If you’ve worked in the arts, you will know that is a difficult business from every angle whether you are the artist or the one behind-the-scenes. In the last few years, Toronto has seen a tremendous increase in awareness for the arts especially in classical music. Everywhere you look, more and more people are attending events associated with the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto Symphony, National Ballet and more. I think it’s safe to say that many are finding the performing arts scene a little, well, sexier? Trendier?However you want to look at it, on a global level, this is the case and I couldn’t be happier.
In order for any artist to succeed in this business, the way you promote yourself plays a huge role in that. When you look at the entertainment industry as whole, talent is no longer the only key component in the overall equation.
Elizabeth Bowman follows this philosophy; understanding both the artist and business standpoint when working with her clients. While working in concert promotions, I met the talented publicist and founder of Bōwman Media – a full service boutique communications firm with a special focus on the arts. With a background in music and experience with various ensembles in the city, she has worked with individuals and arts organizations to establish and strengthen their brand; especially in finding unique angles that work well with modern media. She has started to open doors for more editorial exposure with publications that have rarely featured Canadian classical artists.
Her professional experience and impact has impressed me from day one and I was thrilled when she agreed to share some of her thoughts and stories with me.
MC: Its seems like everywhere you turn, classical musicians are making their way into higher profile media outlets. How does that make you feel as a communications professional where editorial coverage is such a key component for clients.
EB: With the arts coverage shrinking, it’s important for public relations representatives to get creative and cross-market – the result of this is seeing classical stars being profiled in other areas – food/drink, fashion, sports, etc. I think it’s refreshing to see classical musicians in unexpected places. It gives readers a better sense of the artists’ personalities, and therefore, is a more effective way to attract a fan base. It also allows for continued creative thinking, which I love – I love to brainstorm!
Mezzo soprano Wallis Giunta featured in Jan/Feb issue of re:porter Magazine
MC: Classical musicians are now very conscious of their image and how they brand themselves. What kind of a process do you go through when consulting them? Any challenges?
EB: Every client is different and the first point of business is establishing trust. Second point of business is the website: it is very important to have a strong website that fits with the artist’s personality and goals. I talk a lot with clients when I build their sites to familiarize myself with how they’d like to come across – this actually helps me with establishing the trust of the client and helps me with my overall PR strategy, so it’s not just a design process for me.
The rest of the process varies from client to client, but at the root of is communication, communication! Also, complete honesty all the time – this goes both ways and makes for an effective working relationship.
MC: You have accomplished so much since you started Bōwman Media! New realms are opening up such as editorial coverage within the fashion community. How does that make you feel?
EB: I think the new realms are created by public relations professionals through creative thinking – also through creative artistry, of course (complementary brand collaborations). At the end of the day, a good story is a good story. Fashion and classical music seem to go hand in hand as the singers/instrumentalists are on a platform in front of thousands of people and their fashion choices are increasingly more written about in reviews. It’s great to continue that relationship by profiling artists in the fashion pages or magazines, newspapers and blogs.
Toronto Star feature highlighting Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley wearing Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu, January 2014
MC: Do you have different creative mind sets when working with various clients? (ie. singers vs. instrumentalists)
EB: It all comes down to the personality, not the instrument, for me. My biggest and more repeated line of advice is “honesty resonates” – I truly believe that if you are truthful to who you are, your “brand” will be a memorable one. That’s why it’s so important for me to design a website that works with their personality – in the end, it helps with my public relations/social media strategy if we have a strong foundation from the get-go.
Elizabeth & Soprano Joyce El-Khoury at the opening night party for the Canadian Opera Company’s La bohème (October 2013)
MC: Anyone who works in the arts will tell you that they put their heart and soul into everything they do. I’ve been there and must say that there is definitely a passion to promote the arts to as many as possible. Do you agree?
EB: I definitely agree. There is a great deal of camaraderie with those working within the arts community. It’s important to stick together and know that we are all working with the common goal of promoting great art – so I always find it a pleasure to collaborate with other arts workers when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a rare professional example of “we’re all on the same team”.