Jobs that Rock is a new series that spotlights the talented people working with music in Toronto and beyond, to help those with hopes of working in the industry understand just what it takes to be successful in such a cutthroat world.
Working in the music industry is something many music nerds aspire to, but few people are ever able to make a good living at it for many reasons. I saw it first hand when I interned at Sony Music and the person who hired me was let go during my first week there because of non stop downsizing. As the industry turns digital and the big labels lose more and more money, the positions are even fewer and farther between than ever before – so if you want to work with music you better be the best. And if you are really serious about it, you should figure out what you are great at and start your own company around it.
And that is just what Sari Delmar did.
If you are involved in the Toronto music scene at all, you know of Audio Blood Media, the marketing and publicity company that works with some of the best indie bands in the city. They always put on great showcases during every festival, and they are easily some of the best publicists I’ve had approach me since starting this blog. I love what founder Sari Delmar does, and I respect how good she is at it from a marketing perspective.
She was nice enough to take time out of her no doubt insanely busy day to answer some of my questions and share her wisdom from years of working in the music business.
When/why did you start Audio Blood Media and New Rose Management?
Audio Blood started in 2006 as a online magazine and right from the start it was about building a community. I grew up in Barrie, Ontario and started it there. The music scene was in a sorry state and there was not much of a community. The philosophy with Audio Blood Zine was that anyone could contribute and be involved. We started doing shows in Barrie under the name and we had about 50 contributors. After that I went to university briefly and dropped out to start working in the industry.
After working a number of marketing and publicity positions at labels/merch companies/PR firms I decided to start my own company and turned back to the Audio Blood name. The goal has always stayed the same – to build a community around great music! So even though it is no longer a magazine at all, but a music PR and marketing firm, the same mission applies and this time with a more national reach.
New Rose is under Audio Blood and we launched the management wing in 2010 in order to keep things separate and hopefully less confusing. When working with developing artists as a publicist, I found myself taking on more of a management role. I now manage two artists: The Balconies and Sandman Viper Command.
What motivated the decision to start your own company rather than work with a big company?
Good question. I always knew this is what I was going to do at the end of the day and as I worked for other companies I was always taking notes on what not to do and what to do when I started my own company. I honestly didn’t think it would happen so soon, I figured I would work for other people for five more years than I did, but I am the type of person that sometimes makes big decisions on a whim.
When working with other music companies in Canada I felt a lot of frustration coming from their management and an overall attitude of “well the industry is in the shits… what are we doing?”. I saw a lot of opportunity to flip the old industry systems on their head and really take some chances. Of course it was the music that inspired me to do this. I wanted to provide tools and advice for artists that actually worked. I wanted to inspire them to work their asses off and understand that success IS possible, it’s not some pipe dream. You just have to be smart. After all, people are still listening to music. When that stops happening then we’ll be in real trouble. So what, people aren’t buying records. I wanted to adapt to this new world of music consumption and social media, and I felt like I had to do that on my own and start from scratch.
How did you get the company off the ground?
I worked my ass off. There is no secret or way to get around it. I started the company in my bedroom and was literally working 20 hour days. I would get up at 7am and sit in front of my computer until 8pm, go to a show, go to sleep at 4am, and do it all over again. You have to sacrifice a lot, people don’t really tell you that. But hang outs with friends, leisure vacations, and some family functions have to be missed in order to get your business rolling.
Looking back now I don’t know how I worked that much, I was a crazy person, but it was necessary. Now I still work late nights and weekends but at least have an office to leave my computer at and am able to afford time to relax when I need it. Networking and making new relationships is an important focus for any young business owner. You have a lot to prove in this industry so you have to be willing to give anything to prove it.
Financing is always difficult, but in a service based company like mine you don’t really need that much capital to start up. You just need to be really good at what you do and fight for business. You have to take things slowly. Only move into an office when you can afford one, only hire a staff member when you can afford one. It will always feel like things are moving in slow motion but one day you’ll realize you can look back and say “wow, look how far we’ve come” and that feels really nice!
What specific services do you provide?
Audio Blood provides a number of services for artists/brands/companies/events. Including consultations, social media management, traditional publicity campaigns, campus and specialty radio servicing, digital marketing, event coordination and promotion, street level promotions, and more. More info can be found on our website.
New Rose is an artist management firm. Managing artists includes being involved in all band decisions, developing a direction, and constantly planning their next steps. I am involved in all aspects of their careers from dealing with label executives to ordering merchandise.
What is the best part of your job?
That is a really hard question to answer. There are many ups and downs. I think my favourite part is seeing a band reach new milestones and grow. After all the hard work, watching one of your bands play a packed house or big festival is a really good feeling – and to see people singing along. That is probably the best part if I had to pick one!
Tell us about the staff and their various roles.
We have a small but hard working team!
Audio Blood Staff:
Kate Snack is our General Manager and is my right hand lady! She manages our campaigns and interns/staff. She is also a national publicist doing follow ups and outreach for our artists in English and French! She also develops social media strategy for our company and clients. She has a lot on her plate, and that’s an understatement.
Tara Hitchman is our Publicity and Marketing Coordinator. She deals with a lot of the execution of the campaigns including but not limited to media follow ups, sending press releases, event coordination, street team coordination, social media etc.
Dave Lock is our Project Manager and is often found chatting up bands at shows and networking. Dave keeps a close eye on the Toronto music scene and developing artists and brings them to the teams attention when it’s something we should get involved with! Dave can be credited with bringing in Hands and Teeth and Revelstoke!
Jeremy Tompkins works with me on the management side, New Rose. He takes care of the day to day things that make a band able to play, tour and so on. He sometimes tour manages, helps with bookings, takes Sandman Viper Command golfing, and deals with all the last minute emergencies that come up on the road!
The biggest piece of advice you could offer to those wanting to work in the music business?
Work hard and be strong. This industry owes you nothing and it will constantly feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick. When you get knocked down though just get back up again and learn from your mistakes. Everybody in this industry got where they are because they took a lot of risks and worked their asses off, appreciate that and learn the protocol. Study and understand every aspect and be realistic about what you can offer to an employer/client. But more than anything, just work hard and don’t expect a pat on the back for doing so.
Best advice you could give to new bands/musicians looking to get noticed by management/publicists/labels?
Build a strategy and know your market. Be patient and work hard on building your sound and following. If you do that the industry will come to you. It is their job to notice great talent and hard working bands. I wrote a blog post last week that gets into more details about this. (n.b I HIGHLY recommend musicians read it, great post).
Future goals for Audio Blood?
This year we are doing our first US event at CMJ Music Marathon! We are continuing to grow one step at a time, work with new people, and watch our artists develop and grow! Goals are to just keep moving forward in the direction that we are one step at a time!
Thanks so much to Sari for answering my questions and sharing so much great advice. You can get in touch with her anytime on twitter @saridelmar!