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*this text was originally published in the winter 2022/23 print version of Opera Canada magazine
Charlotte Lee founded Primo Artists in 2015; the classical music artist management agency repress A-list artists like Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, and Wynton Marsalis.
As a former publicist, I have always felt there should be a cohesive working relationship between an artist’s PR and management teams. Primo Artists made the shift in 2020/21 adding a PR wing to their management enterprise, so I wanted to talk to Charlotte Lee, President and Founder, about the move. There is definitely a relationship between how an artist is seen (PR) and how they are employed (management).
EB: Why is it important for your agency to include PR for your artist management clients?
CL: I’ve been managing artists for over 20 years. Over this time, I’ve seen the power of excellent PR and what it can do to expand the reach of an artist and their music. I’ve also seen many lost opportunities and it’s typically not because publicists aren’t working hard to get their pitches out. It comes down to the art of understanding what makes your artist distinctive and how to tell their stories in ways that resonate with the listener. At Primo, we naturally understand our artists and what is most meaningful to them, and this equips us to tell their stories better. We first made the shift into PR in 2020/21 after launching our Social Media Division, during the pandemic, when a few of our artists were reconsidering the value of what they were paying their teams for. We quickly then saw a need that extended beyond our management list, so in May 2022 we officially launched our PR Division. We now have 28 PR clients ranging from conductors and composers to organizations such as the Sphinx Organization and Dance Lab New York.
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EB: How does PR help you achieve your artist management goals for your clients?
CL: We moved into PR as a natural extension of our promotional work for artists. Fifteen years into my management career, I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that management was not simply about booking gigs but it was equally vital to maximize the visibility of the artist. One can’t exist without the other and we are responsible for raising our artists’ profiles. Even if an artist doesn’t have a publicist, it shouldn’t mean they don’t get visibility. So I would take it upon myself to pitch the Houston Chronicle ahead of a Houston Symphony debut and call up WQXR to get airplay ahead of a NYC show. We can’t leave this in the hands of the presenter or the record company. That’s why we are so committed to promoting, marketing and publicizing our artists. With visibility comes opportunity. And with opportunity comes wider reach and more people hearing their music.
Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti with manager Charlotte Lee on the red carpet at the GRAMMYS® in 2020
© ANDREW OUSLEY
EB: Before adding a PR department to Primo Artists did you work closely with your clients’ publicists?
CL: Yes we have always and continue to work closely with our client’s publicists. They are an essential part of the artist team. We rely heavily on them to get the word out there about our artists’ activity and to help get butts in seats!
EB: What do you wish you saw more of in the classical music industry?
CL: More reach out to communities. Too many friends of mine tell me they would never have known a certain concert was happening if I hadn’t told them about it. That is an indication that our marketing and outreach is not pervasive enough and reaching real people. We are constantly providing sources of Korean community centers, churches, grocery stores and restaurants to presenters of Seong-Jin Cho to help them spread the word through local communities about his concerts. We offer translation services and support to help with flyering. It’s the only way a community would know he’s in town as they aren’t on a mailing list or reading the English newspapers.