Glenn Petry, 21C Media Group

Because 1. no one wants to read about The Life and Times of Amanda Ameer every day and 2. because there are many, many people out there who know more about publicity and marketing than I do, every week I try and post an interview with someone else in the field. Usually, I do this on Fridays, but that clearly didn’t happen last week. Or the week before.  But TODAY we have a continuation of the critically-acclaimed (for realz – a few critics e mailed and said they liked it) Life’s a Pitch feature Better Know a Publicist. See the Interviews column to your right for the other publicist interviews. Now here’s Glenn Petry from 21C Media Group on Publicity 101.

Glenn Petry has worked in the music scene – both promoting and
performing – for more than 15 years. He co-founded 21C Media Group in
January 2000 and has been the Director of Public Relations since its
inception. He developed his interest in promoting classical music while
touring the US with the experimental rock band Drunken Boat, after
which he became a consultant to the classical music industry for a
dozen years. Working with both record labels (such as Deutsche
Grammophon, Decca and Philips) and artists (such as Cecilia Bartoli,
Renée Fleming, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gil Shaham, Orpheus Chamber
Orchestra and many others), he expanded the reach of classical artists
beyond the specialist press into the mainstream media.

On
the marketing side, Mr. Petry pioneered new ways to present classical
music to the public (from CD packaging to music videos) and forged
innovative partnerships that created synergistic successes on behalf of
classical music, while maintaining his deep involvement in many other
musical genres, including jazz, reggae, electronica and world music.

What is the purpose of a press release? And what, in your opinion, is the most important aspect of a press release? How does that element accomplish the purpose?

The purpose of a press release is to provide information that is of essential interest to its readers. In our case this means vital and accurate information about upcoming performances, new recording releases and any artistic activity that resonates with the reader and piques his or her interest.

Similarly, what is the most important aspect of an artist biography? How long should a bio be, ideally? Should it include press quotes? Why or why not?

An artist’s biography should tell the story of the artist as interestingly and briefly as possible. Paragraphs listing the various venues where an artist has performed become unnecessary when the artist is well established. Quotes can be helpful if they bring color to the artist’s story; they can add both credibility and eloquence to an artist’s reputation.


How far in advance of a CD release or concert do you send/e mail press releases? How many times do you usually follow-up journalists after sending the release?

We typically send out initial information about 6 weeks before a concert, tour or recording release (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the size and complexity of the project), and then we follow up with one or two ‘reminder’ or ‘tune-in’ press releases in the lead-up to the event. As far as following up with individual journalists goes, this is done very much on a case by case basis, again depending on the journalist or outlet being pitched.

In 2009, what do you consider successful coverage for a client’s concert? How has the definition of “coverage” changed since you started working in PR? For example, do artist’s personal blogs/websites/Twitter feeds count as media coverage?

The definition of success has unquestionably changed in the last 15 or so years since we began working in the classical music industry. There is less ‘expert coverage’ overall, and more importance is placed on “buzz”, general awareness, and word on the street; organic, everything-counts multimedia coverage – including discussion on blogs and social media networks – is vital to the success of any concert today.


Who owns the problem of selling tickets and CDs? Is it a publicist’s
job to secure press that will have a direct impact on sales, or does
some press accomplish something beyond or different from sales? Should
marketing – ticket sales, ad copy, poster design – be kept separate
from publicity, or do efforts often overlap?

While marketing
departments are traditionally responsible for promoting and achieving
ticket sales, the blurring of boundaries between marketing and
promotion, reflecting all the changes in music promotion discussed
above, makes the overlap – and the cooperation – between marketing and
publicity departments much greater. We started 21C Media Group in 2000
anticipating the evolving and dovetailing roles of marketing and PR in
the promotion of classical music; we sought to create a hub and a
meeting point for record companies, performance venues, management
organizations and promoters (all areas in which our team members have
worked and gained insight and experience) to work together to solve the
new challenges that come inevitably with a changing and dynamic market.
Because we have all worked in these sales-driven areas of the industry,
we are keenly aware of the complex and increasingly intertwining and
symbiotic relationship between the marketing and publicity aspects of
an artist’s career.

When in their careers should artists hire a publicist?

There
are two good reasons to hire a publicist. The first is to gain access
to the media. The other is to manage a hungry media. With respect to
the first: when an artist is ready to speak to the public, when they
want to communicate about their art or beyond their art, then is the
time to think about hiring a publicist. There are also more practical
considerations: do you have enough bookings to both afford and warrant
professional PR guidance?

With regard to the second reason for
hiring a publicist: artists (both reserved and gregarious) who achieve
a certain level of success – or possibly notoriety – will find
themselves in such demand by the media that they need professional help
in managing the attention, requiring an experienced publicist to vet,
filter, prioritize and schedule their media activities.

If an artist doesn’t have a publicist, what is the best advice you can offer them for
self-promotion?

Be
very scrupulous with the materials you create (eg. bio, press releases,
clippings, EPKs), making sure that they convey an accurate and
streamlined message about your artistry, and that they reflect the
level of your professionalism as an artist.

How do you choose clients? Is there a set criteria in your company, or do you decide
on a case-by-case basis?

This
ties in greatly with the previous question about when an artist should
hire a publicist. Timing plays a big part in these decisions. We do not
have set criteria for determining which clients we choose to add to our
roster. However, we do require that the artist or project under
consideration has an overall, organic fit with our own artistic
passions, and that we can embark on a project with a firm sense that we
will be successful.

Do clients on your roster know who the other clients on the roster are? Do they
care?

Yes: when clients care, they do know.

Should publicists run Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter accounts, MySpace pages for
their clients, or is that essentially the 2009-equivalent of answering interview
questions for them?

The
simple answer is no, if we are talking about a publicist masquerading
as the artist. More and more artists are great bloggers and tweeters in
their own words, and they deserve and earn renown for those additional
gifts. That being said, there are certain elements of social networking
pages that can be appropriately maintained by a publicist:
specifically, updating calendars and photos and announcing events.

If you weren’t a classical music publicist, what would you be?

A fisherman.

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Comments

  1. Fan Phan says

    While this blog is one the few I’ve actually kept on my Google reader after recent purges, I find these pr interview features must less interesting than the rest of the blog.
    The reason, Amanda, is that I enjoy your writing ‘tone’, ie the knowledge you provide mixed with your own somewhat irreverent tone.
    The questions for these interviews, in contrast, are always so neutral & dry that they elicit similar responses.
    With all due respect, perhaps you could spice up the questions in order to solicit more engaged responses.
    The first question in particular gets the same answer every time.
    Perhaps it would be better to adapt the questions to each interviewee. While this would mean a lot more work, it would undoubtedly yield more appealing posts.
    ====
    Finally, with record labels’ marketing budgets experiencing significant cuts I would be curious to know how artists and their publicists are picking up the marketing slack.
    Publicity is one thing, but old fashioned flyers/posters/season brochures are another.
    That advertising budget seems to be one of the only advantages that big institutions still hold over Jo Schmo. With printing costs dropping, does advertising become a priority?
    I think we can all agree that creating a Facebook event yields zero audience.
    Cheers,

  2. SL says

    I like the question format. The point is to give everyone the same questions, so I can hear by the variations just how each one approaches this or that issue the same or differently. Taking all the responses to any one question together, I get a much deeper understanding of how publicists approach their work.