Shoot the Shit…
Here we chat with Emily from Deathproof PR who along with her mate Bec have established themselves very quickly as a reputable publicity business in punk rock and hardcore music. Having paid dues with Australia’s own Shock Records for a number of years the ladies took the leap to go at it on their own and build something from the ground up to help the bands they love, something I respect a great deal.
I actually studied Public Relations at university and people always struggled with the concept when I explained it. So, in a nutshell, what exactly IS a music PR company and what do you do?
Haha. So few people actually understand what PR involves so I’m glad you asked! Generally speaking, we are hired by bands, labels and promoters to promote releases and tours. We assist our artists in getting airplay on radio, and video spins on TV. We get their releases reviewed online, on blogs, in street press and in papers, and get them exposure across a ton of different platforms whether through interviews or a slew of other promotional opportunities. We basically use our knowledge of the industry, music and media to our artists’ advantage.
Both you and your business partner Bec spent time paying your dues at Shock Records before going out on your own. What were the most important things you took with you from Shock?
Apart from excellent memories, amazing friendships and some gnarly stories? I feel like Shock was one of the first Australian labels to actually give heavy music a voice, and make it a priority. The company was built on the success of the Epitaph label, and the Offspring ‘Smash’ album so right from the get go they knew the worth of heavy music, instead of relegating it to the ‘too hard, too loud’ basket. Shock is proof that giving weird, generally inaccessible music the love it deserves can pay off in big ways.
Bands and labels have often told me about that ‘oh shit’ moment when they realise they have left a steady pay cheque and are on their own doing what they do. Did you get that feeling starting out with Deathproof?
Holy hell, yes. We still have it. Some days I daydream about having a paycheque and the money just appearing in my bank account every week. I miss it so…
In a previous interview you said Deathproof was a simple idea that has become way more complex and more difficult than you imagined – but totally worth it. What are some of the difficulties you didn’t forsee or have learnt about?
I didn’t actually forsee the way you put your pride on the line when you run your own business. Taking every mundane business transaction seriously is the hardest part. If my clients don’t LOVE my work I am pretty much devastated. Haha. It’s a brutal way to operate, and slightly deranged too. There are a hundred other hurdles we never anticipated but most of them are small business-related and I won’t bore you with the details.
You are in a business where networking is very important. Even more so because you are in music. I’m guessing you have seen some good, bad and downright ugly examples of ‘making connections’?
It’s fun to joke about ‘punishers’ (people who are relentless in their pursuit of contacts), but I would never begrudge anyone for networking in this industry. For every instance you make a genuine friend, you have some awkward as shit scenarios. Networking isn’t easy but its an integral part of working in music, so you just do what you’ve gotta do and hope you come out with some genuine connections at the end of it all.
Do you have a lot of bands approach you now you are up and running? Or is it more you guys seeking out bands you would like to work with?
We mostly wait for clients to come to us. I’d love to seek out all my favourite acts and offer my assistance but it can be presumptuous to assume they want your help and awkward subsequently ask them to pay for your help. That said, we have approached a couple of bands in the past and have worked on some incredibly rewarding campaigns as a result.
Who is one artist you would love to work with and why?
I am stoked to say I’ve pretty much worked with most of my favourites. Shock allowed me to work with pretty much the entire Fat Wreck, Side One Dummy, Burning Heart, Hellcat and Epitaph roster so they essentially made all my teenage punk rock dreams come true! There are a couple young Aussie bands that I’d love to sink my teeth into. Some of them could make great inroads with the right help. There are some huge acts I’d like to work with as well but they’re not likely to need any help shifting tickets so I suppose there’s little point? The best campaigns are the ones where you give a little known act a little bit of love, and introduce some people to quality music. Then you ALMOST feel like this job might be doing something for the greater good of the world. Almost. But not really.
You have spent time overseas and deal with some well established international acts but I get the feeling you get just as pumped about what is happening for local acts in Australia. True?
Working with Aussies is awesome. It’s actually really encouraging how responsive Aussie media is to local music. Thankfully they’re increasingly willing to give local acts some attention even if they’re not established or particularly popular. It’s really nice to see.
Do you feel bands in the web-based world that we operate in focus too much on what they are doing online rather than writing good songs and rocking the fuck out? Or can there be a balance?
Do you mean, social media, digital distro and web presence etc? If so, then I’m going to have to unleash my inner publicist and say hell no. The more web savvy a band can be, the better. I know its not punk or cool to be proactive in your own PR but I really think it can go a long way. I’m not going to yack on about how music and music PR will soon be solely an online domain, but it TOTALLY WILL YOU GUYZ.
Finally, what would be your advice to a band (like most bands out there) who are DIY when it comes to their ‘promotion’?
Keep a really careful eye on your fans’ responsiveness. That’s how you’re gonna figure out what works for you. Don’t spam your audience if its not being effective and is pissing people off. Try a couple of tried and tested DIY PR methods and see which work, then go from there. Also, I think a lot of bands are underestimating the value of good merch. Some audiences are
willing to spend a LOT of cash on a good design, or novel product from an OK band. I’m not sure why more bands aren’t taking advantage of this and thinking outside the box when it comes to merch. Not only can you make decent cash, but having people WEAR your ‘brand’ is invaluable grassroots PR.