The music PR firm, Press Junkie PR, celebrates its ten-year anniversary of work specializing in press campaigns of eclectic music from around the world. The City of Austin proclaimed August 9, 2019 as “Press Junkie PR Day.” On Saturday, August 17, the public is invited to a free event with music by El Dusty, Frederico7, Kelly Hafner, and DJ Vanessa La Bestia.
Press Junkie PR is run by the husband-and-wife team, Ryan and Mercedes Romana. Since relocating to Austin in early 2013, the company has worked with many notable Austin artists including Gina Chavez, David Messier, Atash, Atlas Maior, Brownout, Money Chicha, Hard Proof, John Wesley Coleman III, Patricia Vonne, Superfonicos, and Trouble In The Streets. Other national artists and festivals Press Junkie worked with include Beats Antique, Fishbone, Cody Chesnutt, Collie Buddz, Ceu, and the California Roots Music & Arts Festival.
What is your career/educational background that led you/prompted you to go into the PR for musicians?
Ryan: My path to doing music PR and starting Press Junkie came from being an obsessive music fan. I started out as a college radio DJ at Radio1190 in Boulder, CO first doing a hip hop radio show and then switching formats to drum & bass. I was a communication major at CU Boulder and didn’t know what I wanted to do until a music publicity internship opportunity came my way. It was with Ariel Hyatt of Cyber PR, who taught me the ropes of music publicity. From there I moved back to New York where I grew up and started working for a music magazine called CMJ. Cyber PR relocated to NYC and I then became a publicist with them in 2000. Mercedes and I decided to relocate to San Francisco, which is her hometown and I worked at two indie record labels Wide Hive and Six Degrees Records. Six Degrees was an amazing experience that led me to launching Press Junkie PR in August of 2009. I was always a DJ, but found myself better at promoting other artists. Working with the caliber of artists on Six Degrees solidified that promoting music was going to be my path. In 2013, we relocated from San Francisco to Austin and because work got so busy, Mercedes started helping out and became my partner, which allowed us to grow!
Mercedes: I love to learn and grow which has lead me down many paths in my career. My very first job was at Clear Channel in NYC working in the marketing sales department and working on national radio ad campaigns. I remember thinking, wow, Howard Stern, who at the time was still a DJ on NYC radio, is going to read this promo copy my co-worker just wrote and I just faxed it to him (yes I’m that old)! It was a really fun job and I learned a lot about radio. From there I worked at NRDC, a non-profit, in the fundraising department which entailed planning events with high profile celebrities and tech moguls in San Francisco That was my first taste of working with musicians. We would book musicians for the events, plan backstage galas — my favorite was a backstage event at a James Taylor concert and Pierce Brosnan attended, it was a great party and we raised a lot of money. Ryan even gave Pierce his gift bag at the end of the night! It was like OMG he touched my hand type of fan girl experience you know! Soon after I ended up in tech working with large companies helping run advertising, but at the time Ryan was working at the record label Six Degrees Records and we were always going to shows and I was helping out as needed. One of the more memorable experience is we ended up backstage at the Hollywood Bowl for an artist he was working at the time, and they opened for Sharon Jones! It was a great show, and I ended up helping out his team as an impromptu admin runner work- parking cars, and getting reservations. It was a wonderful night and I knew how lucky I was to be there.
So it was easy for me to support Ryan when he launched Press Junkie in our living room in 2009 and even though I wasn’t working with him, I like to think my work in tech gave him the ability to launch, he would jokingly refer to me as his “wife insurance”. In the beginning, I was always helping out as needed – doing intern odd jobs, stuffing envelopes etc but I really became involved when we ended up in Austin. Press Junkie took off here and at the time I just started my freelancing business working with start ups and helping out with different marketing jobs and I finally had the time to help out more. At one point, I started taking on clients, and next thing I know I’m letting go of my freelance gigs and working with Ryan full time!
Are you guys musicians?
Ryan: I’m not a musician, but a DJ. I’ve DJed hip hop, drum & bass and dubstep music out in clubs and now co-host an electronic music show on KOOP.org on Fridays from 7-8pm CT.
Mercedes: No, not a musician.
Are you originally from Austin? If not, how/why did you select Austin to create your PR company and decide to work with the underrepresented music and musicians?
Mercedes: I’m not from Austin. But it wasn’t until I moved here that I discovered my Texas roots. I have a great Aunt that lives in Victoria, TX, near the area that my great grandpa and her mom (my great great aunt!?!) grew up in, and she told me once that we are indeed Texans just took a vacation in California for a few generations, but that no one should hold it against us! She cracks me up. But no, I’m from California.
We moved because a friend said that this was the best place to live with kids and he was right! I’ve never really thought about that fact that we work under-represented music or musicians, I’ve always just liked the music we work and the people who create it. We like to call it music with a groove.
Ryan: I’m originally from Syosset, NY in Long Island and went to school at CU Boulder and spent the 2000s in San Francisco. We decided to move to Austin because we wanted to be in a city with a vibrant music community and our friend David Lobel (Lobel Arts) who lives here, kept telling is how amazing Austin was. He was right and in 2012 Mercedes and I stayed a week after SXSW to check out neighborhoods. We bid on a house and next thing we knew we were moving. It’s been a great decision as the music scene is so rich with talent and the musicians we get to work with that has global influences have been amazing. It’s really rewarding to help Austin artists break out to another level through the publicity work we do with them. We are very thankful to Austin and the Austin musicians. The music we work isn’t your traditional genres, so being able to plug in eclectic music from all over the world to the right media folks to shine more light on it is very exciting.
What are some challenges (even one) you can identify in your ten year career that you would like to share?
Mercedes: There are many challenges, I think the main one right now is the changing media landscape and how PR for indie musicians is changing. We are constantly changing the way we run campaigns, learning, growing and changing to stay relevant.
Ryan: I think the challenge of staying relevant in the music business as things are always changing, so we are constantly trying to stay a step ahead whether its pitching playlists or providing more strategy with social media.
If you can pick one, do you have a favorite campaign and why it stands out?
Mercedes: The campaigns are like my children, I can’t pick a favorite. We take on the work because we love the music and the music either resonated or it didn’t — and that is hard when you really like the music but for whatever reason, it did not resonate. But one of the most impactful campaigns I’ve been involved with was El Dusty’s Cumbia Anthem ft. Happy Colors. It received a Latin Grammy nomination and his team invited me to work with him and Happy Colors on the red carpet – it was an amazing experience! Between El Dusty and Happy Colors, this amazing song, a rockstar team backing both artists, it landed in one of the largest categories for the Latin Grammy’s Best Urban Performance.
Ryan: There are so many, but recently I’m very proud of my work with Superfonicos. I think we were able to bring them more national attention through features in Billboard, PRI The World (NPR), and placements in over a dozen official Spotify playlists.
To attend the show on August 17 at Stubb’s (Indoors), RSVP here.