Lessons from a PR Pro: Shelby Meade (Q&A)

Upon joining the publicity ranks in New York City, Shelby Meade worked with Moby, Foo Fighters, Beastie Boys, Luscious Jackson and Radiohead. In 2001, Meade took her skills to sunny Los Angeles and started her own PR company, Fresh and Clean Media--now a well-known and well-respected publicity and marketing firm specializing in music, action sports, fashion, film, festivals and other related fields. Some of their clients include Cold War Kids, Jack Johnson, Matthew Mayfield, Bassnectar, Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limts Music Festival. Meade recently sat down with VARIANCE to discuss public relations and the music industry.

A lot of PR firms tend to specialize in something. Diversity has been important to you since you started your company. Why is that?

MEADE: I think I got that mindset from one of my early boss- es. I started in the music business working in a branch office firm—learning how everything works, from retail to radio and all that good groovy stuff before getting moved to a national office, which is where more of the marketing and publicity took place. Kind of the second tier of things, but I grew up around music and sports. So I would be reading Creem Magazine, surfing magazines, and skate magazines. To me it made sense in my mind that everything tied together. Your hangout spots are about music and culture and lifestyle. Then I moved to New York and I was working mainly with hip-hop music. That was an exciting time for me, being up at the Apollo with Busta Rhymes and doing photo shoots with those guys. So after working at MCA Records and getting my job at Elektra [Records], my boss at the time said, “you can’t just work hip-hop music. We don’t break down bands according to genre. You work everything.” At first I was like, “but I just want to do hip-hop.” And she told me, “you’re not going to do much if that’s the case.” That’s how it’s been for me ever since. For my team now, the surf and skate world works with the Ben Harpers. It’s great.

You’ve kind of evolved with the industry. Where do you see things going?

MEADE: To me, public relations has never been just about what’s in the magazine. It’s about what you’re creating around it. It’s building a lifestyle. You can’t just go to a magazine or media outlet and say, “write about my band or feature my athlete.” You have to read the magazine and know their culture and know how your client fits into it. Not a lot of publicists do that anymore. It’s not fair to the client. Press is getting on the phone with an editor, having conversations, emailing them to discuss their edit calendars and seeing what makes sense for everyone. You can’t just jam things through. I don’t believe in doing things that way. It’s not good business. Artists and entertainers have to realize that good public relations is about the long-term.

What happens when a client wants the short-term fix?

MEADE: I don’t work with them if they do...When I chose to leave Elektra, I opted to work independently and I’ve held that standard since then. Sometimes it’s not a lot of fun when the clients aren’t coming in but you kind of have to hold your ground and know that good things are going to come if you just do the right thing. We actually have a client base that gets along. They all like each other and they work together. So I think it pays off.

Read the entire discussion on in the new issue of VARIANCE, page 56.

Rare Video: Kanye West Performing in 1996

Having had an incredible year with the release of his album with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, and on the brink of what will likely be another great year for Kanye West, it's difficult to imagine him as anything less than the star he is today. But thanks to footage that was recently unearthed, we can see West rapping with then-partner Phenom in 1996 at Chicago's Double Door. The video has reportedly been on YouTube since 2010.

ALSO: Frank Ocean, Jay Electronica to Appear on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music Spring 2012 Album

(Note: Obviously, there is profanity in the video. Click here to watch)

Brian Williams: Lana Del Rey One of Worst in SNL History

People sure love to hate Lana Del Rey. After sustaining repeated attacks on her appearance, her questionable past, and her flimsy current identity, the retro-glamour singer and "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" was torn apart once again for her less-than-impressive performance on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend. NBC news anchor Brian Williams called her "one of the worst [performers] in 'SNL' history," while the episode's host, Daniel Radcliffe, came to her defense. So, did "SNL" producers make a big mistake by booking Del Rey, who has yet to release her debut album, for such a high-profile appearance so early--or by booking her at all?

Lana Del Rey's brief career has actually been controversial and troubled from the start. After getting signed to Interscope last October, gracing the covers of magazines like Billboard and Interview Russia, and getting signed to Next Model Management, a backlash among skeptics was inevitable.

Read the full article here.

Skylar Grey Releasing Stripped Down Versions of Her Songs

Five-time GRAMMY-nominated singer songwriter Skylar Grey will release The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey to all digital retailers on January 17, 2012, it was announced today. The special release will include stripped down versions of the smash hits “Love The Way You Lie,” “Coming Home” and “Words I Never Said,” written and self-produced by Grey.

Grey is gearing up to release her debut album INVINSIBLE, which is due out early this year from KIDinaKORNER/Interscope. A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Grey made a name for herself co-writing some of the most memorable songs to light up the Billboard Hot 100 and iTunes sales charts in recent memory, totaling more than 15 million singles globally. Grey co-wrote the biggest selling single of 2010: Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie,” which earned her two GRAMMY Award nominations for Best Song and Best Rap Song of the Year; co-wrote Dr. Dre’s “I Need A Doctor,” which she performed alongside Dre and Eminem on the 2011 GRAMMY Awards telecast and for which she is currently nominated for two GRAMMY Awards; as well as the Diddy Dirty Money hit “Coming Home,” and Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said.”

For more information, go to www.skylargreymusic.com.

The Flaming Lips to Release Album with Bon Iver in April

Wayne Coyne tells Rolling Stone that the Flaming Lips are putting the finishing touches on a collaborative album that finds them working with a wildly diverse roster of artists, from Bon Iver to Nick Cave and Edward Sharpe to Yoko Ono. The album doesn't have an official release date yet, but Coyne hopes it will see the light of day in April. "All these things happen within a couple of days," Coyne says of the album's remotely managed, oftentimes logistically tricky recording sessions. "You set up these [collaborations] in your mind and immediately get to work."

The album's wide-ranging guest list of collaborators are a direct reflection of Coyne and the Lips' diverse musical palette. Some collaborations have already been recorded (Nick Cave, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Plastic Ono Band, Neon Indian), while others are still coming together (Bon Iver). And then there are the artists (Ke$ha, Lykke Li, Erykah Badu) whom Coyne is still trying to convince to jump onboard. "Sometimes it just takes a matter of connecting," he says of potential roadblocks in roping artists along for the ride.

Yes, Ke$ha.

Read the full Rolling Stone feature here.

PREVIEW: Ingrid Michaelson's New Album "Human Again"

Ingrid Michaelson--whose new album, Human Again, releases on January 24--is offering a preview of every song from the upcoming release.

Starting today, fans can interact with a special image to reveal the lyrics and a "preview clip of every song from my record," the songstress announced via Twitter.

A new song will be available for preview each day leading up to the release. (The first clip is for the opening track, "Fire.") Tour dates for a select group of "pop-up" shows are also set to be announced on Friday, January 13.

Michaelson is featured in the January issue of Variance. She discusses the changes fans can expect in her latest work and her plans as she continues to move forward as an independent artist.

Click here to view the full-size interactive image and experience all of the features.

Zooey Deschanel and Karmin on SNL in February

Zooey Deschanel will make her Saturday Night Live hosting debut on Feb. 11, NBC announced Wednesday.

The Golden Globe-nominated New Girl star will be joined by musical guest Karmin — best known for their unique covers of hit songs like Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." (If you've never heard of them, we highly recommend checking this out).

Karmin was featured in the October 2011 issue of Variance and Deschanel's New Girl co-star Jake Johnson is in the current issue.

Channing Tatum hosts the previous week (Feb. 4) of SNL with musical guest Bon Iver. (Someone at NBC deserves a raise, with these recent good decisions!)

PREVIEW: Arcade Fire Perform "We Used to Wait" on ACL

This Saturday, January 14, Arcade Fire will perform on the PBS live music show Austin City Limits. Below, watch a preview in which they perform "We Used to Wait", from their 2010 LP The Suburbs, via USA Today. According to USA Today, their set also features "Keep the Car Running," "Rebellion (Lies)," "Wake Up" and "Haiti."

The January 21 episode of "Austin City Limits" features Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom, while January 28 stars Lykke Li and Florence + the Machine, and February 4 features Wilco.

The Black Keys Extend U.S. Tour

The Black Keys and have added a second leg to their North American tour, with Arctic Monkeys as opener. Spanning 16 dates, the leg kicks off in Houston on April 24 and wraps in Milwaukee on May 16. Tickets for these shows go on sale Friday, January 13, except for Seattle (Jan. 20) and Denver (Jan. 21).

The Black Keys 2012 Tour Dates:
01/23 – Antwerp, BE @ Lotto
01/24 – Lille, FR @ Zenith
01/25 – Lille, FR @ Zenith
01/27 – Hamburg, DE @ Sporthalle
01/28 – Berlin, DE @ Arena
01/30 – Milan, IT @ Alcatraz
01/31 – Zurich, CH @ Maag Hall
02/01 – Eindhoven, NL @ Klokgebouw
02/03 – Nottingham, UK @ Capital FM Arena
02/04 – Edinburgh, UK @ Corn Exchange
02/06 – Manchester, UK @ O2 Apollo
02/07 – Manchester, UK @ O2 Apollo
02/09 – London, UK @ Alexandra Palace
02/10 – London, UK @ Alexandra Palace
02/11 – London, UK @ Alexandra Palace
03/02 – Cincinnati, OH @ U.S. Bank Arena *
03/03 – Detroit, MI @ Joe Louis Arena *
03/04 – Columbus, OH @ Jerome Schottenstein Center *
03/06 – Portland, ME @ Cumberland Co. Civic Center *
03/07 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden *
03/09 – Washington, DC @ Verizon Center *
03/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center *
03/12 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden *
03/13 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre *
03/14 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre *
03/16 - Indianapolis, IN @ Conesco Fieldhouse *
03/18 -Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena *
03/19 – Chicago, IL @ United Center *
03/20 – Cleveland, OH @ Quicken Loans Arena *
03/22 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden *
03/23 – Norfolk, VA @ Constant Convocation Center *
03/24 – Charlotte, NC @ Bojangles Arena *
04/24 – Houston, TX @ Cynthia Woods Pavilion *
04/25 – Austin, TX @ Frank Erwin Center *
04/27 – St. Louis, MO @ Chaifetz Arena *
04/28 – Tulsa, OK @ BOK Center *
04/30 – Broomfield, CO @ 1st Bank Center *
05/02 – W. Valley City, UY @ Maverik Center *
05/04 – Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena *
05/05 – Sacramento, CA @ Powerbalance Pavilion *
05/07 – Portland, OR @ Rose Garden Arena *
05/08 – Seattle, WA @ Key Arena *
05/09 – Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena *
05/11 – Calgary, AB @ Scotiabank Saddledome *
05/12 – Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place *
05/14 – Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre *
05/15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center *
05/16 – Milwaukee, WI @ Bradley Center *

* = w/ Arctic Monkeys

NBC's Smash Streaming 3 Weeks Before Premiere

NBC will begin streaming one of its biggest hopes for midseason, the Broadway drama "Smash," three weeks before it premieres on-air.

The strategy is becoming increasingly popular as a way of building buzz: It worked well for Fox in the fall, when it began streaming "New Girl" two weeks before it aired. (The show has been one of the biggest hits of the season.)

"Smash" -- which stars "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty, Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston -- debuts Monday, Feb. 6, after "The Voice." But it will first be available for streaming Monday, Jan. 16, on all of NBC's digital download partners, including iTunes, Amazon, XBox, Playstation, and Vudu.

The next week, beginning Jan. 23, it will begin streaming on NBC.com and Hulu.

NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt made the announcement Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, saying some details of the on-demand plan had leaked early and that he wanted to confirm additional details.

Cable networks have used early online releases before to build excitement for shows, but "New Girl" was the first network show to try it on a large scale.

Megan Hilty of "Smash," Jake Johnson of "New Girl" and Dia Frampton (runner-up of "The Voice") are all featured in the January issue of Variance.

DOWNLOAD: Gary Go's Our Love is on the Line

After enjoying a GRAMMY-nominated remix from Skrillex and being front and center in Benassi’s video for “Close to Me”, Gary Go toured the globe as the face and voice of dance music. But that was last year. Now that 2012 is upon us, Gary is stepping into the spotlight on his own with his new album “Now Was Once The Future.We reviewed the new album, which releases on the 11th, in our January issue of Variance.

In conjunction with the announcement of the NWOTF release date, Gary is releasing a new single “Our Love is on the Line.” Gary’s spirited and soulful vocals take center stage on the funk and soul-influenced track. It is a pop gem that is as catchy as it is riveting.

Listen to the new track “Our Love is on the Line.” (Available HERE - Right click on the link to download)