The Music Industry’s Top Women Of Public Relations

by Kortney Toney

Public Relations (PR) is more than just a department in a record label. For many, it is the link that connects the artist to the fans. Martha Moore, Claire Cook, Cindy Heath and Ebie McFarland are among Nashville’s top PR experts who work tirelessly to represent and promote their clientele. They love working in their field and they love seeing the results that come from the long hours they put into their numerous projects.

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Martha Moore

so much MOORE media

Martha started so much MOORE media in November 1988, after 12 years of working for three major record labels ABC, MCA, and PolyGram. “I struck out on my own to work only with artists whose music inspired me,” she explains.  “I’ve been blessed, and with over 25 years into the “independent” game, I’m happier than I’ve ever been”.  Moore relishes the challenge of taking developed artists to the next level.

What made you want to be in the music industry?

I went to college at UT Knoxville and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, with a major in Advertising and minor in Marketing.  My first job was writing ad copy for WKGN Radio while I was still at UT.  I moved to Nashville after graduating and worked a few months at Klein’s Custom Coach handling accounting and payroll.  WLAC Radio had an opening in AM Promotion/ FM Traffic, so I was thrilled to get the chance to get back into radio. Next stop for me was ABC Dot Records where I landed the position of Publicity Coordinator working with Barbara Mandrell, Don Williams, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jimmy Buffet and more.

MCA absorbed ABC Dot and that allowed me to work with Legends Brenda Lee, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and newer artists George Strait, Lee Greenwood and Tanya Tucker as Manager of Press & Artist Development.  From 1982-1988, I was Director of Press and Artist Relations for Mercury Polygram  and worked all genres of music from Rock/Pop, R&B/Rap to Country. The roster included Kurtis Blow, Stephanie Mills, Bon Jovi, Mellancamp, Def Lepperd, Johnny Cash, Kathy Mattea and Reba McEntire, just to name a few. 

Do you have a daily routine or do you find that day to day things may be different?

There really is no set day to day routine as a publicist.  Every day is different- and that’s one of the things I love about it.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

There have been so many highlights over the past two decades for me.  But the first personal highlight I can remember was being called spokesperson for Jimmy Buffet in Associated Press when he broke his arm playing baseball. Then getting Barbara Mandrell booked on “The Tonight Show” was a great moment.  More recently getting newcomer Lisa Matassa booked on the “Marie Osmond Show.”

What would you feel is the biggest change in the music industry?

Technology has changed the way we do business. It speeds everything up. In the 1970-80s, I delivered my press releases and photos on roller skates.  During those days it was a blast to work in the music industry. Now we do a majority of communicating by email.  The atmosphere on The Row is far more businesslike.

If you have a music career bucket list, what are the top three things that you’d like to accomplish?

# 1. Go on a world tour with an artist.

#2.  Have one of my artists perform at The White House.

# 3.  Have one of my indie, up and coming artists get a huge record label deal.

What is the best advice you ever received concerning your career?

Have fun. Don’t take things so serious. Move forward and solve problems.

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Claire Cook

Average Joe’s Entertainment

Claire Cook is presently in artist development and publicity at Average Joes Entertainment. Prior to Claire joining Average Joes,  Cook’s company, Cook Media, specialized in, event production and promotion, tour press, tour marketing, sponsor procurement, artist development, artist management and etc.

What brought you to Nashville and made you want to be in the music industry?

Well I started my career in California working as an administrative assistant for a record label while in college and there I got my introduction into the music industry. While pursuing my degree in journalism, I got the opportunity the help with public relations events at the record label. Then a few years later I got an opportunity for a position in Nashville, and I moved here.

Have you always been in Public Relations? 

I knew that I liked to write and I had really good communication and people skills. As journalism major, there were a number of areas that I could go into –magazine, news bureau, public relations, broadcasting, and so on. I felt that there were more opportunities for women in public relations.

When you had Cook Media, were you selective about which clients to represent, and, if so, what determines the criteria for being one of your clients?

Very selective. You don’t want to work with someone that you don’t believe in or is not a good fit.  Don’t waste your time or their money.

Do you have a daily routine or do you find that day to day things may be different?

Day to Day, things are different. Generally, I focus on media deadlines and action items first thing. A majority of my time is spent on media outreach, following up and trying to connect the dots on various projects. You need to be really good at juggling priorities. These are all of what can happen on a daily basis for me.

As a woman, have you found yourself facing tough obstacles that your male counterparts don’t face? If so, how hard has it been to overcome them, and what did you do in order to overcome the obstacles?

Historically it has been a male dominated industry. In this industry, I learned early on not to burn any bridges. Your reputation of being a hard worker, reliable, etc. can carry you a long way.

What would you say to a young woman who is aspiring to make a name for her in the music industry business?

Align yourself with respectful, successful, hard working people that have a good reputation. Also, know your industry. Go to events, network and be realistic about the music industry.

If you have a music career bucket list, what are the top three things that you’d like to accomplish?

To Help organize new leadership groups (ex. Nashville Coalition; outside of Nashville advisory board). In my current position at Average Joes Entertainment, I want to continue to learn creative ways to market nontraditional music. I hope to also become more involved from a public relations standpoint in the film industry.

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cindy-heath_article2013Cindy Health

Monarch Publicity

Cindy Heath first got her start in the music business at RCA Records Nashville working in radio promotion and later sales and marketing. After joining Disney’s Lyric Street Records in 2005 as the label’s head of PR, she founded Monarch Publicity in 2010.

What made you want to be in the music industry?

As a young child I always wanted to sing whether it was in church or school; I knew I wanted to do something in music. On my sixteenth birthday I visited Nashville and it opened my eyes to other avenues in the music business besides performing. 17 years later I still pinch myself realizing that this is what I do for a living. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I get to have every day, the mentors who have helped me along the way and of course owning my own business, Monarch Publicity.

Are you selective about who you’ll represent, and, if so, what determines the criteria for being one of your clients?

First and foremost, we look at our existing projects and clients and timelines to make sure we are able to take on anything new. The client should also be a good match with our team and someone with whom we can make an impact.

Did you have a mentor that you looked up to as far as influencing you?

I’m very fortunate to have had many mentors both in and out of the music industry who helped me make decisions. I now have the opportunity to pay it forward and help other people just starting in the business.

What would you say to a young woman who is aspiring to make a name for her in the music industry business?

Recognize that your first job may not be your forever job but be open to the possibilities.

If you have a music career bucket list, what are the top three things that you’d like to accomplish?

To build a successful business, to see Bette Midler in Concert, and to see a show at Red Rock (Venue in Colorado).

What is the best advice you ever received concerning your career?

Treat others as you wish to be treated – the people you are starting out with today are the people you’ll likely be working with in twenty years so don’t burn any bridges.

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ebie-mcfarland_article2013Ebie McFarland

Essential Broadcast Media

Ebie McFarland’s interest in PR began while attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1999-2003. In-between classes and work, McFarland booked bands at a local Nashville establishment and handled advertising and PR efforts on behalf of the shows. Since then, she’s worked with some of the music industry’s biggest artists, and founded Essential Broadcast Media in 2007 which has become one of Nashville’s strongest PR firms.

What brought you to Nashville?

I went to undergraduate school at Vanderbilt University (Class of 2003), but I loved the city from afar growing up in Waverly, Tenn. and would visit with my family on the weekends to attend shows at Starwood Amphitheater, TPAC, etc.

What made you want to be in the music industry?

I’ve always loved music – my father would wake me up with the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” and I would fall asleep to whatever music would play on MTV, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Wallflowers or Bonnie Raitt. Living in rural Tenn., music was my only escape a lot of days as I was 20 miles away from any friends or activities. Certain songs have shaped the way I felt and navigated through tough situations, and those songs would directly affect how I reacted or behaved.  So I guess I’ve always known music was more than just background noise in my life.  I honestly never knew a position like a publicist existed until high school when I would read liner notes in all my favorite albums and would discover all the behind-the-scenes folks that made my idols the successes and teachers they were to me.

How long have you worked in the music industry and have you always been in Public Relations? 

I booked bands and bartended while in school at Vandy and served as PR chair for a few organizations on campus because I was the only one that would sign up to actively solicit people to help us publicize our events. In school we had very little budget for anything aside from beer and decorations – we couldn’t afford to pay for advertising in the local papers or on radio. After college I accepted an internship after a vacancy at an independent PR firm that later turned into a decently-lucrative position.

After four years of handling (and signing a few) accounts at that firm I started Essential Broadcast Media, LLC. So yes, I’ve always been in the public relations field – inadvertently and purposefully. I never expected to be this successful and expand my company and hire employees, however… I just knew I wanted to keep doing what I was doing only solely for acts I cared about musically- the ones that would move me and the format in new directions.

Are you selective about who you’ll represent, AND, if so- what determines the criteria for being one of your clients?

Like any fan of music, we’re selective. We have to like the music first and foremost. We have to ensure the artist is comfortable with our approach and personalities, and we like to have time to nurture that relationship before launching a campaign. I can’t tell you how many times a major story our on client has stemmed from us knowing their likes and dislikes, personality and accessibility.

Sometimes you get lucky and can book a few shows and land editorial spreads based on a broad pitch, but the pieces our clients are most proud of are the ones we’ve worked with them to develop, and those are the stories that resonate and spread virally with the fans.

What made you choose Public Relations as your career?

I like assisting talented singers/songwriters in getting their music and stories heard. I gravitate toward artists that are hands-on with their writing, direction, career goals, and approach to the fans. I remember watching a Storytellers episode–or perhaps more clearly being at home watching MTV and a Madonna documentary/behind the scenes — and I was enthralled at the structure behind her career and how something I thought was so organic was actually incredibly calculated and well executed. I have always admired the folks that could make the artist’s visions become a reality. I feel blessed at the opportunity to be a part of their lives.

Did you have a mentor that you looked up to as far as influencing you?

I have many mentors. I would do more of a disservice by naming them in this interview. I primarily aspire to be like the women in my family – mainly my grandmothers and my mother – always pushing the envelope, continuing to learn and accept those things in life that we cannot change, and maintaining the ability to question those things I do not yet understand.

What decisions made you decide to start your business?

That’s simple – the choice to work with artists that I care about. Same reason I would always want to drive separate when going to school or be the deejay at a party… I like to spend time playing the music that inspires me.

Do you have a daily routine or do you find that day to day things may be different?

I check my phone first thing every morning before I get out of bed and it’s the last thing I check before I turn off my bedside light.

As a woman, have you found yourself facing tough obstacles that your male counterparts don’t face? If so, how hard has it been to overcome them and what did you do in order to overcome the obstacles?

Not really. I feel like I work better with certain personalities over others, but that is not gender specific.

What are some of the hardest obstacles you have faced in your music industry career?

Starting a company was difficult…but I think balancing egos in our industry may be the hardest day-to-day obstacle. If I don’t get along with someone or it starts actually becoming work to produce quality work alongside them, I have an honest conversation with them and either part ways or find someone else in my company that is a better communicator with that personality type.

Highlight of your career thus far?

Darius Rucker was with Hootie & the Blowfish when I left my previous employer (they were a client for two years at that point), and he and his management firm had faith that I (myself and my new company) would be a good fit to continue to work with him as they launched his solo country music career in 2008. So when I had the opportunity to help plan his surprise Grand Ole Opry induction, I think that moment was elated because of my history and genuine friendship with the act, his family, and the entire team. It was a moment I’ll never forget and one that I am so proud to have been a part of professionally and personally.

What would you say to a young female like me who is aspiring to make a name for her in the music industry?

Find a format, firm, and a foundation you love and can be proud of… meaning, if you love an act, research who works with them, how you can be a member of the team, and then invest in their career because they will certainly be investing in yours. Oh, and be cognizant of how you make people feel as you never know what you say or do can affect the person or artist they become.

How have the changes which have occurred in the music industry affected your business and career?

We work a lot more with management and artists directly on their campaigns, which is great because we get to make up the rules to an extent.

If you had the ability to make huge changes in the music industry what would they be?

I would want everyone to see more of a return on investment –across the board. We work incredibly long hours and put so much effort and creative energy into our jobs. We’re always on… there is no downtime.

What do you feel you do different than others? (What is it that you think makes you stand out among the rest)?

I think we invest our time in establishing the artist’s relationship with media – we help them attain those bonds by relaying information and helping forge strong alliances so even if they don’t have a No. 1 single every time, they, as an artist, still have those tastemakers that want to see them do well because they are genuinely invested.

Do you use social media more than other types of media to promote your artist’s careers? If so, how do you see social media changing the music industry from the way things used to be?

Everything we do can be integrated with social media. We help our social media teams create and post content for the fans through our outreach and placement. Again, we help create those stories that resonate with the fan base and can be shared and agreed upon as wonderful, engaging experiences.

If you have a music career bucket list, what are the top three things that you’d like to accomplish?

Have an artist play Saturday Night Live (just because I grew up watching the program and have loved the writing for decades); I would like to help write a song someday; and I would love for one of our trade organizations to ask me to help chair a PR initiative.

What is the best advice you ever received in your career?

Listen, and then react.




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