[Photo credit: Christina Johns]
Simply put, Jamie Coletta loves music. She grew up listening to New Found Glory and Brand New, and her grade school notebooks are probably covered in fantastically emo lyrics. But Coletta didn’t want to just listen and enjoy, she wanted to be a part of the process. After investing in a music business degree, she fell ass-over-teakettle (as my grandmother would say) into a job working public relations at major record label. A few years into representing rappers and pop stars, Coletta realized she hated what she was doing and refocused on finding an outlet that would help her help the music and bands she loves. That outlet was SideOneDummy Records.
How did you get into PR and working with bands?
I interned at Capitol Records in New York City, and I was placed in the publicity department. Up until that point I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I did the internship and that’s when I realized, “Oh shit, this might be the thing I’m good at!” My career developed really naturally from that internship, I went to a full-time publicity job at RCA Records; from there I got the job at SideOne.
What was the transition like, going from RCA to SideOne Dummy? Why did you go from a major to an indie label?
I wanted to work with the bands that I like, but I was open to the idea of working at a major label. That opportunity just happened to come first so I took it. I was there for a while and toward the end I realized “Oh crap, have I been doing this for too long? How am I ever going to get back into my community and my scene, where I feel comfortable, when I’m sitting there working with rappers?” [Laughs.] It was kind of crippling me as a person and taking away my passion for music. I put the word out to people I knew and a publicist that I had met when working at RCA reached out and said, “Are you familiar with SideOne, they’re looking for somebody.” I did the interview and fell in love.
After seeing a few sides of the industry, in your educated opinion, what should a good label do for their bands?
[Laughs.] A good label, let’s see… The best labels in my opinion are the ones that actually give a shit, honestly. A lot of labels I think just sign bands because they follow trends and they pick up whatever fits in that box at the time and will make the most impact as fast as possible. But then you also have labels that are really cautious with who they sign and they take the time to focus on developing bands versus making a quick buck. Those are the best labels, coming from my ethos. If you’re working with musicians it should be about passion. I really detest when I encounter somebody who doesn’t love what they’re working on. I’ve been there, I did that and I hated it. If you’re working within the art space at all you should really care about what you’re doing, and I think the best record labels are the ones that do. I’d much rather see a band develop slowly but steadily than the quick rise to fame, because the quick rise tells me that it’s a flash in the pan, for the most part, but when you see a band grow from record to record and the label’s the same the whole way through, you can sense that the label is supportive and passionate. Obviously I feel that way about SideOne, but I think Topshelf [Records] is the best example out there of an indie that does it the right way. I don’t know how they work as a business, but from what any fan can see from the outside looking in, it just looks like they care. They’ve curated such a cool community and they really care about the bands they work with. You can sense it with everything they do. They’re a good representation, in addition to SideOne, of labels that probably work the same way.
Sometimes publicists can get a bit of a bad rep for being self-serving. Besides caring, what do you think makes a good publicist? And how can someone avoid the classic pitfalls?
Besides caring? Yeah because my number one thing I tell anyone is if you don’t like what you’re working on just stop, go work at the fucking bank. [Laughs.] It’s not fair because you’re dealing with somebody’s career, and their art and their dreams. But besides that, I think the most important thing is to be smart. Don’t just throw out press releases and blast them to 1,200 people without actually doing your research. There’s two styles, a boss told me this at one point, the hunter kind of publicist is the person who will specifically strategize and target what they’re going after and what’s the long-term goal and what’s the message, and really fine tune that process. A gatherer just says “I’m casting my net out and I’ll see what I get” and there’s definitely positives and negatives to both styles, but I think the best type of work comes from the hunter.
What’s your best advice for a new band to get positive exposure leading to a record deal in 2016’s music industry?
Don’t suck, be unique, have something special to offer to the world and tour your ass off.
There’s no cheats to it, you just have to be good.
Seriously! But then again bad bands make it all the time, all the fucking time. But I challenge people to present me with a band like that who has lasted. So providing something new for people is really key, and if you’re not doing that as band, take some time to re-evaluate what you have to offer and challenge yourselves creatively to find something special about you and embrace it.
For more tips and tricks of the industry read Coletta’s Get-Schooled series.