Rollo & Grady Interview // Daniel Gill

Daniel Gill

Daniel Gill, the founder of Force Field PR, grew up in Florida and started his own record label, Animal World, in 1997, through which he released albums by Frog Eyes and The No-No’s, as well as tributes to The Shaggs and Captain Beefheart. After serving as music director at WVFS radio station in Tallahassee, Daniel went on to work for Fanatic Promotion for several years, moving the company from Colorado to New York City and later opening its Los Angeles branch office.

Force Field PR, one of the most reputable music PR firms in the business, provides national, tour and specialized publicity campaigns for artists such as Panda Bear, Neon Indian, Dan Deacon, Real Estate, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Ariel Pink, WHY?, Deer Tick, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Woods, The Fresh and Onlys, Field Music, The Strange Boys, Papercuts, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and the list goes on. In the past, the company has helped to launch the careers of a long list of established names, including Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors, St. Vincent, YACHT, Blitzen Trapper, WAVVES and Beach House. Force Field’s website is set-up like a music blog, that features tour info, band bios, and free MP3 downloads from their roster.


R&G: How did you get your start in the business?

Daniel: I started off being a hard-core music fan in high school. I worked two jobs – one in the afternoon and one on the weekends – just to fund my record-buying habit. I didn’t really know anything about how the music industry worked until I started working as the music director at the college radio station WVFS in Tallahassee. While working there, I realized that there were all these companies calling the radio station telling it what to play. I didn’t even know that being a promoter was a job option. After I graduated from college I worked for about six years at a company called Fanatic that did college radio promotion. Then in early 2006 I started my own thing.

R&G: What’s a normal business day like for you?

Daniel: Pouring through mountains and mountains of emails. There’s so much scheduling that has to be done: arranging photo shoots, interviews, big press mailings that either happen here or at the respective offices of the different record labels that we work with. I also have to keep my ear out for bands that we might want to work with, so I have to constantly pay attention to what’s new and to the demos that come in the mail. Usually I go out to about three or four shows a week, mostly to bands that we’re already working with or to check out new bands.

R&G: You have an eclectic roster. What is your criteria for selecting an artist to represent?

Daniel: I try to pick bands that I actually think will get press, that people will care enough about to write about. It’s sort of has to fit my personal taste, and I have a broad taste. I like dance music, noise, and pop music, and I like some world music and hip-hop. Whatever is the cream of the crop in each genre I would say is my personal taste. Then I look for something that I actually think would get some reaction from writers. A lot of demos come through that I think are good, but they’re not at the level at which anyone’s actually going to care enough to write about them. I try not to take on those kinds of projects. I don’t want to take any bands’ money and not deliver results. I have to feel like I’m going to deliver some results before I’ll take on a project or take a band’s money.

R&G: There are so many places to consume music; it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people’s attention. What’s your strategy for getting the attention of the music blogs and magazines?

Daniel: I think it goes back to the idea of picking the bands I think people are actually going to care about. You have to have really good foresight in picking the bands that you work with – either picking bands that already have some kind of a name or, if I’m picking a band that’s brand new on their first album, I have to basically beat all the bloggers and magazine writers in finding out about stuff that’s good way before anybody else. I try to talk to these bands about six to eight months before their records even come out to try to convince them to work with me. I think it’s a skill that I’ve honed – being able to find stuff that I think is going to take off and putting that on the roster and not the other stuff that people aren’t going to care about. I think it’s all about the roster, really. If we have stuff that enough people are talking about or responding to, people are going to keep coming to us asking, “What do you have next?”

R&G: If you work with an artist six to eight months before their record is released, is it difficult to deal with the long lead times and deadlines of print publications?.

Daniel: That’s a constant struggle, a constant battle. To really get your record into the long leads in time to be considered, you have to get the record out into their hands four to five months before street date. I’m talking about Paste Magazine, SPIN, Interview Magazine, or Nylon – the big glossies that work really far in advance. Then you’re in a Catch 22 – if you’re working with a brand new band and they don’t have any blog buzz going on for them at that point, editors aren’t going to pay attention to the band, even if you get the record into the editors’ hands five months early, because the editors haven’t heard people chatting about the band online yet. If you get it out to the bloggers that far in advance, it’s going to leak. No band wants their record to leak five months before their record comes out. We’re always trying to come up with new ways of figuring out that whole situation.

R&G: Would you say that music blogs are your primary vehicle for artist promotion?

Yes. A lot of stuff that we work with is bands that are on their first album or on the first album of theirs that’s getting any attention. In those cases, if you don’t have the blogs on board for the bands, it’s very difficult to get any print magazines to pay attention. You kind of have to break through to a certain threshold of online presence before the print magazines will pay attention to you, so we always have to build up the band’s presence online first. It’s very rare that you’re going to get a feature in SPIN without the band being mentioned by at least five or six of the major sites. It’s just not going to happen.

R&G: What advice or tips would you give to a do-it-yourself band that can’t afford a PR firm?

Daniel: First of all, you have to be really good, so work on your music a lot before you put it out there. Don’t just put out your first rough demos on Myspace. Work on them a little bit. Run them past your friends for critiques, and when you get a song to a point where you like it and you think it’s good enough that somebody else would want to hear it, then post it on Myspace. A band could look at the blogs that it wanted to be talked about on and email an MP3 to all those blogs. Somebody’s likely to bite, if it’s any good. If a band really wants to get noticed, they should be friends with the bands that they look up to. That’s the best way to get a start without having any kind of budget or industry hook-ups. Say your favorite band is Fleet Foxes: You should be at every Fleet Foxes show and send them messages on Myspace or try to be one of their top friends on Myspace. On a smaller level, associate yourself with the record labels that you would like to see yourself on or tours that you would like to see yourself playing on.

MP3: Deer Tick – Easy
MP3: Real Estate – Beach Comber
MP3: The Strange Boys – Baby Please Dont Go
MP3: Woods – Rain On

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