUSIC execs
VivSavage1984: true dat
MusicPublicityBigWig: because we dont have the skills to be the REAL versions
VivSavage1984: ha!
MusicPublicityBigWig: MUSIC business people are the GYM TEACHERS of the adult world!
MusicPublicityBigWig: not good enough to be professional musicians? write about it!
VivSavage1984: most of us are flabby and cant climb a rope, but we want everyone else to climb it perfectly
MusicPublicityBigWig: its fine as long as you realize and dont take it so seriously
MusicPublicityBigWig: there you go
MusicPublicityBigWig: well said

  1. tinfoil

    I didn’t read the entire thing but I’m sure it was a great interview.


  2. Moonshine Mike

    Why don’t you just find MixerMan and re-interview him?

  3. 30f

    It would be NICE if we had SOME GYM TEACHERS who didn’t try to take all the music writing gigs.

  4. sovietpanda

    now i really want to know who this is. i’m sure SOMEONE can figure it out. c’mon.

  5. LooseLips

    Sounds like a nasty little man to me

  6. LooseLips

    sounds like a nasty little man to me

  7. Chris Molanphy

    These just keep getting better. Thanks for that.

  8. GiantPanda


  9. ozacrot

    Poor, poor Travis Morrison.

  10. kidatonal

    T. Mo got more publicity out of his 0.0 than he ever did with the Dismemberment Plan. If (when) they reunite they’re going to be bigger than the Pixies.

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