Q&A with Janelle Rogers (Green Light Go Publicity)
This week I chatted with the inspiring Janelle Rogers, an experienced and successful music publicist and founder of the US based publicity company, Green Light Go, who have an amazing roster of up & coming artists and a terrific reputation for the passion, integrity and dedication they show their rostered acts. This interview is a must read for independent artists considering hiring a publicist, as well as up & coming aspiring publicists.
(photo by Mare Costello)
1. How did you get into music publicity? Was it something you actively worked towards or that you simply fell into?
Even though I grew up in small town where I wasn’t exposed to much “cool” music, I knew as early as high school I wanted to work in the music industry. I moved out to Seattle to attend the Art of Institute for music, video and business with the thought that I would be the one to determine what ends up in the top 40 (little did I know at the time, that’s simply not how it works). AIS exposed me to a lot of different aspects of the music industry, but also left me uncertain of what direction to head.
While I was going to school at the Art Institute, I also attended my first SXSW in 1993. Although I felt a bit directionless in the area I wanted to work, I knew where I wanted to be based on my experience at the conference. I headed down to Austin, Texas and eventually began working at SXSW in 1995, while I pursued a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas, with an emphasis on public relations.
You would think publicity would have been my aim. It wasn’t. I pursued that degree because I wanted to learn to be a better writer and communicate effectively. While I was going to school, one of my former SXSW co-workers asked me if I’d be interested in her college marketing rep position at BMG Distribution. I wholeheartedly pursued it and accepted the position when it was offered. It was from that experience I learned how much I really loved the creative aspects of marketing and the alternative indie bands we were representing. Bands like Mercury Rev, Beth Orton, Spiritualized and Matthew Sweet were some of the first bands I worked when I started at the company. I knew then and there the alternative indie world was where I belonged.
I continued to move up in the company, while primarily staying in the alternative realm. As Regional Alternative Marketing Manager for the Midwest I had hit somewhat of a plateau. I also knew I wanted to have more of a direct impact on the bands, while maintaining honesty, integrity and honesty, which I felt was lacking for many artists. I started out managing a band, but realized there were a lot of aspects I didn’t like about the job and others that weren’t my strong suit. Surprised as I was, I found I really loved the publicity side the most. It was the idea of seeing results. And to this day, there’s nothing I love more than seeing a publication cover an artist I so wholeheartedly believe in.
2. At what point in a music artist’s career do you think they’re ready to start working with a publicist?
First and foremost an artist needs to have a vision of what they’d like to achieve and be willing to put in the effort as well. At the very least, they should have a well-produced single and professional publicity photos that are representative of the music. It is the first impression for a media person and a band may not get a second chance if it doesn’t represent them well. Lastly, they need to be ready to make the investment.
3. Considering how ‘DIY’ the music industry has become in recent years what value do you think publicists offer independent artists today?
Due to the DIY nature of the industry, publicists are more valuable than ever. Prior to the DIY phenomenon, media outlets would primarily be contacted by labels, managers and independent publicists. Now, an artist can also reach out on their own in some cases, which means the media outlet has more music to go through and less time to do it. A publicist with strong relationships can open doors that wouldn’t directly be available to the artist. However, there are never guarantees because coverage is typically reliant on three key aspects 1) do they like the music 2) do they have time 3) do they have space.
A good publicist will know their contact’s taste and rhythm and be able to approach them directly in a way that would be most conducive to results. In a nutshell, it takes years to build relationships and know how to get their attention. A publicist can provide value through experience and the depth of their contacts in areas where the musician may not be able to connect to the media on their own.
4. How would you describe an average ‘day in the life’ of a successful music publicist?
We tend to have a divide and conquer approach at GLG, so we can achieve the best results for the client. While most companies will assign one rep to solely work the campaign, we actually have the team work a specific portion based on individual strengths and passions. I currently pitch all the media premieres to high profile outlets like NPR, SPIN or Pitchfork. Two of the reps focus on pitching media daily based on mp3s, albums and videos. This could typically mean sending out 25-100 emails daily to media.
The success of a campaign is based on our relationships and the factors mentioned in the previous question. At the beginning of a campaign we will all work together to determine story angles that could potentially interest media. We are also selecting potential singles to release from the EP or album, while building a press list that will be catered to the artist’s style of music and where they are in their career. We also have a team of writers who write all the press releases and edit the bio where needed.
5. What advice would you have for young people who aspire to work in music publicity?
Have a thick skin. More often than not, your emails won’t be answered by the media, even when you have a great relationship. Know that it takes time to build those relationships and make sure you are taking the time to build a solid one that isn’t solely based on “Will you cover my band?”
As a publicist, you also need to learn to be diplomatic with your clients when they ask questions about why they haven’t received more press or why an outlet isn’t responding.
Last, but not least, you need to be a great writer who can tell a great story. The story is everything when trying to pitch a band to the media, because it allows you to differentiate the band from everyone else out there.
For more information about Green Light go please visit their website.