If you think your job is demanding, try being a music publicist. With the music industry in an endless state of flux due to the everchanging way that people listen to and purchase music (vinyl, CD, streaming, and the return of cassettes), as well as the barriers to live performance due to the pandemic, the challenges are myriad. Enter Peekskill-based Josh Bloom of Fanatic Promotion. He’s been doing music PR for nearly 25 years and even launched his own record label. Through it all, Bloom has managed to keep his head and keep his clients in the public eye. Josh was kind enough to speak to me about his business during his morning treadmill workout:
Josh, seeing as how music is central to everything that you do professionally, can you recall your earliest musical memory?
“Yes. (I was) 5 years old. I was persuaded to do chores around the house by being allowed to pick a record from my parents’ record collection to be mine, which I guess (meant) I could bring it up to my bedroom and keep it there. I remember picking ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles.
When did you know that your life’s work would be related to music?
“It was only when I realized I could actually get paid to do what I was already doing. I’ve been promoting the arts and music starting back when I was 8 years old and started an entertainment newsletter that I would type on my neighbor’s typewriter in his dining room. I’d get on my bike and deliver it to the neighbors in their mailbox.”
Do you remember what was the name of the newsletter?
“That I don’t remember. (Laughs) I wish I did remember that actually. It was in my early 20s where I started to realize I can actually charge people for this.’
Your publicity firm Fanatic Promotion has an incredibly diverse roster. How do you go about determining if a potential client is a good fit?
‘Clients ask me all the time, ‘Do you work with this genre or do you work with that genre?’ I always say, ‘I work with the genre of good songwriting.’ As long as I really believe in the artist’s work and their passion for whatever they’re trying to convey, I feel confident I can talk about it effectively.”
What would you say is the most significant way in which being a music publicist has evolved over the years?
“It’s constantly evolving. The method by which you have to adapt to get the music to an audience changes almost daily. I started doing this in the very early days of the Internet, so blog culture and so much of the editorial coverage moving online was certainly an overall massive change. But in terms of new avenues to go down, just to be able to reach people, it’s really just day by day.”
I just watched the beautiful video for your client Samantha Sidley’s cover of “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which features a woman in a K95 mask, very much placing it during the pandemic. What kind of an effect has Covid-19 had on the work that you do?
“It’s interesting. I feel like it’s been one of the busiest years of my entire career in doing this — fortunately, and I am incredibly grateful to be busy — I say it out loud to myself every day, that it’s sort of miraculous to be busy, not only for the distraction, but also just to keep going and to stay in business. I found that artists are stuck at home and they are reacting to the pandemic by creating on an artistic level. They are reacting to the pandemic by creating just to stay busy. There’s a lot of music and a lot of art. Very fortunately for me, artists are coming to me saying, ‘I’ve done this. Can you help me get anyone to notice it and listen to it and pay attention to it?’”
What are some of the Fanatic Promotion projects about which you are most fanatical for 2021?
(Laughs) “I’m still working with a great record called ‘Godmuffin’ by Mike Viola, who I consider a genius songwriter. He is probably most well-known for being the voice of the song ‘That Thing You Do’ from the Tom Hanks movie. When you see the band playing it in the movie, he is the voice you hear. He is also a really genius record producer and songwriter in his own right. That record came out at the end of last year, but I’m still working on that. I’m really excited about that. Another artist, Samantha Sidley’s label-mate Alex Lilly, is about to start recording a new record which I’m really excited about. There’s a sort of avant-garde Tom Waitsian artist I work with from Jersey City named J Hacha De Zola. He just finished a new record I’ve mentioned on my Facebook the other day that I’m pretty excited (about), because I’m one of the only people who’s gotten to hear it. It’s quite a leap for him.
Next year, 2022, is the 25th anniversary of the founding of Fanatic Promotion. Do you have plans to commemorate the occasion?
“Yes, I’ll probably go to the guy I work with who works on my social media. He’s a really creative guy and he might have some ideas of how we can do some kind of retrospective or something like that. I have a feeling I’ll probably just personally post on Facebook or my social media myself to say, “Wow, 25 years. I can’t believe that I’m this deep into this. Hoping for another 25.” No plans just yet, but I’m sure there will be something.”
Josh, would you please say something about your history in and connection to the Westchester County region?
“That Beatles record that I mentioned from my parents’ record collection, I took it off the shelf about five miles away from here. I grew up around here in… Yorktown Heights. I lived in New York City for almost 15 years. I lived in Colorado for seven years. But I came back to this area, because I have family here and I know it well and I love Westchester County…. Peekskill is where I am now. I can drive past my childhood home five miles away from here. It’s not red anymore. It’s yellow, but it’s still there.” (Laughs)
This interview is running in WAG magazine’s animal issue. Do you have any pets?
“Yes, a cat named Stella. She’s sitting right here. For some reason, when I’m on this treadmill, she positions herself to block me from the doorway.”
She wants to make sure you get in all of your steps. How old is she?
“She is 7, I think.”
Do you have a favorite musical act with an animal in its name?
“This wouldn’t be my favorite musical act, but I love them. It just so happens that I sent an email about them to someone the other day, comparing some music I was listening to this artist. The band is called Tiger Trap. It’s a band that’s no longer together, but it featured a songwriter named Rose Melberg. They were part of this genre called twee, which really isn’t around anymore. It had an innocent, indie pop sound. They were a great band and she’s an amazing songwriter. I can’t say it’s one of my favorite bands of all time, but I certainly love them. That was the first thing that came to mind when you said that, because I literally typed her name 24 hours ago. Might as well give them a plug.” (Laughs)