I recently had a chance to discuss the exciting 14th Anniversary of The Rainmaker Media Group with owner, Rhonda Brilliant. We discuss the ins & outs of the music business through the eyes of an experienced public relations professional. You will find out why Rainmaker is able to stand tall in the midst of an economic crisis. Strong will, smarts and a savvy business sense are all qualities that Ms. Brilliant feel are crucial in this business. Watch it all unravel right before your eyes!
Jimmy Rae: First off, congratulations on the success of The Rainmaker Media Group as you celebrate an exciting 14th anniversary! So Rhonda, 14 years later and still going strong in this tough music business I see. What’s your secret to success and to longevity in this field?
Rhonda Brilliant: I will tell you that you need to have a lot of stamina …physical, emotional and financial stamina to be an indie publicist in 2010. It is something that I chose to do back in 1996 because I really felt that the unsigned artist had no one to help promote them. Back then, it was all about getting a label deal. If you were not on a label, then you really had no support. As the indie revolution started to emerge, there was a need for bands to start outsourcing radio reps, publicists, street teams etc…all of those services that the labels were providing. I think if we had a secret to success, it is to stick with what you do best and do JUST that. So many companies try to be everything…one stop shopping if you will. So, they provide band boot camp, coaching, radio representation, CD manufacturing, tour support, distribution etc. etc. and public relations. It just isn’t effective.
Jimmy Rae: Being as you’ve been involved with the PR game since ’96, I’d like to ask what sort of valuable tools you’ve learned along the way? Any in particular that stand out to you to this day?
Rhonda Brilliant: Not to spread myself too thin! When I started I was so excited to just have so many clients wanting me to work with them …so I would take on too much work and then end up burning myself out. And I think focus is important. I am asked to sit on panels, pen e-books, attend workshops all of the time…but I don’t because I don’t have the time. It would take time away from my work. And lastly…delegate. I have writers that just write the PR and Bio’s for me. I have an assistant that just updates my database for me every week and I have two full time PR assistants as well as others to create a well-oiled machine.
Jimmy Rae: When did you initially get interested in music and in turn the business aspect of it?
Rhonda Brilliant: As soon as I graduated from college, my first job was selling MUZAK. It was torture, but it helped me pay my student loans off. Then, I was hired to work at WPRO AM/FM Radio as their New Business Development Director and then came up here to Boston to work at WBOS. The problem was that I was always getting fired at these radio stations for being an over achiever. That was the actual term used. In other words, if my quota for new business was one million dollars, I would make that by March of that year. So, if I was accelerating at this speed, then the sales crew, marketing on —air promo etc. would have to also. I was seen as a cog in the wheel. I was offered many jobs in radio after that…but turned them down. I knew that the same thing would happen. So, I created a TV show on the ABC affiliate here in Boston called EDGETV and decided just to see where that would take me. When I couldn’t find anyone to help me publicize the show, I ended up doing it myself and a publicist was born.
Jimmy Rae: I know that you represent TONS of talented musicians from all over the world, so I have to ask how it feels to have international diversity at your finger tips? Not only based on demographics, but also focused on a vast spectrum of music styles/genres makes The Rainmaker Media Group a special kind of business. Rainmaker seems to breed thriving Indie artists on a routine basis and is that something that you personally pride yourself in? What’s it like working with people from completely different cultural & musical backgrounds? Must be some amazing feeling to meet, hear and experience new talent every day—Can’t imagine you ever get sick of it?
Rhonda Brilliant: Well, I want to clarify that we do not work with tons of talented musicians…we work with a select group of musicians. It is true, we get a lot of submissions per month, but we work with only 10% of those bands (Rainmaker Media estimates 85-90 new bands a year). There are a lot of variables that go into signing a new band or artist. First off, the music…Do I love it? Is it marketable/commercial? Can I sell it? Third is the actual band itself…it is important when we have our conference call to work out the details and discuss the actual press campaign…that I can get a feeling from the band whether or not they understand what we can do and what we can’t do for them. The biggest problems publicists have with their clients are unmet expectations. So, we try very hard to be as realistic as possible.
Jimmy Rae: As we talk here, any bands/artists under Rainmaker that really stand out to you? Maybe have that special something/star quality about them? I’ve written many reviews on your clients for Skope Magazine and can definitely think of more than a few myself.
Rhonda Brilliant: They all stand out for me…they all have star quality…what makes some stand out more than others is the work they do on their own. A publicist can only do so much…bands need to be very proactive to be successful. I look back at all of the bands I worked with in 1996 and 1997 and there are only two that are still together–Guster and The Rustic Overtones. The reason is that they worked hard at everything. They didn’t just sit back and wait for it to happen…they made it happen as clichÃ© as that sounds.
Jimmy Rae: Where did the Rainmaker name originate from?
Rhonda Brilliant: From my sales reps at WBOS. I had 16 of them and my job was to help them bring in extra money to the radio station via new business ideas and events. Many would come to me at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday and say that they could get on a huge buy from NASCAR, for example, if only they had an added value or event. I would then make up a contest like Chase The Race and tie it into a supermarket chain and beg talent to air some promo spots for me and viola…we had a deal. Hence, they would call me the Rainmaker.
Jimmy Rae: What would you say to someone pursuing a career in Public Relations specifically for music?
Rhonda Brilliant: Is there a degree in that? All of the really good publicists that I know and look up to have Liberal Arts degrees. I just don’t think this is a job you can learn in school…you really need to have hands on experience. Having said that, I know that many journalists and lawyers that are out of a job have turned their sights on being publicists now. The PR group I belong to has swelled from just 350 publicists to now over 600 in a year. And, I am sure in time they will be very good at it.
Jimmy Rae: Being that you’re surrounded by music topics and artists all day long, you must have a fairly interesting taste in music yourself. What types of bands/music are you into? And what is the best concert you’ve ever been to, if any?
Rhonda Brilliant: YES! I have very selective tastes in music…but they literally change all of the time…from what I am working on at the moment. I do not own an I-pod and I do not listen to terrestrial radio. The best concert I went to by far was Prince and The NPG at Worcester Auditorium in 1996.
Jimmy Rae: I have to say that it says a lot that you’re able to thrive in the midst of a struggling economy. How is Rainmaker able to keep it together and flourish during these hard, economic times?
Rhonda Brilliant: We are recession proof in that we are affordable and cost effective. Also, we are in different parts of the world…not just the USA. So, this diversity really is helpful. Currently on our roster we have bands from the following countries: Australia, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada and USA.
Jimmy Rae: I know that the music business can be an ugly place sometimes and I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of negative comments/feedback. Just like anything in life, it’s not peaches & cream 24-7. How do you deal with and handle these individuals that are unhappy with you for some reason?
Rhonda Brilliant: Great question…as with any service …when expectations are not met…watch out. Plus, you are dealing with someone’s music and their life passion…it’s very emotional and personal. Plus, many bands today have access to studios and high-end production houses etc. and are literally spending their life savings on their CD. So, there is a lot riding on this CD and that is all transferred onto the publicist. Here you go…we put everything into this…now go out and make us famous. (Not kidding here folks).
I am known to be a realist and I do my best when discussing pr with potential bands as to what they can expect. I also mention that this is such a subjective business that even we do not know exactly what the outcome will be. There are no guarantees. So, having said all of that…every year a small % of the bands we have taken on are disappointed in the outcome of the campaign and they always seem to be the loudest! Obviously, we discuss and come up with some kind of solution and many times I will give them a partial refund. But, for some bands that is not enough and they continue to complain. And then, you have bands that are obviously broke and need the money so after two months into a 6 month long campaign want to cancel and get a 100% refund after we have done a substantial amount of work. We recently had a band threaten to sue us for a campaign we did for them in 2003!
And it’s not just with bands…these days you have so many publicists that are not doing very well that you actually are starting to get it on that end as well. What can you do? My motto is … run your own race.
Jimmy Rae: So Rhonda, what do you say we have this same discussion 20 years from now??? How does that sound to you?
Rhonda Brilliant: Sounds great!!!
For more on the Rainmaker Public Relations Media Group, SKOPE out
By Jimmy Rae (firstname.lastname@example.org)