Behind The Scenes: Rarely Unable PR

In the ever evolving world of the music business, there's a lot of different people that keep the world turning that the public don't always get to see, so Bearded thought it time we celebrated the unsung heroes, the invisible brethren that help the music get from bands to your ear. Welcome to the world of Rarely Unable .

Posted on Oct 17th, 2011 in Features and Interviews / By Peter Clark
Behind The Scenes: Rarely Unable PR Having recently celebrated her first anniversary as an independent freelance PR, and having shipped to us many fantastic artists over the years, we felt it was necessary to catch up with the brains behind the operation, Lauren Barley, to try and find out how she is able to make a success of her work in today's business world, and why passion is key to everything you do. The world of the PR is both hectic and important in the music world, so it's best we pay attention.

Hello.Who are you and what do you?
Hello, my name is Lauren Barley and I run my own music PR business called Rarely Unable.

How does the average day go for you? Is it a 9-5 job?
It's definately not a 9-5 job ... Daytime is spent working on the computer or speaking on the phone.At night I go to gigs to meet the bands and label heads with whom I have a working relationship.This is a time to discuss future plans and show my support for the bands I am involved with.

Can you tell us about your development into becoming the freelance PR that you are today?
Southern Records gave me my first taste in the world of music PR. When I first started with them, I was involved in European promotions and was put in charge of advertising ... After a year, I was asked to take on the UK press role. Having direct contact with bands, labels and journalists (in other words, like-minded people) was and still is, part of the job I relish ... When Southern downsized, I moved to SRD to run the Press Department (which was just me).This job had great autonomy and it was during this time that I became attracted to the idea of working for myself. I felt that if I could couple this together with maintaining working relationships forged over the last 5 years, then it was worth "giving it a go".

Having previously worked at Southern Records, what differences are there between working for a single label and as a freelancer? ... Why did you decide to set up Rarely Unable?
I'll answer the second question first ... During my year at SRD I came to realise that I didn't have to be fixed within the infrastructure of a distribution company to fulfil my line of work. I felt that I could take on more label partners and work for more bands whom I felt passionate about, if I were working for myself ... I have always looked at where I am going to be in the future and how I can progress. Starting Rarely Unable was the next logical step up the ladder,so I took the plunge.

There are many differences between working for myself and working at either Southern or SRD. Mostly the fact that I make all the decisions now,so the buck stops at me ! ... So on one hand there is greater pressure, in that I am responsible for my own financial well being (A sharp learning curve and one that focuses the mind) ... This is counterbalanced by the fact that I have total independence and can now represent an even broader spectrum of different labels and bands.

Scott Kelly

How has your job changed since you started out?
I have always had a strong relationship with the labels and bands I represent, and that to me is the most important thing .Only now this relationship is even more direct. That is the biggest and one of the most positive changes. I have more workload than before, but otherwise many aspects of the job have stayed the same.

Do you choose the artists you represent based on your own musical tastes,or what you think will be a commercial success? Would you represent a band that didn't believe in?
I have always stood by the fact that I only work with musicians and labels that I truly believe in and feel passionate about. Of course, everyone I work with is unique, but they are all bound by the same ethical values demonstrate total dedication and belief in the music they produce or put out. They never compromise the integrity of their music or label business and stay true to themselves. These are admirable qualities that I respect deeply. Seeing these labels and bands survive, and continue to produce challenging and interesting music brings me absolute pleasure ... When I see the positive effects they have on the people who receive the music, that is the ultimate reward.

This all goes back to when I first went for an interview at Southern Records.I felt I was applying for my dream job because a lot of the labels reflected my personal tastes ... I owe a lot to Southern Records, specifically Allison Schnackenberg, who gave me the opportunity to work with a group of labels that I love so much. If it wasn't for Southern I wouldn't be where I am today.

If it's possible,can you describe the process of how you go about your job,from finding the band and getting the word out there?
I'll try not to reveal my trade secrets (haha). If I were to break it into a linear process it would be something like this ... plan a timeline for a release – announce it to my contacts – find the fans amongst my contact database and pursue interest of review and features (looking at every angle of the press, online and radio worlds from news stories, reviews to broader coverage and label profiles) – report to the labels and distributors.This is a very fluid process and depends on a lot of factors including the information provided to me and whether I am dealing with an album release, tour or something else.Thanks to the great support from journalists and efficient press archives, finding the fans is fairly straightforward, but competing against other releases is the tricky part ... and of course getting some people to take notice, because not everyone does first time! I believe the main factors are to be helpful, to make sure people are always well informed, find a balance between persistence without pestering, maintaining good communication with all contacts, exhausting all press options and think outside the box, valuing every positive reaction no matter where it comes from and showing mutual support to the journalists and press outlets.

Scott Weinrich "Wino"

What are the greatest diffulties when dealing between artists and the media?
The broader the media source, the harder communication becomes, that in my mind is the greatest difficulty (often but not always the case). I appreciate that I am dealing with such a large number of labels and releases ... So I only need to magnify my own workload to understand that these media outlets have even bigger volumes of releases coming from a host of different places too, therefore the challenge is trying to stand out in a sea of voices.

As well as being healthy,competition is usually fierce.What do you do to tear yourself apart from others in the same field?
I embrace and respect the other companies that one may consider to be my competitors. That may sound odd but I feel I can learn a lot from these other PR companies. So far in my dealings with other PR companies, I have only experienced positivity both in terms of moral support and the exchange of great music.

In todays climate,magazines are struggling or going bust,gig venues closing and CD sales are down.Have things become difficult for you to get bands into the media and on tour?Is is a sign of things to come,or do you believe that people's love for music will turn it around into a profitable business once more?
I am ever the optimist, and do believe that things can and will turn around. Though it may get worse before it gets better, ultimately I am hopeful. The disconnect seems to be the way that people value music which has changed massively over the years, some blame the economic crisis, others blame the internet. Whatever the real root cause, neither I, nor the labels and bands are going down without a fight, and whilst it is obvious that the whole industry is suffering, we see this as motivation to try and seek out new ways of reaching out to record buying fans (which is ultimately the end goal). It is a massive shame to turn up to more and more under-attended shows and to hear of another independent closing up shop but we all have to keep on, keeping on. I am so grateful for any press coverage I can get, and feel privileged that people want to write about what I and the musicians I work with have to offer, I hope that continues and I will continue to adapt for as long as I can.

What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time as a PR?
Highlights include visting Dial House on my first day of independence and spending quality time with musicians for whom I have deep admiration..Wino, Dylan Carlson, Efrim Menuck, Penny Rimbaud, Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, and the late Vic Chesnutt ... Attending Roadburn Festival 2011 (my favourite so far) ... Watching Sunn 0))) and Eagle Twin on a boat in Budapest ... Attending the life-affirming Last Supper show in Dublin last November ... Being asked to promote Supersonic Festival. So many to mention...

Lowlights? Whatever they were, they are behind me now and I am only focusing on positive. I will say that I have learnt some hard lessons of running my own business, but I have absolutely no regrets.

Supersonic Festival

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get involved with being a PR,or in particular a freelancer ?
I still have lots more to learn. The key advice is to only get involved if you are truly passionate and believe in what you are promoting,otherwise it is a lot of hard work for little reward.
Secondly, everyone says that working as a freelancer means that your working hours are extended and it is true that you do feel the pressure to be "available" all the time. I think it is hugely important to make time to do your own thing, explore your hobbies and interests in order to strike a positive work life balance ... You must have heard the old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" !!,

Do you think it's possible to be a success without the passion to back it up?
I personally don't believe it is. In order for other people to believe in you AND want to invest in your expertise, you need to believe in yourself.. It is not only the investment of labels and bands either, journalists can detect when people are into (or not) what they promote.If you are trying to convince someone to write about something, they need to know that you sincerely believe in it too. This business is structured around relationships with people, personality counts for a lot and if the passion does not come through in your personality then I cannot see how you can be effective.

Lauren has put together a playlist of some of her favourite bands that she has worked with during her time so far as Rarely Unable. Click here to listen to it.