Creator Chats: Jamie Coletta & Lauren Rearick
Welcome to Creator Chats - a conversation among two groups, bands or people in the music industry. Today we welcome Jamie Coletta (PR Queen — a title I gave her) and Lauren Rearick (aka me, the one writing this & creator of TGE).
Lauren Rearick: First question! Jamie, you really seem to have this way of finding new, exciting music. How do you do it? And how do you stay so excited about an industry that can be not always so nice. You have such a passion for sharing new talent and even finding it, how do you stay that way?
Jamie: I think everyone has their own set of "influencers" –– people you trust to always show you that next thing. I really want to be that person for people in my community, so I just try to listen to a lot of music and tell the world when I find something dope. I go to shows, listen to playlists, listen when a band I like recommends something, scour the Bandcamp charts or Reddit, read whatever my favorite writers are talking about, pay attention to fans, etc. Honestly if I go longer than like 2-3 weeks without finding something new (even if it's just one song), I get really anxious!
I would be 100% lying if I said that the ~music biz~ didn't test my patience on a near-daily basis, though. When I was in school and first started interning, every piece of advice I heard had something to do with having thick skin, and I'm here to say that everyone was right. But I choose to focus on the positive side of things as much as I can –– that's why I always say "lmk if you dig" or "hope you love this as much as I do" when sharing new music because that's how I stay grounded. Hearing from someone else that I showed them their favorite band, or their wedding song, or just a great track they can't stop listening to... or having a conversation with a writer or peer about a record we're both really excited about it... that's like my armor for dealing with the industry's bullshit. When I do get caught up in it all, I honestly think of people like you, or some of the incredible fans/street team members I met through my former job. People that genuinely just love this stuff as much as I do.
Jamie: Lauren, I feel like you and I bonded quickly because we share this kinda stuff in common with one another. Your passion is equally relentless and I almost always have a TGE tab open in Chrome so I can check out your new favorite band or song. So this may be lazy but I want to ask YOU the same question! Where do you find your favorites, and how do you deal with the pressures that come with running TGE?
Lauren: I love that answer! You've definitely served as an influencer to me! You have such a genuine excitement about what you share and it shows!
My answer is kind of a bummer (I think) because when I first started TGE I feel like I was much better at finding new music on my own. I didn't have a job at the time, I was really depressed, and I really had a lot of time to devote to checking Bandcamp and Twitter. I still have time for that now and then, but most of what I find is through email submissions or what you and other people are suggesting on Twitter and other blogs. I think I still kind of have an advantage as far as checking stuff because I'm single (lol) and don't have kids + I work from home so I can definitely make time...and I try! I think since starting the blog some of my best "finds" have been bands that sent these really great emails or just had music that I connected with right away.
As far as pressure goes I've got a few things I do. I do most, if not all, of my writing on weekends and I've gotten better at saying no and knowing my schedule. I used to make myself anxious with feeling the need to constantly check emails and post things all the time, but anymore I take breaks when I need to and say no when I need to. I also think thick skin is a necessity, and I've tried to tune out a lot of the negativity directed towards blogs that I see on social media. I also try to work with people that respect my time and me, which is always a plus.
I love TGE but it's not my job, so I've definitely learned to listen to my heart and my brain, and take the time away when I need or to put something off when I need. Plus when I do get to share something special or receive a kind word from someone we covered or a reader that makes all the pressure worthwhile.
Lauren: Gonna get deep lol. A lot of people have been discussing premieres and just music coverage in general and how it's changing. What are you thoughts on the current state of music PR and how has it changed since you started? Do you think it's gotten more difficult to secure coverage? And do you think it's time for new approaches or ways of doing things?
Jamie: I have always felt that premieres only matter when they are serving a greater strategic purpose for both the artist and the outlet. When they are crafted with that kind of care and time, the pieces usually wind up being some kind of hybrid of a profile and review all in one. Pretty memorable stuff. Except that rarely ever happens –– writers do what they can, but the disproportionate amount of PR emails they've got in their inbox on any given day means premieres are generally short and to the point. It also means it's way harder for us to get anything of value through the clutter. And the truth is that 95% of us on the PR side understand how unbalanced it is right now, but we also have managers, labels and bands to answer to. So it feels we've just been stuck in this weird loop!
I feel like the conversation around "premiere culture" has been going on for years, but the effects actually seem to be sinking in now. I've noticed a lot less premiere type of stuff across the board, which is great. And the premieres I have seen lately are generally accompanied with an interview, which is also great. If anything, right now is an interesting time because PR is being forced to get creative again. It's weeding out the ones who aren't cut out for this gig, making room to elevate others who are rising to the challenge.
To me, PR is more than just pitching target outlets on a checklist; it's about cultivating real community. So I'm always searching for inspiration on how to effectively and ethically build a fanbase around an artist. A lot of times, my ideas are real out there and have never been tried before; I just get a hunch and want to see what happens if I trust myself. Honestly, the day I stop trying to innovate the process, that's the day I move on from the creative space!
Jamie: TGE has gotten some pretty good coverage lately, most notably that dope piece on The Verge! What was your goal or idea when you first started TGE, and did you every think you'd get to this point where people you don't even know would want YOU to talk about their art? What advice would you give a lil youngin writer thinking about starting up their own site?
Lauren: I love your answer so much! I think why I connect with you so much too is because we both have this tendency to run with creative things, and like you said see if they stick. I’ve always really appreciated the community you’ve cultivated with your work. When I get emails from you I always feel like we’re friends (I mean we are), but they feel so open and welcoming.
When I started TGE I was inspired by blogs like Gorilla Vs Bear and YVYNYL. I admire so much how they cover the things they loved, not the things they dislike, and they both have this really beautiful, and pure way of writing. I have always wanted to be a writer, and when I started TGE it was because the doors weren’t opening for me in music journalism. I’ve never been very good at negative reviews and I wanted to create a site that had the passion, excitement, and love that I remember finding in blogs that I grew up with. I grew tired of hearing no, and I grew tired of feeling like as a woman I didn’t have a place so I created my own.
I never imagined or dreamed that TGE would get to this point. I created this purple blog because I wanted to give myself and others the chance to write about things they loved, and I had some weird ideas (recipes, mixes for cartoons, text interviews) that I wanted to try. Every day I’m surprised. I’m surprised that despite feeling anxious, depressed, or even afraid of doing this thing that I have. It blows my mind that anyone at all has resonated with what we do, wanted to be part of the site, or have worn our shirts/supported us in some way. I live in a small town in Pennsylvania, and as I often say, this blog is done direct from my bedroom, and I just never thought that it’d connect with people the way that it has.
I think that anyone who dreams of writing or who wants to create a music blog should go for it. The best advice I could give is to be yourself, embrace every idea you have, and to always follow your heart. The Internet is such a bad thing at times, but it’s also totally incredible because you have tools at your disposable that enable you to begin a blog in seconds. Don’t worry about the traffic, don’t worry about the follower count. Just write.
Lauren: When did you know or realize that you wanted to be in music PR? What is about the job that you love and what about the job have you struggled with or maybe just found wasn’t like what you expected? Has there been any major life lessons you’ve learned through doing this gig?
Jamie: I never really meant to do this. I wanted to work with bands and my college had a music business program that required internships. A classmate hooked me up with someone at Capitol in NYC, and I landed in the publicity department the spring of my senior year. I think it was during that internship that I realized any potential path in PR specifically.
I love the fact that I get to send music to people and talk about bands all day. I love that bands trust the vision and let me get weird with it sometimes. I love the communication and understanding we share when working on a project.
I think anyone in this kind of role struggles with the same things; there are literally so many of us reaching out at any given time, it's bound to get frustrating from time to time. But that's expected –– what's not cool is when I'm the only one hustling on a project. Labels, bands, managers all need to be way more involved in the day-to-day process of promoting a release. I think it's easy to hire out for someone like me and check that off the list, but there's just so much more to it than that, especially lately. You gotta be brainstorming and following up and collaborating creativity on the regular. Staying on top of the person you hire is KEY, no matter how incredible they are at their job. And if you want them to be incredible for YOU, you have to stay engaged.
The main life lesson I've gotten from all of this so far is how to handle bullshit with grace, lol.
Jamie: The name of this feature is Creator Chat, and while I'm seriously so grateful that you wanted to talk to me for it, I've never really viewed myself as a creator before. What do you think makes someone a "creator" ?
Lauren: That's a good question! I think a creator, for this purpose and just for how I see it, is anyone using their talents to do what they love. In a way, you create this community with your PR and with the bands you're sharing. And I think that regardless of what your job is, or how you may see yourself, anything (to me) could be viewed as creative. You have to come up with problems for a solution, brainstorm campaign ides, find ways to engage with blogs and artists and fans.
I think a creator is someone who is doing something they love. I think anyone can be considered a creator. For this, I just wanted to bring people together in various forms of music work because we're all so different in our approaches and work.
Lauren: How do you manage to stay excited and heartened by an industry that sometimes gets a little rough! For me, it's hard to log on to Twitter sometimes and see people calling out blogs or questioning the validity of what they do. And I imagine you've seen tweets that call out publicists and question their purpose. So, how do you stay positive in this industry and do you have any advice for someone who might feel disheartened by their work or might question the purpose of what they're doing?
Jamie: I've definitely seen people talk shit about PR on Twitter, lol. Anyone questioning the purpose of PR has not worked with a legitimate publicist, real talk. Honestly I just laugh when I see stuff like that. I don't engage; instead, I try to find ways to help shift the perception of what we do. Sometimes I'll tweet some kind of advice or tip for aspiring PR and young bands. In the past I even had a long-running blog series dedicated solely to sharing what I've learned with people who may not have the resources or connections to get things off the ground. And still, I have plenty of days where things are just rough and nothing really helps besides having a wonderful support system and a way to disconnect from it all.
Jamie: What fictional "creative" do you most relate to and why? Could be a character from a TV show, books, movies, etc.
Lauren: WHOA. THIS IS SUCH A GOOD QUESTION JAMIE.
Tina Belcher — no question. The first time I ever watched Bob's Burgers I felt like I was seeing myself on television. We both outwardly groan a lot, we both write some weird stuff, but do it because we love it, and we're both tight with our families. Plus Tina is so kind, caring, and has this huge heart; she's there even when her nemesis Tammy is mean to her. I just always really admired her honesty, and how she embraced her emotions. Plus TBH she and I both are remedial in math and remedial in love. Also I can appreciate a good butt.
You should say your character just for fun.
Jamie: Mine would probably be Pam from The Office. I don't know if I relate to everything about her character, but her quotes are the ones I get stuck in my head the most, so you tell me! I really do admire how her story changed over time, going from a timid, insecure receptionist to a happy woman who fights for what she wants but still often struggles with self-esteem. She's just very real to me. Also hey, Jenna Fischer, if you're reading this, THANK YOU!
*Bonus Round* Our Curly Hair Secrets
Lauren: First of all, curly hair bangs are fun for like a week. Don't do it.
I used to straighten my hair every day in school. I hated my curly hair. In college I figured out how easy it was to maintain! I don't do any of the fancy stuff like sleep with a silk pillowcase haha. The first and best thing I did was find a stylist who can cut curly hair because I had one growing up that gave me curly mullets. I usually just wash and then run OGX Coconut Curls cream through and then scrunch. Then I just wet and scrunch for the rest of the days until I shampoo again.
Jamie: I think I'm somewhere between a 3A/3B curly hair type. I have hated my curls pretty much forever. When I was younger, I didn't have any interest in learning how to properly take care of my hair, so it was usually just a mess. As soon as I figured out I could straighten it like once a week, that was my move. I almost never wore my hair curly in public until last year. I went on the Pitbull cruise with my mom and due to the humidity, it wasn't even worth trying to straighten my hair. When I got home, I decided I was going to give myself a challenge –– go one entire year without straightening my hair. I hit that milestone this past March and it's definitely forced me to learn how to manage / style them better.
I wash with DevaCurl No-Poo about once a week, and use DevaCurl Buildup Buster in between to get all the product out. I generally apply some kind of leave-in conditioner while I'm still in the shower but don't rinse it out. Then I add an oil and wrap my hair up in a microfiber hair towel thing. Then I take it down like 30-40 minutes later and scrunch in a styling cream. The hardest part for me is tackling the frizz that comes with the following days!