Earshot Media: Interview with Mike Cubillos

Earshot Media
Mike Cubillos
w/Song River
Vents Magazine

Special to Vents Magazine: One the Road to Vans Warped Tour 2016

On the road to Vans Warped Tour 2016 this year Senior Staff writer, Allyson Song River Jaynes of Vents Magazine, wanted to lay the groundwork of excitement by interviewing a long time DIY Independent publicists Mike Cubillos Founder and CEO of Earshot Media. Mike has worked closely on a few other projects such as, “Taste of Chaos” and “It's Not Dead Festival” developed and driven by the founder of the Warped Tour Kevin Lyman and he will be working closely with press coordinator of Vans Warped Tour, Danielle Mardahl, this year.

It has been these experiences that Mike has developed and garnered over the years that have put him in a place to offer some expedient advice and insight. Invaluable content to bands, writers, photographers, magazines, and those pursuing careers in public relations.

Mike's approach certainly has shown time and again that it is the collective working together on a common goal that brings about achievement. We are looking forward to all that Earshot Media will be bringing this year's Vans Warped Tour 2016!

Song River: Mike looking back since the founding of your PR firm, 1997, what has been the most significant change you have encountered in the music PR industry?

Mike Cubillos: I’d say the biggest change is the rise of the Internet and other technology.  In many ways, it’s made the job of a publicist a lot easier in terms of how we service music to the media and the sheer number of outlets now available to us. Social media has become a valuable and essential tool that is now used as part of every campaign. But all of these changes bring about new sets of challenges as well.

SR: Creativity or spontaneity? Which is the greatest asset to a PR firm or are they both equally a must?

MC: I think both are equally important. Creativity is an integral part of any successful PR campaign, but sometimes these creative ideas don’t work or pan out, so a publicist should be flexible and know when it’s time to change course if necessary, or be open to new opportunities as they come up.

SR: Empires certainly do not occur overnight. As Earshot Media has become one of the largest Public Relations firms in the DIY Independent industry, how did you begin the formulation of your firm?

MC: I started my company because I had enough of working in the major label world and wanted to use the skills and connections I had acquired to create a firm that placed equal emphasis on major mainstream and grassroots press. At some other jobs, I’d had, the focus was mostly on TV and major print outlets, anything outside of that was seen as less important. But I understood early on that the smaller outlets websites, zines and blogs etc were just as crucial (if not more so) to the success of most artists and so that’s really what I’ve tried to do at Earshot- pay equal attention to the larger outlets and the DIY press for a more-rounded campaign.

SR: Do you recall the first band you worked with as Earshot?  How did the relationship come about with them?

MC: My first client was Mojo Records, so the first bands I worked with were bands on their roster-- Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger. That all came about via a former colleague of mine who was working in the marketing department at the label and brought me into the fold to work press for the label. I’m proud to say that Reel Big Fish is still with me after all these years. 

SR: Public relations, in order to be successful, must communicate outside the box.  How can bands help you, help themselves?

MC: It’s important that bands understand that they should have a partnership with their publicist. They should also be willing to do the work required for a successful campaign. Whether that be showing up on time for interviews that we set up, being professional when interacting with the media, submitting things on time or maintaining their social media accounts. 
SR: Today’s greatest challenge in the realm of PR is?

MC: It used to be publicists were the “gatekeepers” and that’s still true to an extent, but the Internet and social media have made it that anyone with a computer has a forum to spout off on whatever they want. This can be a very positive thing, but oftentimes it allows certain individuals to leak news or music early, or to stir up drama or spread misinformation or make false accusations. In that respect, it’s become more of a challenge for a publicist to maintain control of a campaign and the messaging that we want to convey about a given artist.

SR: What does it take, besides a very thick skin, to stay in the game in the field you've chosen to be in?

MC: It takes persistence, patience, flexibility, humility and hard work. It also helps to have a sense of humor.

SR: Have you grown enough now to where you have a staff? If so, approximately how many are on staff and do you help mentor them in the music industry so they can go into possibly some facet themselves?

MC: At the moment, Earshot is just me. I do hire on help when needed for certain projects or big events. I’ve always been open and willing to offer advice and guidance to people who are interested in pursuing careers in music PR and have also spoken at colleges and universities and other music industry events and conventions in the past.

SR: Now as you are fast approaching your 20-year mark (correct?) and there are so many bands and labels asking you now to represent them, do you at times just stop and go WOW and wonder where did time go? 

MC: Yeah it is really hard to believe that I’m still doing this after all these years. Over the years, I’ve been lucky to work many records that have gone on to become seminal releases and classics in the alt/punk/indie scenes and I’ve have worked with many bands that are now major players in the music business. So it’s gratifying to look back and know that Earshot played a part in their success.

SR: I am sure during this time you have been in the music industry you have seen multiple shifts in styles, genres, sounds, attitudes, approaches, fan bases, etc... if you could list at least three to five notable music shifts since your beginning what would they be?

MC: I’ve seen the return of ska and pop-punk, the rise of rap-rock/nu-metal and screamo, the haircuts, the neon, the emo resurgence, singer-songwriters and so much more. While the styles of music have definitely shifted over the years the one constant is that they are all rooted in the independent/punk/alternative/metal scenes.

SR: When did your relationship begin with Van's Warped Tour?

MC: Over the years I’ve had a countless number of bands on the Warped Tour, so I’ve been involved indirectly with them for a long time. I’ve also worked with Warped founder Kevin Lyman for several years on “Taste of Chaos” and last year returned to work with him on the return of “Taste of Chaos” and on “It’s Not Dead Festival.” I was honored and ecstatic to be asked to worked the tour this year.

SR: Will you be traveling with the tour this year, in 2016?

MC: No I will only be out on select dates. The bulk of my work will be done from my office. : ) The tour has an awesome on-site press coordinator named Danielle Mardahl that I work closely with. She will be out on all the dates as she was last year.

SR: What is your main purpose for working/being a part of this year's Warped?

MC: My main purpose is to help get the word out about this year’s tour which has one of the strongest lineups ever. As a longtime fan of the tour and what Kevin Lyman has created, I’m excited to be part of the team.

SR: Most helpful piece of advice you can give music magazines, zines, editors, journalists, and photographers?

MC: This isn’t really advice but I’d just urge them to take chances on newer, developing acts rather than waiting for others to discover them first and then jumping on the bandwagon after the fact. I understand the need to sell magazines and ads and to get eyeballs and page views and clicks etc, but it’s always exciting when an outlet champions artists early on and helps break new bands.

SR: Experience it is said is our greatest teacher. Mike as you look forward what is it and where are you wanting to take Earshot Media?

MC: I just hope to continue doing what I love--helping to turn people on to great new music and working with artists, labels and people I respect and admire. I hope to continue challenging myself to take on different kinds of projects and to keep doing good work on behalf of my clients. 

You can contact Mike through his website at Earshot Media:

Earshot Media