I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Thompson was named a “Best Publicist of 2017” by The Huffington Post. She is currently the Engagement Director of The Espresseo marketing agency and 1031Gateway, a real estate investment resource featured in Forbes and The Washington Post that has helped clients reinvest over $1 billion of equity into passive income–producing properties.
Thompson began her career in publicity in 2011 in Nashville, TN as a Tour Publicist & Assistant National Publicist before being promoted to Publicity Manager. She worked with GRAMMY award-winning artists Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, and Sarah Jarosz, iconic touring bands Widespread Panic and Umphrey’s McGee, emerging bands Shovels & Rope and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and many more.
In 2013, she was asked to produce a guest blog post for KCRW Music Blog’s “Predictions for 2013: Nashville Breakout Bands.” In 2015, she made guest contributions to award-winning blog No Country For New Nashville where she wrote about touring artists and the first feature on Margo Price’s solo project.
In 2016, she accepted a promotion to be an Executive Publicist and Digital Strategist where she worked PR with an emphasis on branding and marketing with Red Bull Sound Select: Nashville and emerging indie, pop, Americana and electronic bands. In 2017, she relocated to Los Angeles, CA where she worked with acclaimed Canadian artists Whitney Rose, The Deep Dark Woods and Whitehorse. She worked with The Forum, where she escorted talent on the red carpet of the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards and pre-production of the 2018 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Through The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa, she promoted appearances by Brad Paisley, Tyler Henry of Hollywood Medium, and Ken Jeong. Outside of the office, she is a seasoned drummer currently learning to DJ and produce music.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I chose to study music business after playing drums for two national title holding show choirs (think at the level the TV show “GLEE”) in high school. My career in the music industry began in college at Middle Tennessee State University outside of Nashville, TN as a student of Music Business with a Publicity minor. I worked production for Nashville’s Musicians Corner outdoor concert series and at my college’s concert hall where I worked with classically trained artists and symphonies.
One night, I attended a concert of the electronic artist Pretty Lights and met his Booking Agent backstage. I asked for his business card and held onto it for years until the time came when I could inquire about an opportunity to intern with his family’s booking agency. He was impressed that I had kept his business card for so long, gave me a position and recommended me for an interview for a job I ended up landing two weeks after graduating and stayed with for nearly five years. I worked under a well-known Publicist who had represented Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain, and many more.
We built his company from just the two of us to a staff of four while working with GRAMMY winners and bands selling out entire tours. My publicity mentor taught me many things that contributed to highly valuable elements of being a publicist-protecting artists, managing catastrophes, working with corporate entities, and representing high demand talent. I made the decision to part ways to work in indie music with an emphasis on pop, my personal favorite genre, in a highly elevated position that allowed me to contribute directly to areas of the business that affect publicity-branding, marketing, and digital platform distribution. Publicity is not just about a good story or quality product, perception, branding and marketing are of equal value.
Publicity is never guaranteed and its livelihood is dependent upon engagement from readers, viewers and listeners to generate advertising income. Publishers are constantly making quality versus quantity decisions for content with advertising revenue in mind to thrive or atleast survive in an overwhelmingly competitive space for attention. Publicity has evolved immensely through the era of open access and human attention span shrinking. The entertainment industry has suffered because of many factors, but open access on all forms of music has caused many.
Over the years, I watched as deeply talented creative staff writers were laid off, music editor positions disappeared entirely, music influencer trends dominated and dissipated, playlists replaced thoughts, clickbait replaced integrity, and much more disheartening developments. The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act eliminated the business expense deduction for any expenses related to activities considered entertainment, amusement or recreation.This impacts the music industry in epic proportions as it is a culture of lavish and expensive lifestyle, though many of the players within it struggle to make ends meet. As our economy continues toward the next recession, the business of entertainment will continue to be unstable.
In approaching my 30th birthday in December this year, I chose a new career path outside of music with a desire for security-something I used to think was only available for boring people who settle. As an Engagement Director in real estate investment education and marketing, I am able to combine and apply all of my knowledge as a Publicist with management of branding and marketing to achieve the goals of every Publicist-meaningful exposure, targeted awareness and powerful opportunities to have a lasting impact with long-term momentum.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I am the niece of a commercial real estate agent and a longtime binge watcher of HGTV, yet never considered pursuing real estate until the perfect opportunity came along. Aside from hard work and endurance, being an opportunist has helped me become successful. After moving to LA, exiting the music industry and entering real estate in a leap of faith, I found out that my late grandfather’s cousin relocated to California like myself many years ago. I immediately felt a compelling connection to him, considering I was unaware of any family ties to California, and learned that he had been strangled in his home in the 70s in an unsolved murder. After doing some research (a MUST have skill for every Publicist), I learned he was a journalist in the Navy and a real estate broker.
According to his obituary, he died the night before my birthday years before I entered the world. The similarities shook me and reinforced the purpose of my career path changes. I am a person who believes that we are all connected on this planet and in the spiritual realm. Perhaps my new career here is a continuation of the life that was taken from him at the age of 40.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my first month, I was unaware of the silence that comes with being a Publicist. I was clueless to the care and craft of publicity that you can only learn from experience. I forgive myself now for being so new and freshly out of college at my first full-time job, but I sent a couple of emails with the subject “Quick Question” with asking in the body if they would read my entire pitch below when they had time? Luckily, I realized I was being a moron before anyone decided to point out my idiocracy, but I still blush with embarrassment today thinking about it.
Crafting a proper and relevant subject line with a carefully crafted pitch is of the highest importance in publicity. The media is overwhelmed by countless daily emails and phone calls. Many voicemail inboxes stay at capacity and phones go unanswered. More emails go unread and are deleted than not. Even established relationships can be ignored during tight deadlines or new developing stories. Veteran Publicists speak of people who have ignored them for 10 to 20 years. They also speak of miracles when the right story breaks the silence. In publicity, timing is everything and the news cycle cannot be controlled. Never give up but never be desperate, tricky or annoying in your approach to be heard or seen. In these days, that type of behavior will be tweeted about and you do not want to be the person on the other end of “Check out what this [insert insult] Publicist sent me” on public display from writers and editors. It happens, trust me, I have seen it multiple times!
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
For over five years of my career, I worked as an independent contractor. On the positive side, it gave me the freedom to work a variety of projects, from clients at a record label to a company specifically focused on Spotify tastemaker pitching, and pass on projects that were not a good match for me.
My salary increased every year by building a positive reputation that was easily circulated in the somewhat small music industry. My hard work truly spoke for itself and I was fortunate enough to align with people who thought highly of me with an excitement to share with others. On the negative side, it opened my eyes to the side of business operations of tracking down payments for invoices-not so glamorous!
To be profitable, one must be realistic. When companies fixate on money rather than reputation, it gets messy. In music, many artists become seduced by rosters. This means that they sign themselves up with an agency of successful clients in hopes that they will become equally profitable by association. This can be a huge mistake. Though it does work at an advantage at times, in many cases it means a high price tag with less focus.
As a Publicist, taking on projects that you believe in is essential to be a successful business. Never take on a project that does not resonate with you or does not feel powerful enough to resonate with your network. You must protect your reputation with a high self-standard with accountability to be profitable. Complacency and laziness is toxic. There is a certain level of anxiety that is a healthy driving factor of success. Harness that feeling and manifest realistic expectations for your clients through intellectual, hyper-focused, and attentive strategy.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I am working on a project with Stella Mare RV Resort on Galveston Island in Texas. RV culture has always fascinated me because of the ability to travel and live uniquely. The existence of RV resorts was news to me in starting the job. I am a glamper, not a camper, so the thought of having wi-fi, a pool, hot tub, convenient amenities, and a long list of fun activities nearby is enticing. I am also working on a project with 1031Gateway, an educational resource for real estate investors with an alert of the next recession and to invest in budget necessity retail (CVS, Autozone, Dollar General, etc.) because the facts prove we are dangerously close to recession and these types of investments not only sustained the last recession, they generated income for investors.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Publicity is not for the weary. It is a world of constant rejection, silence, momentum that can disappear at any moment, projects that evolve then get canned-you need to be in it for the long game because it is not an instant gratification career. Never get discouraged, get creative. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to deliver but you must understand what is realistic for your clients. You must understand the business of media to understand what is realistic. You need to get in the head of your clients to be effective in creating opportunities, the more angles you have to work with for exposure, the better profile building you will achieve.
With the media, be specific about your request for their consent to be involved with your exciting project. Remember that the media does not owe you anything. As a Publicist, you need to play both sides to protect your relationships with media and keep your clients happy. Always present yourself as if you are being recorded. Publicists do not have a great reputation in general because many are pushy, bossy, rude, egotistical or disrespectful. Be exceptional.
Be a graceful friend to everyone and be honest about intentions. Breathe and meditate through the stress and take the time to filter your communication. You will need to edit yourself constantly and be in tune with your intuition. Your words are your most powerful tool in your work, study language so you can apply shapeshifting to scenarios. Be grateful for the little things, celebrate them! Express your gratitude to the media and on behalf of your clients and request that your clients do as well, if they are not the type to take the initiative already.
Your job will be thankless at times but it will overwhelm you with joy in victories. Never be a robot and spam the press with irrelevant information. Do your research and analytics to find the proper editors and writers. Utilize freelancers as much as possible, they are looking for stories to pitch the most because their livelihood is contingent upon it. Study the marketing side of media because it cannot exist without it. Use organizational apps and communication apps to keep yourself focused and open in dialogue. Never attach deliverable items on email unless requested.
Create links to downloadable items and try your best to deliver everything the press will need upfront without flooding them with information. Be clear, conscience, factual and personable. Make their job in working with you easy and fun. Never keep them waiting and always stay ahead of your deadlines. Push your clients so that you meet press requests. Never take the media’s interest in your client for granted.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
First of all, be a genuine fan of who you are connecting with. Some people may require a bit more digging in yourself to find a real connection but you must. Do not be fake, it is more apparent that you think. Do not be annoying in your pursuit of goals, apply a respectful finesse that treats everyone involved as human with dignity. Do not be afraid to get respectfully personal in your pitching, you want to stand out and showcase that you have done your research about their work. Try to connect with people without pitching them. Follow the media on social media, especially Twitter and share their work. Treat them as though they are famous and help them circulate content. Whether you realize it or not, you have a duty in keeping the media world alive by also creating awareness of media in general itself. It is true that the more generous you are, the more abundant you become. Realize it is not about you. Things are not personal, the content is not about you-stay out of stories unless you are contributing something helpful for the public. Network with other Publicists in person, through social media, and over the phone. We are allies, not enemies, and we are stronger united. Share some information but protect the most important media representatives as if they are your client. Lastly, be yourself when you meet people! You are not allowed to be shy in this career and you must have true confidence in all areas to attract what you want.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Being able to have conversations about pop culture makes you highly valuable as a Publicist. Listen to as much NPR as possible. Outside of NPR on the air or via podcasts, I thoroughly enjoy “Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness” for everlasting laughs and interesting topics. Being curious is essential to being successful in life. Read anything by Rainer Maria Rilke for soul fulfilling inspiration to apply to your work. I learned a lot about humanity through the “Philosophize This!” podcast and insight into the film industry by giggling my way through “Anna Faris Is Unqualified.” Laugh as often as possible for your mental health!
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movements happening around the world for women and people of color give me life! We need to continue to break the silence of sexism and racism. The world can always use more compassion and less judgment. We can do a better job of listening to each other and controlling our reactions. We can work on making less assumptions and quit assigning roles to people. The less divided we are, the better. The less ego, greed and power-driven we are, the better. I want the motto of the world to be engage with people unlike yourself and love equally. Be open instead of fearful to interacting with new cultures because with more perspective comes enlightenment.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Staff cuts of media are often and brutal. Know that your best contact can be laid off at any moment. There are too many stories to share in this area of the industry.
- Most press releases will not be read upon servicing. Too many Publicists rely on press releases to generate interest or coverage. NPR’s Bob Boilen (one of the most important individuals in the music industry) said on a publicity panel I attended at SXSW years ago that he rarely reads press releases and focuses more on band names and album covers (i.e. branding!) to feel inspired enough to listen/read. Other VIP in media has disclosed similar information.
- A deep understanding of branding and marketing is crucial. You need to know how the collective benefits and hinders one another. Perception psychology is applied to every piece of publicity and profitability is a leading factor in elevation of success.
- Set healthy work boundaries and take pride in saying no when it feels right. Too much people pleasing is toxic to the soul. The attention and intrigue received by being a Publicist is flattering but can get easily out of control to the point of exhaustion. You must protect yourself in the moment for future you, for your clients, for your reputation, and for your personal motivation to achieve your goals.
- Nurture your passions outside of your career. We are born multi-talented, whether we embrace it or not, and it takes investing in yourself to achieve what I believe is the purpose of life-to be happy! Start with a simple goal that is realistic. For me, it is to rehearse for a couple of hours at a studio in Echo Park that has a room specifically for drums only when I see an opening in my schedule. Looking back at 2018, those moments were meaningful, powerful, and awe-inspiring because they centered my soul with balance. People that say they never have time for this or that outside of work are getting in their own way. They are likely unfulfilled and probably negative to be around. You want your energy to be uplifting, not draining. The work does not stop at the end of your “work day”, it simply shifts internally to your self-work so that you can radiate externally to manifest your dreams.