What goes into choosing a music promoter; to entrusting a mere mortal to nurture and cherish your potential and turning it into exposure, a brand, a presence? Drummer Chris DiGirolamo listened to his calling to help jazz artists thirteen years ago and has worked with hundreds of amazing, emerging and established musicians to grow their careers. It takes two, he says, to make a success of this jazzy dance.
When did you first notice jazz?
Jazz was in my make-up from the time I was a young man. My mom always took me to see incredible jazz music when I was young. Ella, Joe Pass, Nancy Wilson, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Chuck Mangione, and many more.
When I was about fourteen I was at a friend’s house and his uncle said to me, “Come downstairs, I want you to hear this.” It was Jean Luc Ponty’s tune Rhythms of Hope. It just blew me away. The violin in that text was so unusual to me. The drummer on the recording was Rayford Griffin (who later became a client of mine) blew me away as well. So, my mind was pretty open to jazz from that point on. When I attended Berklee College of Music at eighteen that was it. I was completely immersed in jazz. I also took a History of Jazz class which changed my world.
How did you get into artist promotion?
Completely by mistake. I always had a little voice in my gut that said, “You should do PR for musicians.” I do not know why, but I always did.
For a long time, I did freelance writing for a number of magazines (Modern Drummer, The Music Paper, Inside Connection). I even had my own drum column for a while.
I was job hunting for something new. It was post 9/11 and the job market was not booming. One afternoon I received a phone call from someone. They said, “You came recommended to me as a publicist.” What clearly happened was this contact who recommended me made a mistake between a freelance writer and a publicist. I paused for five seconds and said, “Yes I do publicity.” That was thirteen years ago and hundreds of recordings later.
Do you play any instruments?
I do. I have been playing the drums since I was five. I still do.
What is the number one question you are asked by clients (or potentials)?
It’s “Can you get me into Downbeat?” With all due respect to one of the greatest magazines in the world, there is more to a campaign than Downbeat. It is a final broad picture of coverage on your release and/or tour.
What is the biggest problem for jazz artists today?
I would say the number of recordings out there. When I was at Berklee you made a demo tape and hoped to God it would land in the right hands to sign a record deal. Today you can make the record in your living room, conduct your own marketing, etc.
The problem is many musicians feel that because they have a Facebook page and a new CD they are one of the tops in the biz. At least their ego says that. Not the case. So absolutely; the flood of music and trying to get to the top of that pile.
Do you have a single “secret sauce” or do you diversify your efforts in promoting a musician?
Every single artist has different needs. A brand-new musician on the scene has needs that a veteran does not. It’s different for every artist. If I personally had my own secret sauce it would be work hard, be honest, and keep to your word and the results will come.
Is “Two for the Show” a reference to your business partner or is it about getting the artist ready to go out there?
It actually refers to neither. When we get requests from media to attend a client’s show it is always for two. A ticket plus another one. Hence the name Two for the Show.
One of your most interesting promos- an event or a performance you helped line up?
Oh YES! When I started out I received a call from a jazz/jam band called “Zen.” They were a great unit. However they needed some sort of push. In a discussion with them, I half kiddingly said why don’t you guys do the longest jam (Guinness Book type of thing) as a promo event. So, they set up a gig at a ski resort in West Virginia. In order to break the record, they had to jam for twenty-four hours straight. They came up short by only a little and the drummer left after fifteen hours due to a borderline nervous breakdown. The event from our end was a huge success. The drummer not so much.
Are many musicians gun-shy of public attention and need to learn how to be promotable? How do you achieve that?
Every personality is different. Most have no problem, and that’s why they are hiring me. The lesson in being promotable is to give the publicist something to pitch. If it is just a new recording the battle is tough. I always plan a marketing attack from the start that fits right in with what that particular artist needs.
What challenge do you make easier for your clients?
A good question. I would say it’s getting their product in the right hands. When an artist has representation, they are taken more seriously by the media. It shows a professionalism to their venture.
The most unusual request you’ve received?
Absolutely one of the tops among others was recently. A bass player sent me three videos of his band playing a gig at a BBQ. He said we NEED to be on Saturday Night Live. You can do that for us, yes? I told him there was NO way this was happening. He then said okay, no problem, what about Jimmy Fallon? I could write a book. Maybe three books.
Is there a particular part of the US or the world where most of your artists come from?
A large majority come from the United States; however, we do get clients all over Europe who are trying to expand their visibility in the US.
How do you get referrals?
Everything has been recommendation. How I get work is what I mentioned above. Work hard, be honest, and keep to your word. Your reputation gets around really quickly in the music business. Always keep it good and it comes back to you.
The most little-known thing about getting publicity?
How many hours a publicist works for free. If I ever added up those hours I would be a millionaire. But it is a love and it is part of the career.
One of your best success stories?
I would have to say saxophonist Adam Larson. Adam took what we did together as a team and has worked harder than anyone I have seen in years. The results are a young saxophonist working almost every day at what he loves. I never take responsibility for a so-called success story. It is always the entire team involved. I am just one part of it. Adam is an MVP.
Will you expand your services in 2019?
Funny you should ask. Yes, we will be introducing a division that handles web design and social media management, among numerous other marketing duties.
Because you pay a publicist does not guarantee ANYTHING. I hear often “I received so many compliments on the recording, why won’t the large publications cover me?” Well they received 200 CDs this month and have 14 slots. It is not a sprint, it is a marathon. My best advice is to continue to accumulate press. If you do not keep in the media eye you will be forgotten about real quick.
For more information, visit www.twofortheshowmedia.com.