Monique Rothstein is a publicist and director of Positive Feedback, a boutique music PR and artist management agency she founded in 2009. Monique started out in the industry as a music journalist, a gig that led her to the opportunity of joining the PR team at Creative Vibes, from there she progressed into titles including label manager and indie label publicist. Now with bucketloads of experience and multiple successful campaigns under her belt, Monique runs Positive Feedback specialising in music, arts and culture. The agency looks after an impressive list of clients including Boo Seeka, Safia, Confidence Man, LANKS, The Jungle Giants and many many more. She also fits in managing the careers of singer/songwriter, Ngaiire and indie outfit, Little May.
Alongside running Positive Feedback, Monique also sits on the board of Australian Artist Managers (AAM) and has been invited to speak at a series of industry panels around the world including SXSW (USA), Primavera Pro (Spain), Fluvial (Chile), BIGSOUND (AUS), and Face The Music (AUS) as well as mentoring for the likes of The Seed Fund, Sounds Australia and Bush Bands Business.
We’re truly inspired by Monique’s work and her efforts in creating an environment that helps build sustainable careers in the industry and are beyond excited to present: A Week In The Life Of Monique Rothstein!
I wear at least three very differently shaped hats in my role as Positive Feedback’s director. Whilst managing the careers of Little May and Ngaiire on a global level, I also assist with top level strategy for about 25 projects on the PR side of the company. From my experience managing global release campaigns and my consistent investment in developing relationships in new territories, my knowledge of local and international music and media landscapes means I’m able to better support domestic artists with achieving their goals, as well as supporting international artists to break into Australia. Campaigns are implemented by the most loyal, strategic, dedicated, passionate, clever, inspiring team consisting of seven humans that I hands down could not do this gig without.
In addition to PR and management, I also stay across the general day to day running of all business affairs and ensuring we’re operating sustainably as a company – I do this with the help and support of my Head of Promotions and Business Manager. I am always trying to look at new and creative ways to develop additional services to help bolster the skills and services we offer, as the music industry is a constantly evolving landscape and it would be negligent not to stay across new developments in the business whilst growing our networks and opportunities.
It is difficult to do a day x day as no day is ever the same and I travel a lot! But here’s a couple of options for how it could unravel:
6am – I’m a yoga nerd, so I always start the week on my mat at an ungodly hour. In an industry and culture that doesn’t tend to honour personal space, it’s hugely important for me to create my own. I am incredibly passionate about mental wellness, so this has become a non-negotiable.
8am – Conference calls with international clients, or label partners/agents/sync teams/publishers start early, but it’s still Sunday when it’s our Monday (yippee!), so I usually get a head start on getting through emails.
9.30am – The indomitable Rhiannon from our team goes into triple j for our servicing meeting, so we would usually chat briefly beforehand to ensure we’re all up to date on key wins before she pitches her heart out.
10am – 1pm – Meeting with record label to discuss potential new projects. Here, we would go through the general project, objectives, key targets for the campaign, the general timeline and listen to music.
1pm – Meetings with existing clients to discuss the roll out of their forthcoming campaigns, timelines, brainstorm creative PR and marketing ideas. Campaigns are constantly evolving so it’s important to be talking with clients almost daily to ensure we’re servicing media with real time updates.
3pm – COB – Every Monday the entire team sit down for an A&R and planning meeting. Here we listen to music from artists/labels/managers who have submitted interest in working with us, as well as going through the full schedule for existing clients, plotting out our strategy, scheduling radio servicing and generally creative brainstorming. The team will then go and pull together a formal promo plan for their clients and I will start proposals for clients we’d like to partner with.
6.30pm – Calls usually begin with international teams. I usually skype in my pajama pants from the couch and get my uber eats order in early so nobody is knocking on the door mid-conference call. It’s an awkward mistake I’ve made a few times. Real professional.
12am – Bed!
6am – Yoga!
7.30am – I spend a lot of time on calls with international territories. Mornings are usually reserved for the US – this could be across PR or management. When we’re in an album cycle, this could be conference calls with Little May’s booking agents in various territories, record labels, designers, videographers, publishers or publicists.
11am – Meeting with Day to Day Manager in the office to work through timelines for management clients, ensuring tour logistics and production is all taken care of for forthcoming tours and that we’re on track with all other elements. We talk about any updates from the band (we usually talk to them about 3 times a day when we’re in the thick of an album cycle), record label, publisher or internal team. Artist management entails everything from ensuring the rollout of the content schedule on social media, tour planning, and logistics, budgeting for international touring to managing design elements such as tour posters, so there’s never a dull moment. And the biggest part of that is communicating all of these updates to stakeholders in the project, which is a huge task when you have up to 50 people on your team.
1pm – I sit on the AAM Board so we’re regularly approving new members, discussing advocacy matters, reading research that the incredible ED sends through. Positive Feedback handles the external communications, so we’re promoting and sharing information around new programs as well as the great work that this important peak body do.
3pm – Sit down with staff to talk through media target options for premieres for new music videos or exclusive content such as remixes, photos, videos, music. We’re pretty collaborative and like to throw around some ideas and workshop if its ludicrous or genius. It’s usually ludicrous but some of our best ideas have been born in these meetings. We usually eat a lot of carbs during these sessions, which helps.
5pm – Sometimes I’ll proofread press releases, oversee artist bio’s or offer feedback on promo plans but these days my focus is business and artist management and PR strategy.
9pm – Usually running to try and make 2-3 shows.
Travel day! There’s a fair amount of travel in my role. Last week we were working on all the press for Melbourne Music Week, so I landed in the morning and straight into meetings and catch ups with some of my favourite Melbourne-based legends.
11am – Catch up with LANKS manager, Lou and his amazing team at the newly formed THAA Records to discuss 2018 plans and world domination.
1pm – Lunch with Jac from the Melbourne Positive Feedback office to catch up and talk through upcoming projects.
3pm – Meeting with Beatrice from Kardajala Kirridarra, Haiku Hands and Beatrice to talk through plans for 2018 across all projects.
5.30pm – Head to The Age Music Victoria Awards.
8pm – Dinner with my darling friend and manager extraordinaire, Clara Iaccharino (Mama Kin, All My Exes Live In Texas).
10pm – All the shows, all over Melbourne – Melbourne Music Week was incredible and proves Melbourne as one of this country’s most dynamic cities. From live shows inside St. Paul’s Cathedral (hello church rave!) to lounge room gigs (I loved seeing Angie McMahon, Rob Munios and Oh Pep! As part of Parlour Sessions), it was one of my favourite projects we’ve worked on.
7am – Calls commence with internationals! De ja vu much?
11am – Proposal writing and timelines for forthcoming projects (2018 is going to be dreamy!) Working out of Laneway Greens in Melbourne and a series of my fave cafés.
1pm – Lunch with fellow manager to discuss potential feature vocal collaboration for Ngaiire.
3pm – Meeting with Charlotte Abroms (a dear friend and manager of some of my favourite acts of the moment, including my spirit animal, Angie McMahon).
7pm – Team dinner with Positive Feedback whilst we’re all in Melbourne.
9pm – Gigs!
9am – Home to Sydney and straight into an all day planning meeting with record label, management and booking agent to discuss strategy around album #2 (can’t say who but it’s a good one!)
12pm – Lunch with digital content agency to discuss collaboration for upcoming festival and how we can best support each other. Lots of chat about #content
2pm – Catching up on emails and delegating to my dream team to help action.
4.30pm – Meeting with accountant and bookkeeper to look at cash projections, day to day business affairs, structural components of the company, legal discussions and H&R catch up.
7pm – Couch time!
Highlights of the job
I sat down with a business coach last year and he asked me the core reason I do this work. My response was “making good things happen for good people.” I don’t think there’s any other way to put it.
I am hugely passionate about conscious leadership and being able to offer an environment and culture that supports people I care about in a nurturing way. The music industry is particularly challenging when it comes to matters of mental health as there are minimal boundaries around work hours, personal space and high expectations with little financial remuneration. For touring artists, it can be a lifestyle of little sleep, relentless travel, bad diet and a lack of routine and I am passionate about helping support, protect and encourage these artists to make sustainable, healthy choices in order to have long-term successful careers in what is a unique industry.
We are so lucky to work with some of the most talented artists on this big blue marble and it would be impossible to fight for them every day if we didn’t genuinely connect to the work and the people. We have a ‘no dickhead policy’ and choose selectively which teams and artists we work with.
I now have a team of seven humans who are the family I chose for myself. I legitimately have the strongest press team on the planet and they’re certified superheroes who inspire me every day and keep me motivated. Their consideration, care and passion for the people we work with is unparalleled. I want nothing more than for my team and our clients to feel supported, passionate, creative and well and inspire others to do the same.
Being able to facilitate the vision, stories and voices of the artists we work with and help amplify that to the greater public is a true joy. It’s how you can create great change as people want to feel understood and connected with – working with and sharing strong and important messages justifies the hard work.
A particularly special project for us was a female Indigenous band I met whilst mentoring in Alice Springs a couple of years ago. Described as “one of those rare acts that come along once in a generation”, Kardajala Kirridarra perform in English and Mudburra, a rarely heard Indigenous language and tell the story of the importance of women as creators. Partnering with these incredibly talented and highly spirited humans allowed us to help share their stories in a way that they perhaps wouldn’t have been able to achieve otherwise. With the recognition that came from countless feature albums, radio play, 5 star reviews and features in high quality media outlets around the country, they were able to find an incredible management team, a booking agent and receive offers for touring opportunities that will help create a long term career for this band, helping them to reach the ears and hearts of more people.
The highlights are endless – watching Little May play sold out shows in obscure towns throughout the USA and see fans singing the words reminds me of the true power of music. I remember having a moment watching them play in front of 1200 people in their hometown for their headline album tour and I could not stop crying. I feel bone deep proud of the people I work with – they’re basically family.
Lowlights of the job
Whilst the past 9 years at Positive Feedback has been filled with tremendous moments of fun, glory, full-hearted celebration and enormous pride it feels important to acknowledge that it is not always so. It would be dishonest of me not to touch on the challenge of running your own shop and the moments where I almost threw in the towel to go and get a ‘real job’ so that I could take this illusive ‘day off’ that adult people with regular incomes talk about.
The lack of boundaries in this industry is challenging and it is hands down impossible to have a sustainable career in this business if you’re not able to manage your own. I spent the first 3 years of Positive Feedback working in my loungeroom and often spent days where I wouldn’t leave my house or even stop for dinner. The work is never done in this business (particularly management), so it requires great discipline to choose to take an hour to go for a walk or turn your phone off instead of replying to the emails – which never ever stop coming.
I’ve sacrificed my health, relationships and my happiness at various points in the last 10 years. I’ve made a conscious decision in the last couple of years to do it differently. I knew that I didn’t stand a chance in hell of doing this for the foreseeable future in a sustainable, happy, healthy way if I didn’t change my relationship with my work.
At the end of the day, it’s about perspective – and we have a phrase in the office “it’s PR not ER” for when we’re feeling overwhelmed by the workload. Nobody is going to die if you don’t send that email right at this very minute, so step the hell away from your computer, be a human, and respond to it in the morning.
Words of wisdom
First and foremost: Be kind to people. It’s a small industry and you are only as good as your word and your reputation.
Whilst you’ll be told otherwise, there are no rules in this business. Work in a way that is authentic and true for you, fight for what you believe in and surround yourself with people who support you and share your vision.
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