There are many duties which have to be fulfilled in order for the news of a new album to reach you. Similarly, there are a thousand tasks to be done in order for a band to hit the road; whether it is to make sure that they have the right equipment, venues, accommodation, food and the confidence that YOU know about the concerts. Working in heavy metal and the music industry in general might sound like living the dream but we must not forget that this is a hardworking position. One more thing we cannot forget is that even if the metal scene is male-dominated – especially on the artist side – there are many women thanks to whom we can read about our favourite bands on our favourite metal sites and in magazines, be able to purchase their music and see them perform near our home.
For ages now, the idea of a woman being backstage with the bands was (and still is) associated with a groupie or a girlfriend. There are, however, many women who actually do the hard work behind the scenes which might not be directly visible on stage or in the music while your favourite album is spinning. Therefore, we dedicate a new series of articles at MetalRecusants in order to shine more light on what is happening behind the scenes and turn the spotlight over at those women who fulfil that work.
Becky Laverty is one of those women. She founded her own PR company, Pioneer Music Press, at which she spends her days drafting press releases and coordinating campaigns for bands and record labels among many other duties. She is also the woman who is running around the backstage of Damnation Festival accommodating the press and bands. But she can speak for herself, so read about Becky’s musical adventures and work below!
Dom: Hey Becky, how and when did you get into the darker side of music which we know today as heavy metal?
Becky Laverty: Hiya! Well, I have always been into music, which is something that my Black Sabbath loving mother encouraged. But I have always had eclectic tastes – when I was 15 I convinced my long suffering parents to drive me to two “big” gigs – one being the Backstreet Boys and one being The Prodigy. I recall begging my mum for tickets to go to see Madonna, and at the same time was plastering my school books with pictures of Coal Chamber and Human Waste Project. I actually pre-ordered a Coal Chamber CD single from my local Our Price… ahh those were the days.
Dom: How did you get into publicity and promotion? When did you start Pioneer Music Press?
Becky: In my younger days I put on gigs and booked tours and shows for bands – mostly for my friends. I booked a tour for a band called Narcosis who I was good buds with at the time, and the band that they toured with were called Mistress. Mistress were signed to Earache Records at the time and if my memory serves me correctly, the tour was in the run up to their “Glory Bitches of Doghead” album. So, I was friends with Narcosis, but sadly they didn’t have room in their van for me (I was also tour managing) so I hopped in with Mistress, a bunch of guys I had only met on a handful of occasions.
I swiftly found a life-long friend in the Mistress drummer, Mick Kenney. Mick was just starting up a label – FETO Records – with Shane Embury from Napalm Death and proffered a press release for me to cast my eye over. I probably handed it back with red marker pen and scribbles all over it – and he asked me if I could help the two of them out. I knew nothing about PR – I learned as I went along. So that’s when I started Pioneer Music Press, although at the time, I didn’t really realise.
So I worked with FETO for a few years, but other people started asking me to work with them, which I did… and things went from there. I have worked with several small labels, independent bands and the like. I worked with Earache Records for 18 months doing their UK and European PR, and last summer I started to work for Relapse Records too.
Dom: What do your duties include? How does your day schedule look like?
Becky: It’s a bit of a cop out to say that no two days are the same, but it’s true. However, I will admit that much of my day is often spent in front of my computer. There’s no two ways about it – there’s a lot of emailing and admin involved in this job!
It’s hard to condense my duties down into a few lines, but the basics of it are that I promote bands, labels, events, albums, studios, businesses and everything in between. I am responsible for servicing albums to press, writing press releases, pitching ideas to press, coordinating photo shoots, organising guest lists and press lists, collating data and reports… and much more!
Also, this year I have given a few lectures at a university, which was a really great experience. It was brilliant to share my knowledge and experience with people who want to do this kind of work. I’d love to do more of that sort of thing.
Dom: Who do you promote with Pioneer Music Press?
Becky: At the moment I am working with Relapse Records in the UK, Ván Records, Pelagic Records, and Retro Futurist Records in the UK and Europe. I have also recently been working with Agonia Records on the new Origin album. I have been the PR for Damnation Festival for the past couple of years too. So, altogether, a lot of bands – far too many to list here! But in the past year some highlights have been Red Fang, Baroness, Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies, Tombs and Mortals.
Dom: You are the press officer of Damnation Festival for quite some time now. How did that collaboration come about and what do your duties include?
Becky: The first Damnation that I attended is a blurry memory. I’d gone to Manchester to break up with my boyfriend and somehow ended up watching Charger in a severely drunken state at Damnation. Once I’d sobered up, I still wanted to be there so attended in subsequent years. I think the first year I had one of my bands play was 2007 – Anaal Nathrakh (another reappearance of Mick Kenney in my life story). So that’s when I would have met Gav [Gavin McInally, founder of Damnation Festival] for the first time and I have spent the intervening years pestering him to get what I want. One year I had to run up and down three flights of stairs about 60 times in one afternoon coordinating interviews, so I begged and begged for them to have a press room next year… and lo! It came to pass!
It was a couple of years ago when I stepped in and started doing their PR. I deal with press accreditation, media relations, guest lists… I have my fingers in many pies and my nose in everybody’s business and I torment Gavin with my incessant barrage of spreadsheets.
Dom: What is your favourite memory of Damnation so far?
Becky: Sadly, I rarely get to watch the bands. Despite there now being a luxurious and beautiful press room, I still find myself running up and down stairs, delivering crisps to Pig Destroyer and making cups of tea for Gaahl.
A couple of years ago I managed to find myself on a bench at the back of the balcony, take my shoes off and drink a cider whilst watching Electric Wizard. That was particularly blissful.
Dom: Are you looking forward to this year’s 10th anniversary?
Becky: Of course! We finally got Bolt Thrower. They’re such a phenomenal and legendary band, it’s going to be fantastic to host them for our milestone birthday.
On a personal note, I am really excited that I’ll have some of my favourite and most treasured friends under the same roof – the guys from Revocation, Anaal Nathrakh, Corrupt Moral Altar… and some other people that I can’t tell you about yet!
Dom: Over the years as a metal and music fan, did you ever have any problems being accepted because of your gender?
Becky: No. Occasionally I encounter sexism, but no more so than in my non-work activities – so, not to a degree that I would consider it a real problem. For example, at gigs it is sometimes assumed that I am somebody’s girlfriend if I am in a band’s dressing room. But I correct their assumption and we move on.
Sometimes people make comments that I should deal with a particular situation “because I am a woman” – but all that says to me is that I am better equipped to deal with something than anyone else. It may make me facetious but I would rather point that out than to accept the “because you’re a woman” laziness.
I feel my gender is largely irrelevant to how I carry out my job, and so far I haven’t come across anyone who disagrees with that particularly strongly.
Dom: Did you notice any inequalities once you entered the metal scene “behind the scenes”?
Becky: I think, off the top of my head, I know more female PRs than male. So I guess that’s unequal, but I don’t think it’s due to any specific bias, more just coincidence.
Dom: Do you see a lot of women working “behind the scenes” (press, photographers, managers, publicists) in heavy metal? They don’t seem to get as much credit for their work as the musicians…
Becky: Oh yes, there’s a lot of women working in heavy metal. Some job roles are still male dominated – such as techs and lighting/sound people – but I’d imagine that will start to change more in the coming years. I know fantastic, inspirational women that are editors, writers, production managers, photographers, managers, tour managers, merchandisers and of course PRs! I do of course know terrible writers, bad photographers and so on, that happen to be women too…
The nature of the aforementioned jobs means that they aren’t often in the limelight, but they are very definitely acknowledged and necessary behind the scenes. The illusion of being in a band is that it is seamless and slick – but it’s all those people working hard in the background that underpin the whole operation!
Dom: Do you see a lot of objectification of women in metal and does it bother you?
Becky: I do, and it does.
“Female fronted metal” is more or less a genre in itself… yet it describes nothing of the music. Although I work with plenty of female musicians, I never refer to them as “female fronted”. Why? Because I never refer to any band as “Male fronted” – what a pointless description.
Part of my job is to “sell” a band to the press, and I am not prepared to do that based on somebody’s gender.
If the most interesting thing about a band is that it contains a vagina (or multiples of), then we’re going to struggle anyway.
Dom: Does the metal scene need to change? Do we need to change our mentality?
Becky: Yes, but it is not specific to the metal scene. Women are objectified in many, many walks of life, particularly in the entertainment industry and very definitely within music. It’s not something that is a metal-only issue.
Dom: What would you suggest to other women wanting to make a career in the metal and music industry?
Becky: To anyone – male or female – who wants to forge a career in the music industry, the advice I would give would be the same. However, in relation to the gender divide, I would suggest that they don’t make their gender a negative issue, and chances are neither will anyone else.
Having said that, there are idiots in all walks of life, and you will come across a few for sure. Be beyond reproach. Be professional.
More job-related advice would be to get as much experience as you can, and to put your all into it. I have spent many nights working on my damn spreadsheets, drafting and redrafting press releases, researching magazines… and I wouldn’t swap those nights for anything as they helped me get where I am today.
Dom: And for the end, please tell us what albums do you find yourself listening to recently?
Becky: For the past ten months I have been listening to Chvrches’ “The Bones of What You Believe” almost non-stop. There’s something about them that has reeled me in completely; I listen to it at least once a week.
Aside from that, I listen to the albums I am working on a LOT. I find it helps me to do my job well if I know the albums well. So, I’ve been listening to Mortals’ “Cursed to See The Future” and Tombs’ “Savage Gold” a fair bit too.
Check out the Pioneer Music Press official website.