OnlineRock: Empowering Musicians  
OnlineRock Guest Column  

Rhonda Kelley: The Q&A

At OnlineRock we are always looking for ways to help musicians help themselves.  We’ve seen a number of products and services come and go but we feel it’s our responsibility to let you know when something comes along that actually has the potential to help you succeed with your music.

We introduced you to the Virtual Publicist a few months ago and since then artists around the country have been using it with great success.  We decided it was time to sit down with Rhonda Kelly, the creator of the Virtual Publicist and ask her how she came up with the idea and how it could help some of our readers.

Q: What is The Virtual Publicist?

A: Oh, no. No way. That’s way too obvious an opening question. C’mon, I don’t want this to be just a boring, straightforward back-and-forth thing. Give me something better than that to start with.

Q: Okay, then: why are you selling out?

A: That’s better. And I’m not selling out, thank you very much. I mean, let’s look at the state of the music industry.  It’s important to realize that, when it comes to an artist releasing an album, the DYIDo It Yourself mentality is strong, and it’s getting stronger all the time. We’re not quite there yet, but there’s gonna come a day when we can release music solely in a digital format, without ever bringing a record label into the mix, and we’re on the forefront of that.

Q: So what gave you the idea to start this whole Virtual Publicist thing, then?

A: Y’know, honestly, it began by bands asking me outright if they could buy my list of contacts! And after putting up with that for a year or two (or three), I decided that, hey, maybe it is time to get a real P.R. list together. So I sat down and started pulling my contacts together, and from there, it went about like you’d expect: I got a website, hired a web designer and a graphics person, realized that I’d have to charge a little bit of money to maintain it, and then promptly added a shopping cart to the site.

Q: Oh, man! You mean this thing costs money?

A: Well, yeah, but it’s pretty reasonable, really. It costs $39.95 for the master list, and once you’ve paid, you get a downloadable Microsoft Excel file that contains all of the press contact information: phone numbers, E-mail addresses, and so forth. And, hey, you even get mailing labels, so you can print out the contacts and slap the labels right onto your envelopes!

Q: Fair enough. So who’s on this list, anyway?

A: Well, I’m not gonna give away all of my secrets, but some of the publications include Billboard, Magnet, Performing Songwriter, Paste, Harp, No Depression, Rolling Stone, and Revolver.

Q: Wait a minute: you’re not one of those elitists who thinks that websites don’t count as actual publications, are you?

A: Are you kidding? This is the 21st century, you know. Don’t worry, we’ve got contact info for plenty of webzines and blogs in the list, and we cover an extensive list of different genres.

Q: And what if a press outlet doesn’t want to be on the list?

A: Then they’re out. Simple as that. We respect the editors and reviewers, so we have a very simple opt-in / opt-out link right on our homepage. (For the record, though, no-one has opted out thus far.) We also stick strictly to business information; no private information is given out at all.

Q: So what happens when the list gets out of date? Are you gonna fleece people for more money?

A: Who am I, Ebeneezer Scrooge? Of course we’re not gonna do that. We’ll send out updates a couple of times a month in our newsletter, so as long as you’re signed up for that, you’ll get the updates at no additional charge. We’ll give you information about any new press outlets that have appeared on our radar, along with information about which publications have closed, gone on hiatus, or stopped publishing in favor of a web-only format.

Q: Okay, fair enough, The Virtual Publicist sounds pretty cool…and I’m not just saying that because I’m being paid to ask you these questions. How’s it succeeding for you?

A: The response has been unbelievable. We’re doing really, really, really well. And we also just started a new project: Virtual Publisher, for music publishing contact information.

Q:  Um, are you sure you’re not selling out?

A: Hey, whoops, look at the time! Gotta go!

If you are interested in finding out more about the Virtual Publicist and receiving a $10 discount on it, please click here.

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