Linda Coogan Byrne followed her dreams in setting up Goodseed PR and bursting into a tough and specialized industry. It goes without saying, then, that the self-made PR guru knows a thing or five about what’s going on in our scene, and even about how she might go about influencing said goings on. Personally, I can’t even begin to imagine the frustrations of trying to promote something you love – or perhaps, occasionally, don’t – to the indistinct entity that is taste in music, so huge respect to Linda. Here’s what she had to say about her job, and where we are in Irish music right now…
How do you view the role of PR in music at the moment, and how does it effect what we hear about?
The role as I view it is to deliver music to the following people within the realm of the music media industry: tastemakers, music journalists along with producers and researchers in radio and TV who make the decisions to write about it, blog about it, air it and support it. Thus creating an infrastructure for the artist or bands music to grow from. To build this infrastructure can be rather time consuming for both established and emerging artists. So the role is also about knowing where to pitch the music, who to deliver it to, time management and creating a realistic time line campaign for the client. An important factor is how important it is for the client to understand that it takes time. No matter who you employ, it takes time to grow a successful business. And to be a professional musician/artist you have to trust those in the know and not expect to be famous in 3 months. It simply does not work that way. So communication is absolutely pivotal between your client and the media. The people responsible for choosing what music to air and support are those who affect what you hear about, not the PR.
In PR, your role is a mix of promoting Irish artists and promoting artists within Ireland. Obviously the music industry has changed substantially over the last few years and ticket sales seem to have overtaken album/ music sales for a lot of artists. How has this stuff affected the job?
It hasn’t affected the job or role of PR – you are still publicising and the elements of the job remain the exact same.
What makes an act easy or difficult to promote?
If you choose an act not out of passion and belief in their music but for money, then it makes it a hard sell. Because if you do not personally believe in an act or that they have the capacity to succeed then it shows and you can’t sell it as you would something that you are passionate about. Many within the music industry extort bands in this way. In fact most of the money made in the music industry is made from bands on the rise as well as bands that will never rise. It’s also the very reason why its so important to work with clients whom you believe in, otherwise you take on a hell of a lot of heart ache. That’s the negative. The positive reply would be to work with superb bands who make superb music. It’s THAT simple. I am not an advocate of this ‘Irish radio doesn’t support great Irish Music’. It does. Its just that most bands do not research the music played on specific national radio stations and shows and therefore have false expectations of the kind of airtime they can receive when in fact their music does not fit the stations remit that they expect to be played on!
I have been accused at times of taking on ‘easy’ bands and not being a risk taker because I say no to so many bands who come to me looking for PR but it is simply because I don’t feel their expectations are in the same reality as the one we live in! They want to be played on stations that do not play their music. When I tell them ‘No I can not make you a house hold name in 2 months’ or ‘I don’t think that specific radio station will play your track’ they hear that I don’t believe in them or their music when that is simply untrue. If you sound like a pop band, go to a label, send your music to an AnR person and pitch your music, make sure its well produced and build it up. Know that it’ll take time and get a damn good management team and booking agent behind you. Test run the songs you have live before investing in studio time for an entire album. Its called market research. If you sound like an indie band who has recorded a demo in your attic then don’t expect to be played on national radio as it won’t fit the standard or remit.
Do you ever have to pretend to love something that you’re not actually that into? (no names required!)
When you represent labels, you sometimes have no say over who you work with. But luckily enough it hasn’t happened me much, as I work with some of the best labels in the world. Keeping a standard of quality is paramount in PR.
It must have been a massive decision to set up GoodSeed and go it alone, especially with the industry in flux. It certainly looks like a great call now, but how nervous did it make you at the time?
In any sector, not just the music or entertainment industry it is hard to establish a name and business and make money from it or a success of it. For the first year or more I had closed doors and people who constantly said no and belittled me saying, either to me or behind my back, that I’d never amount to anything. To quote someone, I was told “I wouldn’t have a snowballs chance in hell” of ever succeeding The very same people call me their colleague or friend now. Understand that everyone has to start somewhere. And that people will put up walls. They expect you to pay your dues. Being a woman you must work harder and more often. I can go into that more, but it just is what it is. Building something takes diligence and a whole lot of time. Learning your craft and a couple of thousand names and people off by heart is a challenge but if you are a natural then it will naturally work out. So nervousness can not be present at any time. If you want to own something you must feel like it belongs to you before it does. There is no room for being in a nervous or stressful disposition within the world of PR. If you are prone to such then go work another field.
You were involved in Ou Est Le Swimming Pool and Poly Styrene, both of whom were cut short by the deaths of band members. How do you deal with that kind of stuff in the office?
It is very upsetting naturally. But like all things in life you take the good memories of those whom touched a part of your life and move forward preserving that. For artists, you take their music with you and hope it lives on. Dealing with it on a PR perspective is ensuring no false rumours or untrue stories go out about anything surrounding their passing and preserving the strength of character.
How healthy is the local music scene at the moment in your view?
I think Ireland is spitting out amazing talent. Hozier, Kodaline, The Hot Sprockets, Red Empire, SOAK… the list goes on and on. It’s in great shape.
What would you like to see change?
I wish bands educated themselves more in how the business of music operates. This would change their unreasonable disappointment and make for more realistic goals. I love building bands from the ground up and have done so for many, and its such an honour to embark on a journey like that, but sadly the majority of Indie acts have no idea how to piece together a realistic time line and steadily grow their music or plan a release.
Who are you excited about on the Irish music scene at the moment? Let’s allow two acts you are promoting and two you’re not!
SOAK – I think she is stunning. Red Empire – I think they are an incredible rock band with a stunning lead vocalist. Hozier – I heard him years ago and loved him so I am excited for him and his music getting such a great global audience. The Henry Sisters, I think their music is so sync friendly and I reckon they have a very exciting future ahead of them.
What are you expecting to be a big deal in 2015?
Fuck knows, there’s no certainty only unpredictability in this world. I do however expect Marilyn Manson to be reborn in 2015 and feel his new album will dominate. Rock and metal is going to be embraced again. I can feel it in my bones.
State of the Nation is a blog project for 2015 focused on telling the story of the Irish music scene through interviews with some of its major players. Interviews are published weekly, and you can find a full index of all published to date here.