For today’s interview, we chat with a man of many hats, The Young Astronaut’s Creative Executive Bo Liebman. Liebman also a music blogger at The Indy Review, artist, and screenwriter, shows the intersection of the music industry and entertainment. He originally started out in film Read more
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 Read more
This week we talk to music publicist Erica D’Aurora. Erica works at Muddy Paw PR and was one of the first publicists to support this blog. Erica talks about Muddy Paw, what she does as a publicist, life in quarantine, and why music has always been a powerful influence in her life.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Hi, Erica thanks for taking the time out! First off, can you tell me why you love music?
ERICA D’AURORA: Gosh, where do I begin! Music is everything. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world and the infinite ways in which words and sounds can intertwine is magical. Music can create change, it can help you heal and let go. It’s your best friend. It’s medicine.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What was the first band or album that you first became obsessed with?
ERICA D’AURORA: There have been so many artists and albums that have totally captivated me, but I think the first artist that really hooked me in was Bruce Springsteen. There has been no other artist who has so completely enveloped me in a story, and his incredibly use of imagery and poetry is absolutely breathtaking. But long story short, his songwriting is epic and I could go on for days about how amazing he is.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: We connected because you work in music PR. How did you wind up pursuing that as a career?
ERICA D’AURORA: Before I started my music blog Musical Notes Global, I had no idea what PR was. But as my blog grew, and I started getting submissions from publicists, I started learning more about the field and it really intrigued me because it combined two of my biggest passions: music and writing. After two years blogging, it began to just make sense to pursue a career in PR, and the transition was basically seamless. Now that I’m a publicist, I’m so grateful to have gone into the field with blogging experience first because it’s given me so much more insight into what journalists are looking for when they receive submissions and what they don’t like or find useless in pitches.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you describe to my readers what one does in music PR for those that might be unfamiliar?
ERICA D’AURORA: PR is always so hard to describe, and I think it’s because we do so much. A band will hire a publicist to secure interviews and features so they can establish their brand, set themselves up for new opportunities, and get introduced to new listeners all over the world. But honestly, PR is so much more than that.
(cont.) Publicists work tirelessly to get their clients as many of those features as possible, but in many cases, we also end up becoming their sounding board. We’re there for them to bounce ideas off of and to encourage them to keep going when they feel like giving up. We’re there to listen and to help take the weight off their shoulders, and we love helping them grab hold of those ideas that have been floating around in their heads for so long and finally turn them into realities. Personally, I feel honored to be along for the entire ride with them, through the good days and bad days, and to have the opportunity to watch all of my artists grow. There’s no better feeling in the world, and I feel so lucky to say that there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t love my job.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How did you end up working at Muddy Paw PR? What has been the most rewarding aspect working in PR and working at Muddy Paw?
ERICA D’AURORA: I actually first encountered Muddy Paw PR through my blog, and I had the pleasure of getting to know the company’s CEO Angela Mastrogiacomo as we were in touch about features for her artists. In my early days blogging, I supported many of Muddy Paw’s artists, and our relationship just continued to grow. Plus I really admired the approach Angela took when pitching her clients and I adored the way she ran her agency.
(cont.) When I realized that I wanted to seriously pursue a career in PR, Angela had mentioned that she was looking for interns, and I let her know that I was interested in taking her up on the opportunity. I ended up interning with Muddy Paw for about three months, and then transitioned into the role of Junior Publicist. Last fall I was promoted to Senior Publicist and I can honestly say I’ve never loved my job more than I do right now.
(cont.) One of the most rewarding aspects working in PR is just being able to work in a field that I love. Music is in my veins, and it’s always kept me going through the darkest days and has made the best days even brighter. To be able to participate in the music industry in such a fun and impactful way is truly one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I never take it for granted. I love meeting and working so closely with artists of all genres, and I love being that advocate for them so they can continue to build a successful career.
(cont.) When I started working at Muddy Paw, I finally felt like I found a home and it confirmed for me that the music industry is where I belong. What makes my job even better is that I get to work with Angela, who is now one of my best friends!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to work in the music industry in PR?
ERICA D’AURORA: PR is not for the feint of heart. You have to be willing to give your all, 150% of the time. There are many days that you’re going in a million different directions, and there will even be days when you feel like giving up, but it’s then, especially, that your passion for music and for helping artists work toward their goals is what’s going to keep you moving forward. If you have a genuine passion for your work, success will follow.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What do you think the future of the music PR industry looks like after COVID?
ERICA D’AURORA: Luckily, many publicists (like me) work remotely 99-100 percent of the time, so our work habits have stayed the same for the most part throughout the pandemic. In some ways, I actually think the pandemic has brought about some positive change, like giving bloggers in New York access to virtual events and press conferences in Los Angeles that they wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise, for example, and opening up opportunities for more video interviews held over Zoom. But of course, the pandemic, as we all know, really devastated the industry, and the canceling of live shows and events has certainly affected all of us in so many ways. However, the music industry is also resilient, and it’s already proven that it can adapt to the toughest challenges, so I think the music PR industry will continue to thrive post-COVID.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Last question, recommend a piece of pop culture that has kept you sane during quarantine?
ERICA D’AURORA: Oh gosh, another tough question! Ok, I’d say Anne With An E on Netflix. The series is absolutely stunning, the photography and landscapes are gorgeous. And the storylines and casting? Perfection! You totally get lost in Anne’s world and it’s been a great escape from reality.
Next Friday we ‘Get to Know’ Independent Publicist Alison Piron.
This week’s ‘Get to Know’ London vocalist Bim Amoako. Bim created the music choir experience company Sessions by Ascension. She also works as a sessions and backing vocalist where she works with many of Britain’s biggest music acts. You’ll probably recognize her voice instantly on Read more
This week we are highlighting another photographer whose bold and dreamy work I love. We also met at a show. ‘Get To Know’ Devyn Vaughn, the once Los Angeles based music and lifestyle photographer. She is recently made the move to another famous music city… Read more
GET TO KNOW: MICHELLE SHIERS, A FREELANCE MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHER & THE GREEK THEATER’S HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER.
The third creative we are spotlighting is one I have had the chance to share the photo pit with. Her name is Michelle Shiers and she has photographed some of the biggest names in music. If you have ever been to a show at The Greek Theatre in L.A. or follow their Instagram. Then you’ve already seen her in action or hit like on her work.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: First question is why do you love music?
MICHELLE SHIERS: Music has always had a special way of making me feel singular and also part of a group at the same time. It’s probably the closest I get to feeling some type of religion. It gives me something to look forward to and something new to discover and songs to enjoy as much as I want. It allows for such an individual experience of listening to a song over and over and feeling like it was directed right at you. AND, it also allows for you to join in a big crowd of people who all share your fandom like your part of something bigger. I’ve always loved how music has sound-tracked my life and worked as a time machine, bringing me back to flashbulb memories and bygone feelings.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you tell us your backstory and how you got your start with photography?
MICHELLE SHIERS: I got started doing music photography as a hobby. I always enjoyed taking photos of my friends and when I started going to concerts as a teen, I would cut a hole in the lining of my purse and drop a small camera in there to sneak in past security. I always wanted my shots of gigs, but I never considered photography in any professional or artistic sense or even thought I had any talent to go for it. Once I moved up to LA, my now-husband would sometimes have me take photos of his band, live or in-studio. This was so entertaining for me that I commandeered his camera and started taking photos of anything (mostly my dog). It soon blossomed into a full-fledged passion that settled as though it was there all along. I suppose it was! Eventually, a friend of mine strongly encouraged me to start a blog, after which I realized shooting musicians was what I sought most, so I focused on that. I never expected anything to come of it, but the more I photographed, the more opportunities I drew in to shoot shows, which eventually turned into bigger opportunities. I got to shoot for Buzzbands LA for quite a while which exposed me to so many great artists and helped me get noticed by venues and bands who needed a photographer. Now I can’t look back.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How did you end up working as house photographer at The Greek Theater and at Spaceland LA events? What has been the most rewarding aspects of both jobs?
MICHELLE SHIERS: Both of these just feel like dumb luck. I think Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands recommended me for Spaceland after I helped them out with some picture usage when they were down a photographer. I was surprised to hear he did that but I never thought they’d need me. At the time, they already had a house shooter but I think they ended up needing a second person on occasion. With his recommendation, I was so grateful that they thought of me when they went to hire someone else. That was incredible and I’ve done a lot of photography for them at The Echo, The Echoplex, the Regent Theatre and a few others. So many cool shows happen in that indie scene around LA as it’s such a rich atmosphere. The Greek was also just luck. I shot there a few times and when I noticed the Greek Instagram liked a couple of my posts, I just let them know that I loved their venue and if they ever needed a house photographer, I would be there with bells on. Eventually, as a new season approached, they did need to hire a house photographer and I am so thankful they invited me!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What is a typical day like for you as the house photographer at The Greek?
MICHELLE SHIERS: The Greek is a fantastic venue to work for and I look forward to going there every time I’m scheduled. Typically, I can arrive an hour or so before the show begins. I go in the office and organize my gear and then I walk around the grounds to see if there are any fun photos of excited patrons I can take or any set ups with vendors or radio stations. I then meet in a spot with all the other photographers to be ushered into the barricade, or if we are shooting from the soundboard, I just pick a spot up there a few minutes before it begins. Then, I do my shooting for the first three songs and retreat back into the office to edit some of the best ones for the Greek to post on social media that night. I do the same thing for the headliner and then I pop out again to get wider shots of the whole venue from a few different corners and elevations. This is pretty good cardio, too. Then, I enjoy the rest of the show if I want to! It’s a very rewarding job and I am so grateful to have been asked back for 3 seasons. Hopefully a 4th once live music is safe again!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What advice would you give to young creatives wanting to work in concert photography?
MICHELLE SHIERS: I would tell them to practice a lot! Practice on their friends’ bands, practice in small venues that allow cameras and practice in very dimly lit situations. Once they feel comfortable, I recommend just reaching out to some smaller local publications. It’s easier for established publications to get press-passes to shows, and some of them may be looking for an eager photographer. There’s a lot of unpaid portfolio-building in the beginning, but it’s still very rewarding as you meet people, build relationships, and learn so much on the way. It’s a challenging industry especially in this age when everyone has a camera in their pocket, or where publications are struggling to compensate writers and photographers. But, if you keep your head down and do your best while supporting your peers (of which you’ll have many after shooting elbow to elbow in the photo trenches) you’ll gain more opportunities than you expected!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: You also photograph musicians during sessions and portraits. What’s biggest difference between this and concert work? What advice do you have for photographers wanting to branch off into this?
MICHELLE SHIERS: The biggest differences here are control and intimacy, I think. In concert photography, you have no control over what the artist will do, what the lighting will be like, or how long you have to photograph. You’re also sometimes one of many shooters in there scrambling for a spot. Some photographers thrive on the suspense, unpredictability, and rush. It’s exciting nearly every time! Some people prefer much more control over their subject, the lighting, and their vantage point. So those are photographers that thrive more in portraiture, I believe. I love studio photography because that’s a much more delicate dance of sitting back (or sometimes hiding in a corner) and capturing the artist concentrated at work as unobtrusively as possible. If you’re in a studio with your friends and you can be more present and vocal, it’s really fun. You truly feel a part of their recording process. If you’re with musicians who don’t know you or feel vulnerable in front of a camera, it’s best to be as quiet as a fly on the wall. That intimacy will come through in the photos.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Let’s talk gear! What gear do you use?
MICHELLE SHIERS: I use a Canon 5D Mark IV, a 24-70 2.8, a 70-200 2.8, my favorite 50mm 1.2 (for those poorly-lit venues and vibey studios) and I more recently got a Sigma 35mm 1.4 as well. Oh! And I have a 15mm fisheye 2.8 which comes out sometimes. At the Greek, I’ve used a couple of Canon extenders for my 70-200 when I have to shoot from front of house. They aren’t ideal (not as ideal as 400mm prime!) but they get the job done. I’ve used this gear for a long time and it seems to have worked well! I’m rarely asking others what they use so I’m not sure how my gear measures up to other concert photographers, but I think I’ve got a system and variety that works for me! I also proudly use the THINK TANK lens belt/pouch system most of the time which has made a huge difference. I love it because not only does it save me from incessant shoulder pain, but it’s the ultimate embodiment of my affinity for fanny packs.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How are you staying inspired as creative during quarantine? Or are you just not worrying about that as much?
MICHELLE SHIERS: Oh man. Not only am I not really staying creative, but I AM worried about that fact a lot. I wish I could say that I found the impetus to stay creative or that I created projects to keep myself inspired. Sadly, for the most part covid has left me with some awful demotivation and depression. I know it has affected a lot of artists in the same way. I try not to put pressure on myself to stay creative in a state of loneliness, but then I scold myself for not pushing harder to get out of the rut.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What are the top five shows you’ve shot that you’ve felt the most proud of?
MICHELLE SHIERS: Ahhh! This will be tough to narrow down. I am incredibly proud of shooting Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Fillmore. They have been a favorite band of mine since I was 16 and getting to hop on the bus and join them for a few dates was a bucket-lister for sure. I was proud of the shots I took of Thom Yorke at the Greek and the one and only time I got to shoot Radiohead at the Shrine. They are my all-time favorites so I was really proud to have gotten to that point. I’m proud of shooting Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Bowl because that’s not a venue I get to be at too often. I’m also very proud of photos I’ve taken of Elbow (for Elbow!) at the Wiltern. Their music has brought a lot of profound “feels” to my life so I was thrilled to be able to give something back. I think most of my “pride” comes from the opportunity to photograph artists I’ve revered for so long.
(cont.) I’m also really proud of some crowd shots I’ve taken of Royal Blood and some energetic shots of the Hives. I’m proud of making it through shooting two CalJam festivals because that is exhausting work that I’m not quite designed for!
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Who were some of the people that championed you in your early days?
MICHELLE SHIERS: My friend Lisa Best was the first champion who made me start the blog! She is an incredible writer/comic in LA and remains one of my greatest supporters. Veteran music video director Paul Boyd along with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics we’re also incredibly encouraging and were it not for them, I wouldn’t have quit my day job to pursue photography. Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands LA was of course very supportive and recommended me for countless opportunities. Leah Shapiro, the drummer for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, has been a wonderful friend and advocate for my work especially and especially as a woman in a male-centric industry. My husband has been very supportive as my career gives him plenty of nights alone to rewatch The Wire. I could keep going because I’ve been truly fortunate to have had a myriad of encouraging friends, peers, and enthusiasts of my photos. It’s hard to believe it most of the time.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: I also wanted to touch on a personal project you did during quarantine “Portraits of L.A. Musicians in Quarantine”. How did that come to fruition?
MICHELLE SHIERS: That was just an idea I had after weeks of feeling terribly idle. Looking back, if I had known the pandemic was going to last this long, I’d have worked on that project more slowly. But at the time, I wanted to create a snapshot of what people were going through at the height of our what-the-hell-is-going-on-ness. I had planned on photographing more artists over a couple of weeks, but after I did the first set, the pandemic got worse and it seemed like staying at home entirely was most responsible. I did have a wonderful collection of portraits of friends who allowed me to capture their quarantine selves, so I reached out to see if Ladygunn was interested in sharing the series. I’m glad they did and that others got to see the photos and read the blurbs each artist took time to write.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How do you see our industry coming back from COVID-19 and the pandemic?
MICHELLE SHIERS: I’m really unsure about this but I think the industry will slowly inch it’s way back to where it was before, as soon as it safely can, and may even come back with a bang as people have been so starved for live music. I know the touring industry really had the rug pulled out from under it – especially as it seems that music will be one of the last events to resume. However, I’m quietly hopeful that when it does people will have a hugely recharged appreciation for live music. The last time this happened the world created Jazz… maybe a new roaring 20s is around the corner.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What music has kept you sane during quarantine?
MICHELLE SHIERS: No music has managed to keep me sane! haha. But, I’ve been listening to a lot of my friend Lauren Ruth Ward’s second album as we were supposed to tour that record and couldn’t. That disc lives in my car. I listen to a lot of blues when I’m home alone- Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert King… really love that sound. I actually asked people for recommendations of their favorite albums of all time on Instagram so I could listen to new stuff while going for walks and the scope was pretty great. From Creedence to Kanye, Nirvana to Nas, Dylan to Deftones, Sinatra to Selena, I had quite a soundtrack.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MICHELLE SHIERS: Yes… My ACTUAL secret “album that keeps me sane” is Harvey Danger’s “King James Version”.
Next week we meet Nashville based music and lifestyle photographer Devyn Vaughn.