In this edition of In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc, he speaks with Ariel Hyatt, the founder and owner of Cyber PR, a boutique public relations firm working to help artists and business entrepreneurs with their social media and content strategies.
Guest post by Larry LeBlanc from Celebrity Access
To use a Brit idiom: Ariel Hyatt has more “front” than Brighton.
This enormously self-confident dynamo, founder, and owner of Cyber PR, a boutique public relations firm based in New York City, has been helping artists and business entrepreneurs with public relations, social media and content strategy services for more than two decades.
The NYC-born native, a regular, take-no-prisoners speaker on the music industry and entrepreneur conference circuits in North America (who has also spoken in 12 countries), has written four critically-acclaimed books on social and new media.
Her latest book, “Crowdstart: The Ultimate Guide to a Powerful and Profitable Crowdfunding Campaign,” has just been published.
A provocative step-by-step guide to what to do during a 30-day crowdfunding campaign in order to reach a fixed financial target, “Crowdstart” further outlines the steps needed before a campaign can be launched, and it includes a social media and online PR guideline in order for artists to boost public awareness.
Hyatt was first drawn to crowdfunding a decade ago after speaking on a panel with the founder of the first documented crowdfunding website ArtistShare, musician, composer, and educator Brian Camelio, one of the fathers of crowdfunding
After several years of advising clients on crowdfunding campaigns Hyatt herself launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2013 which raised $61,000 for a book project.
And Hyatt naturally wrote about the experience on her company website, “Running my crowdfunding campaign was brutal,” she says. “I realized just how much work goes into a 30-day campaign. During it, I was stressed out of my mind, and completely uncertain that I would make my goal of $50,000.”
In essence, crowdfunding in the music community attempts to replace what labels had been paying out in advances for recordings and touring. There was little need for crowdfunding before the collapse of the traditional music industry system.
Yes and no. I think that absolutely it (the collapse) has contributed tremendously. I remember when I started doing publicity that even independent artists, they could make money. They could sell CDs. One evening at a club, if they had a captive audience even of 200 people, if 20 or 30 of them each walked away with a $20 CD on top of a decent door deal—when I was a booking agent a normal door deal was a good couple of hundred bucks on a Monday or a Tuesday, up to the $500, $600, $700, and $800 on the weekend—put that down with the additional $800 they just got from selling CDs. If they were a smarter artist, and they had a little line of merchandise, they could have a decent $1,000 night on a Monday and Tuesday. They could have a $2,000 night on Wednesday and Thursday. They could make money.
There were niche artists like Ani DiFranco in the United States, and Raffi and Loreena McKennitt in Canada who successfully pioneered the independent sector in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Sure. You are talking about the top earners. But I represented a stable of 10 or 20 artists that were grossing $500,000 a year at the time. No problem. That is not a thing anymore. On top of that, they would have a nice delicious film and TV licensing check once a year for $10,000 or $20,000. I had an independent hip hop artist who had a prime (music) placement on a CBS-TV show for $60,000. These types of checks don't come in for my clients anymore. We don’t see numbers like that anymore. It’s (the business has) all been cannibalized. It’s not just (revenue lost from) the majors. It’s film and TV licensing. It’s the clubs being owned by one corporate entity, and so on. It’s supply and demand.
For years the only business guide for independent music artists was Diane Sward Rapaport’s 1979 breakthrough book “How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording.” But most artists don’t want to handle own business. In “Crowdstart” you argue that any artist or group should be spending 30% of their time on business. But that doesn’t happen.
No, because as an artist, they don’t decide to be an artist because they want to spend 30% of their time doing anything but music. They don’t want to spend 1% of their time on anything other than making music. That’s the number one complaint that I get from clients.
One thing an artist should consider before crowdfunding is whether there a demand for what their record, right?
Yes, they should do that, and part of creating the demand is understanding that it’s (crowdfunding is) not just a money grab. It is something that has an emotional connection. I think that they can create something that is a demand without having created a huge footprint for themselves if they have a good community of people that respond. But I would agree with you, and that is why I think that so many crowdfunding campaigns don’t succeed because the demand isn’t there at all, and neither is the community. They have neither thing.
In “Crowdstart” you discuss the start-up period before launching a crowdfunding campaign. People might be taken aback at just how much preparation is needed for a 30-day campaign.
Yeah, I say it pretty simply in the book. I say, “No crowd, no crowdfunding.” That (crowdfunding) is something that is also propagated by the media. You read about these huge successful crowdfunding campaigns from the likes The Coolest Cooler, Amanda Palmer or Zack Danger Brown. Fill in the blank. People see all of these people getting huge and extraordinary amounts of money, and so they think, “Oh, that’s easy. I’ll just set up a page.” Or they know somebody that had a good success. It’s not that easy.
[In 2012 singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer’s campaign on Kickstarter raised $1.2 million in 30 days from 24,883 backers. A sizable feat for an artist without a record label, radio airplay, or even significant touring success. When her campaign passed the $1 million mark, Palmer tweeted a photo of herself with the words "one fucking million" scrawled on her naked torso.]
I concur that the media has made crowdfunding look easy. You contrast in the book why Amanda Palmer was so successful with crowdfunding while Björk floundered. Much of the difference between the two came down to Amanda having a substantial newsletter list. Something like 80,000 people were following her.
That’s the rumor. She didn’t tell me that herself. From Dresden Dolls onward, the woman was a genius, always. (Entrepreneur and talent manager) Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment, who was on the road with her, talks about this a lot on (conference) panels. She has often pointed out that Amanda and her team had a knack for building her email list, and were amazing at communicating with followers. She has talked about the fact that Amanda had a deep talent for getting peoples’ email addresses out of them. They had a mobile number that went on the road with them, that wasn’t her mobile number, but it was a mobile number of the tour manager, and people would text it with feverish excitement. Amanda had this digital connection way, way before she ever asked anyone for a penny.
According to the business crowdfunding platform Fundable, the average money raised through crowdfunding is around $7,000, and 60% of campaigns don’t even get to that level.
Well, 60% of all campaigns don’t get to 100%. It’s not to say that 60% fail because if you are on Indiegogo and you make $3,000 out of a $5,000 raised, it doesn’t count toward 100% raised, but it’s still in the 60%. It’s a bit of a skewed statistic. But I was really surprised about the average campaign being $7,000. Again, this is where the media will make you believe that everybody who has ever done a crowdfunding campaign has tried to raise $50,000, $100,000 or $1 million, and that just not the case.
According to Kickstarter’s statistics, as of May (2016), the 235,593 projects had been launched on its site, and only 105,777--35.98%--reached their fundraising goals. That means more than 60% of the projects on Kickstarter received no money at all. Kickstarter updates the numbers of campaigns and amounts raised at least once a day.
In “Crowdstart” you emphasize that an artist raising 30% of their set goal in the first week will likely have a successful crowdfunding campaign. This means they need to work hard seeking pledges before and at the beginning of their pledge launch.
Yeah. That’s another statistic that is fascinating. I actually didn’t know that when I launched my own (book) campaign in 2013. It was (CD Baby founder) Derek Sivers who taught me that. He learned that from (author, entrepreneur, and marketer) Seth Godin. A lot of my personal experience was woven into “Crowdstart.” I was a couple of days into my campaign, and Derek sent a donation. He also sent a link to an article that Seth Godin had written. The basic upshot takeaway from the article was that nobody wants to fund a loser. That’s really true. He asked if you have a mailing list of 20,000 people, and if you ask 20,000 people all at one time, “Hey, come fund my thing.” If hundreds of us clicked over in the first 10 minutes after receiving your newsletter, and we saw that the thing (total raised amount) was at zero, it’s like, “This can’t be good. It’s at zero.” If I did get there, and it’s got $5,000, “Now I’m in.” Nobody wants to be the first one to the dance, right? If there are more and more people on the dance floor, more and more people join. That’s human nature.
At PledgeMusic you can’t see what has been raised.
No, you can’t see where it is at PledgeMusic.
You make the point that people should not do crowdfunding on their own because it’s a very lonely job. An emerging artist may not have the skills to do it themselves, but also doesn’t have the money to bring in other people to help build their careers.
Yeah. I was on a Twitter chat recently talking about crowdfunding, and it was very interesting to see the bristling reaction to that. When someone asked, “What is the number one piece of advice you can give around a crowdfunding campaign?” I said, “Don’t do it alone.”
Everybody snapped back at me immediately. “Well, I don’t have money to pay somebody.”
Okay, wait a minute. Don’t go there. It’s not about money to pay somebody. It (support) can be their husband, their wife, their sister, their brother, their mother. Someone who is a champion for them. Someone who is, hopefully, technically savvy so they can help with the heavy lifting. But going it alone---what you will see if artists get “Crowdstart” and they start working their way through it—it’s a lot of steps to do a crowdfunding campaign, and execute it for 30 days. We are human beings and things can happen to us. In 30 days, who knows? A family member can fall ill. They could lose their job. Their child could have something happen. Thirty days, on an average, a human being might experience something that it is not just awesome. So you have to account for that, too. That there might be a little bump in the road that might take you off the campaign for that day or those few days or whatever. If they had someone to help them, and say, “I’ll send the emails today” or “I will handle the social postings that need to happen” or “I will go online and thank everyone that is communicating with us or are donating today” or to do every step of the way. It’s going to be so much help. So much more helpful than just feeling like, “Oh God, over the next 30 days I have to crush this.” On top of doing all of the stuff that they do every day, whether they have a full-time job as a creator, or a part time job as a creator, or they have a part-time job as a family member. We all have other things that we do, and crowdfunding is all-consuming.
So many artists still don’t have a fan-based newsletter list that goes out regularly.
Yes. There’s your first step right there (in crowdfunding).
If all the artist is doing is putting their hand out for funding that can offensive. “Send me money.” Why?
Exactly, and that’s what part one of my book is about. You don’t want to be that person. You don’t want to come out of nowhere. And that’s Sales 101. It’s not even Sales 101, it’s Humanity 101, right? If I meet you at a party, and I walk right up to you, and I just dive in and starting talking about what I’m doing, what I’m up to today, I’m all of a sudden really socially awkward, and uninteresting. However, if there is something else I’m asking like, “What brings you here? What have you been up to today?” Anything. “Aren’t these mini hot dogs delicious?” There are a million things that you can say to a stranger to open them up to a conversation. We all know that there are people who are genius at that, and there are people who just need to understand the science of that.
People being courted for funding are looking for an emotional connection.
Some people don’t realize that with some of the crowdfunding platforms it’s all or nothing. Like with Kickstarter, if an artist is even a dollar below their goal, they don’t disperse the funds.
No, they don’t. PledgeMusic, it says that it’s all or nothing, but the beautiful thing about PledgeMusic is that they really work with artists if they see that they are not going to get to 100% (of their goal). They will help them adjust their campaign midstream so they will not end up with an unfunded campaign.
PledgeMusic, however, takes a bigger percentage of the money collected than the others.
Yes, and you know what? I am so sick of artists whining about that. Guess what? They give artists a rep. There’s someone that they can get on the phone. They analyze your whole social presence. They will help you. There’s no other platform that has the hands-on aspect that Pledge has. So artists are paying for that and, yes, they are paying a little bit more, but they are also paying a little bit more to guarantee their success. So once you begin to add in the average (fee) that Kickstarter takes plus the credit card fees, it’s not that much more.
PledgeMusic feels like a small time label of yesteryear walking you through the process whereas Kickstarter it feels like, “We’ll see you later.”
Totally. You are paying for that relationship with PledgeMusic.
GoFundMe has no preexisting conditions.
Yeah. But GoFundMe tends to be more of a website if you have a catastrophic health issue, or an animal gets sick or your house gets flooded, or you can’t make your rent. It tends to be a platform that is more for getting assistance. It’s not one that I would really recommend for setting up a creative project. It’s not designed to do that.
Whereas PledgeMusic was developed to for artists to tap into their fan base.
Exactly. It’s run by people in the music industry. Benji (Benji Rogers, founder/CEO, PledgeMusic) was an artist. I used to go and see his band. I have known Benji for years and years. Also, Benji is the son of music managers (son of artist Susan Rogers, and stepson of promoter/manager Tony Smith). It is literally in his DNA to think about artists first. So PledgeMusic is not a bad home for artists and bands.
[PledgeMusic CEO Benji Rogers comes from a notable UK music industry family and, a musician himself, he released five albums. He founded PledgeMusic In 2009 to fund and release an independent record under the name Marwood.]
Indiegogo is also wonderful. They have got great tutorials. They have got a lot of tools to help you. It’s a partial fund site so if you wanted $10,000 but you only get $4,000, $5,000 or $6,000, you can keep all of that money. I think that if you are going through the pain and anguish of a crowdfunding campaign, and you don’t fund it 100%, you should keep whatever money that you fund to. That is only fair. I think that your fans are delighted to give. If I’m going to give, I’m going to give to a winner or a non-100% campaign. Either way, I feel happy to be pledging. IndieGoGo is great for that.
Also great is that if you have a non-profit or you want to give part of the money to charity, IndieGoGo has a 501(c)(3) umbrella program (whereby a nonprofit organization is exempt from federal income tax) so you don’t have to set up your own not for profit. You can use theirs, and you can donate a portion of your campaign to a charity of your choice which, for many of us, is a wonderful option.
As a new artist or band with a local club level buzz, what’s my first step? Should I record an EP rather than an album?
An EP is smart. A single is also smart. We are living in a singles-driven world so why not start with a single? Get something that you are proud of. That looks and sounds great out, and see what the reaction is. You can do a lot on your own with a single.
Facebook and YouTube are useful to artists, but there are limitations in their use.
Totally. There are more sophisticated options like NoiseTrade (the global online direct-to-fan distribution platform). Places where artists can begin to build a little mailing list. Where they can get a little bit of exposure. So there are lots and lots of options with just one single. But yes, step two, work toward an EP. Try to get yourself a bit of publicity.
SubmitHub is one of the easiest ways to share songs with music bloggers.
SubmitHub is a godsend to any independent artist looking to get some blogger feedback. So there are plenty of things that you can do on your own. And I think that the biggest lie that emerging or indie artists or artists starting out get told is, “You need a publicist.” Or that, “You need a radio promoter.” They skip all of the most important steps. Like “Do I have music that doesn’t absolutely suck?” Or “Do I have something that looks good?” That is important because a blogger will tell them if they don’t look good enough. Very quickly.
What’s the next step after successfully crowdfunding? Hiring someone to further develop a career? This is your follow-up book.
My follow-up book can be, “What the hell do I do with the money that I have raised?” A lot of the time the truth is this: It does cost money, even though it costs considerably less than it used to cost, to record, mix, master, and release music. It still costs money to do it right. You still need people with talent to contribute. One of the biggest problems that we are facing right now is the glut of too much mediocre music. It hasn’t been vetted. As you have said (in the past) an artist can go down to Nashville, and there’s a ton of talented session musicians, and studios manned by capable people but, if you come to them, it’s not their job to write the songs, right? Their job is to make it (the recording) sound as good as it can sound. So I think there is just an incredible amount of stuff that isn’t necessarily in need of publicity.
So an artist has to ask themselves, “Why am I raising the money? Am I raising the money to reimburse myself? To cover the costs of making that record, mastering it, mixing it, getting the right graphic designer to design it, and even hiring a copywriter to write a fabulous story so that I’ve got something to get myself to the next level?” There are so many ways to spend money after a project is funded. I see that most artists and musicians are really just trying to get the album paid for. Few of them have the wherewithal to go, “What am I going to do? Do I want a promotion company? A marketing company?”
All that should be budgeted within the costs of the recording.
It absolutely should.
Even a decade ago, I was advising artists to budget up to 40% of the recording budget toward promotion and marketing afterward.
My teacher (author, businessman and motivational speaker) T. Harv Eker would say 70% to marketing, 30% to creating the product. At his marketing seminars, he often speaks about the need for artists to focus 70% of their time on marketing, and sales versus 30% on the product--in the case of artists, their art. As a creator, that’s (the financing breakdown is) a bitter pill to swallow because they want the art to be as expensive as it can humanly be. But I will ask them, “Do you know anyone with a fabulous Rickenbacker (guitar) you can borrow? Do you know anyone who has a studio? You don’t need a million dollar to play a million-dollar guitar.
You operate a PR company. How many artists approach you wanting to hire you as a publicist, and haven’t got the money?
So many. Of course.
What are your PR clients these days?
We have a beautiful little stable of clients that spans the gamut. We just signed an amazing artist from Los Angles, MJ Ultra. We have an amazing singer/songwriter Jacob Davich from Los Angeles. We also have (the all-female Florida American band) the Krickets, and singer/songwriter Jetty Rae from Michigan. We are again working with Canada’s Jody Quine for her new release. We did a campaign with her in 2013. She’s about to go on a 45 city tour. So we have a really cool roster of clients right now.
Let’s talk about some of the ways an artist can raise their profiles other than having a mailing list. A few years ago the Holy Trinity of social media was Facebook, MySpace. and Twitter. Probably, it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter today. In the early days of Facebook, it was a terrific resource for artists seeking to market themselves to followers. It can still be an effective social tool, but the obstacles there have significantly increased over the years. Facebook doesn’t make it easy for artists today.
No, they don’t. The thing that removes the obstacles on Facebook is money.
You have to advertise.
Yep. Advertise. Boost hosts. Do your custom audience. There are many fabulous techniques. It’s not even worth complaining about anymore. It is what it is.
[A recent report indicates that Facebook curates 2,000 news stories for the average user every day. The average user only reads 200 of these. The other 90% are not seen.]
How do you evaluate Facebook Live?
Facebook Live is great. It’s wonderful. It’s a great way to bring people toward an artist or band. It’s absolutely worth experimenting with to see how many of your Facebook friends respond. It can be a great thing to do during your crowdfunding campaign. “Let’s have a little hang and I will play some acoustic songs, and you can ask me questions., and I can talk about my campaign and we can do a Pledge-A-Thon.” There are all kinds of things that we can do using Facebook Live. It’s a great way to connect to people in real time.
I like the photo sharing site Pinterest that allows you to “pin” images to virtual boards to create digital scrapbooks on your page. You like Woobox.
Woobox is just a great tool to connect your apps on Facebook, but I have to say Instagram too. We have to give it up for Instagram. I see more and more people touting that as their #1 favorite social channel.
So many artist pitches through newsletters and blogs aren’t compelling to me as a journalist. You have talked about being in an elevator with Devil Doll’s frontwoman Colleen Duffy who described her band as, “Jessica Rabbit meets Joan Jett and throw a cowboy hat on every once in a while — that's what you would get with Devil Doll.” I’m so there for that.
It’s one of my favorite pitches. It’s a client I worked with years ago, but that pitch was just so compelling. You knew exactly what she was doing. She looked like that, and the whole thing. So that’s one of my favorites.
Most bios coming across my desk are poorly-executed.
Yeah. It’s such an art to write a bio. It’s a lost art. Length has nothing to do with good. I think that’s the old school. Throw it all in there. No one cares.
What do you advise clients about their websites?
A website in 2016/2017 and beyond should not cost a lot of money. The days of the $5,000 plus website are history. A website exists to do two things.
One, to give you the who, where, where, what, and why. To give an artist their own online platform. We don’t need to explain to anyone that they don’t own Facebook. They don’t own Instagram. They don’t own Twitter. They have to have their own shingle with their little space online.
So that’s reason number one.
Reason number two is that the website should exist to help them to turn it into income. Some kind of income. So whether or not it’s owned media that they are using to attract clients or whether where they are showing their talent when they playing next, merchandise they are selling, tour dates, they should understand that it is a function. Of course, you also want it to be the hub of where your newsletter, your social media, your updates, news...there are standard things that should be on it. Don’t spend at lot. Just make it move quickly, and tell people exactly what they need. Don’t make it too artsy. Just make it navigable.
Forget developing all the creative Flash adds that require considerable bandwidth.
Oh, God yes.
I used to joke, “the better the website, the worse the band.”
It’s like the nicer the sound guy, the worse the sound. You know there are certain standards in the industry.
Band websites are destination based. Artists aren’t converting people into fans anymore with a website. If someone comes to their website, they are already likely a fan.
I know bands that have been incredibly successful in using their website to host a hub with other similar bands.
That’s how CD Baby started (in 1998). Derek Sivers just started selling some albums for his friends. That’s a brilliant idea. That’s how the best record labels work. “If you like me, you will probably like this too.”
In your book, you mentioned you experienced your house burning down.
It did. In 2005.
What was the cause?
A faulty extension cord plugged into an air conditioner. Turns out you are not supposed to put an extension cord on an air conditioner Didn’t know that.
Did you lose everything?
I didn’t lose everything, miraculously, but I lost a vast majority of things for sure.
That’s certainly a life changer. It must have shaken you up.
It did. It did because there is a lesson. A lot of us get this lesson if we have a house crisis or if someone very important to us dies, and you are sifting through all their stuff thinking, “Oh my God.” It really struck me that most of the things that we own have less meaning than we think. Not everything. There are truly priceless things. Photographs of precious memories. Jewelry that your great grandmother owned. Something that has been in your family for a long time or a drawing that your three-year-old made for you. If those things get burned up in a fire, it’s devastating. You can’t replace those things. However, the lesson from losing all that stuff was that it is just stuff. It may have been beautiful stuff or stuff that was meaningful to me or well-curated stuff but, you know, I live in a house now, and it’s full of beautiful, well-curated stuff. So things come back to you. When you have a moment where you do lose everything something better, maybe, is around the corner. So that’s a possibility. In my case, I lost all of this stuff in a fire. I was literally homeless. I had to move in with my parents.
(Shrieking with laughter) Like what?
After all, you moved back in with your parents following university.
I know. What really happened after the fire is that mother got very sick. Very sick. So sick that we thought we wouldn’t have her around anymore. It was a few weeks after my fire. So there I was in the section of the hospital where it’s 24-hour access, and there’s a private nurse. Most people in that section don’t come out. My mother was in a coma, hooked up to every possible machine. It was horrible. They told my dad and me, “If she wakes up, she probably won’t know who you are.” She had a horrible accident where she was found underwater. So it was drowning. They didn’t know if she had lost brain function. So I was standing there in the hospital watching her in a coma with the machine after being told, “We don’t know if she’s in a vegetative state.” I just thought. “All of the things that just burned up in the fire are meaningless.”
Your mother lived. She’s now okay?
Oh God yes. She’s 81-years-old and is totally amazing.
[Ariel’s father is Gordon Hyatt, an award-winning writer and television producer. Her mother is author and career development professional Carole Hyatt is known for developing the Leadership Forum, a program to provide leadership guidance for women in executive or entrepreneurial business roles. In 2002, Ariel and her mother were featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where they discussed the challenges of balancing a family and a business life.]
Both of your parents are acclaimed in their individual careers. Both have been important to you, but your mother was inspirational to the path you chose in life.
I recently went to a conference for entrepreneurs, and there was some really cool research and studies about people that are entrepreneurs, and most people had a parent—in most cases a father—who inspired them to be entrepreneurial. In my case, it was my mother. I had no fear in starting my own business which I did when I was very young.
You were 23.
I remember calling my mom to ask if I should start my own business. She was like, “Hell yes, start your own business.” A lot of musicians and artists that I work with have a family member that wasn’t a creative or didn’t do their own thing, and there’s such a fear around that. They hear, “You better get a back-up job.” Or, “It’s not a real job.”
You are an only child.
I am an only child.
What university did you attend?
I went to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was a small liberal arts school. I was a theater major.
After graduation, as I said, you moved back in with your parents.
There was no work in the music industry. They lived in Manhattan. So c’mon.
You leave out a few things in your resume. Like working as an associate producer at WNEW-FM for $69 a week and working at the PR firm, Kathryn Schenker and Associates. Weren’t you an intern there?
I was a glorified intern, meaning she paid for my lunch. But yes. That was my first year out of university.
When did you work at WNEW-FM?
Way before Kathryn. I only spent a few months at WNEW. It was a very interesting time to be there. We were up against Howard Stern when Howard was the king of the world. The internship I had was working with (Pat) “Paraquat” Kelley). WNEW spun through this long list of DJs trying to get some (morning) market share away from Howard. But it was literally a suicide mission. Finally, they just threw in the towel and said, “We are just going to play music.”
You also worked at a record store in Manhattan called NYCD.
Exactly. I worked at the record store at night and worked for Kathryn during the day.
While at university you had interned at several fashion public relation firms.
I did. I was at Keeble, Cavaco & Duka (KCD). It was a very rich and incredible experience because it was a little bit like a “Devil Wears Prada” scenario. I was an intern, but I was there for every summer between university and all of my early years.
[Recognized for its award-winning campaigns for Bergdorf Goodman, Keeble, Cavaco & Duka is noted for helping to bring several American fashion designers to prominence, including Stephen Sprouse, Bill Robinson, Charlotte Neuville and Gordon Henderson. In the 1990s. the agency also represented such designers as Gianni Versace, Ronaldus Shanask, and Robert Lee Morris.]
You also worked in London for Lynne Franks Limited.
Yes. Lynne Frank in London is the ad firm they based (the BBC-TV sitcom) “Ad Fab” on. That was a nightmare. They sent me home crying every day. They didn’t like Americans, especially not young American girls. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Lynne is a legend. I met her once. When I was quitting That was the one time. She was actually very kind to me when I was quitting. It (working there) was a real lesson about culture. It was such a different culture there. I wasn’t prepared for it.
Was it love that took you to Boulder, Colorado in the mid-‘90s?
It was. It was love of an independent band called theples (on What Are Records?). I had done a visiting semester in Boulder, and I fell in love with the town. I had grown up in New York City where what anybody talks about is, “What do you do?” It was very refreshing to go to a place where people asked, “How many days?” I didn’t know what anybody was talking about my first few months in Boulder. It was, “How many days did you ski this season?”
Rob Gordon launched What Are Records? from a loft in New York City in 1991 before relocating to Boulder shortly afterward.
A friend in Boulder sent me a newspaper article that they had bought a building and were moving. So I marched myself down to their office in New York City and I said, “I would like a job.” They laughed and said, “Well you can have an unpaid internship.” So I left my $14 lunches at Kathryn Schenker’s office and started interning for free at What Are. Very soon afterward, my internship was parlayed into a job which paid me a whopping salary of $12,000 a year. I worked there for a year and relocated with them to Boulder. From there, I moved on to a concert promotions company, which was great, and then I started my own business.
How did it feel writing “Crowdstart,” your fifth book?
It felt really good. I really wanted to put something together that was hopeful and useful.
And make money on it.
Well, I’m not going to make shit on this. Do you know how much that editor cost me?
Yeah, but the book is your professional calling card for conferences and picking up new clients.
(Laughing) We’ll see.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is a co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.