Adrenaline PR, a boutique marketing, public relations and branding agency founded by publicity powerhouse Maria Ferrero, was formed to represent and cultivate some of today's hottest talent. Be sure to check out her management company, Breaking Bands LLC.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
*ADRENALINE: I consider myself a veteran of the music business. I have been doing this in different capacities and at a few different companies since 1983- SO… I have seen a lot and worked with many people at every level from the bottom to the top and inside and out. Although, I did take a year and a half off in 1999 to go to cooking school to become a chef (which ended my second night at work in a restaurant, because I was struck by a Suburban while crossing the street in NYC). I recuperated from my injuries. Just know that any time a monkey wrench gets thrown in your spokes, or things just don’t go as planned, there’s often a big message, a great big door will open up, and something fantastic will come. Tenacity pays off.
In 1983, I started out at MegaForce Records/Crazed Management. I began working there and was a friend to the owners. My duties were to get coffee, answer the phones and open the mail. We were just three of us back then (Jon and Marsha Zazula and myself), and working from the basement of their home in Old Bridge, NJ. Honestly, back then we had no clue as to what we were really doing, but over time we really developed the label and artists and we had major distribution through Atlantic Records. It was the heyday for metal- our roster consisted of Metallica, Anthrax, Mercyful Fate, Exciter, Kings X, Ace Frehley to name a few. And, some really great people came from that era- Ed Trunk (VH1’s That Metal Show and radio personality), Missi Callazzo (Megaforce Records), Gary Waldman (Artist and Manager), John Warden (Rive Video). It’s really a place where I best learned teamwork. It’s never truly ONE person who gets the job done, but rather an entire team of people at many levels… I pride my companies and our philosophy on teamwork. It’s almost like a sporting event, sometimes volleying back and forth and reaching goals.
Anyway, the Zazula’s also had a record store called Rock And Roll Heaven and I worked there on weekends – I enjoyed being with people who were like-minded and catching up on the latest tunes and magazines. Man, was it fun! I was a go-getter back then and feel that is a trait that always will pay off. It was a really cool time and a great scene back then. There was a group of friends in my town of Old Bridge and we would all party together and headbang together (that group would later be named the Old Bridge Metal Militia). Soon after, the Zazula’s began promoting shows locally in the NY area, hosting bands like Venom, Metallica or Anvil. We were very connected, the Militia and the Megaforce team, really supporting each other - whether it was giving rides, making meals or promoting the artists - we all felt closer to the metal scene and each other like a family and directly, I felt by doing those things I was more a part of it. When you have your hand in something like that, the stakes are higher and it almost felt like autopilot to stick with it and keep working this and see where it all will go. Well, it went pretty far. To this day, I still get giddy when I think how big bands like ANTHRAX, METALLICA, MERCYFUL FATE and SOD became because to us back then it just seemed like hanging with a bunch of our friends and partying…
A pinnacle point in my career was when Anthrax got their singer Joey Belladonna. Jonny Z asked me to send a telex to all of the European magazines. The same ones that I used to sit around reading, like Metal Forces, Kerrang, etc. Jon instructed me to ask the magazine editors in the telex if they’d like to do an interview with Joey and Scott. So, I sat down to a typewriter and asked the editors if they had interest in speaking with Scott and Joey about the new lineup in Anthrax etc. All of the magazines replied “yes”, so Jonny then instructed me to make a schedule to set up the interviews, and I did that next. The guys went over to Europe and upon their return, Jonny said, “Maria, everything went great, you are now the publicist.” I did not even know what that meant at the time. I did not attend college. But what I did recognize was that all of those magazines that I read to get my head out of Old Bridge, NJ (so to speak) are now writing about my friends in ANTHRAX etc. So, I caught on quickly that this is a good thing to do and it will not only help the bands by spreading the word, but it will be a service to the urban and suburban kids like me to be able to read information about their favorite rockers.
In addition, I wore the A&R hat at MegaForce. At age 19, I got a demo in the mail and loved it – next thing you know, I signed the band Testament to MegaForce/Atlantic Records. Then at age 21, I signed Vio-Lence (Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel of Machine Head). I went on to sign the Skatenigs (MTV’s Beevis and Butthead sensations), NUDESWIRL, and then I brought in Ministry to management in 1990-1996. I left Megaforce/Crazed in 1996 and went to work at TVT to be KMFDM’s Product Manager and PR person. I was married in 1997- then tragically the same year- I had the misfortune of losing my very young husband to heart disease. This fired me up to follow my dreams and my dream then was to become a chef. So, 1999 through mid-2000, that’s where I was. In 2000, I went to work at E-magine Entertainment where I ran the PR show there. After that, I went to Metropolis for two years, and then finally in the end of 2003, I went independent and put the figurative sign on the door “Open For Business”… I started my indie PR firm ADRENALINE PR. My first clients were Soulfly, Zeromancer and Lamb of God.
*BREAKING BANDS LLC see below
What drove you to choose your career path?
Passion and no other interests - music and my friends were everything and this is what we did - we breathed, ate and slept metal and hardcore music. It fit like a glove…
*How the management company Breaking Bands LLC came about was… at the time that we began the management company, I had been friends with Exodus for 30 years. They’d been asking me for two years to manage them, and in 2013 I finally said yes. I then asked my old boss Jon Zazula if he would like to be my partner, and shortly after, we asked Chuck Billy to be our partner. Now, here we all are. In late 2013, my friend Mike Sarkisyan of Spineshank gave my number to a band called Shattered Sun, who then inquired with me about PR. Upon listening, I ran to ask if they had a manager and they said no! THAT was my lucky day. We then picked up Soilwork after they contacted us to ask if we would manage them after they parted ways with their former management team, and for our most recent signing, Jonny found Wizards of Winter through a friend.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
For me, I make jokes and say I stepped in shit. In other words, I was just the lucky one in the right place at the right time. No college education here. I just had great friends who gave me opportunities and I took the bull by the horns and conquered. I’m positive that my honesty, passion and drive played a big part for me in my success- my old boss Jonny used to call me a Pit Bull and a Green Beret. It was fun times making things happen and man, it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. With most of the bands that we work, it really does take some convincing to get people to write about them, but there is also the very satisfying feeling of knowing that we are a trusted, tried and true proven source. Industry peers at many levels - agents, managers, artists, etc. look to us for what is next. We have that reputation and that is solid and means the world to me. I don’t take it for granted, EVER.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
Being the captain of the ship here - I sometimes feel like the person who runs the traffic control for jets to take off and land. I spend most of my time reading and answering emails, setting up press, finding opportunities for our clients and making things happen. Always… making things happen.
*For Breaking Bands LLC I deal with the artists directly and manage everything from how they want to be represented to the public, lots of talks with booking agents to get the right tours together, dealing with immigration and tax for the artist for touring, scheduling flights, setting up work visas, buying insurance, acting as a liaison with the labels, babysitting etc.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
That it is an easy job, or that press does not sell records. Also that it’s a cushy job… just because I sit at a desk, it does not mean that I am not in the trenches.
What are your average work hours?
24/7, 365. This is my company, that’s to be expected.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Cut out the bullshit and have integrity. Also, it’s really important in PR to build relationships with people in the industry - writers, editors, photographers etc. We are all here to support each other. Learn to accept rejection and take no for an answer, soon enough you will turn the “no’s” into “yes’s”. Don’t take things personally - this is business. Lastly, try not to overreact in situations. In other words don’t be an alarmist… Chicken Little, the sky is not falling…
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
Care a lot. It is sad to me- a lot of people just do their job to collect a paycheck, and while I’m sure that it is fine for them, they aren’t in it with their hearts. They’ll have less successes rewarded because drive and commitment will always bear more fruit. I’ve unfortunately seen MANY PR people act like gate keepers, which in some respects they are, but abusing that privilege by keeping the press AWAY from their artists… that’s not very productive in my eyes.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
Be realistic in goals, have your assets ready and think outside the box.
*for Breaking Bands LLC – I have to be in love with the music to want to manage the artist. As an artist, that’s the kind of manager you want on your team anyway.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
Bad attitudes, people with personality defects, character flaws and bullshit. I climb right over that and carry on.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
Seeing the success and growth of my clients and of my staff.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
Running your own PR firm can take years to be able to even put yourself on payroll – I fortunately have been steady with clients so we all make money and we all keep growing, and that to me is the name of the game.
How do you move up in your field?
Drive, tenacity, passion, integrity and honesty… period.