This week we talk with Independent Music publicist Alison Piron. Alison discusses her journey in the professional music world which started at age 20. Then she had a focus on journalism with hopes of being a lifestyle and music blogger. Read on to learn more about Alison.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Hello, Alison! Thanks for connecting with me and doing this. So, with everything, how have you been doing this past year?
ALISON PIRON: Hello Brittney, thank you so much for having me over on your blog! 2020 was… a stressful year. But also a year of growth I would say. It started with a lot of excitement, with two city trips: one to London for business and another one to Lisbon with my sister. I was also looking forward to going back to my freelancing activities after spending the last 3 years working for an independent record label, and to possibly be able to work from anywhere again… When covid happened, it was very unsettling, both emotionally and financially. In these uncertain times, we all had to learn how to adapt and during the first wave, many of my clients chose to postpone their release plans. Eventually, I decided to look at the brighter side of things. My own lessons were to learn how to let go, to reconnect with my inner child and be more grounded in the present and in my body.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you dive into what you do as an independent publicist?
ALISON PIRON: Sure. For me, it’s all about helping independent artists to shine, giving them more time to just focus on the music. Although I got to explore radio and traditional press when I worked at the label, as a freelance music publicist, I chose to focus solely on the digital world. So I promote a single, music video, EP or album by getting in touch with blogs and/or curators from streaming platforms in order to get them exposure and help them spread the word about their music. I also see music PR as a chance to create opportunities: you often see the real results of PR on the long-term. Blog and playlist placements are what lead an artist to not only be noticed by potential fans but also by the music industry; and a PR campaign can ultimately open the doors to a meeting with an A&R, airplay, a music collaboration, a co-sign by a bigger artist or being booked for a show/festival for example.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: You run the Urban PR. What drew you into the world of promoting music? What advice do you have for others wanting to go into music PR?
ALISON PIRON: I started my professional career when I was 20 years old which was almost 11 years ago and I felt like I have lived many work lives already! I initially wanted to be a lifestyle or music journalist. I always loved to write, but in an entertaining way. However, during my Communications studies, after my first Journalism class, I lost all my confidence as a writer and quickly steered towards PR instead, but the goal was to link it with music. My first internship was for a music publicist who was also her own boss and I found it very inspiring. I continued in the PR direction, but in the arts and movie industry… until a teacher encouraged me to go back to writing because she could tell I was enjoying it and she believed what I didn’t: that I was good enough. So I did my last internship as an entertainment journalist and they offered me a paid collaboration as a freelancer once I graduated. Being self-employed, I got to diversify my activities however I wanted, as long as it kind of fell under the same realm. I’ve been a journalist, a copywriter, a translator, a radio host and I’ve loved all these experiences. But early in 2016, I started to aspire for a life with more freedom and flexibility, but also more passion. I needed to bring music back into it. As a journalist, my favorite thing has always been to interview artists and really connect with them and the reasons behind the music. Writing, languages and PR were all big passions too… I had a friend running her own music PR agency back then and she’s the one who gave me the ultimate push to give it a try, mentoring me along the way as I was doing it by myself, for myself, independently. I knew all the basics: all I needed was a first client and to build my contacts.Which brings me to my advice to people interested in Music PR: nurture these relationships. With artists, bloggers, anyone in the industry. Network. But do it genuinely. And don’t neglect smaller bloggers either as they often have a more loyal audience AND you never know where this person might end up: a writer I was in touch with when I started in 2016 now works at COLORSxSTUDIOS!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: For an industry that’s so fast-paced, self-care is essential. What do you do to practice that?
ALISON PIRON: Yes, self-care is big for me. And my #1 way to practice it is by setting boundaries for myself and others. I have my own office hours to make sure that I switch off in the evenings and in the weekend, in order to start each working day with a fresh mind. Recently, I’ve also started experimenting with disabling email notifications on my phone and just notifications in general. I even block my social media for a weekend once in a while! I feel like we live in an age where everyone and anyone can have direct and instant access to you anywhere and anytime, and unfortunately, it engrained in some of us the idea that we « deserve » instant responses and reactions. I don’t know if it’s due to my introvert nature but I personally find this quite overwhelming.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?
ALISON PIRON: Overall, any artist’s win is a win for me too! But a pretty surreal moment was when I managed to bring one of my clients’ songs to the ears of Sir Elton John who not only played the track in his Rocket Hour show on Beats 1, but also shared kind words about it. This is exactly what I meant when I mentioned « creating opportunities » with PR: thanks to this co-sign, the song was finally played on all the national radios (after being rejected over and over a few weeks before) and this artist was all of a sudden invited to perform to shows and festivals!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Who were some of the people that championed you in your early days?
ALISON PIRON: First of all, I’m really grateful that my parents never told me to « go and get a proper job » even though it took them a while to understand what I do for work. The freelance lifestyle is already a difficult concept for them to wrap their heads around but also the job of a publicist in 2021, where most of it is happening online or behind-the-scenes, especially when it comes to independent artists. And I would never have found the courage to dive into Music PR without the encouragement and constant support of my amazing friend Charlotte who was kind of my mentor in the beginning of this adventure and has always believed in me.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How does the future of the music industry look to you?
ALISON PIRON: Hopefully, it will be more equal, genreless and borderless. And with always more opportunities for independent artists to pave their own way. When I started my PR venture 5 years ago, I quickly saw the potential of DSPs. Back then, there was no pitching form on Spotify 4 Artists. I realized how this could not only be a source of revenue for singers, but also a great way to gain exposure and build their fanbase. So I immediately hopped on that train and went after these connections to open new doors. I think there are so many things you can do now all by yourself as an artist with some talent, a lot of hard work, a fair amount of time and – let’s be honest – a bit of money too. There is something that the independent artist JMSN told me once during an interview when we were discussing his past experiences with majors and how they were all chasing after him all over again now that he had made a name for himself independently… He said that he would only sign with a label if they could offer him something that he can’t get by himself. And at that point, he had everything he needed so he just didn’t see the point in giving away some of his freedom and money just for the sake of being signed. I thought this was such a good mindset and I often share it with the independent artists I talk to.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Switching gears, What was the first band or album that you first became obsessed with?
ALISON PIRON: I’ve always loved music and got my first CD at 6 years old: it was a maxi from the boy band No Mercy. When I was around 11-12, I started to really get into r&b and became obsessed with Aaliyah after seeing her music video for “Are You That Somebody” on MTV. I remember asking for her self-titled album when it was released and she sadly passed away soon after… But that Aaliyah record is still one of my favorites up til this day and I can tell it’s still a reference for so many r&b artists today!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What is the single piece of pop culture that has kept you sane during quarantine?
ALISON PIRON: Raleigh Ritchie’s Andy album was on a loop in this house. The themes and structure just make it such a comforting listen. I also watched his livestream back in December and it was a beautiful release for me. I laughed, I sang, I danced, I cried. And talking about tears, I’ve been binge-watching This Is Us! I still have a good dozen of episodes to catch up with but this is really my go-to feel-good show but also the series I turn to when I need a good cry. But I must admit that all these siblings’ interactions often make me miss my own brother and sister in this pandemic…
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: And… the last question, Is there anything that I might have missed?
ALISON PIRON: I don’t think so, this was a lovely interview, thanks Brittney! I welcome anyone to follow me on @urbansoulpr on Instagram where I share tips and more about my work in general. My own website is coming very soon as well so stay tuned for that… and keep spreading love!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Thanks for your time, Alison! 🙂
ALISON PIRON // SOCIALS
Next week we spotlight Bo Liebman. He’s a creative executive at the company The Young Astronauts and writes for the music blog The Indy Review.