Major Record Label PR Insider Gihan Salem talks networking

PR Guru, music aficionado, kind soul, Gihan Salem is all of these things, but most importantly she is a mentor and friend. I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Gihan at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. She was a beaming ray of light amongst music execs and musicians. At the time, I was a bright-eyed kid in disbelief, I couldn’t believe that I made it into Capitol Records- regardless I made it and there she was.

As the Director of Publicity, Gihan was the liason between Capitol Records recording artists and media outlets. She help land some big interviews for GroundSounds! She was a breath of fresh air in a world where genuine kindness can catch you off guard.

With years of PR experience and knowledge, I caught up with Gihan to pick her brain and peer into the world of public relations in the music industry, check out the exclusive interview below!


What does PR mean to you?

To me, public relations is how the public perceives something whether that is a company, artist, clothing line or car and this usually takes place via the media.

How do you define success?

Success is being happy and most of all having your health.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey into the PR world, how did you get started in this industry?

I was (and still am) a total music head in high school and my dream was to work at a major record label. I interned in college in the media relations dept at Epic Records. I loved how busy it was and how the department interacted with the artists. I interviewed to be an assistant in the publicity dept at Elektra Records, was offered the job and was at the company for over 13 years. One of the best jobs in the world – truly. Every time I walked in the front door of the Elektra office I would get goosebumps because I was so excited to work there. I felt so lucky to be a part of the team and the company.

From Elektra to Jive to Capitol Records, you have worked with numerous labels that have deep rosters of talent, what was it like working in this part of the music industry?

It is awesome. Though it can be super stressful. There is a lot of pressure to deliver solid looks for your artist and it can be stressful to deal with. But the majority of people I have had a chance to work with are amazing.
What were some of the main duties of your various PR roles?

As a publicist you are the intermediary between the artists or whatever you are “publicizing” and the media. The main goal is to secure press for your client. Every project is case by case and there are always different circumstances for any project. The way you would handle a teen band is very different from the press plan for an indie/college band.

Can you tell us how the role of networking and relationship building plays into a PR position?

As a publicist, your relationships are everything. Meeting people, reaching out, building that working relationship is large part of media relations. Also, always be nice and professional – you never know  – that college blogger could be the next editor at Rolling Stone. I always answered every E mail and even if I know I could not offer an interview I would try and offer something else e.g. artist X is not doing press but would you be open to reviewing the single or live show etc.

What has been one of your most memorable PR campaigns?

James Blunt. I worked this project from day one and to go from no one in the media being very interested to having his song “Your Beautiful” become a worldwide hit and Grammy nominated song was a memorable experience.

What was it like working with the hit-makers, bands and musicians that were signed to the different labels? As a massive fan of music,  working with these people was amazing. To have a working relationship with artist that I respect and truly love their art was incredible. I think music is a special art form. Nothing moves me the way a song can.

What musicians/bands have you enjoyed working with the most? Why?

Elektra Records was a boutique label and we had the best music. From rock to hip hop to alternative to pop – so much great music. I would have to say some of my favorite projects were Wilco/Billy Bragg, Missy Elliott, The Cure, Bjork. These are artists who are talented to the core and defy genres and to be a part of that was really special. I still smile when I think about it.

What are the “do’s and don’ts” of PR?

I think one of the hardest things about being a publicist is loving everything you work. For me it was not possible. I have worked with a lot of bands over the years and I did not like all the music I worked.  When pitching to media I would never fake it, I would be honest and say this is not for me but here is what I love about this artist – they work hard, their live show kills, they have diehard fans etc. You can always find something. Music journalists are smart and can sense any falseness. I would always be honest – there is no way people like everything they hear.

There are a lot of dos – be nice, work hard, know the outlet you are pitching – are you pitching a teen group to a metal site etc.

What advice would you give to people who are interested in music related PR?

Know the outlets – read, watch, listen. The media landscape is changing. There a fewer magazine and more digital outlets. The volume of TV is overwhelming and there are other means for media coverage – podcasts, You Tube channels etc. Interning was great leading experience, I interned for a year at a major label and learned the verbiage, how to handle myself in an office – I did everything from picking up lunch for a press day to reorganizing an entire press closet (place where they keep press clips, vinyl, etc.)

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