How The Rolling Stones Launched My PR Career
September 5, 2012 Leave a comment
How did the Rolling Stones launch my career in public relations? Glad you asked. We have to go back a few years to get the whole story. When I was in high school, my sister’s boyfriend handled the music column for a small local newspaper. Trouble was that whereas he liked going to concerts and doing interviews, he hated writing, which was where I came in. I loved rock & roll almost as much as I loved writing. So the deal was that if he agreed to let me tag along to concerts, I’d write the articles for him. The first one was (and here’s where I start dating myself) the Yardbirds. I was excited since, along with Hendrix, Jeff Beck was one of my guitar heroes. But, as luck would have it, Jeff Beck missed the show and Jimmy Paige was the guitarist that day. Although I’ve never forgiven Paige, that wasn’t a bad place to start my rock journalism career. I wrote several articles as a ghostwriter and as time went on, I started to strike out on my own. Over the years I was able to cover quite a few acts from the Yardbirds and the Kinks to Cream and Hendrix, to Dylan and Neil Young and later to X and Tom Petty; not bad work if you can get it.
These were the days of Cream, Circus, Rolling Stone, Trouser Press and hundreds of other small publications. This pre-internet world was one of fanzines and paper publications, some glossy and others underground Xeroxed copies that were sold for next to nothing. Although it wasn’t a way to get rich, rock journalism had its perks, not only did I get into concerts for free, I was given the best seats and was paid (well somewhat paid) to attend, then was allowed to pontificate about the experience. And it never hurt to tell girls you were a rock journalist. Who could argue with that?
Whereas the concert and album reviews were fun, the interviews were a different matter. Meeting rocks stars was an interesting experience, but truth be told, I didn’t really care for the interview process. Hearing about their relationship to their music was interesting, but listening to their views on social issues, politics or fashion had a tendency to lull me into a near catatonic state.
Eventually, I helped friends that were in bands get placements in media outlets. Then their friend’s friends began coming to me for media advice and, before I knew it, I was able to make some money helping artists write bios, press releases and land media coverage. Without knowing it, I was taking a crash course in publicity and media relations. It was the beginning of a business, although I certainly didn’t view it as such at that time.
Then came my rock journalism day of reckoning. I was scheduled to review a Rolling Stones concert and to interview them backstage. This wasn’t an assignment, but it would have been an easy story to sell. It was set up by a female photographer I knew (early on, I learned that working with female photographers was always a good way to get backstage and land interviews). This was a big one. You couldn’t get much bigger than the Stones. Although I had seen them quite a few times, I’d never done so from back stage. On the other hand, truth be told, I actually had little interest in the interview part. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been cool to meet the Stones. If it was a social situation, that could have been fun. But I had done countless interviews and I knew the game. The musicians were generally sick of doing interviews and the experience was usually a disappointing one with canned responses and the repetition of stories that had been told countless times. Still, it was the Stones. How was I going to pass that up? I decided to take a nap before heading off and that nap changed my life course. When I woke up, the concert was over, I had missed the interview. I realized that if I was going to miss a Stones interview, my days as a rock journalist were numbered.
I stayed in journalism for a while, continuing to work as a contributing editor and eventually an editor-in-chief, but my Rolling Stones no show experience, set the stage for a career change. After that I slowly started shifting my writing from journalism to fiction and my business model from freelance writer to PR consultant. So, I can thank the Stones for launching my public relations career.
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012