5 Questions With Tom Dorsey, Nice Promotion

Today’s 5 Questions interviewee is Tom Dorsey of Nice, a promotional firm specializing in print and radio, headquartered in Portland OR. Starting only a few years ago with a handful of local bands and singer-songwriters as clients, the Nice roster past and present boasts acts like United State of Electronica, songwriter Luke Temple and math-rockers From Monument To Masses.

When you started Nice Promo, what did you want to do that was different from traditional music promotion?

Nice Promotion was started by a former music director named Dave Radford in Seattle. Dave started the company on the premise that he would never push anything he didn’t like. That’s basically the same mantra we continue with today. We may be a small promo company but at the end of the day we feel good about the labels and bands we work with. You won’t see us pushing an artist we’re not crazy about to college radio or to the press just because they have the money to do it.

At what point do you think an artist is ready to have an agency handle their publicity? What are the signs?

If an artist is serious enough about their music to move beyond pushing CD-Rs and playing shows at the local dive then they are ready for a promo agency. It also helps if the band has tried to do some of their own promo in the past so they have a better grasp of the way promotion works. The results are never satisfactory if a band’s expectations are too high. It helps to have an open mind and not get too preoccupied with becoming “the next big thing.” Being grounded and realistic in terms of expectations can help a band determine which promotional strategy is best suited to them and their goals.

Some artists handle their own promo, by choice or necessity. In your opinion, what’s the One Big Mistake artists make when doing DIY promo?

I’d have to say presentation. This goes for new bands especially. It’s hard enough to get people to take notice of your band without having crappy artwork, Xerox-copy CD-R covers and cheesy band promo glossies. Having bad or pretentiously written text on a one-sheets is another mistake. This means you should leave out the CD Baby review and the part about how the band started freshman year of high school. If you don’t have a lot of text to begin with, that’s okay â€??? you’re pushing your music, not an anecdote or a summation of quirky facts.

With the recent explosion of indie music and alternate publicity channels like podcasting, music blogs and online ‘zines, there’s an awful lot of chatter. How do you rise above the noise?

By working with different bands and throughout a scope of genres, word gets around that certain promo companies do provide services that get results. Bands can do a lot on their own to get their music out there, but what happened with the Arctic Monkeys is a one-in-a-million shot. No matter how resourceful you may be, most reputable promo companies not only have more experience, but have more resources, especially in terms of contacts and time. If a band wants to get their release out nationally to college radio, they would need information on over 600 radio stations, plus the time to track a record for 12 hours a day over the course of 2 months. Most people can’t do that on their own, let alone while simultaneously attempting publicity, booking, touring, and holding down a day job.

What’s one myth about your profession you’d like to explode?

That by hiring a promo agency your music will somehow explode onto the scene. Trends in music change rapidly and are not so predictable. You can’t always know what will be popular from one year to the next – remember when ska was huge? Bottom line is that if your music is good and you have the right attitude, you can see results. It’s important to work hard at your art form. Also, tour as much as you can to really get out there and earn your fans. You might be popular in your city, but in the next state over, no one knows who you are.