Early last year Seam Lam launched her PR agency Paris Is Patient, after working for close to a decade at UNFD and Hopeless Records AU/NZ. Armed with an extensive label background and promotions experience in the music and entertainment market, she established her agency with the aim of partnering with the finest Australian and international artists, management, labels, promoters and brands to deliver comprehensive campaigns to take clients to the next level. We caught up with Seam this month to chat about her jouney in the industry and starting her own business.
Hi Seam, firstly please introduce yourself and tell us your position at Paris is Patient.
My pleasure and hello. My name is Seam and I am the founder and director of Paris is Patient: an Australian music and entertainment PR agency, with heart.
How, when and why did Paris is Patient come about? Please tell us the backstory.
As far as I can recall, I have wanted to start a business of my own. Although I was never sure of exactly what that business might be. I knew I wanted to live a creative lifestyle and surround myself with creative people, and so it felt natural to do something on that level.
The backstory: I had been working with Unified and Hopeless Records for about 8 years, having started out as an intern in November 2004. The following two years consisted of working across several roles in various capacities including merchandising, marketing, publicity and label management, before I was appointed as the Promotions and Label Manager for both companies. After a good six years, it was time for me to move on and so I resigned in November 2012. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it was also necessary. Truth be told, when I made the decision to leave, I had no intention of staying in the music industry. I hadn’t actively looked for music-based roles at other companies, I wasn’t reaching out to my contacts and networks in hopes of getting leads or a job, nor did I really have a back-up plan. I was run down. Exhausted. I knew that if I didn’t step away from the music industry, I would begin to resent it.
I took a couple of months to rest, reflect and renew (my version of the three R’s). It allowed me to reevaluate and think about what I needed to rediscover my path and my truth. I did a lot of reading, a lot gardening, a lot of baking, I went vinyl hunting at trash and treasure markets, and fell in love with Edith Piaf. I spent time in the countryside, immersed myself in nature, and befriended cows and cats.
During this time I wondered why I had pursued working in music in the first place, then realised that my passion was the music. It has been said that if you save a tiny little ember, a spark, you can start the greatest fire again. When I thought about the part I enjoyed doing most throughout my time working in the industry, it was Publicity and PR – a fire was lit.
Trusting in the magic of new beginnings, I launched Paris is Patient in early 2013. The PR agency was officially up and running by May whilst I was back at RMIT University (my old stomping ground), completing a Certificate IV in Small Business Management. I still recall the moment my dream transformed into reality. I was sitting in class when I received an email confirming the signing of my first client. I knew right then, there was no turning back.
It’s been a year and a half since starting my crazy entrepreneurial journey, and I feel privileged to be representing artists and championing music that I enjoy and care about. The agency has built an ever-growing family of exceptionally talented artists and dedicated companies. I’m content and excited about continuing to build something that’s going to last – one campaign at a time.
What kind of services does Paris Is Patient offer, and what does a typical day in the office look like?
Paris is Patient provides dedicated and comprehensive PR campaign services to Australian and international Artists, Record Labels, Management, and Event Promoters, offering:
- Music Publicity (Release and Tour Campaigns)
- Event and Music Festival Publicity
- Press Release Distribution (Release, Tour and Event)
- Artist Liaison and Interview Scheduling
- On-site Media Management (Festivals and Events)
- Product Launch Parties and Promotions
- Promotional Photo Styling
- Media Kits and Distribution
- Media Monitoring and Campaign Reporting
Essentially, the agency forms part of a team, to help drive and achieve clients’ communication goals by promoting their EP and album releases, tours, and events to print, online, radio and TV media platforms.
A typical day begins with breakfast and a cup of tea. Once in my office, I put on some music, tackle emails and return any calls. Then, in and amongst the correspondence is when the multi-tasking begins (along with my headaches). I could be found putting together new campaign proposals for prospective clients, pitching to media, chasing interviews and reviews, searching for and collating press clippings, making website and social media posts, updating media lists, writing and scheduling press releases, meetings clients and media, attending conferences, maintaining client relationships, developing internal systems, bookkeeping, paying the bills… and it’s midnight.
There is undoubtedly a high level of organisation and attention to detail involved in the day-to-day workings of a music publicist and business owner. Only those who are in it can really understand the purpose and the madness of equal proportions. Clients and the general public only see the finished outcomes in the media. If they got a glimpse behind the scenes, they would probably want to give us a hug. Paris is Patient is my baby and PR is a labour of love, but there are days where I want to put it up for adoption.
What are the pros and cons of the job? What are some of the challenges you face in this line of work?
Some pros of the job include: Being your own boss, which emboldens you not to conform to other people’s ideas and agendas. I value the sense of freedom and independence, flexibility, creative control, and accountability. Utilising my professional experience, knowledge, skills and contacts to help others. Owning the work that you put your heart, time and effort into doing. To be part of something from beginning to end is creatively satisfying, and allowing yourself to be proud of the outcomes achieved.
Some cons of the job include: Working tirelessly to get the business to break through, not knowing when to stop working (most business owners I know, myself included, regularly end up working a lot of overtime.) Isolation can bring about moments of self-doubt and loneliness when you’re a solo business owner. Even though I work best alone, there are days where I miss the everyday social interactions that comes from working at a company that instantly come with a team of people – conversations between myself and my laptop are discernably one-sided.
PR isn’t for the faint-hearted. I believe that if you don’t experience anxiety in PR, you don’t know PR. Anxiety can rear its ugly head on a daily basis. From problems that need immediate fixes, working with international time-zones, or not knowing how your client’s project will be received by the media, to the uncertainties of when your next campaign will come along, or whether you have enough cash flowing into the business to cover your expenses, and so forth.
In times of doubt, I try to remember why I left my job in the first place. A life of instability and insecurity is something I knew I was signing up for when I decided to undertake this venture of my own. I had relieved myself of the drudgery of pushing someone else’s dream up a hill that had no peak, and although I continue the struggle, it’s my struggle. I try to remember that nothing will ever be perfect, and that whatever challenge appears before me, I am willing to push through it.
The biggest challenge for me is the eternal balancing-act of working for others and working for myself. Being a music publicist is one thing, but running a business for myself is another! When you’re solely responsible for the life of a business, you need to work even harder to keep it alive and help it grow. There are days when it will be the last thing I want to do, but I have to do it. Late nights, early starts, working for next to nothing to build the name and reputation of the business. There are highs and lows, but its also just part and parcel of the entrepreneurial experience. The sense of satisfaction and ownership that I get from being the creator of my own world makes it all worthwhile. I believe that all the hard work and struggles will eventually lead to the realisation of my vision.
Do you have any qualifications (i.e. education) or other experiences that have contributed to your success?
My academic background is actually in Social Studies. I completed a degree majoring in Legal and Dispute Studies, which means I am a qualified Paralegal (on paper). Once I started working at the label, I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t interested in becoming a lawyer.
I’m a fastidious person, and my well-organised nature and attention to detail (which sometimes leans on the brink of obsessiveness) has helped me progress throughout those initial years at the label. Because the more I was willing and was able to do, the more I was able to learn and grow. However, being the cautious person that I am, before I could confidently launch a business – let alone run it on my own I needed to build a proper foundation, so I enrolled at RMIT University to attain a Certificate IV in Small Business Management. This qualification contributed significantly to my business know-how, from writing a business plan, to fulfilling legal requirements, and understanding the financial and operational side of running a small business – all the knowledge and guidance that isn’t so readily offered when working at someone else’s company. As for the music industry, I hadn’t undertaken any formal education in ‘music business’. Everything I know about promotions and marketing, publicity, and managing a record label was learned throughout years of hard work, dedication, tenacity and general ass-kicking / getting my ass kicked in the real-world.
Before setting up Paris Is Patient, you were working as the Promotions and Label Manager for UNFD and Hopeless Records AUNZ. What did you learn from these roles that helped you to establish your own agency in the industry?
Without my past experiences I wouldn’t have been able to successfully establish my own PR agency within the music industry. During my time working at the labels, I pushed myself to learn and absorb everything I could; how to manage a record label, how to market and promote music and artists, how to communicate with the media, how to establish and build professional relationships, how to create a budget and form projections, how to build brand awareness, and how to work across multiple projects at the same time. All the knowledge I acquired through these experiences and self-teaching has undoubtedly been integrated into my business.
Pretty often when working in an industry, we identify gaps or things that could be done in a better way. When you were setting up your own agency, was there anything you specifically wanted to focus on or do to make your business standout from others in the area?
For all the wonderful knowledge, skills and experiences I took away from my previous job, I had also taken mental notes on how I would do some things differently. Now that I’m running my own business, I want my company’s culture to reflect my core personal and business values. I want it to be enriched by them.
There is a saying that resonates with me, ‘a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’ When I envisioned setting up my own agency, I wanted not only to start smaller and smarter. I wanted to build something honest and authentic from the ground up.
In doing so, I instilled many of my personal values into the business: passion, integrity, perseverance, adaptability, willingness to learn, professionalism, collaboration, meaningful relationships and vision. Business values that are of equal importance include: credibility and trust with clients and media alike, showing diligence, honesty, and being authentic in all my business-dealings. Operating a business model based on quality over volume, creating a fun and nurturing environment, embracing work/life blend and the importance of family and friends, and acknowledging and rewarding hard work.
We here at Paris is Patient (and by ‘We’ I mean ‘Me’… for now) pride ourselves in the commitment to excellence and delivering exceptional music PR services of value to the client. The agency will always operate from a transformational perspective and going above and beyond convention to achieve campaign outcomes. Each campaign represents far more than just dollars. As the director, I immerse myself into each campaign, whole-heartedly. The money is vital in keeping the business going, but being an artisan of my craft. If people invest in me, I damn sure will return the favour.
There’s an extensive list of bands you’ve worked with on your website. Did you have any particular favourite’s, who perhaps stood out from all the rest? And what makes you choose to work with one band over another?
That’s a good question, although I must say that I don’t have an artist in particular that I favour over another. I know that may seem like a safe answer, but it’s an honest one. I feel pretty lucky to have had the chance to work with artists, both local to international, from hip hop to rock n’ roll. It’s been an amazing journey so far. To think that I have already represented Seth Sentry, The Maine, Mantra, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Bayside, This Century, I Am The Avalanche, My Echo, Hailey Cramer, Bam Bam, Hands Like Houses, New Found Glory, and Cam Gilmour within 18 months of starting this business is pretty remarkable.
To me, it doesn’t matter if the artist or band is new, developing or established – I let the music speak for itself and make my decision based on that. Sometimes, I’ll delve a little deeper and try to get general vibe on what the artist is about. If they’re socially conscious or involved in raising awareness for issues that resonate with me, things like: the environment, animal welfare, same-sex rights, or gender equality, chances are I’ll want to work with these people. I admire artists who try to make positive social change through their work or profile.
During your time working in the industry, have you seen any trends that you’ve found particularly interesting? How do you adapt your own business to respond to the ever-changing industry?
The decline in record sales is an interesting trend, one that is spiraling downward and showing no signs of recovering. But how do you stop the Internet? People just aren’t aware of the knock-on effect this has caused – PR companies being one of the many businesses impacted by it. Any marketing and promotional spend that is normally made available to help promote a release, tour or event is now cutback and sometimes non-existent.
The reality is that business isn’t always smooth sailing and things occur that are out of your control. It’s the nature of the beast. The slump in record sales has had a direct impact on my PR agency, and I’ve seen it affect other PR companies too. It’s a sad state of affairs when PR professionals constantly have to reduce services fees, inevitably compromising the value of our knowledge, skills, experience and time.
I’m fond of the saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’. I view other PR agencies and publicists as fellow comrades because I truly believe we should be uplifting and supporting one another to ensure that we’re creating and upholding better standards within our profession, not under-cutting one another through our rates – as a result of aforementioned impacts.
On adapting to the ever-changing industry: I treat every campaign as though it’s my last.
What are your future aspirations for Paris is Patient?
I would love to see the company into its 10th year and possibly run it from abroad one day. I’d love to employ a small and passionate team of over-achievers who’ll put up with my ’90s RnB playlists. Most of all, I want to share my dream with like-minded people. I object to the limited mentality of those who withhold wisdom and fail to guide younger generations on the idea that they had it tough, so others should too. The music industry existed before me and will continue long after my time, so I want to ensure I do what I can to keep it in good hands and pass on everything I know.
My view of success resonates with Maya Angelou’s, which is, ‘Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.’ When you know who you are and what you value, every decision you make in life is easier because it reinforces your authentic true self. Ultimately, my driving force is to be able to live a positive and inspired life that is supported by the business.
Lastly, do you have any advice for young people looking to build a career in PR in the music industry?
If your dream is to be a music publicist, my advice to you would be:
- Propel yourself into the industry to gain experience before going out on your own.
- If it is beneficial to your knowledge, growth, and experiences. Say yes, and then figure it out afterwards.
- Fail forward.
- Show grace under pressure.
- Find yourself a mentor that you can learn from, and find yourself a friend with a nice looking shoulder to cry on.
- Always set goals that align with your highest values.
- Persevere (especially during the tough times. There will be many).
- Trust and believe in yourself. Be the biggest supporter of your own ideas and dreams.
- Try to limit negativity in your life.
- Have gratitude and don’t be afraid to show it towards others.
- Be kind to yourself and remember to have fun.
Lastly, follow your dreams and act from the heart, I promise it won’t lead you astray. As the extraordinary Jane Goodall once said, ‘Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.’
Check out what Paris Is Patient can do for you at www.parisispatient.com.au