A job offer that fell through, an unattainable and dull corporate PR world, and a move from Montréal to Toronto, and back again are what pushed Jon Asher to found Asher Media Relations and step onto the path to becoming a Music PR extraordinaire. As the company’s slogan states, AMR offers “Creative Publicity for Creative People” and helps talented indie acts make a name for themselves in the industry, gain a following and achieve success.
“I graduated from Corporate PR at McGill College […] and I moved to Toronto on a lead well, on a confirmation of a job in PR, but it didn’t go as planned. I found myself there for a while, I stayed there after the job fell through, looked for jobs in PR but that didn’t work,” he recounts. Unable to find what he was looking for he opted to return home to Montréal on the basis that “I was already in the music scene [in Montréal] and I was in PR but I didn’t really like corporate, so I used what I had here and I started from scratch. Hustling, hustling, hustling, and found my guinea pigs pretty much,” he explains.
The first band to have faith in him was local collective Special Ops, with whom he works to this day, and signing them in 2007 he soon left his daytime job to officially start Asher Media Relations in September of that year. Then came Forty Birds, a local metal band, and since then Asher has been hard at work building his repertoire.
Recounting his beginnings in the industry he recalls, “When I started, what I knew from the get-go, what they drill in your head [in school], is research, research, research! That’s what I did, I researched all the media: a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails to introduce myself as a new player. I even set up personal meetings with editors and I’d be like “I’m doing this now so I want to meet you ‘cause I want to develop a business relationship.”” As he soon reveals, personal relationships have been a key to his success. “The real key is to be down to earth, be real with people and build relationships […] the whole music industry is based on relationships. It’s basically who you know, what you know […] A lot of favors back and forth. You don’t think about it but favors for this person relates to favors down the road for you,” he explains.
Admittedly a lot of trial and error went into establishing and building the company and Asher laughingly remembers, “I started with eight page press kits, then it got down to four, then I realized there’s ways to pitch to the media properly – news releases.” It may have taken some time to learn, but they’ve become an integral part of the business and although “people don’t even reply to them, they’re still covering the bands […] News releases are probably one of the most important tools and people need to use them properly and to their benefit.”
Fusing his knowledge of corporate PR with his personal knowledge of the music industry, Asher is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Trying to narrow down the broad term of “PR” and explain what the job entails he says, “I work on image awareness for bands. That’s the real goal, some people think PR […] is supposed to help with album sales etc. but with indie bands, it helps a bit, but really it’s more image awareness. You try to get them out there, get people to know them.” For this reason, Asher splits his time between sending out news releases, booking interviews, offering media training to ensure bands know how to answer questions properly, booking radio, insuring airplay and much, much more.
Having a knack for picking out some of the most talented indie acts in Canada he reveals his primary criteria is always how the band appears on stage. “If you can sell me live, you can sell a crowd live and that’s a big bonus ‘cause you’re building a fan base. And if you have a fan base everything works,” he explains and adds, “The CD has got to be good too!”
Look out for ‘Part 2 of 2’ on Monday, August 31.