Having worked at EMI’s Sydney office for 15 years – during which he ascended to Director of PR and Media – Trent Titmarsh has been involved with campaigns for artists such as Katy Perry, Madonna, Robbie Williams and Elton John, to name a few.
Striking out on his own in 2020, he founded TT Publicity, working with the likes of 5SOS, Tori Amos, Jason Mraz and Daniel Johns, as well as offering a range of services such as media training and consulting.
Here, he shares his perspective on the current state of the live industry, the importance of artists communicating with their audience, his thoughts on the future of events, and more…
What are you seeing as some of the biggest challenges in the industry right now for promoters, festivals, venues and artists alike?
I think it's the obvious one: COVID. It's recovering from two and a half years of being decimated, and basically trying to stand up again.
It's great that we are really bouncing back quickly, but there are obviously still major teething problems. And the most disheartening thing is when a festival or concerts or shows are announced, tickets are on sale, and then they are still having to get either rescheduled or cancelled. That's still happening a lot. And I think it will continue for at least another 12 months.
But we're just still ploughing through and not giving up and nothing can knock us down.
With the high ticket prices and costs of post-COVID touring, have you seen any festivals do anything new with their marketing strategies?
I think they've just got to get back to basics first, and then hopefully grow and try new things.
During COVID, the new norm was live streaming concerts. And I think that would be amazing if there is more of that. I know we want [gigs] to be in a venue and an exclusive event and you've got to buy a ticket to enter type thing. But I’d really like to see it open up to live streaming globally, for fans who a) can't be there, b) can't afford the actual ticket to be there physically.
I know not every artist is comfortable doing that. But I think it's a win-win for everyone involved – it's more profit, but it's also a better experience for fans.
How have you seen social media changing over recent times, and how promoters and festivals are using it to promote their shows?
Every artist knows their fans best, right? They're in tune with them, they hear from them directly. They have this gut instinct. It's the artist who knows their fans best – better than management, record labels, media – so it's about the artist continuing to talk directly to their fans.
Where are the fans following them? Is it TikTok? Is it Instagram? Where is it? And of course the phenomenon is TikTok – you can have a global number one hit with a viral TikTok video.
"It's the artist who knows their fans best – better than management, record labels, media..."
So, are you encouraging your artists to explore TikTok or other social media platforms?
I think it's interesting because you'll have an artist that just maybe doesn't want to engage in TikTok, or they don't feel comfortable, they don't understand it, or feel that maybe their fanbase is not [on it].
Look, I think it's a trial-and-error thing. I think labels all want that viral sensation on TikTok but the number one thing is that you can't buy it. It's always organic. I've been there in the boardroom [with people saying], “How do we get this trending on TikTok, what's our plan, what's our whiz bang idea?” And it never works. And it's always been a waste of advertising money. Honestly, it's organic.
I always say when the music's out, it is in the hands of the public. Even if you get a song added to radio, added to a Spotify or Apple playlist, or it's doing the rounds on TikTok or other social media, it's got to connect. It's up to the public. It always is, and all we can do is support that. You can't force it if it's not working.
Touching on the live music landscape, how do you see that changing or evolving over the next 12 months?
I think governments have to pull down that red tape. There's a huge issue in Sydney with getting permits and permissions and noise control. I think it needs to become easier.
And there needs to be more government support. That's the number one thing – to use these public spaces, outdoor areas, venues, there are so many venues that are empty, right? There are so many old warehouses. Wouldn't it be amazing if the government went on a blitz to allow these venues to have artists perform there, and promoters be able to use them?
You touched on this earlier – one of the cool things to come out of COVID is the ability to attend concerts online. Are there any other cool ideas like that?
I was very much involved in Great Southern Nights [a concert series that brought live music to communities across New South Wales]. And that was such an amazing initiative from the government at the time, where, yes, it was COVID. And there were restrictions.
But the government put money where their mouth was and took on this massive project with ARIA. And then I became involved as the publicist, and we had two really successful years.
And it was getting live music in regional towns, like headline acts in their towns and their local pub, which they had never had before. They could go see Amy Shark or Jimmy Barnes, household names in these small regional venues. I think that was such a positive, and the artists loved it. So did the communities.
We're so restricted to the capital cities. I know it's not always feasible or possible, but hey, let's travel around the country more and go to regional [areas] because it's so much more rewarding.
"Let's travel around the country more and go to regional [areas] because it's so much more rewarding."
What do you consider when you're putting together a PR campaign for an artist? Particularly one who is on tour?
So, with any publicity campaign, it's always going to start with the music, new music. We've got to let everyone know that their favourite artist has new music. So it's about talking directly to the artist’s fans, which no one can do better than the artists through their social media.
But we need to always go broader, right? So, depending on the artist, we know where the supporters are at media. And we've got to attack them in the best possible way, and try and drum up support, and it's across the board – online and press and podcasts and TV and radio, and digital radio. And of course, streaming services.
And then we'll go through a phase of a campaign – they could release three singles before an album release, or an EP, or the great thing these days, you can do whatever you want. People drop albums without anyone knowing and then a month later they release brand new songs that weren't on that album that was just released a month ago. There are no rules anymore, and it's just about keeping it going.
And then usually a tour will be announced around new music or soon after. So it's about the second phase in that instance, trying to sell tickets and again, let the fans know that they're coming, where they're playing, buy a ticket, maybe do album bundles. So, there's an offer there to get new music at a cheaper rate or when they buy their ticket, which is a bit of a strategy to help chart positions. And then we've got to try and sell those tickets to make it worthwhile and profitable for the artist to come out.
You’re building relationships and working with so many different areas within the industry to promote your artists, and you're working in unison to get the best possible outcome.
Yeah, you know, I'm now freelance after working 15 years with EMI. I have found, through being on both sides, in a label and outside of a label, it works best when [artists] can build their own team, because they can pick and choose supporters that are really focused and maybe have the capacity workload wise to give full attention and not be overwhelmed. If you're an artist that can build your own team, that is by far the best thing you can do. It gets better results.
"If you're an artist that can build your own team, that is by far the best thing you can do. It gets better results."
Can you tell us a personal story of an artist you've worked with and maybe done something a little bit different or unique?
It’s just about engagement directly with the fans. That's ultimately the number one way to do it.
So, without naming a particular artist, it's always great if an artist has not only his music, but another hobby. For example, skateboarding – do a fan event with the artists skateboarding, or have them hang out together at a skating park.
I always find if you can just tap into the artist on a personal side, engage them at that level, because [they’re giving] full attention. And it just makes the experience not feel like work and mundane. And also I love it when [you think] out of the box. An artist performing in some wonderful place that no one's ever done before. That’s always a great experience.
To wrap things up, what have you noticed that promoters are doing to entice people back to shows?
I think what's really interesting, and I think it's actually very exciting, is the state governments are putting money into getting artists into their city.
The perfect example is Melbourne, they bought in Dua Lipa. Adelaide’s just announced a one-off show for Sam Smith. It’s all about tourism, but [in the past] the campaigns would be just a TV ad. But now they're bringing artists into the state, to put on exclusive concerts, like Sam at a winery. And I hope that continues. Because then when the artist is in the country, yes, they do that event, but they then can tack on their own shows around the rest of the country. It just gets them out here. And that's such a big cost.
Is there anything you'd like to add that we haven't covered?
I think it's really cliched, but keep supporting your favourite artists. Keep buying the tickets, streaming their music. Keep supporting.