We recently teamed up with Vinyl Mag to bring you even better content. Emily McBride, the founder, took some time to chat with us.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How are you?
Great, thanks! Just sitting on my couch organizing/scheduling interviews for Shaky Knees and re-watching the latest Game of Thrones like a total nerd.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
Background…well, I grew up on Saint Simons Island, which is just the weirdest place to grow up. I was always really into fashion, clothes, etc. even before high school, but I was in high school when I really discovered my passion for music (late bloomer). I had always planned on being a writer, like a novelist. I have all of these Composition notebooks full of just atrocious “novels” that I wrote when I was younger. They absolutely can never be anthologized – I should probably burn them. In high school, I also decided that I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I got a job at Tibi on Saint Simons and started my own portfolio of designs (probably should burn that, too). But anyway, yeah. So, high school was when I got really into music and more into fashion. I quickly (unfortunately) discovered that I have no musical talent whatsoever. That was sort of when it occurred to me to marry my passion for music, fashion and writing to become a journalist and write for a magazine.
I went to Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee for my freshman year of college – I was an English major. I wasn't there for very long, but it was pretty life-changing, and I really treasure that experience. Ultimately, I ended up transferring to a school with my actual major - Journalism. From Sewanee, I went to Georgia Southern – worst decision I ever made, but it got me here, so I guess it worked out. Knew it was wrong from Day One, but I was young and dumb and followed a doomed-from-the-start relationship there (yeah…I was that girl. Once again, ew). One good thing I will say that I got out of my time there was that I was a DJ/radio show host at the radio station there, as well as editor of the student magazine, so I did learn a great deal. Transferred AGAIN to University of Georgia, where I graduated from Grady with a BA in Magazine Journalism. Absolutely loved my time at UGA and fell completely in love with Athens (which is still where I am based).
I started Vinyl Mag while I was still a student. It just started as me writing about shows I would go to and interviewing any bands that would let me – shout out to my friends in Circle Takes the Square – they were nice enough to let me bribe them into an interview with warm Yuengling one night, and that was my first video interview. Things started picking up, and I started getting more interviews, and then people started asking ME for interviews, which was really exciting. From there, it’s definitely grown a good bit, and I still love every day that I get to do it. This is like the longest background of all time, I apologize.
What led you to launch Vinyl Mag?
Basically, I always knew I wanted to write, and I wanted to write about music and fashion at a magazine. I was out to lunch with my mom one day, when I was maybe a freshman, and we were talking about my future (as you do when you talk to your parents), and I just remember suddenly saying, ‘hey, I should just start my own magazine.’ It was something that I talked about from then on, but I got involved in other things and didn’t actually get the drive or courage or whatever until my senior year of college. Finally, I just figured, it’s now or never.
Do you have a team for Vinyl Mag?
I do. I have a small team of truly fantastic writers that write for me weekly. I don’t know how I found these people – I got really lucky. And then I have some volunteer writers that help me occasionally, mostly with events, etc. I pretty much have one main videographer who does all of the video interviews with me – he’s fantastic; he’s actually an architect in 'real life,' so this is sort of his side-project I guess? And I have two social media interns, a graphic design intern and a video editor. All of them are really awesome and talented and good things.
What have you found most difficult about managing/organizing a team, and running a website?
The people that I have working with me consistently are all just truly fantastic. I never have deadline problems with them or have to do much editing or hand-holding. The most difficult things I would say would be when people are more interested in getting a free pass to a show than actually covering the show. For example, I got a last-minute pass to a festival last year, and I had to scramble for an available writer. I knew this guy who had wanted to work for Vinyl for awhile was available, and I had a couple of friends vouch for his professionalism, so I took a gamble and gave him the pass, thinking any coverage was better than no coverage - which is false, by the way - good coverage or no coverage. He took the pass, went to the show, and then I never heard from him again. Never responded to my frantic texts or emails. I heard he moved to New York. Made me look really stupid to the people who basically just gave me a free ticket to a festival for no reason.
To expand on that, I’ve had a lot of experience with writers wanting desperately to get a pass from me to cover something and then completely blowing off deadlines once it's over, because they got everything that they wanted out of it. I’ve definitely learned my lesson there. I will no longer work with writers that haven’t developed a track record with me, period. To summarize, the most difficult thing about running a team is that it all comes down to you. If anyone on your team gets a fact wrong in an article or misses a deadline, you’re the one who ultimately looks bad and has to take the hit. Same goes for running the site, because I run the site myself. If anything is messed up or a video doesn’t embed properly…that’s on me.
What has been the most rewarding experience?
The most rewarding experience…all of it! I can’t narrow it down to one thing. I have LEARNED so much about management and working with other people and editing…and I have also MET some incredible people in the business with whom I have developed great relationships, working and non. Plus, every once in awhile, when I’m not stressed or overworked or running around, it occurs to me that this really is such an amazing position to be in. I get to look at culture and talk to really interesting people and write about it. That’s pretty much my dream there.
What advice do you have for bands submitting to online outlets?
Oh man, so much. I could talk about this all day. Don’t send me an email that just says, ‘hey, check out my band.’ Learn how to write a pitch/press release. Include a good picture in the body of the email. Include links to your Facebook/Twitter/Soundcloud/YouTube/website/other. Tell me about your band. Don’t make me send a follow-up email to find out who you are. Chances are, I’ll probably just move on to the next email from the band who gave me all of the information I want when deciding who to feature. Also, don’t blind pitch. Personalize your pitch to my publication. Take the time to read some of my articles to see if your music would even fit there. Those are two really big things I would say to bands wanting to submit their music to any publication.
One of your avenues for the site is YouTube. What advice do you have for getting your brand's videos seen?
Definitely tag as many keywords as you can in the video for search engines. Besides that, honestly I think it’s just all about social media sharing. Social media is actually a lot more complex and full-time than people realize. It’s a huge method of content promotion and should be treated as a strategy, not an afterthought.
What is one question that you don't think is asked nearly enough that you'd like to offer insight on?
I always like to know what other creative outlets the people that I am talking to have besides music. People are rarely one-dimensional, and it's always really interesting to me to find out who they are outside of just being a 'musician.'
What advice would you like to pass along to those looking to get into the music industry?
Fake it until you make it. Seriously. If you walk around with a clipboard and a stressed-out face, you can get in anywhere you go.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received regarding the industry?
I got this out of a networking seminar I attended, so it wasn’t directly to me, but it’s changed the way I do business and definitely helped me. When networking, don’t just walk into the situation thinking, ‘how can this relationship help me?’ Think about how you can help the other person. If you end up being able to do something for them, they will remember you and talk you up to other people. Does a lot more for you and your reputation in the industry than if you just go around begging for help all the time.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’m sorry I talk too much. I feel bad for you for having to edit my rambling answers. When I get an interview this long, I cringe. Besides that, just stay tuned for more Vinyl Mag and Kill the Music awesomeness!!! It’s only going to get better.