A Chat with Angela Mastrogiacomo (03.06.19)

Image courtesy of Jack Finucane

Whether it’s writing a review on a new band, convincing someone else to write a review on a new band, or helping the new band build their brand, Angela Mastrogiacomo is a master! Super-sweet, adorable, and seemingly the nicest person alive, but with business savvy that could toss Richard Branson under the table. A few days before releasing her next project – a video series dealing with PR and brand-building – Angela took time out to answer some noisy questions.

OSR: Hi Angela and thank you for chatting with me. I know you’re very busy, so I’ll try to keep this short-ish.

AM: Thank you so much for having me, I’m really excited!

OSR: Your journey into the music industry began with Infectious Mag, what prompted its start?

AM: It did! The founding of Infectious was totally serendipitous. I was attending an Anberlin show, and got to the venue a little early and happened to catch the opening band – it was this emerging act from Providence, RI called The Coming Weak and I was BLOWN AWAY. I still remember watching from the doorway as they bounced around the stage, singing and playing their hearts out, and watching the audience jump around with them. Their energy was electric, and even though they were relatively unknown, they played that show and every show I saw them at after like they were playing Madison Square Garden. They were the band that started it all, and they became my very first interview. I have them to thank for everything.

OSR: Do you think it’s easier to begin a blog today than it was when you started?

AM: Yes and no. I think there are a lot more resources and inspiration – then I started Infectious in 2009 when music blogs were just beginning to become a thing. On the other hand, there are now SO many blogs that I can see how trying to stand out would be a lot harder. It’s a changing landscape, so I think the key is to have fun with it and always remember why you started it in the first place.

OSR: What are your thoughts on podcasts versus blogs?

AM: I love podcasts. I actually plan to start one in the Fall! I think in terms of music discovery or consuming information, they’re just different, so it’s hard to compare. I know that for me, personally, I listen to a lot of podcasts because I spend a lot of time walking my dog, and it’s great to use that time to learn and take a break from the stress of everything. But I’m also an avid reader and I love the ability to quickly absorb information through skimming, and I can’t do that on a podcast, nor can I see photos of the artist or get fully immersed in a story in the same way that I can with a blog.

OSR: Did you ever think about starting your own band?

AM: It would be a pretty terrible band! I actually have zero musical talent, so the thought never crossed my mind. In my life, I’ve had brief attempts at flute (this was in middle school, so I don’t know if that counts), guitar and drums, and I was really terrible at all of them. Possibly the worst at drums because I have NO coordination.

OSR: In addition to being a kick-ass journalist, you also run an outstanding PR company. First, why did you expand and how did you come up with the name Muddy Paw PR?

AM: Aww, thank you!!! I started Muddy Paw after graduating college in 2011, which was still a rough time for anyone entering the workforce, but especially someone with a Communications degree. I couldn’t seem to find a job that I liked and that didn’t end up going through massive layoffs that left me out of work. After months crying in the bathroom at a job I hated, I got laid off for what was the second or third time in a year or so period, and I decided “that’s it, I’m starting my own company so I can never be laid off again.” So I did.

I was very lucky that a lot of things aligned to make it possible, and I’m very grateful for it. As for the name, I knew I wanted to showcase and sort of immortalise my best friend, my dog Sawyer. For weeks I tried to come up with a name, and then one day after playing outside Sawyer tracked in mud all over the floor, and my mom was actually the one who put two and two together. And so, Muddy Paw PR (and my ode to Sawyer) was born!

OSR: How long, would you say, do you have to be “in the industry” to know what you’re doing?

AM: Oh gosh, that’s a great question. I have no idea, I still don’t know what I’m doing! I’ve been in the industry for ten years and while there are a lot of things I feel confident about, but there’s a lot I still feel like I don’t know and that’s partially because the industry is always changing. That said, I’ve been doing PR for five years and I’d say in the last two years is when I finally started to feel like I could do a lot of this stuff with my eyes closed. 

I think a lot of it depends on who you are and your personality, as well as how much time you put in. If you’ve been in the industry ten years but only spend five hours a week in it, then you might not feel as confident as someone who’s spent half that but been at it for 40-50 hours/week. That said, I think it takes a good few years of stumbling around and forging ahead to gain that confidence. But I also think having someone you trust that you can go to for advice and mentorship as you get stuck will get you to that feeling of confidence a lot faster.

OSR: What tips do you have for any aspiring music bloggers and publicists?

AM: In general, my advice is always to build your relationships and to build them well. A lot of people don’t really understand what building relationships means. They think it’s handing out a business card and expecting other people to do things for them. That’s not relationship building.

When you build relationships, it’s about giving more than you take. Listening more than you talk. Putting the other person first. It’s getting into FB groups and commenting on threads where you can share your expertise and not ask for something in return right away. It’s going to a conference and talking to the people around you and exchanging IG handles so you can keep in touch (and then actually keeping in touch). It’s talking to people about the things they love (that have nothing to do with their job) and finding common ground, and THEN when you’ve built those relationships and they’re built on a genuine foundation, only then is it ok to ask for favours – and remember, it goes both ways. You have to be willing to help them too.

The best and most genuine relationships I’ve built are those of respect for one another, and a desire to truly help one another. That’s what relationship building should be, and it’s honestly what the whole music industry should be.

OSR: What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time as a blogger and a publicist?

AM: Definitely, the relationship building one. However, beyond that, I’d say as a blogger it was that things like consistent posting matters for coverage opps, but having a real brand is what matters for reader retention. There was a point at which I was posting 20 stories a day on Infectious and we had really high readership but it was a lot of people just coming in to read one story and leaving. You can’t thrive like that, and you can’t build a lasting blog like that. Figure out your brand, learn to convey it in everything you do, and work on building that loyal fan base.

Also, learn to say no. I burned myself out covering things I didn’t even like in the first few years building Infectious because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. There’s a fine line between doing favours here and there, and building that relationship, and just saying yes to everything out of fear.

OSR: If you could choose to pursue only one of your projects, which would it be and why?

AM: This is really tough. I’m currently working on stepping outside the music industry a bit and into the online education space by creating and providing online courses to musicians as well as entrepreneurs on everything from how to get press, to how to build relationships, and everything in between. Right now, that’s my main focus. 

However, inside the music industry, I’ve actually co-launched a membership site for musicians and industry professionals with my co-founder Steve Palfreyman called Music Launch Co., and that’s been a huge focus of mine for the last year as we’ve worked to grow it. Inside Co. we’re focusing on the power of community and collaboration and we facilitate that through monthly masterminds, workshops, bringing in experts for Q&As and just really focusing on the idea that we’re better together. We really want it to be a safe space for musicians and industry to not only learn and grow through our resources but to build collaborations with one another and feel like they have a safe space to go when they get stuck. Too many people want to hide the struggles they’re going through and do it all on their own, we want to create a space where you not only don’t feel alone but you can actually post what you’re struggling with and get feedback, advice, and support to help you move forward. We have some really big things coming up this Fall, and I’m pretty excited!

OSR: You say you have a sweet tooth. What’s your sugary weakness?

AM: Haha yes!!! I love that you noticed this! Hands down, ice cream. I can (and do) eat ice cream most nights. Right now I’m obsessed with this flavour from a local ice cream shop (Haywards, for anyone in the NH/MA area) called ‘Cookie Monster’. It’s just blue vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookie chunks but it’s so incredible. I also can’t turn down a good chocolate cake.

OSR: If you hadn’t entered the music industry, what career path would you have chosen?

AM: I often say that what I’m really in is the connection and storytelling business – I just happened to do it via the music industry. I think if I wasn’t in the music industry though, I would have either ended up in academia somewhere or some kind of community-oriented role. I live for community and connection and all the ways it can bring us together, so I’m certain I would have ended up there.

OSR: The music industry seems super cool, but is it really all that superb?

AM: Yes and no. The music industry seems a lot more glamorous than it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some very cool, incredibly humbling moments. This industry has afforded me a lot of amazing experiences and opportunities and I’ve also met some of my closest friends through the industry. It’s been good to me in a lot of ways, but it’s also a very cruel, cutthroat, bitter place to be a lot of the time. There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of entitlement, and a serious lack of loyalty. There is a core group of amazing, kind, loving people in here, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of them. But it is a TOUGH place to live for too long. It’ll make you bitter if you let it.

OSR: Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

AM: Oh noooo! Don’t hate me, but I actually don’t like either! I know, I know, I’m sorry!!

OSR: Tea or coffee?

AM: Tea all the way! Specifically, this tea from David’s Tea called ‘Crème Caramel’. It’s my favourite!

OSR: What has running Infectious and Muddy Paw taught you about yourself?

AM: This question is so good! It’s taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. It’s taught me what I’m good at – things like building relationships, being a connector, speaking (I love speaking engagements!). These are parts of myself I never knew existed before I started my journey. However, it’s also highlighted that I can be stubborn to my detriment. But this is also where I learned to set boundaries and stand up for myself. Being in this industry and running two companies has put me in a lot of situations that tore me down and forced me to build myself back up. It’s taught me how to say no and set boundaries and put myself first; something I still struggle with, but that gets better every day.

Most of all, it’s taught me that I’m capable of the things I set my mind too. Through both Infectious and Muddy Paw I’ve developed the confidence to know that while I might not always know exactly where I’m going, I know I’ll get there if I just keep at it.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t decided one day in March 2009 to take a chance and interview a band I’d fallen in love with, or if I hadn’t decided in early 2014 to quit the 9-5, help bands for a living, and never look back. It’s taught me the power of hard work and grit and cleverness and I’m forever grateful for the experiences both have brought me.

OSR: And, that’s it! Thanks again for the chat, Angela.

AM: Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story.

Thank you so much to Angela for speaking with us, we appreciate it tremendously. To keep up with her projects, check out Infectious Magazine, Muddy Paw PR, and the latest video series discussing how to create more opportunities and expand your audience!

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