If there existed in this world some kind of musical book of secrets, you’d probably want to know about it, right? Especially if you were in a band or wanted to work in the industry. Well, now there is.
With 14 years of industry experience under her belt PR savant and all round nice-guy Stacey Piggot has recently published her first book, Blow Your Own Trumpet – a Musician’s Guide to Publicity and Airplay. The book aims to educate emerging artists and guide them to make smart decisions. As the publicity power behind The Falls Music and Arts Festival, bands like The Waifs, The Jezebels and The Drones, Stacey’s words really do count. So, artists out there, listen in to my chat with Stace.
You’re a very respected figure in our national music scene and you’ve worked with some amazing clients. Where have you come from and how did you get started?
Oh that is a lovely thing to say, thanks! I come to the industry from Coffs Harbour, via a communications degree in QLD and a previous life as a journalist. I was working as a freelance journalist and I met Donna Simpson from The Waifs when we were both waitressing at the same resturant in Sydney 13 or so years ago. They looked after all of their own management, booking, recording, releasing, distribution and publicity and they had a new record ready to release so she asked me if I would do some PR for it. So I did, and it went really well, and as a result of that a number of other bands from the same scene approached me to work with them, things just rolled on from there. I took on more and more bands, festivals, tours, events and eventually had to employ some people to take some of the work load.
I started with zero experience as a publicist and zero experience in the music industry, I think my nievaity was a positive thing though because I had nothing holding me back and no guidelines as to what was acceptable, or expected, so I just went blazing ahead pitching a great story about a talented group of people to anyone and everyone who would listen. I learnt right then that you should never assume an outlet wont be interested in a band because they are no mainstream enough or their music sits a little to the left, because sometimes your own passion and the story of the band makes up for the lack of mainstream profile to get a mainstream media outlet over the line to report on them, and that is an imperative step in crossing over great bands to a mainstream audience.
Since we began our Spit journey in 2010 we’ve been on the receiving end of your press releases (and friendly check-up emails). I was a little taken aback by your willingness to help the little guy, especially when no one had heard of us. Is reaching out to start-ups an important part of success for your clients?
For us reaching out to everyone is important for the success of our clients, in my mind the smaller zines and websites, community radio stations etc are where you will find the most concentrated audiences who will genuinely 100% care about what you are talking about. It has always been just as important to me for our artists to appear in a mainstream media outlets where maybe 5% of the readers care, and smaller outlets where 99% of the readers care. With some artists we are limited with who we can cover due to their time constraints but we always try to cover everyone with something, even if it is albums for review or airplay or tickets to shows.
It has always served me well in professional and personal life to look after the little guys….they fast become the big guys before you know it, and people in this industry tend to have pretty long memories as to who has helped them out along the way. I also think it is a lot healthier to help nurture start up media outlets than bitch and moan about the dwindling coverage opportunities in mainstream media outlets. The media landscape is constantly changing, pages are disappearing from newspapers across the country due to reduced ad spends. That makes the support from the smaller outlets really important for us and our clients, we need to always be looking for new audiences for them, there is no point continually preaching to the converted. At the moment there is a lot of talk about the lack of radio airplay opportunities on commercial radio for local artists, we can continue to bang our heads against this wall of resistance with a group of people who are openly proactive about not wanting to support original Australian music, or we can use the column inches and air time to talk up those community stations who really get behind original Australian music, and let the music fans know who they are and where to find them so they can take their ears over to them and enjoy what they are listening too. That seems like a more productive way to deal with this issue to me. Screaming about the positive and effecting change, facilitating a movement towards community radio and helping them to increase their listenership. Look at a band like The Jezabels, they sold out the Hordern in Sydney in June (5,500 people), just won an ARIA, and their debut album went gold a while back, with no commercial radio support at all. Parkway Drive are another example of huge success without it, so it isn’t as make or break as people think and with all of the other smaller outlets behind an artist, no single media platform has ultimate power in making or breaking them.
There’s a lot more to you and Two Fish than people may actually know. What are some of the campaigns you’ve handled that people might be familiar with?
The Waifs were the first band I ever worked with and I still work with them today, we have been working on The Falls Music and Arts Festival in Lorne VIC and Marion Bay TAS for nine years now, it has been great to see that evolved over that period. We work with such a diverse range of artists from bands like Clutch and The Mark Of Cain, to The Drones, Augie March, Neil Finn and The Jezabels. There are a few that I hope people would have noticed over the years, check out our website for a history on Two Fish campaigns, we have been pretty blessed since I started this to work with some pretty special artists both local and international.
My mind was blown when I learnt that you worked with Donna Simpson in THAT mexican restaurant. You still work with The Waifs all these years later and obviously a good working relationship between publicist and artist is important, but did you expect to be in contact this far down the road?
Ha! Yes that song! I could not have imagined the impact a casual waitressing job at a Mexican Resturant in Bondi would have on my life. The woman who owned it, our boss at the time, Kelly, is still one of my best friends in the world. The Waifs are pretty special people, the extended Waifs family, their manager Phil Stevens and all of the guys who work at Jarrah are such a great group of people to work with as well. Their story is so great, them along John Butler and the guys at MGM Distribution really pioneered a pathway for indie artists who came after them, they were at the forefront of that massive shift in the way the industry model works, Phil did a phenomenal job guiding that process for both of those bands. I adore them as people as well, they are all dear friends, it has been a pretty amazing ride to be a part of and I am always appreciative of the chance they took on me, and the trust they put in me at that point, their belief in me has allowed me to build a career out of thin air that has lead me to some of the greatest experiences in my life and to some of the most important people in my life as well.
What should publicist and artists look for in each other if they want to achieve similar success?
As an artist I think you need to find someone who you feel comfortable with and whose working style compliments yours. This person is talking to people on your behalf, so if they are not someone you actually like, it is pretty precarious to have them as that link between you and the media. And you need someone who offers the skills that you need, there is no point getting an opinionated control freak like me if you want someone that is going to follow a step by step plan, likewise there is no point getting a publicist who is good and being told what to do if you need extra opinions and ideas thrown into your mix. From a publicist’s perspective, you need to like the bands music. It will be really hard to successfully turn people onto your clients if you don’t like it yourself. This new book ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’ is a guide for musicians, artists and ever other type of person in the industry looking to get a leg up. How long have you been working on the project and what exactly can readers expect? I thought and talked about it for about a year and then worked on it on and off for a year and a half, I would get side tracked with work and life and then head back into it, so it took a lot longer than it should have. I hope they can get a better understanding of the media and how they can beging to get things started for themselves, I hope it highlights a few questions they can ask a potential publicist should they decide to engage one so they have a really clear picture before they kick off as to what they can expect back for the fee they are paying.
If people wanted to grab a copy how should they go about it?
They can get it from our website.