Women In Music 2016: Six Topline Publicists Shaping the Careers of Everyone From The Boss to Queen Bey
Keeping up with the frenetic pace of today's media while managing the public's demand on their superstar artists -- these are among the challenges facing music's premiere PR execs, six of whom are profiled as part of Billboard’s 2016 Women in Music list.
Shore Fire Media founder Marilyn Laverty, who ran point on longtime client Bruce Springsteen's bravura book rollout this year, says her staff of 24 (based mostly in New York with an additional office in Nashville), “Share new contacts and new strategies constantly … All of us are experts, but it’s the collective, team effort that informs us and moves us forward.” Shore Fire’s roster includes such veterans as Carole King, Bonnie Raitt and Elvis Costello as well as the continually buzzing Lana Del Rey and St. Vincent. How does Laverty unwind from the daily demands of superstars of every stripe? “I split my time between Brooklyn and Asbury Park, and enjoy their restaurants, indie movie theaters and music venues,” she says, adding, “I also spend a little too much time watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, WAGS and the Real Housewives series."
Schure Media Group founder Yvette Noel-Schure kept Beyoncé at the pinnacle of popular culture in 2016, leading the charge on a Super Bowl halftime performance, the surprise album drop of Lemonade followed by the $250 million-grossing Formation tour. During some weeks, it’s a wonder Noel-Schure, a longtime staffer at Columbia Records before forming her own firm, finds time to sleep. “When we are in the middle of a big production or a major tour or planning a huge editorial shoot, it is an endless process that only ends when the project is completed,” she says. “There is no stopping and coming back to it. I find myself constantly asking for more hours in the day.” The reward, however, “is always the finished product,” the New York-based Noel-Schure adds. “It gives me pause to marvel, to appreciate the artist more and more and to admire the hard work of the team.”
Epic Records executive vp Laura Swanson and label chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid go back more than 15 years, having worked together in New York at Arista Records and through a stint at Island Def Jam. Today, the Los Angeles-based Swanson, oversees all publicity efforts for the Sony label, whose roster includes Future, Fifth Harmony, DJ Khaled and A Tribe Called Quest. Epic is also the current label home for Mariah Carey, whom Reid stewarded at IDJ when the singer released her 2005 multiplatinum The Emancipation of Mimi album. Says Swanson, a tequila enthusiast: “I love what I do. Leading others to the spotlight and seeing them shine just makes me smile.”
In 2016, PMK-BNC head of music Kristen Foster opened new horizons for Tim McGraw and Harry Connick Jr. while overseeing a staff of seven who help handle such longtime clients as Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne. The Los Angeles-based Foster, who joined PMK’s New York office in 2007 and moved west four years later, cites the “increasing speed of the news and social media cycle” as her department’s biggest challenge. “Publicists have always been part of a fast-breaking news cycle but digital and social media has pushed that to all new levels,” she says. “Response times previously measured in days or hours are now minutes or seconds. On the plus side, if there’s bad news for a client it’s not out there for very long.” The devout surfer adds that in promoting a project, as she did with Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary, “trying to generate mass awareness is a challenge. You have to find a lot of different ways to keep feeding the cycle to stay relevant and at top-of-mind.”
With Capitol Music Group chairman Steve Barnett’s 2012 arrival at the storied west coast label, Ambrosia Healy returned in 2014 for her second run at the famed Hollywood tower, this time as the head of media strategy and relations. While Coldplay, whom she has represented since the band’s early days (and continues to via her own firm, The Fun Star), are no longer on the label, a diverse roster that includes Katy Perry, Sam Smith, 5 Seconds of Summer and Norah Jones, as well as imprints Blue Note, Motown and Electromagnetic, ensure that Healy’s hands are full. Her most recent accolade: the campaign for Capitol Records’ 75th anniversary (publicity duties she shared with CMG’s corporate PR strategist Larry Jenkins), which included a star-studded Nov. 15 party to mark the release of the Taschen book, 75 Years of Capitol Records.
RCA Records executive vp Mika El-Baz broke new stars like Sia and kept hit acts like Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and Kings of Leon relevant in 2016. “One of the most rewarding parts of the job is when it all comes together for an artist and they become part of the zeitgeist,” says the Sony Music veteran, who started at RCA in New York in 2004 and moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to run the label’s west coast office. “Any time we can play a role to help create that moment is incredibly special and fulfilling.”