When my band was looking to get our EP heard beyond two counties in Connecticut, Curtis Dewar of Dewar PR came highly recommended as a person who could get our music to the ears of people who would write about it. Mid-level bands (or those seeking to be mid-level) may try to downplay the fact that they are working with other entities to help promote their releases, book shows, etc. But in fact, this is how “it” works — and the blog has an inbox full of press release emails to prove it.
Curtis and I have stayed in touch since finishing the band’s PR adventure, busting each other’s chops on Twitter and collaborating on Alternative Control’s Nerd Talk series. Occasionally I also help him with overflow writing tasks that he needs to get crossed off the to-do list. On June 13th, he and I talked on the Facebook Phone about what it’s like to be in the music PR business, a 24-7 job that he claims is “no stress whatsoever.” I don’t entirely believe that, but read on and decide for yourself…
It’s been awhile since we had one of these Messenger conversations.
Yeah I know, we mostly communicate on Instagram now.
Yeah… Speaking of Instagram, what was that craft project your daughter was making?
Uh, it was a chair.
She forced me to put it up saying, “Can you guess what it is?” and I think you were the only person that guessed. I thought it was one of those Star Wars things, to be honest.
Well I have some really tough questions for you… I’m not going to ask you to give PR advice, because if people want that, they can just follow your Instagram. But let’s say a person had no idea about Dewar PR. What kind of services do you offer bands?
I got a lot of services. I do whatever I can to get people write-ups or articles or basically anything to get the word spread about them in publications. I also have someone who does bio writing for me… Sometimes I’ll do press kits, but the main thing I sell now is PR packages of one to three months. To me, (press kits) are a waste of money unless you have the resources to send it out. If they’re doing it just to send something to festivals, it makes sense, but other than that it’s a waste.
It’s good that you’re honest.
…Well then later they’d be like, can you actually do the PR for me too, and then I’d be like, why did I charge you for that?
Are you getting into social media too?
Oh that’s a leading question, I understand now… Me and Matt Bacon are doing a thing together called Dropout Social; we have one client so far, non-music related. The plan is we take over the social media — Instagram, Facebook — and also do consulting on it. In the future we hope it takes off, and the good thing is that it wouldn’t be limited to music. We can deal with pretty much anybody, right?
Well you gotta start with one, right? Now what made you get into metal PR, into this niche?
Oh, you wanna hear the story! The long involved story… I used to write for a couple different publications. I used to write for Pure Grain Audio and a couple other places that are now defunct. When I was writing, I would always go for the bands that no one knew about because I thought the bigger ones were getting too much press — like, everyone was always writing about Devin Townsend and As I Lay Dying and bands like that, right?
So one day I stumbled across this band called Scythe and asked them for an interview, and then they gave me one and I helped them with some PR stuff. I didn’t get paid or anything like that. Then this other site I was working for — this guy still does PR and he probably hates my guts — the editor runs a PR company and […] he gave me my first paid client.
And after that it just kind of snowballed from there… Then I lost a job at a place I was working at, so I decided to do PR full time. For the first year or two I barely scraped by, but now I’m at a point where I can do it full time. That’s the story in a nutshell.
What’s the previous field, if you don’t mind me asking?
I’ve had a few. I’ve worked in restaurants, advertising…. I’ve done a bunch of things.
I find that having a varied background, there are always things that will apply where you don’t expect them to apply.
Oh yeah, fuck yeah. Completely, I agree with you 100%. You’ve worked in restaurants before, right? One of the great things about that is you work in a high-stress environment and get a lot of things coming at you at once, and I find it great because I can now answer email and talk to you and do social media all at the same time without getting stressed. That was a valuable skill from working in a kitchen that applies to PR. So you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Were you ever a musician?
Never. I know nothing about music, believe it or not.
I know. [laughs]
Well you know about listening to it! And talking about it, and writing about it…
Yeah apparently I’m okay enough to write about it. Like I said, I did a lot of writing beforehand but my knowledge is very minimal. What I am good at is getting other people to listen to music and write about it. I’m good at being the band salesperson. […] And there’s a lot of great musicians who aren’t great at selling the band. […]
[Kids yelling in the background]
Speaking of multitasking —
You can hear the thunder? [More yelling]
Oh yeah, I hear the thunder — you have this job where people are always contacting you and you’re active on social media. How do you balance that with the rest of your life?
You don’t. It’s twenty-four hours. It’s just the way it is. I probably work now for myself more than I ever did before. The good thing is that there is some downtime, so you can be a little bit more flexible. Like yesterday we had to go to my son’s school for a few hours in the morning and that was not a big deal, but then I ended up having to do some other stuff late in the night because of that. You can’t really balance anything, you just have to do what needs to be done.
When you work for yourself doing music PR, you have clients all over the world. I got one right now in New Zealand and that’s sixteen hours ahead of me! [….] Then I’ve got people in California, people right next to me in Toronto. In this kind of business, you can’t take any time off because it’s 24/7.
It sounds stressful.
It’s actually pretty cool though — I make my living by listening to music and getting people to write about listening to music, so there’s no stress involved whatsoever. It’s not always fun, but it’s kinda like doing your hobby the whole time. Now if I listen to music for something, I have to consider it work.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re not working?
Nowadays, sometimes I have to listen to non-metal. I used to just listen to metal straight, but now some days after I spent the whole day listening to metal, I have to listen to other stuff.
What a non-answer, right?
Yeah, it’s a non-answer. Are you listening to Yanni over there? Enya?
Honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of EDM when I’m not working. It’s peppy and keeps you awake, and it’s the polar opposite of metal.
Yeah… Well one of your so-called “dangerous” pieces of PR advice is that any PR is good PR. [Curtis has received messages and comments from competitors saying that he is giving “dangerous advice” like not to spend four hours writing a press release, etc.] What’s the PR biggest blooper you’ve had to repair or gloss over for a client?
At the level I’m at there hasn’t been anything too major. The worst thing I had was a band who would leave the nastiest comments whenever they got a bad review. They would basically be “sock puppets” and comment from different accounts. […] What else can ya do other than say, “I’m sorry my band’s acting like an idiot.” That’s probably the worst. I haven’t had any Tim Lambesis type stuff quite yet…
Oh my God… Do you have an opinion on that dumpster fire?
Ummmm…. That’s a hard one to say. A lot of people have strong opinions on it. My personal opinion is that I think the guy’s an idiot and he seems like he’s manipulative, but at the same time the rest of band has to work. I saw an interview with George Lynch, apparently his daughter is dating the drummer or was engaged to him or something, and he said all the guys were broke. Lambesis gets out of prison, has a book deal, is basically set for life because people all wanna talk to him because he’s the guy who tried to get his wife murdered. He’s the famous guy, right? So he’s got all this money and the rest of the band doesn’t, they don’t have a pot to piss in. So what are they gonna do? They tried the other bands and they didn’t make any money with it apparently. I can see where they’re coming from. Do I necessarily agree with them? No, but I can see why they would do it. There’s another “no answer” for ya.
[Curtis and I then talked for the next five minutes about different kinds of crimes famous people commit and the impact — or lack thereof — it has on their careers. Bottom line: we don’t support trying to have your wife murdered.]
So we talked about the PR bloopers, what’s your biggest success story?
It’s hard to say what’s the biggest one — one that really stuck out that I did earlier was UN. U-N.
Oh yeah, [coughs], UN. [This interviewer may have caused a minor PR blooper for UN and Curtis by writing a press release saying that the band was going to “terrorize” the Northwest… Hey, they were playing two Terrorfests!]
They did great, that was the debut album — we got that in Noisey, I mean that went everywhere. Another album that went really well was both the ones I did with Slomatics, those went phenomenally. […] I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I’ve had a ton where the band was completely unknown before I worked with them and I was able to get them a lot of good press.
This point is about twenty minutes into our conversation; Curtis and I went on to talk politics, United States geography, weather in different parts of Canada, and music journalism pet peeves. (Mine: when bands have punctuation marks in their names. His: when journalists don’t send him review links.) If you’re in a band and need effective PR at a reasonable rate, I can say from experience that Dewar PR is worth your money — but this interview wasn’t meant to be an advertisement. What I’ve taken away from my chats with Curtis, Matt Bacon, and others is that the people involved with the heavy music “business” are in it for the love of the genre and are genuinely invested in the bands they work with. (Even if they have to decompress with EDM after a long day of listening to death metal.) Maybe that just means I haven’t run into the jerks yet, but so far so good!
Follow Dewar PR on Instagram (@dewarPR77) and see how much of his free advice you can apply to your band before you decide it’d be easier just to hire him. He is on Facebook and Twitter too — or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I also really like Poison and Motley Crue https://t.co/VBaN1aamlN
— Curtis (@dewarpr) June 26, 2018