Last month we brought you our industry interview with Bandhappy founder and Periphery drummer, Matt Halpern. This month, we bring you an interview with Nate Sirotta, Director of Digital Marketing at Total Assault . Future publicists,and bands looking to sign with an agency would do well to check this one out.
Infectious Magazine: Can you tell us a little about your background in the music industry?
Nate Sirotta: I started playing in bands when I was a freshman in high school. From there, I learned how to network and get my music into the hands of the people that matter. It was especially important to learn these things having been brought up in Los Angeles, where dreams come true and are crushed all in one place. Being in bands and figuring out how to navigate the industry, negotiate deals, and turn people on to my music laid the groundwork for my career in marketing and PR.
You interned at Drive-Thru Records back in 2004. Do you think internships are as essential to your career as we’re told throughout high school and college?
I think internships are extremely important. They give you a strong idea of the infrastructure of the industry and prepare you for the bigger steps you’ll take when you enter the professional world on your own. I would say the most valuable thing about having several internships before a full-time position is that you are able to take a little bit of each company you intern for with you. Every agency/firm runs differently, and each one has some great practices and some not-so-great ones. Having the ability to choose which ones you will implement in your own full-time position is invaluable.
What advice do you have for bands seeking PR services or artist management?
Be realistic, and help me help you. Rome was not built in a day. If your band has 300 Facebook likes and virtually no online presence, you shouldn’t be hiring a publicist to make all your dreams come true. Seeing success in the media is a slow build, and the ROI is extremely hard to measure. I do think that quality PR is crucial for many artists in the middle stages of their careers, but it’s important to know when to hire a publicist. Bands should be able to tour and build a following on their own before turning to PR.
Having booked your fair share of shows, what unexpected pros/cons do you recommend bands plan for?
It’s always good to have a back-pocket band on deck to fill in if someone cancels. I can’t even count how many times bands have canceled shows on me at the very last minute. Always good to have a plan B.
On the venue’s end, do you think there are any responsibilities that are often overlooked?
I think it’s interesting that venues put all the promotion responsibility on bands. It’s obviously important for bands to spread the word about their shows and bring people out for them, but I just don’t get why many venues put little to no effort into promoting the shows themselves. Seems counter-intuitive, if you ask me.
You’ve worn a lot of hats in the industry over the years, from manager to booking, publicity, tour manager, and marketing. Having been involved in so many aspects, how would you say they’ve differed, and has it given you a new appreciation for the industry as a whole?
Wearing many hats in the industry has definitely given me a leg-up, I’d say. I do know that I’m not a fan of artist management – it often seems more like a babysitting job than actual “artist management.” Booking is by far my least favorite facet of the industry – what a headache. Hats off to all the incredible booking agents out there, not sure how they all still have hair. PR is simply the best fit for me – it’s actually a lot like A&R. Knowing where to place artists, understanding the digital space and what artists make sense for specific opportunities, etc. It is always nice having experience in management, booking, and other areas – it allows me to give my clients the proper advice and guidance when they ask for it.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to offer aspiring music industry professionals, regardless of specific field?
Never give up the dream. You’re going to put up with a ton of bullshit and will have to answer to some of the most awful people you’ve ever met. Those experiences and whatever seemingly-insurmountable roadblocks you come across are 100% necessary in order to be successful in the music industry. It’s important to understand that most people don’t really do anything of real note until they reach age 30, so don’t sweat the tough going in your 20s. The other vital thing to understand is that money in the music industry is hard to come by. We don’t do it for the money – we do it because we’re fans.
What is one question that you don’t think is asked nearly enough (be it by artists, professionals going into the field, etc) that you’d like to offer insight on?
Despite the fact that many artists think their sound is “entirely unique and refreshing,” it’s important to know who you sound like and what your target audience is. In my set-up questionnaires, I always ask my clients to list 4 bands that they’d want to be compared to. That information and reference becomes super valuable – if you’re able to tell a writer that your client sounds like XYZ band, it’s an instant conversation starter. I guess I just wish that some artists would get over themselves and realize that they are heavily influenced by at least one other musical entity, whether that’s a solo artist like Morrissey or a “scene” like pop-punk.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This was a lot of fun – thanks for allowing me to participate!
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