Street Smart Marketing is a full-service marketing team, dedicated to providing specialized development, promotion and support to a wide array of artists and clients.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My name is David McDonald. I’m the Tour Publicist for Street Smart Marketing. When I talk, it’s rarely described as “quietly”. Before moving to Los Angeles this January I lived in Southeast Michigan for pretty much my entire life. Went to school and instantly caught the bug for working in music. Did college radio, online press, a few promo jobs in commercial radio…essentially any experience that someone was willing to give me, I was willing to take if it made sense. If I had to guess, I’ve probably gone to 30+ shows every year since I turned 18. Live music is as meaningful to me as any experience that one can plan with regularity. There’s a vitality and unity to it that doesn’t exist in any other activity.
What drove you to choose your career path?
Well I think it was a combination of two things. One being that after my first year of college I knew that I wanted a communications driven career. And two being that I felt very passionate about promoting music and working directly with the media. Like a lot of great people in this business, College Radio was a big starting point for me.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
This might sound really cliché, but if you want to make it in this industry you have to constantly have the mindset of chasing every good opportunity that you can get your hands on. A little over a year ago I had just started a retail job and left my gig in college radio. I became the Music Editor for an online outlet and felt a real uncertainty about how I was going to break out and get my press career going full time. One thing that’s really important is knowing that the biggest commodity you have is your reputation. Working hard and always making a good impression is worth its weight in gold. Also, NEVER FAIL TO APPRECIATE YOUR PEERS. Respect given equals respect earned. Anyway, last November I got on a plane going from Detroit to Los Angeles with no interview “formally” scheduled and every intention of leaving the city with a job as a Publicist secured…and I did. That’s the last secret. Sometimes you just have to take big chances and show that you believe in yourself. Having that confidence and the passion for the business to go all out, it breeds confidence in the people who can offer you a job.
Oh, and this kind of goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. ALWAYS DO GOOD WORK.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
I love this question. I feel like anyone trying to make it in the music industry is always fascinated with what it’s actually like when you start working in the field. I know that I sure was. Really, in simple terms the job of a publicist is pretty straight forward; get people talking about your clients! It’s a hype machine. But I guess the secret is how do we actually pull that off? I’ll try to make the process short and sweet. Ask nicely, ask often, build relationships and show your passion! Every day I’m in the office I make phone calls and send emails to complete strangers who probably couldn’t care less about what I do, and I make phone calls and send emails to people who are wonderful friends and colleagues that I share a great sense of comradery and appreciation for. The common denominator in those two activities is that phone calls are made and emails are sent! In a way it’s a lot like a glorified sales job. You come up with your pitch, you seek out your target market, and then you grind like your life depends on it!
Yes, there is more to the job than just this. But this is easily more than 80% of it. Easily.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
I guess there might be a slight lifestyle misconception about a publicist working in the music industry in the city of Los Angeles…that it’s this nonstop wild party. Well, it’s not. There are fun moments to be sure, but the overwhelming majority of the time it’s pretty similar to any other office gig. The real benefit is that your job allows you to do what you love; which in my case is advocating for and endorsing awesome artists.
What are your average work hours?
Well, extracurricular activity (shows and appearances) aside, I’m in the office from 10am to around 6-7pm every Monday-Friday. But really, those are just the physical hours. Time when I’m “clocked in.” There really aren’t average work hours when you’re a publicist. Things are going on even when you aren’t at the office or in the field and often you have to deal with those things in your down time. I’ve always had the mindset that, working in this field, I’m in a serious relationship with my phone.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
This is a tough question for me to answer. I really don’t think that there’s anything I do that I would describe as a shortcut. I guess that what makes me effective in my work is mostly a mindset…which is that I will try everything under the sun that has any chance of working. You have to be industrious to have this job. Do research, employ good tools and network constantly!
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
I don’t really presume that there’s something I do that no other publicist in the entire industry is doing. However, as someone who started out in college radio and online press and transitioned to the other side as a publicist, I try to really appreciate the personal element of working in this business. Being a professional is obvious very important, but I would argue that being personable and receptive to the people you’re working with is just as important in this business.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
Be serious and be passionate. One thing about working in the music industry that we all share across the board is that it’s not just a “Punch In/Punch Out” kind of deal. You have to live it. Going back to the whole “sales job” metaphor…it’s hard to keep your consumers happy if you aren’t selling them a good product. I’m very fortunate to constantly work with bands who live to do this and are serious about their careers; and the people who cover music can see that. They know when bands are genuine and driven by a love for their music and their fans. So that’s my advice Be ready for this life.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
Well, it’s not that I would call myself an impatient person, but when it comes to work I’m always driven to get results as quickly as possible and sometimes certain projects will involve a long wait time or lots of planning out the specifics. I hate waiting weeks to get an outcome that I feel like I could achieve in a day…but publicity requires multiple parties working together. How do I deal with that? I’m constantly looking for the next task to tackle and try to reflect on the areas where things are playing out just the way I wanted them to!
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
Honestly, this one is pretty simple. Everyone I work with, from my co-workers, to the bands, managers, journalists, media outlets, and everyone in between…we all want to see good artists succeed and expose people to awesome music. That commonality is such a reward. Good people who believe in something and have passion; that’s a great work environment.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
It varies a great deal. I could list off all the various factors that determine what you could expect to make (prior experience, your employer, your clients, connections, etc) but I think most of that is common sense. And honestly, who pursues a job in this industry for the money? It’s a job that you can make a living doing.
How do you move up in your field?
Since I’m somewhat new to the industry at this capacity, I’ll just say what I did to get this far in the simplest terms. Be good at what you do, know that you’re good, and convince others that you’re worth investing in. And of course, building relationships with the right people is a big part of how you open the doors that allow you to do that.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
Being from the Metro Detroit area, there’s a very popular mantra that’s begun to emerge from that city, “Detroit Hustles Harder”. That’s my advice. Be talented, do great work, be passionate and treat your peers like they’re family…but it’s always going to take that extra hustle if you want to break the glass ceiling and make this into a career. No one just gets a gig in music business handed to them, and that’s part of what makes it something worth cherishing.