The music industry has always been extremely competitive regardless of whether you’re a musician or a young professional interested in cultivating a music industry career. For anyone who is currently a musician in the industry or a young professional who is looking to work their way into the industry, this is an interview you must read.
I recently spoke with Chrissy Borsellino, a co-founder of the indie public relations firm, Catalyst Publicity Group, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Brooklyn, NY. While Catalyst specializes in music, brand, and lifestyle PR, we’ll be focusing specifically on Chrissy’s experience and expertise in music PR and the music industry.
Chrissy grew up in a musical household where both parents dabbled into guitar and have always been truly passionate music lovers. “Their vinyl collection is truly something to behold,” she reveals. There were always many family outings to local music festivals and it was always an important part of her family’s life.
“There were so many different genres being played in my house, they really helped me craft a profound appreciation for music,” She adds.
As a teenager, she was enthralled with the local music scene, and was at shows pretty much weekly supporting the local music scene in any way she could. From selling merch to pseudo-managing bands, whatever she could to help support the local scene, and anything to help some of the acts get recognized.
“Around the that time I found a few colleges that offered music business programs. I had never really thought about working in the industry as a career path for me but after checking out a few campuses and learning about their curriculums, I knew that’s what I needed to do,” Chrissy explains.
So where does Catalyst Publicity Group come in, you say? Well, following Chrissy’s graduation from SUNY Oneonta in 2008, she was working at a different indie PR firm, and Jen Appel, the head founder, was managing a band simultaneously while in school for her Masters degree. Appel decided to hire an outside publicist to help with the band’s public relations and by sheer coincidence, the campaign landed in Chrissy’s office, and on her desk.
Following the campaign assignment, the two professionals had kept in touch over the years, and Chrissy had discovered that Jen started her own PR firm. “I really loved what she was doing and sent her a message asking to chat. After a lengthy conversation about what we were doing and what we felt the indie PR market was missing, we decided to try building this together,” She revealed.
With Jen’s experience in public relations and education and Chrissy’s experience in the music business, the joint effort to start Catalyst Publicity Group has been extremely successful. Their “mutual appreciation for the emerging artists struggle and interest in taking an outside the box approach to publicity” has been the key to their incredible efforts of helping bands get to the next level of their career.
“We are essentially the ying to the other’s yang and thrive at being creative together to provide a different kind of experience for our clients. It’s awesome,” Chrissy added excitedly.
So with that said, emerging musicians still need to have the whole package to catch their eye and perk up their ears. The music will always be the most important thing. The songs have to be good and something they’re interested in working with. The audio production has to be top notch – recorded, mixed, and mastered professionally. Other promotional content available, such as music videos, remixes, etc, also must be well done.
“After we assess the actual product we’re working with, it comes down to the artist’s story, release timeline and expectations,” She says. There must be a realistic goal set in mind for the time it takes to pitch the project and the artist.
“Artists that understand that press takes time, are creative on their end cultivating a fanbase, bring something interesting to the table, and are thoughtful about who they are as entertainers crafting a compelling story/image, are the most exciting to work with. Those artists also tend to resonate the most with the media and industry.”
On the business side of the industry, for those who are looking to work towards a career in the music industry, Chrissy says the most important thing is to educate yourself.
“The industry is evolving so rapidly and there’s so many new practices, platforms, and unique success stories to learn from. Make sure you are paying attention to where the industry is at and where experts think it’s going. There are countless publications that report on and talk about those things. Start reading,” She reveals.
Internships and mentorships are key as well. Networking is big in this industry and having relationships can help you get a foot in the door. Try offering your free labor to gain experience and absorb all the knowledge and hands-on experience you can.
“Networking is probably the biggest part of having a successful career. Most people land jobs or even start companies based off recommendations. Go to networking events, conferences, festivals, anywhere you can rub elbows with industry executives,” She explains. “But don’t be overly pushy! It’s about establishing an authentic connection with people first – no one goes out of their way for someone they don’t really know or even like. If you’re a people person and can conquer networking, you can be unstoppable in this industry which is entirely built on relationships.”