Interview :: Stacey Piggott ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’
July 18th 2013
It doesn’t matter how talented you are at anything, sport, business, music, art, if you don’t have a solid work ethic, it will all fall over at some point.
Stacey Piggott‘s career in music is the stuff of fairytales. Working as a waitress in Bondi fourteen years ago, she met Donna Simpson of The Waifs. At the time the band were doing all their own publicity and generally working pretty damn hard to make it in the music biz. Joining them while teaching herself PR along the way, Stacey saw the band’s profile rise and other indie acts soon became interested in her talents.
Stacey now runs the excellent music PR firm Two Fish Out Of Water, representing a swag of Australia’s best upcoming musicians. Now she has put her years of experience on paper in ‘Blow Your Trumpet – A musician’s guide to publicity and airplay‘ – a grassroots ‘how-to’ book for musicians trying to break out of the crowd.
FBi’s Andrew Pople spoke with Stacey about making it in music, the digital age of PR and how excellent community radio is.
Andrew :: ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’ is a guide for new artists promoting and publicising their material. Was there a precipitating event that made you feel this book needed to be written?
Stacey :: I guess a run of bewildering conversations with grass roots acts at various conferences was the absolute catalyst. Listening to young acts who were totally disheartened because they either don’t have the funds to employ a publicist, don’t have the confidence to talk to media on their own, or don’t have the knowledge to find a way to do either. And some of them who were confident, were losing that confidence because they were going straight to big national media outlets on their first single or tour and then not getting any responses, so their enthusiasm was being dampened.
I just wanted to throw a bunch of ideas and examples down for people to access, to show the benefits of research, educating yourself and starting small can have to your career and bank balance.
Your own career in music evolved through chance encounters and hard work – you’ve said that “I had no expectations and therefore no limitations”. What role does perseverance have in crafting a career in the business these days?
It has a huge role, we live in an age where stay at home mums can make millions between their baby’s nap times, from the comfort of their lounge rooms if they persevere with their ideas. The globalization of business enables anyone, anywhere, to make money from something.
I think it is smart to be educated on the industry you are heading into, take on board other people’s mistakes, but be open and courageous to create your own ways of doing business. I had no expectations on what I was doing because I had never worked within the music industry, but I had the basic knowledge and principles to enable my ‘business’ endeavor in that particular sector. The ability to communicate, identify a good story, passion and genuine love for the bands I committed to, and a really strong work ethic, that ensured I didn’t stop until the job was done. It doesn’t matter how talented you are at anything, sport, business, music, art, if you don’t have a solid work ethic, it will all fall over at some point.
Who or what has been the most challenging campaign for you to work on?
Different campaigns are challenging for different reasons. Some are challenging but in a delightful way, like The Drones for example. They are a challenge to work with because they have really tight parameters when it comes to what they will and wont do, there is no compromise there … but it forces you to think creatively which is a fun challenge and keeps things interesting.
Some are challenging in a frustrating way – when the artist is incredible, the press coverage is off the hook, the reviews are glowing, but none of it translates into sales of any kind, so there is no fiscal reward for the artist after all of the hard work. Those ones are the worst, that is heartbreaking for us. And some are challenging in an awful way because the client is a difficult pain in the ass, and no matter what you achieve, it is all over shadowed by the fact that the artist is a total jerk. We have been really lucky in the last couple of years though, we have been able to weed out all of the jerks, making the latter a rarity… which is lovely.
In the digital age, do you feel it’s easier for independent musicians to make it on their own? Or more difficult?
I think it is definitely easier. When I started it was really hard to track down the right people to talk to, it took years to build data bases, and get access to the right people to convince them to listen to you.
These days, you can generate content that is instantly accessible to anyone and everyone. You can, at the click of a mouse get contact lists for whole publications and radio stations. You can see exactly who you need to target locally, nationally and globally by doing some research and emailing them links to click through.
I’m going to sound really old now, but when I started I used to fax media releases one at a time to stations and papers, I was so so excited when I could afford to buy a fax machine that sent one fax to ten different numbers at the one time. These days at the press of a button I can hit thousands of media across the country. Then even more people virally through social media. There is a huge amount to follow up, which has put a lot more pressure on our workload, but for the artist it is a good thing.
The power is with the artist now, if one doesn’t like your music and give you support, you can still get solid traction with a bunch of alternative options, you just need to put the hours in to make contact and follow up with all of these people.
For the musicians reading this at home and thinking ‘What if?’, what are your top tips for getting started? (apart from picking up a copy of the book of course!)
Sit down and do a short-term, mid-term and long-term plan, that has goals within each. Get very clear on what exactly it is you want people to talk about, make sure you have all of the tools ready to go to illustrate that aspect. Your music, press release, photo, tour dates (depending on what you are spruiking)… and pick up the phone, or start sending emails. It may seem daunting at first, but keep the law of averages in your mind as each ‘no’ comes in … the more ‘no’s you get, the closer you are getting to a yes!
What is your perspective on community radio and the power it wields for new Australian artists?
I am, and always have been really passionate about community radio, all community radio, not just the big ones in the major cites. It is an integral part of our industry, and not just from the perspective of musicians, but also industry and music lovers.
Community stations are a nurturing, safe space for radio presenters, producers, engineers etc to find their feet and get some experience. They are a place that young publicists and managers can gain experience dealing with the media and bands can find their feet in a studio environment talking and playing on air live. And most importantly they provide a platform for a variety of niche music genres to music fans across the country, who without community radio would be relegated to listening to the same top 40 blah that commercial radio is so passionately supportive of.
A lot of the bands we work with rely solely on community radio and the metro and regional ABC networks to survive. We love you guys and would be pretty stuffed without you!
What does ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’ offer for the non-musician, or music fan? Should they be picking up a copy too?
I think the messages within it are pretty universal, I had a friend of my mum’s who runs a building company read it out of curiosity and he said he picked up a bunch of tips for the promotion of his company. It is a pretty targeted subject matter though, put together with a very specific audience in mind, but I think anyone in the arts would benefit from the stories and ideas inside.
More info and pre-order details for ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’ here.
We have one copy of ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet’ to give away to an FBi supporter. Just email email@example.com with your name, supporter number and what you plan to do with the wisdom you’ll gain from Stacey’s book.
Stacey Piggott | Andrew Pople