Behind the music with Donnay Clancy

The hidden stars devoted to getting you media attention.

Posted: 7 January 2020

Read time: 10 mins

Donnay Clancy works as Head of Press at The Noise Cartel, a popular PR agency for some of the biggest bands in rock, alternative and metal; such as Asking Alexandria, Frank Carter, Bullet for my Valentine and plenty more. We managed to get some time with her to ask her about her role and what it takes to become successful in the PR world.

How would you describe the role of PR publicist to someone who’s never heard of it?

I’m always asked this because most people in my family don’t know what I do. They think I interview bands and I always have to explain that it’s not that. The easiest way to describe it is that you’re the middle-man between the artist and the media. You’re working to get your artist as much exposure within the media as possible. Magazine articles, reviews and stuff like that. You’re getting tastemakers to take notice of the band.

Did you have  experience or qualifications in PR before getting into the role?

No, I did a music degree at university because I loved music and that was all I wanted to do. I didn’t know what job I was going to get at the end of it but I just knew I wanted my music degree. It was a straight music degree, all about theory and all that stuff. It was very academic focused. No one ever spoke about industry jobs; it was all about teaching or further study. I decided pretty quickly that I didn’t want to go into teaching, it didn’t sound like it was for me.

I wasn’t qualified in PR. I didn’t know what it was until I left university and started looking into careers. At first I thought marketing sounded fun so I did a few social media internships and the first internship that got me thinking about PR was when I did social media/ was a PA for  a pop artist. Through that I got to meet a lot of people who worked in music and got to sit in on label meetings with the artist, their manager and their PR team. We looked through the coverage the artist had received and the feedback they were getting from journalists and that’s what sparked my interest.

 

"It’s a very social role. I see people around at gigs all the time."

My first experience in PR wasn’t to do with music. There’s a company called Creative Access which is a non-profit that places people from BAME backgrounds into internships in the media so I got my first PR job through them. I was doing consumer brand PR. I knew I wanted to go into music eventually but this was great experience. Whilst there I was also doing a lot of music writing on the side. I enjoyed it but it was mainly with the intention of meeting people in heavy metal PR and asking if they had jobs available! It’s how I got the job I’ve got now actually.

In 2016 I interviewed Lacuna Coil and went along to the promo day and kept in touch with the PR, Nina. I kept speaking to her and then a job did come up and my current boss sent me an email one day asking if I wanted to chat and I managed to get the job!

It wasn’t the most straightforward way in. I didn’t really have the qualifications for it but I guess I just made the opportunity and made things happen for myself and I’d say that is a really important thing to do if you want to get into the industry.

Are there any challenges that come with the role?

It can be hard when you’re working on a band that no one has heard of as it takes a while to get people’s attention. You don’t just send one email and get a reply straight away. There are so many bands and so few journalists that you have to keep following up. It’s hard to balance following up with not being annoying!

There are weeks sometimes where you just feel a bit disheartened because no one is getting back to you but the next week you might sort three things in a day so it can be quite up and down.

Also, bands that have been around for a long time can be quite difficult. Their story has been told already so you have to justify what’s new. ‘This is their tenth album, what’s different from the last 9?’ Obviously, there are some bands that are timeless like Avenged Sevenfold but that’s not the case with every band.

"There are so many bands and so few journalists that you have to keep following up."

What was it like being named the Rising Star on Music Week. How did you feel about that?

You get in touch with the person who does the feature and tell them a bit about yourself and they get back to you if they decide that they want to feature you. My boss actually emailed the person on my behalf as well. I wanted to get in there before I was thirty so I was so happy I did. It was cool and people were saying a lot of nice things.

Does social media play a big part in your role?

Yeah, definitely. In my job, I use twitter quite a lot and it’s useful in helping me find freelancers and other writers that might be interested in my bands. It’s good to help keep track of what your bands are up to.

Social media figures do play a part sometimes when magazines look to cover a band. If you can track interaction then it will help you out when they ask you why they should cover them. If you can show them your bands rapidly growing fanbase and high rates of interaction then it’s very valuable.

What are the most important skills that you should have when trying to get into a role like yours?

You definitely need to be organised as there’s a lot of multitasking going on. You can have five albums out one month and six bands on tour so there’s a lot to do at once.

Communication is key as well. Both written and in person. You need to be personable and not afraid to put yourself out there.

Is communication and being personable something that you’ve always had, or have you worked on it over time?

It’s something I’ve had to work on because I’m naturally a fairly introverted person and as a kid I was actually quite shy. This role brings you out of yourself a lot, but it is something I still work on. You don’t need to be loud and extroverted; you just need to know how to speak to people. I meet a lot of strangers all the time and I just need to come across confident so that people take me serious and listen to me. You may worry initially but it doesn’t take long for that to fade away.

What are the benefits to someone using a PR agency over trying to do it themselves?

Letting a PR agency do it frees up your time to actually focus on being in the band. We’ve also built up a really good contact base so when we contact someone, they take notice and trust us to deliver. There’s a lot of bands who start out doing it by themselves, but I’ve heard from a lot of them that they struggle to get responses. This could be because people might ignore the ‘genericband@gmail.com’ email and they might not necessarily know the best way to send stuff across.

We can also filter requests. We know what’s worth doing and have the experience needed to be listened to.