We often look at musicians and what they do, but behind musicians there is often a group of people working tirelessly to make sure they are heading in the right direction, making sure they can be heard by their fans, and making sure they’re out there to be discovered.
With over eighteen years of experience in promotion, Rhonda Brilliant has seen the evolution of some fantastic and some not-so-fantastic trends in the music scene from around the world. A few months away from Rainmaker Media group’s 19th anniversary we sat down to better understand what goes on behind the scenes of one of the most hard working, passionate PR groups we’ve ever worked with.
Nanobot Rock: Where did the name “Rainmaker Media Group” originate?
Rhonda Brilliant: From my sales reps at the radio stations I oversaw. If they had a big buy on the table but needed an event or some special promotion to get the buy they would call me and I would come up with some crazy idea. But, after 18 years, I am ready for a change. I was thinking the other day; “Aiding & Abetting PR” would be a great name.
NR: “Aiding & Abetting” is a great name. Music promotion is sometimes seen as someone who sits backstage, takes in all the fun of the live shows, but works their butt off the rest of the time to get things done. What made you want to get into the promotion business? Where did you get your start?
RB: I actually fell into this career by mistake. I was an executive at ABC/Cap Cities Radio and I left the corporate world to create and produce a local TV show. When I couldn’t find a publicist to help me promote the show, I did it myself. Apparently I was pretty good at it and local bands like Guster and The Amazing Royal Crowns hired me to be their publicists. Before too long I was a music publicist ‘in training’. Well, it actually took me about 4-5 years to call myself a publicist. It is definitely not a career that happens overnight. Bands and Managers hire you for your long term relationships and access to the media , not a press list.
NR: You have been working in the music industry since 1996. Now that is when Smashing Pumpkins released “1979,” The Prodigy told us to “Breathe,” and Dave Matthews was coming into his own with “Crash into Me.” Now we have Jack White, Skrillex and Pharrell Williams leading the rush on mainstream. Does it feel like it has been 18 years since you first started?
RB: It does and it is a sad state of affairs out there in America. That was such a golden era in American music and I miss it. I get hundreds of submission every month and the lack of creativity and originally hurts. There seems to be some sort of creative drought in American these days. Luckily, I work with musicians from Indonesia and South Korea, Australia and South Africa, Europe and Canada. I would say that only about 30% of my clients are now originally from America. The ones that I do work however are very, very good.
NR: How has the landscape of music, from a band promotion perspective, changed since you first began?
RB: It used to be that a publicist was just a publicist. Now, with the changing economics, companies and PR agents now have taken on other services such as radio promo, publishing, cd manufacturing, video promotion, music coaching, branding & boot camps. Many publicists now write books on how to be successful and social media. Just 5 years ago, we had about 250 members of our PR group. We now have 1300 and it’s growing. Now, everyone is a publicist or just looks like one. (Laughs)
NR: With everything changing, as you mentioned, what do you think is the biggest hurdle for bands in today’s music scene?
RB: They are confused and don’t know where to turn for advice or help. Terrestrial radio is not something that anyone recommends doing anymore or paying for. But, I get calls from bands every week that tell me they just plunked down $4,000 for a college radio campaign in JULY! No one is there in JULY! Or a band just went to a conference and the panelists (who has the time) said that they had to be touring extensively before even considering a national press campaign. So, they put off hiring a publicist and then they have no press. There is not a booker out there that will take them on because they have no press and no publicist. They are stuck. But, the reality is that hiring a national publicist has always been the first hire; because they don’t need a gig or tour, just the product. Once the publicist gets press and validation form the national media, then the bookers will take them on. They are getting a lot of very bad advice and information. Use your common sense. Also, remember those that teach, usually can’t or don’t even know how to do.
NR: What words of wisdom would you impart on a band looking to get their sound out there?
RB: The good news is that because of the internet and the changing landscape of the music industry….you no longer have to get in a van and tour for months on end ( unless you want to). Most bands just want to be heard and the internet is the place to do it. I would ask a band what their goals are; do they want to get a publishing deal? Do you want to sell product? Do they want inroads into Europe? Do they want to get a booker and push towards the festivals and conferences?
NR: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see bands making right now that are impeding their progress?
RB: Great question and one that no one ever asks me. There are so many that I will list them for you and many will be surprising:
- Having a manager, lawyer or ‘advisors ‘ on staff.
- No contact info anywhere to be found ( I am sure you have that issue as well)
- Having a really bad band name and I have had to turn down bands because of it.
- Hiring anyone that guarantees you anything. It just isn’t a reality in the music biz.
- Hiring a publicist that is also the lead singer in a band.
- Having the wrong visual on the cover of the cd.
- Spending TOO much money on making videos and making videos for every song on the cd…this is a new trend where I have witnessed bands spending $100,000+and hoping to be discovered like Justin Bieber – that is a quote. I think videos are a great marketing tool. But, keep it simple and DIY.
NR: What is next for you and The Rainmaker Media Group?
RB: We will be celebrating 19 years in May 2015. I am just going to keep doing what I have been. I still really love it!
NB: Well we certainly hope you keep doing what you’re doing because thanks to you, we have discovered some great music. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and we hope your next 19 years are even more successful than the first.