From the age of 15 when he ran the Fed 13 Rock n’ Roll Roadshow which spent three years as the premier Rock n’ Roll/Rockabilly management and promoters in Southern England to the current running of a global PR/Marketing agency – Mojo Working International, via 10 years managing rock bands and selling records and selling out shows, “I’ve managed to stay alive and work in the industry I love very much for ALL of my life” says Kevin.
Kevin lives and breaths this business now in New York, following 10 amazing years in Europe, Africa and Asia.
How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?
I started at a very young age. I was going to a local youth club when I was about thirteen years of age and I put records on for everyone to have a little dance. Then they used to have a bigger disco on the Friday night – that was the sort of thing where you’d have to go, cause you know your mates all went and it was very important when you were 14 or 15 to go to this thing. I started playing the records at that too, and within a year, I had five of these discos running. I called it Lawrence Promotions – my second name and when I was 16 I got my first tax return that I had to take to school and get my Math teacher to help me out with. I was making more than he was!!
And from there, I started promoting rock n’ roll and rockabilly bands. That was when I was about sixteen ‘cause that was my first love and I did very well at it. It was called The Fed 13 Rock‘n’Roll Roadshow. I’d charge people a pound to get in (don’t forget that this was in England in the early 80’s where I worked hard at the resurgence of rockabilly around the world), We’d get a couple of hundred kids come along just to dance. And then on a Saturday night, a local promoter and myself would put on bands and we would do the emceeing and playing music, and that’s what we did right until I was about 18. Then I started messing around with managing bands and started Clown Management and started working for some well-known band managers, artist managers and record labels. I managed bands at my own band management agency through my twenties. I also launched a security company called Principal, that did a lot of pits at shows and festivals as well as a lot of one-one protection for pop stars and I also launched Jester Promotions, which was a radio and TV promotions agency.
My band management company was ripped off for a lot of money by a major record label who refused to pay up European Tour Support they had guaranteed and before I could sue, it was gone, so I went back to working at a music magazine..
How has the industry changed since you first started and what did you do to help change it?
Two years later, I started Mojo Working really because I was working at that music/audio magazine and I realized there was nobody marketing what we call entertainment technology. At that time, I was looking at recording studios, record producers and companies making really cool gear for studios. There was nobody marketing them sensibly or intelligently.
So what I did was I got a rock band photographer who had worked with everyone from Ozzy to Bon Jovi and I took him into a recording studio and gave him an outboard unit and I said to him, “Light like this like you’d light somebody’s face”, then I had a guy who worked in the fashion business as a designer to help me do the advertisement for it, and that brand was called Focusrite. and I worked with them for many years afterwards.
No-one had ever thought of cool ways to market studios and gear before – no one had really used “end-user” endorsements before where you got a rock star or famous record producer to appear in an advertisement with your client’s gear – now everyone does it, but we were the first. That’s how I started Mojo Working. I combined my experience with being on the road, with my experience in recording studios with bands and mixed it up!
But I’ve always loved managing bands and once when a studio in Amsterdam wanted to hire me but couldn’t afford to because a band’s label owed them too much money from making their album, I took over the management of the band, got them a major recording contract who paid off the studio time bill and then the studio hired me as a result! Brilliant. That little project took me off to Africa to make the video for the single, Canada to tour and all around Europe. Had a great time! And I got paid!
Again, no-one would do this now. Or even then. The studio couldn’t believe I’d do this for them, The label was small and had used the studio for months recording this record but couldn’t afford to pay them before they got a deal. SO I got them the deal in order for the studio to get paid in order for them to hire me!
This is what has kept myself and Mojo Working for all these years. The willingness to go all out for a client.
Of course in the early 90’s we didn’t really have the Internet yet, although I have had an email address since 1992, so sending out press releases and press packs has changed A LOT!
We used to have this thing in England where electricity was cheaper at certain times of the day. And we would have a fax machine and we’d fill it up with paper, with addresses and things on it, program the fax machine to go off during the cheaper times of the day and leave it there overnight. The following morning was always horrible. Fax paper everywhere!
But that’s how we’d send out our press releases. Then, every day we’d go to the post office with our envelopes, stick stamps on to press packages and put them in the mail. Now you can send MP3’s if you’re promoting a record. Then you had to send them the record! Now it’s all done electronically. Now I can send out you know releases to a thousand people just with a push of a button.
During the time I was marketing gear and studios I also worked for a lot of bands like The Fall, and Steele Pulse and was even the Marketing Director for a couple of dance labels – including the big hit “Sounds of the City, Manchester”
What are the biggest benefits of having a PR firm working for you?
In an interview I did a little while ago, I was asked to describe my job. And I said, “Well a publicist sells the unwanted to the unwilling for the frikkin’ ungrateful.”
Well I think what we at Mojo are able to do is cut through the clutter. Now, unfortunately there are people out there pretending to be PR’s who charge you a lot of money but who don’t know what they’re doing. AVOID THEM!!
But if a PR knows what they are doing, they are able to reach out and talk to journalists and talk to writers about the subjects they want to hear about. You’re able to, as I say, cut through the clutter.
You know, it can be a soul-destroying job sometimes, it really can. But that’s only when your client has an ego way bigger than the real world they live in. Those people drive me nuts and I never, ever stay working for people like that, because they will never be happy. But if you work for nice people and you work for good products and you work for things you believe in, then you can have a nice career, make a reasonable living out of it and do well. And luckily I did well.
When is a band ready, or should hire a PR firm?
Everybody should have a PR plan. Once you have decided you are serious about this, you should be doing your own PR. Make sure you are in the listings for gigs, make posters and put them up all over town or get someone authorized by the city to do it. Make sure you are sending your news and new dates to music editors at the local newspapers, websites, guides etc. Make sure you’re talking to the local college radio and internal newsletters that most schools have. Invite music editors down to you gigs and buy them a few beers (remember, they are as poor as you are and as hungry for success) have them hitch their horse to your cart! There’s still a lot of kudos to saying “I’m With The Band!”
Some road advice here: You should also have arrangements with T-shirt companies, so you can sell T-shirts because that’s how you’re going to eat at a gig and put gas in the tank. I’ve kept tours on the road from selling t-shirts and CD’s Literally!!
What gets you interested in a new client?
Something that’s different, there’s gotta be something that’s unique, it’s gotta be something that resonates with me. There are things that I just won’t do, and some people whose attitude makes me decide not to work with them, but if you have something exciting to say, something different to offer – whether that’s your work as a composer or a songwriter, or something you’ve made that will change a guitarist’s life forever, get in touch!
What would you short-list as of some of the most influential online music sites?
I like going through Reverb Nation, Facebook and MySpace and stuff like that and picking up stuff that I just don’t know anything about. I actually get a lot of like people sending me stuff as my name has been out there and on the back of records for a while now, but most of what I do is via word of mouth or recommendation. One great way to find new bands and new music is to Google “New Bands” “Unsigned Bands” etc etc.
What is viral marketing and how does it effect the music industry?
Viral marketing is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever come around and it’s made easier by the internet, but by no means has happened as a result of it.
I mean, the Grateful Dead were doing it for years. I guess you can argue that viral marketing started with bands like that. I used to manage a band called The Enid twenty odd years ago, and what they did was they collected the names and addresses of everybody that bought a t-shirt at their concert, or even came to their concerts. They’d have volunteers at each show who would take your name and address etc and have a guestbook and they’d sign it and put their names and addresses into their files and they had cards made for everybody. And every time that band played in your area you’d get an invitation to go and see their band. You would get a free ticket or a special recording or similar if you brought 3 friends with you.. We used to sell out 3000 seats A GIG doing that form of marketing… That’s viral marketing. Now of course, you’re doing it all on a much bigger scale. You’re using visuals, you’re using audio, you’re doing it with the Internet. But it’s the same idea. It’s just word-of mouth. It’s the same idea.
What are some simple things that all bands can do to help promote themselves and reach a greater audience?
As I say, have a PR plan and stick to it. Make sure that you’ve got packs. Make sure you’ve got posters. Make sure you’ve got photographs, make sure you’ve got CDs or DVDs that you can sell on the road, so that you can actually eat while you’re on the road. Make sure that you’re doing research. You can buy books which will tell you who the local newspapers are, who the local college radio stations are. Find out that information and use that information. Record your shows, then sell DVDs or the audio CDs of those shows. Give them mementos. There’s a band called Marillion out of the UK, one of my personal favorite bands. And they do this all the time, they record a show, they record it onto a disk. The things are available a few weeks later. Now if you were at that show, then you can order this properly mixed and mastered CD or DVD of the very show you were at, what a wonderful memento to have, isn’t it? You can do that. Anybody can do that.
What is the toughest aspect to working with bands/musicians?
Egos. Bands always think they’re bigger than they are. No matter how big the band is. It’s true. I used to get around getting yelled at by making sure that from the band’s hotel to the venue, there were always posters. On the way to the gig – you could just point them out! Also, I used to travel with copies of the album and make sure that the stores nearest the gig/hotel carried copies of the record. Saves a LOT of aggravation!
What is a common error made by bands trying to self-promote?
Same thing really, trying to be bigger than they actually are. Or think they are bigger than they actually are. So, they do one of two things. They either think they are bigger than they actually are and therefore don’t bother to do their public relations, or they just don’t understand the importance of it and so haven’t built it into their system to do it and that is a BIG mistake. I think you’ve got to make sure you’ve done two newspapers, a radio station and a tv station for every single gig you do. No matter how big a band you are.
If not, don’t be surprised to see no-one at your gig or negative reviews the next day.
What is a realistic time frame for a PR campaign to show results?
A minimum of three months.
What are a few suggestions/tips you can offer bands?
Be open. Be friendly with the media. Allow the media access to you and make sure you court them. Make sure that every gig you do, every town you play, every show you play, play it like it’s your last. Make sure that you’re giving everything on that stage. I mean I used to manage a band where the bass player would fall off the stage drunk every night. It was cute for the first little while. Then it got really boring. And in front of record labels and things, it just wasn’t cute anymore. You gotta give it your everything. You gotta make sure you’re playing and performing to the very best of your ability. And you gotta make sure you’re promoting yourself in the same way. And you have to do this every single time you play, without any exception. After all a doctor doesn’t operate on someone and only do it at half their ability. A plumber doesn’t replace half a pipe and call it a day. I think people also forget that being a musician is YOUR JOB. It’s what you do to make a living. It’s what puts food on your family’s table and clothes on your kid’s back. If you’re the 99% of musicians out there who are NOT famous, but are still working, then you need to thank all your God’s for that and make sure you do your work and do it well. Always.
Tell me a little about Mojo Rising.
Mojo Rising… Mojo Working which is my main company has been going for 18 years. And it’s a full service PR agency. But, for the 18 yrs that I’ve been running Mojo working, I’ve always had people phone me up and say, “You know Kevin, we think your work is brilliant, absolutely great – I’d love for you to work for me – I’ve got three hundred dollars, what can I do?” To be honest with you – not very much. Because PR takes up time. And to hire somebody, a professional – that’s what you are doing – buying their time.
Say you’re a car mechanic and you charge $50 an hour. How would you feel if someone said to you – that’s fine – I’ll pay you $10, but I want the same job done? Same thing with hiring a PR company.
Mojo Rising –is going to allow people to have an inexpensive but high-impact PR piece out there at media.
Lets say a guy’s made a widget, and it’s the greatest widget in the world but he doesn’t know what to do with it. We will interview him and we’ll create a full press release, add images and send it out among our database of hundreds of journalists across the planet.
We’ll tell media and their readers exactly what this person’s doing and why they’re doing it. We will direct traffic to wherever this widget or project or whatever is held – be it a website, Facebook, Linked-In site, My Space – wherever. We will literally tell the world all about your news – and all for a few hundred bucks! It’s the best PR service for those many, many people on a budget out there. And just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean we’ve cut corners – it’s effective and far-reaching, often reaching thousands of people we KNOW are interested in what you have to tell them.. We’ve spent a lot of time developing this and we’re pretty proud of it!
What sort of cost would a PR campaign for a band usually cost – that are starting out and they want to get a bit of media?
Depends on what they’re trying to do, and what level they’re at. I mean if you’re looking at a band trying to get into all the newspapers, all the magazines, it could run many thousands of dollars, but there are ways around this for those who can’t afford this type of money or need that kind of service. It’s OK if you’re a major artist, but what if you’re not? (and 99% of musicians are NOT major artists!) Well, as we’ve mentioned, there is still a lot you can do for yourselves.
For instance, if you are looking for somebody to work with you [at a reduced cost], get a friend to help you out! There’s always somebody you know that’s doing a marketing degree, or doing a writer’s degree, or a journalism degree or is just interested in your band or project. Have them help you with your bios. Have them help reach out to local radio and television and local newspapers and music magazines. And as the band grows, they grow with you. Having your own press officer on the road with you is good fun. You can do it that way because hiring public relations people can be expensive, and that’s because it is very labor intensive.
Finally, you’ve gotta work with somebody that has the cojones to be able to deal with the stress and aggravation of dealing with you AND the media every day! And that costs money. But, as I say, if you’re a young band and you’re starting out, get all your friends to help you out. If you’re a gear developer or a live sound engineer or an aspiring record producer or video director – have somebody be your press officer. Have them tell the world why YOU deserve to be famous!
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