Working in Music PR

I Like Press’ Simon Glacken took us into the world of a Music PR Director and told us what it’s like to work in PR

Music PR is an important part of the music industry! Strategically promoting new releases, tours, or other music related news has never been as important with the growth of social media.

We caught up with Director of I Like Press, Simon Glacken. I Like Press publicise for established musicians worldwide , including Trail of Dead, Paradise Lost, 65daysofstatic, and Anathema. We asked Simon to take us into the world of a Music PR Director and give us some top tips for the budding PR officers among you!

Best Kept Secret 2015

What do you do day-to-day?

“I’m sure there’s an old cliche I’m meant to roll out here where I talk about how every day is different in the office in the crazy world of music PR. Sometimes you might find yourself travelling across the country to see a band or working at a festival in another country but a fair amount of my time involves being sat at my desk staring at my screen. The day usually starts off with a coffee and once this has kicked in I’m ready to tackle the day ahead.

One of the main day to day tasks which is also one of the most important is pitching to various magazines, websites, editors to cover the bands and festivals we work with.

This can be as simple as trying to secure an album review but when it comes to features we’ll have to spend some time coming up with potential interesting ideas or angles about why they should be writing about them.

Of course, when you’re contacting a lot of people and pitching for various types of articles, you’ll get a fair few people saying yes to you which is obviously a bit of a buzz especially when you know it’s going to be a great bit of exposure for one of your artists, though on the flip side, you’ll also feel the harsh pain of rejection when people say no to your pitches. The success of a pitch can make or break your day.

In between all the pitching, we’ll spend a great deal of time replying to peoples’ requests such as writers wanting to review an album or gig or maybe they want to interview a band as well. Other times, we’ll be doing a lot of chasing to see whether people have had a chance to listen to the music we’ve sent them and whether they might be interested in covering it, or chasing up writers who said they’ve put together an article but it’s not been published yet.

We’ll also spend time booking in interviews with bands, chasing up interviews that need doing, planning our campaigns, writing press releases, chatting on the phone, going to meetings and the least favourite task of all…writing reports. No ones likes writing reports however they’ve got to be done.

Part of our job is to also keep up to date with what’s going on in then music world, so when we get a chance, we’ll spend some time reading through various magazines and articles on various websites to see which bands are getting covered and also the sort of articles people are running these days.

Publications and especially websites are always changing and evolving so you need to keep up to date with what you can actually pitch for.

We usually always have music on in the office so we’ll try and listen to at least a few new releases each week as well as keeping our an eye our for any potential new artists we might like to work with. I’m currently really into the 3 tracks that Exploded View have been sharing from their album which is out on Scared bones next month –

Some evenings will be spent going to gigs if we have a band playing in the area or if there’s a London show then we’ll take a trip down from Leeds for it. Maybe we’ll go see a band we’re interested in checking out and even sometimes we might just go to a gig for the fun of it. Imagine that.”

How did you land your current role?

“I think it took a slightly different route than some people. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life so took the vaguest course I could find at university which was ‘Business Studies’. After that was over, I made the move to Leeds where I got a standard office job. Around 2007, myself and a friend set up a label called Brew Records (which ended in 2013). It was a pretty DIY focused noisy rock label and because we had no money to pay anyone to do PR for our releases I decided to do it myself.

The first 6 months was probably spent doing things very wrong. Sending mass emails to people, not personalising emailings or doing the proper research about who covered what. I had a list of contacts but wasn’t utilising it properly.

After a few months of doing that and getting no where and speaking to a few people for advice, I started adjusting my approach and being more specific about who I approached. I guess you can call this learning on the job. From this, I started getting some decent results and was blessed at the time that a few places such as Rock Sound, Artrocker Magazine and Plan B Magazine started replying and covering some of our bands.

Around the same time, the band I Like Trains had been dropped from their label and with that lost the team that came with it so they no longer found themselves with someone doing PR for them. Their drummer Simon Fogal decided to take on the task himself under the name of I Like Press. The idea was that even though he was doing it himself, it’d create the perception that the band had a PR company working for them. After a chat, we decided that we’d run all of our label’s PR through this company.

After a few successes with our own bands, we started getting other people coming to us asking us to work on their releases. From this interest we started to realise that maybe we could make a living from this. In 2010, I left my role in project management at a government quango and never looked back. It took a couple of years of living off a lot less money but the sacrifice was definitely worth it.”

What’s the best thing about your job?

“The opportunity to work with some awesome musicians on amazing albums is probably the best part. I’ve been a bit of a music obsessive since the age of 13 or 14 so to be doing this full time feels pretty special. There are some weird surreal moments as well such as working with Paradise Lost recently. They were the first band I ever saw when I was 15 years old at a club in Bradford and 18 years later I’m part of the team which led to them having their most successful album of the past 15 years. Working on 65daysofstatic’s soundtrack for No Man’s Sky has also been pretty mind-blowing. I’m a bit of a games nerd so being part of something so big where these two worlds collide is a blessing. 65days were also one of my favourite bands when I was at university around the time when their debut ‘The Fall of Math’ came out.

When it comes to festivals we’ve been able to work with a fair few based in the UK such as Live at Leeds and Beacons alongside a couple of Europe which are Best Kept Secret in The Netherland and Be Prog! My Friend in Barcelona.

Sometimes festivals can be quite stressful and you find yourself running around a lot but there’s a moment later on in the day where you get to pause, take a deep breath and look out at a big crowd of people enjoying themselves.

That moment alone makes it all worth it. There’s also the opportunity to see how things are done in different countries and you can try and bring some of those ideas back to the UK with you.

Oh yes and I can wear what I want to work so not having to put on a shirt and tie for the past 6 years has been bliss.”

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

“Having to always be available if one of the toughest aspects of the job.

You can be in the office from 9am/10am to 6pm but when you leave your day still isn’t over.

A lot of the writers we work with don’t do this for a living so they come to life when they get home in the evening or at the weekend and start sending out emails. Or if you have a band on tour at the time you’ll often get calls in the evening because a reviewer got to a show and their name wasn’t on the list. Some of the bands/labels with work have been based on the other-side of the world so in the case of Australia they’ll call you at 10pm at night wanting to talk about work.

If you want to be successful at this job then you can’t ignore these requests and calls when ever they come in.

What other job roles do you work closely with?

“It sort of varies depending on the bands and labels and how they like to work things. In some cases you’re all part of a UK team alongside the booking agent and radio plugger where you spend time keeping each other up to date about what’s going on and what’s coming up. Sometimes it makes it easier to sort a feature for a band if you know there’s a great support tour coming up or a live session on radio and vice vera an upcoming piece in a magazine might help the booking agent secure a slot of a festival for the band.

It all helps to build the story we’re trying to tell to people to show why they need to be writing about your band.

So with this there’s a lot of information and updates being passed around.

It’s usually the rep at the label though who’ll be in contact with the most as we mainly report to them and send requests for interviews.”

What are the three main skills you need to do your job?

“An ability to work under pressure – a lot of things can be going on at the same time and often announcements may get dropped on you at the last minute so you need to be able to handle some intense pressure at times. There are some periods in the year where every band seems to want to release an album or tour.

Good communication skills – A lot of the time, you’re trying to get your ideas across to people so you need to be able to present these in a fairly clear and thoughtful way. Sometimes over the phone, or email or person.

Creativity – whether you’re writing pitches or putting together a press release or coming up with plans for a campaign then you need to be able to come up with some interesting ideas. There are only so many times you can pitch a playlist or best of feature to someone.”

What’s the one thing you wish you had had when you were starting out in music?

“A visible online resource to find out more about the music industry and the different areas you can work it and how to get the relevant experience would have been very useful 13+ years ago. Working in the music industry was one of those cool jobs that people had but you had no idea how they got it.”

What piece of advice would you give someone looking to land a job like yours?

“Be nice!”

What’s your career highlight so far?

“Anathema’s album ‘Distant Satellites’ went top 40 back in 2014. Not that I base my success and achievements on chart positions but telling my folks that I’d worked on a top 40 album sort of helped them realise that the job I did wasn’t a lot of weird nonsense. Most of my old school friends became accountants or lawyers so I think my parents wished I’d gone and done that for a good while.

In terms of press we were able to secure some great national coverage with the likes of The Guardian and The Independent for the first time which they’d never been in before so this really helped their music reach a new potential audience. For a band that’s been going 20+ years this have been an essential factor in their fanbase still growing after so long.”

If you want to learn more about the world of PR, here are some top tips on how to make it or if you fancy some advice on writing a press release, check this out!