Tell the story, don’t become the story.
That’s the advice my first professional editor Jon Chown gave me when I worked at the Register-Pajaronian, a daily newspaper in south Santa Cruz County that helped me launch my career in journalism. I thought about this advice after Trump’s bungled rollout of his Fake News awards and what advice I would give to journalists who find the president’s words alarming.
Here’s my advice — it’s a side show and it doesn’t matter. Even if I tried, I just can’t make myself care about “Fake News” or what Trump thinks about CNN — as Chown would remind me, it’s best to just keep your head down, flush out and source your stories and continue doing your job at the highest level possible. And maybe enjoy the ride too, because the media business is very healthy right now and it’s an exciting time to be working in journalism.
That’s doubly true for the music industry, which is undergoing a seismic shift toward streaming and growth for the live entertainment sector. Covering the business is a small network of journalists and music industry reporters who do incredible work and are supported by a much larger patchwork of publicists, editors and insiders who help us coordinate interviews and get our stories out.
Today I’d like to honor those individuals in the music business media space who work tirelessly, often without recognition, to keep the news machine going. Obviously, these awards are based on my opinion without any outside input. Also, they don’t include any of the new editors or managers we’ve hired in recent months at Billboard — it would be awkward to hand an award to one of my many bosses over there. Everyone working in the music media space deserves a standing ovation and this piece is just a small recognition of the important work we all do.
Best Duo — Shirley Halperin and Jem Aswad at Variety
Perhaps I’m biased because she was instrumental (along with Craig Marks) in helping me land my current gig at Billboard, but Shirley Halperin is hands down one of my favorite people in music media. Sadly, just a couple months into my gig at Billboard, Halperin and Jem Aswad, who lives in New York, left to launch Variety’s music vertical and bring in-depth music industry reporting to the Hollywood title. Yes, these two are now my competitors but they are the kind of competitors you want to have — professional, scoop-driven and very well sourced. Not to mention they’re both talented writers in their own right and Halperin and Aswad push all of us to up our game and see the big picture. In 2018, they’re poised for bigger things — earlier this year Variety’s Penske Media purchased a controlling interest in Rolling Stone. I’m really excited to see what they do with the most iconic title in rock n roll — I’ll be watching and reading.
Best New Hire — Melinda Newman at Billboard
Like I said, there are a lot of great new hires at Billboard (I hit one year in February), but the person I’m going to honor today is one of the hardest working reporters I’ve ever met. In 2017, longtime journalist Melinda Newman became Billboard’s West Coast editor, bringing with her a diverse range of writing and reporting skills and a deep Rolodex of contacts. Not only does she consistently break big stories and regularly interview \ stars like Garth Brooks and Barbra Streisand, but she’s a great collaborator and always has compelling ideas on how to push a story forward. Her live interview with Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Louis Messina during the Billboard Touring Conference was one of the highlights of the event.
Best Supporter — TJ Chambers
I’ve never met TJ and know very little about him, but at least once a week and often more, I wake up to notifications that he has tweeted out my articles both here and at Amplify Media. Thank you TJ. It really means a lot to me.
And not just my articles, but other music industry publications like IQ Magazine in the U.K. and Music Business News. His feed at @T_J_Chambers is a must-follow for anyone in ticketing or concerts. As reporters, it’s great when we have a story go viral, but since most don’t, it’s nice to have people like TJ Chambers sharing our work on a consistent basis and keeping the conversation going.
Lifetime Achievement Award — Larry Solters at Scoop Marketing
If there is one person on this list that needs a reality show about their life, it’s Scoop Marketing’s Larry Solters, the top (as far as I am concerned) publicist in the business. There are plenty of professional accomplishments you could cite for Solters — his impressive client list, his ability to deliver top tier editorial for his clients and the work he does behind the scenes that often goes unnoticed — but to me, Solters’ most impressive quality is his encyclopedic knowledge of media. Not just in LA, but throughout the entire country, Solters can rattle off the names of reporters, editors and media executives at just about any news organization and have them on the phone in minutes.
He’s also just a fun guy to speak with and be around — one of those people that you smile whenever you receive a call from his unlisted phone number and yet still know it’s him, because, who else has one of those phone lines? In the last year alone, Solters has quietly participated in dozens of stories with me and while most have gone great, there’s been a few times where I know if I was standing next to the guy, he would have, without hesitation, reached out and smacked me upside the head. In most instances, I would have probably deserved it.
Last thing I’ll say about Larry — he helps a lot of people and doesn’t get much recognition. He gives out advice, he mentors people and he’s persistent when he needs to be. Having watched him from afar for years and now having had the opportunity to work directly with him has been both a pleasure and an incredible learning experience.
Best Success Story — Promoter 101 Podcast
I have to hand it to Dan Steinberg and Luke Pierce — for two guys that have zero media training or formal journalist experience, what they’ve built with Promoter 101 is pretty damn impressive. The podcast is everywhere — on social media, at industry events and constantly served up on podcast apps and devices (“Alexa….play Promoter 101”). In the last year, they’ve landed impressive guests, broken several big stories and found a way to keep improving the show.
Why are they successful? First, both have really good instincts, coupled with a fairly concise vision of what they want the show to sound and feel like. Second, they recognized a demand in the media space that many others couldn’t see and third, they’ve done a fantastic job building their brand in a way that encourages every guest to take ownership in its success.
Oh and last thing — the show is really fun. So many media outlets in the space seem to not understand this concept — we’re in the entertainment business, so let’s try to be entertaining. Each week Luke and Steiny deliver great interviews with style and I can’t commend them enough for what they’ve created. Congrats guys.