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Interview: Keith Hagan, Co-Founder, SKH Music

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Will MySpace remain the top social network for musicians? What does a publicist do to break a band these days? There are some of the questions we asked Keith Hagan, co-founder of music PR and management agency SKH Music. Keith and his partner Steve Karas have worked with some of the biggest artists and labels, including Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath, Barry White, Aerosmith, Arista, Mammoth and Interscope.

They have also done work for some of the industry’s largest events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and The CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival, which is took place this week in New York. We caught up with Keith as CMJ winds down.

You’ve been at major labels like Mammoth Records, Arista, what led you to start an agency?


I decided to co-open this company once my longtime and dear friend Steve Karas decided he was interested in making the leap from Wind-up Records, where he was Senior Vice-President of Publicity. I’ve known him for 20+ years. He gave me my first internship at IRS records in 1989. Prior to opening SKH, I was number two at PFA Media, where I was working on projects like Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, every genre of music. I wanted to branch out in not just doing press, but management as well, because the business model in the music industry has changed dramatically.

What is the music agency landscape like these days? What are artists demanding?

Here is a great example, we have this one band called We Are The Fallen, which is essentially all the original members of Evanesence except for the singer. Long story short, they got a new singer, started writing material, and are happy with how it’s coming out. They finished one song and we all just though it was fantastic. We set up stories with USA Today and the LA Times. It ended up on front page of USA Today, to announce the band. From there, we rolled it into a press conference. We had CNN, Fox, and others come to watch the band do a two song performance and interviews. This was all planned to attract attention to a group we wanted to get signed. We just closed major label deal for band which we will announce next week and band’s beginning recording a record next week as well.

There are fewer music reporters, but more bands than ever it seems. How do you balance that?

I totally agree. While print is dying on the vine, there still are certain print publications you want to try and get. Certainly, the kind of campaign you’re running this moment is drastically different from the one you ran six months ago and two years ago. Every band is different. We do PR for bands from Kenny Rogers to Chevelle. Their needs are incredibly different.

Are musicians giving up on MySpace, or will it stay on top?

I think we’ve seen that what’s happened with social networks is that five years ago it was Friendster, now it’s Twitter. You read stories of how Twitter is getting more involved in music, Google is getting involved with music. The interesting thing about MySpace, the only reason they’ve been able to thrive is that if you are a band and you have music on there, you don’t have the same kind of interface on Facebook. Is someone going to come and knock them off? Probably. Or they will morph into something else. We’ll have to see how that goes.

Give me a story from a big act you’ve worked with.

The pure joy I get out of this is when you take a band from nothing and finally get some critical mass. Like when a band does their first international TV appearance. I live for that. A recent example is one of our clients, Chevelle. They haven’t been on national TV in a number of years. They are doing “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” in December and we are thrilled.

You’ve spent the last week working at CMJ. What are some tips you’d give to the hundreds of bands looking to break through the noise?

This is the second CMJ I’ve done press for. My advice to any bands who want to come to CMJ, SXSW or any other big festival is your best thing is to go out and network. Go to panels and try to meet people. I don’t necessarily recommend giving out CD’s everywhere as they end up in trash cans. It’s about one on one interaction. People hide behind the wall of email and social networking but nothing beats face to face discussion and getting to know people.

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