GHS Interview: Jamie Roberts

So, you just started a band. Great! There is however, a whole lot more to it than just creating your art and starting some social media accounts. How do you get your music out there to the masses and make sure everyone knows your band even exists? Alexx Calise chats with veteran publicist, Jamie Roberts, about building your brand, getting editors to actually take the time and listen to your music, and what you need to prepare before approaching someone for help with direction or a campaign.

Firstly, huge congrats are in order. You just started For the Win Media, your very own PR firm. However, this far from your first rodeo. You’ve been in the biz for well over 20 years doing PR. Where did you cut your teeth? Thanks so much! In 1990 when I was in College, I saw an ad in the Village Voice that said IF YOU LIKE RAP AND ALT ROCK MUSIC, FAX YOUR RESUME TO 212-XXX-XXXX. I faxed my resume and it turned out to be an amazing opportunity - an internship at a company called SET TO RUN PR. They represented Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Cure and so many other high profile bands. I was lucky enough to have lots of great publicists to learn from. I interned there every time I was on school vacation.

Was PR something you always wanted to do, or was there something specifically that prompted that career choice? I saw a cheesy 80s movie called The IdolMaker and it taught me about the people behind the stars. Since I loved music and what it could do to change people's lives, I was determined to find a way to fit in to the business. I learned about PR and saw that I could express the passion I had for the music and the people that made it.

Are music and entertainment your primary focus when you’re doing PR, or do you also cover other areas/avenues? I have been working in entertainment PR for over 25 years now. I have branched out from working only music to working with music-related tech and comics / collectibles. I have been lucky enough to get to follow all my passions.

Who, past or present, has been one of your favorite clients? I don't really have 'favorites' but I do enjoy the ones that press people take an interest in. The Dillinger Escape Plan, Motley Crue, Godsmack, Paulina Rubio, The Mars Volta, Slipknot, Type O Negative, Drugstore and Junkie XL were among my most successful campaigns.

Alternatively, I’m sure you’ve had some bad apples. What was a nightmare scenario for you (without naming any names specifically), and how did you spin or navigate your way out of the situation? Drug deaths, arrests, fights - it was all hard. What made it harder was when the client had something happen and didn't tell me about it ASAP. I've gotten calls from newspapers asking for comment about things that I had no knowledge of and it put me in a bad position. It is important to be honest and not try to 'spin' your way out of a situation - people know when you are lying.

What is one of the biggest accounts or campaigns you’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of?Motley Crue and Paulina Rubio taught me things that I never would have learned otherwise.

What would you suggest to young artists when they approach you for PR (as far as what they need to have prepared upon approaching you, etc)? An article I wrote for a friend says all I have to say on the issue -

What are some of the most common rookie mistakes that you see artists making (as far as on their websites, during their live shows, etc)? Rookie mistakes people make all the time is using their social media for 'advertising' and not paying attention to their fans (taking them for granted). Artists that truly value and appreciate their fans and are authentic with them on social media always grow. I watched Linkin Park do this, from day one, and blow up HUGE.

How much would you say an indie band needs to spend on a publicist monthly to get into some of the more coveted industry publications like Billboard, Alt Press, Revolver, etc.? It isn't about money, you can get someone that meets your needs at different price points. Just know what you need and what you want and what the difference between the two is. Read the magazines/sites you want to be in/on and see what they cover - maybe they don't cover what you are doing. Be realistic about what you can get - if you have nothing going on other than PR, then you can't expect your publicist to work magic.

It’s a completely new market these days. Print is kind of going by the wayside. The internet is king. What do you guys do these days in terms of digital PR for young bands? Which music-related websites are hot, and which social media platforms do you find are the most effective in getting the word out? In my mind and at every company I have led since the advent of the internet, digital has always been a part of a decent press campaign. When I started it was 25% digital and now it is 75% digital. My advice is to cultivate your audience on Facebook - even though you might think that FB is done and you only need to be on Instagram, editors look at Facebook for your numbers.

What is your ultimate goal with For the Win? Do you want to focus primarily on PR, or do you want to branch out into other areas as well? With FTW I want to be of service to creatives of all varieties. We do Publicity mostly, but we also do some Marketing and Business development. We want to bring great people and great ideas together, so we are involved with the worlds of comics, technology and in multiple musical genres. I never want to limit what we can do - one of my partners wants to work events, so we will undoubtedly be doing that soon too.

This is for all the aspiring publicists out there: how do you break into the world of PR? Talk to everyone! Meet people, do people favors even when you don't need to. Get internships. Volunteer to help a band you think has potential and your work will get noticed.

Connect with Jamie Roberts and FTW:

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