Over the last decade or more of doing this job, I always get posed with the same question -- what’s it like to interview all those big stars?
Truth be told, it can oftentimes be anti-climactic. These folks usually have handlers that one must go through to secure the interview, and some of those behind-the-scenes folks are infinitely more interesting than the stars themselves.
Anita Daly is one of those people.
I’ve lost count on the number of fascinating conversations I’ve had with her on a barstool. We’ll howl over the crazy personalities we’ve encountered in this line of work, gossip shamelessly, and before the night is over I would have made room in my column for that next big album she’s peddling.
She greases the wheels for those unknowns by leveraging her strong bonds with media outlets because everyone knows the high standards she has before she puts her good name on top of someone else’s.
A shrewd tastemaker and unflinching champion for the Irish arts, Daly’s contribution to the Celtic culture on this side of the Atlantic is immeasurable.
“We’ve been crossing the ocean now for 20 years and Anita has been an irrepressibly energetic enthusiast, promoter and supporter of ours from way back,” enthuses Leo Moran of the Saw Doctors.
“She’s always looking out for the next interesting act on the scene and always tackling her work with a genuine love and a deep passion for the music. She has helped us and so many others to forge a place for ourselves not only among the Irish community, but also far beyond to wherever people are interested in music and songs.”
“Apart from representing me as a musician, I know her efforts and work ethic through being on the other side with my show, Keltic Krush on SiriusXM,” says Black 47’s Larry Kirwan.
“She is always tireless in working for her various artists and follows up with me on each of them. I also tend to listen to whatever she sends as I know her bar is high; she's not really into representing projects that don't have some artistic or commercial merit -- and usually both. Besides, she has a sense of humor and a huge store of optimism, two essential qualities in this ever changing and turbulent business.”
This month she is celebrating 15 years at the helm of Daly Communications, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in Irish and Irish American arts. Here’s a sample of a recent barstool conversation that had me buying drinks for a change as I toasted a good friend on this impressive milestone!
What do you tell people when they ask you what you do for a living at a cocktail party?
That I market and promote music by Irish and Irish American musicians in the U.S. and also work for authors, promoters, events, etc. that are involved in Irish entertainment here. It’s a great conversation opener!
What is the best part of your job?
Listening to all the great music and meeting so many interesting creative people that are out there.
What is something you do for the people you represent that might surprise people? Keep it clean!
Let them sleep on my couch, feed them, book some acts, meet them on the road and advise them on their careers. I am more than a press agent or radio promo person. I get involved and work as part of their team.
Music publicity has changed so much in the time you started out -- there was no Facebook back then. How do you adapt your business model around these changes?
It's not rocket science. You have your niche and you work it. I contact a music writer like you in a paper in Chicago, chat with radio folks in Boston or Pittsburgh, and of course we include blogs, email blasts, Internet radio, Facebook announcements, tweets and so on.
Facebook has helped us promote a lot of gigs and CDs -- there is a huge Celtic music base there. Irish radio is still really strong in the U.S., and you have to respect that.
What advice do you give to musicians just starting out?
Oye, that is a book. I tell musicians already established in and coming from Ireland that if you are big in Ireland you still have to break your chops here. New artists in our genre of music have to be patient.
A lot of musicians trying to break into this market feel that just because they are Irish and playing trad, folk or Celtic rock that they will be accepted and make a living as musicians. I tell them not to give up their day jobs and to focus on their songwriting, musicianship and stick with me if they are serious.
What were some of the highlights and low-lights of your 15 years in the business?
Well, there have been so many highlights. Kissing Shane MacGowan has to be up there along with promoting the Pogues’ re-union tour; producing a compilation CD for Finbar Furey and hanging out with his family at their home near Dublin, and seeing the Saw Doctors perform at a small club in their home town in Galway.
Sharing all of the fabulous music and stories with so many talented personalities and the recognition and awards I have gotten from my peers, including the award from the Irish Voice as being one of the Most Influential Women two years in a row.
As far as low-lights, it is always tough when a band breaks up or when I stop working with an act and I see their career falter.
You also began a record company Cosmic Trigger Records. How does running a label differ from publicity? What do you bring to the table as a publicist for your clients in your experience running the label?
The record label was born out of a labor of love to get some of the acts that we work with some needed exposure. And because of who I am in the community, the media takes notice.
What do you think is the state of the Irish music scene?
I get a lot of music into my office to review and I can say the Irish and Irish American music scene is thriving. It is so varied and the audience is growing. The festival scene here is amazing and there is so much good music and talent. It stays in the tradition and evolves at the same time.
What's next for you and what do you see as the next big thing on the horizon?
I am expanding my company to develop musical events and conferences. Cosmic Trigger will be putting out a Christmas compilation CD this year that I will be producing.
I have also been asked to speak at various schools and business meetings and will be giving NYU’s Glucksman House an oral history of my life as an Irish American for their archives.
There is a lot on the horizon and a lot of opportunity to grow in the genre. Not bad for an Irish American girl, fan of music, born in Brooklyn!