Can you take me through your process on the basis of a campaign that's particularly dear to you, please? What did you start with, what were some of the most important aspects and how did you combine the different elements into a coherent whole?
PR is no rocket science. You meet a client and decide whether you like what s/he does and how s/he presents the music. You might advise on what materials are needed, advise on their execution. You try to get to know the person: personality, background, former projects. What drives, motivates this person? Is there a story here? You write the press release. You make sure you have all in place on time and get the word out.
You’re lucky, if there is a story connected to the product. But very often there is none. You simply have good music in your hands or on the bandstand.
One project was indeed special to me. I remember when I did PR for a project by clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. It involved a month-long engagement at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park, Downtown Manhattan. The multi-media project with familiar soundtracks from iconic movies with a Jewish connection, paid homage to Krakauer’s “personal discovery of his cultural heritage and in the broader sense, to the journeys we all take to find meaning and connection with our roots.” For each of Krakauer’s new arrangements there was a unique and newly created animated movie shown on stage. It was a marriage of music and the moving image. So, there were many components involved: the band, the museum, the management, the multi media staff. And we had two products, the recording and the actual performances. I worked closely with the PR department of the museum. It all had a deeper meaning for me as a German citizen in particular. And as a former expat, who just received the American citizenship a few months prior. On many levels, I was tremendously proud to be part of this successful project.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My work and personal life are more connected than I actually would like them to be. But this is the fate of most freelancers. The beginning of a campaign is always the busiest time. The mailing, possibly on two continents, needs to be arranged and coordinated. All materials need to be prepared and ready when needed. Everything has to be quick, so there is not too much time between the client’s agreement and the product arriving to a writer’s desk. The e-press release needs to be configured and emailed. Before, you have to figure out what writers would be a good fit and good candidates to receive the music. Who would like it? This is especially difficult with genre-bending music. You want to make sure you respect the writer’s taste but then you do not want to miss an opportunity. One writer once told me “No singers for me, please”. When he learned about a particular one I promoted, he said, “but THIS one I like.” It can be a dance on a tightrope.
Emails need to be checked regularly, in the morning and throughout the day, even at night (depending on the time zone you’re in). My Mac always travels with me. I am trying to find out how to be offline for some time in a row without losing my work. It can be tough to be always ‘switched on’ but then the Internet creates a lot of freedom and possibilities as well.
A reliable team is essential. I could not do it without my extraordinary colleagues Barbara Kloth and Inge Orth. And I am proud to be part of the Levenson Creative Group.
The results of a campaign are not always easy to measure. How do you define success for your work?
If the client is happy, I am happy.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Every person is different that way. I need to be totally alone and quiet. I get easily distracted (too many antennae). Distractions can range from people and phone calls to TV, Internet and street noise. What helps me is to have phases of doing nothing, just sit with a cup of tea and stare … I do not want anybody around me then. It is like a reset - ideas and thoughts slowly fall into place.
It also helps to go on a hike. To take a stroll through the woods, taking some deep breaths. Nothing is more beautiful and calming than the smell of soil. Planting works well for me to recharge batteries and release pressure. Nature always puts everything back in perspective.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art?
Talking about the arts often ends up in phrase mongering. There is nothing that hasn’t been said about art.
Art brings people together. Creators and consumers. It creates exchange, dialogue, experience, memories. It can deliver food for thought. It can distract for a moment. Art speaks to the intellect as well as to the emotions. It helps its creator to channel, consumers to discover. Maybe the other way round. It helps forming an opinion. It requires being in touch with your surroundings. The visual and performing arts mean craftsmanship. So does writing. You need to know your tools and how to use them. Whether it is a brush, a musical instrument, your body, or a pen. It requires training, education, a constant search, and an inner exchange. It means growth. What could be better than that?
However, I do not want to see self-therapy on a wall or on stage. It’s a fine line.
I admire the Gertrude Steins of this world. Connoisseurs, who were able to evaluate art. Predict trends. Perhaps setting them. They were always a step ahead. Amazing.
However, as Ted Gioia, an American music historian, pointed out, the development of art as a science is basically finished. And he quotes Arthur Danto, a philosopher and art critic, who wrote the essay “The End of Art”. Danto concluded that the history of art is coming to an end. And as Gioia explains further, that the historical progression is coming to an end. So far, the idea has been that each generation has certain artistic techniques, passed on to the next generation, who built on it, improved it. New techniques are added. Art has progressed like a science. But art stopped progressing in the 1950s/60s. It still changes but there is no longer a steady evolution. So Danto came to the conclusion, that in the future artists must go back to what always has been the most important function of art: artists have to go back to serving human needs!
Here is his full-length talk.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music PR still intact. Do you have a vision of your job, an idea of what it could be beyond its current form?
No, I do not. And I am not concerned. It will keep adjusting to the changing editorial landscape. Fact is, the public needs and appreciates information. We’ll see where this will go.
People are always on the look out for something new. They leave old concepts, try new ones and might come back to the old ones because they were already sufficient. Who knows?