"Press release is not your entire PR strategy. So I just want to make that super clear so there's no confusion. It is a tool that can absolutely be really helpful but it is not your campaign. When you are writing a press release, you want to think of it as an announcement so it has to be something really newsworthy that someone besides your mom and your grandma would be interested in. " ~Kaytee Long Becker

Successful Musicians Podcast Episode 27


Interviewee: Kaytee Long Becker

Interviewer: Jason Tonioli


Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong, and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast.




Jason: Welcome to the podcast today. Today, our guest is Kaytee Long Becker. She is a musician, started out little, playing piano, and she has kind of grown into this PR (Public Relations) expert that has now been teaching musicians how to do press releases to get inside on magazines and in the news. What I find so interesting is that I think things have really changed over the last 20 years, it’s evolved so much that I don’t feel like a lot of people know how to do PR or even know what that means anymore just because the Internet has changed so many things. 


So, Kaytee, thanks so much for joining us. You told me earlier that you started playing piano at 4 years old, so let’s go all the way back there and give us a little bit of where your origin story, where you came from and how you got to where you’re at.


Kaytee: Okay. Thank you, Jason. I appreciate you having me on. I’m really excited about this. Yeah, I started playing piano when I was four. It was a battle every day between my mom and I to get me to practice but fast forward two decades, I’m very excited that she made me do that. It was Suzuki so I was learning by ear. I played for, let’s see, until I was 18, and then I took a little hiatus and now I’m playing again. I sing and I come from a family of artists, so my mom is a stage actress and she was an opera singer and did a lot of commercial work and stage work. Then, I’m married to a musician, too, so it’s a family affair and it’s just always been something that I’ve been really passionate about.


Jason: So it sounds like we had a similar story. You had a mean mom just like me that made us practice and sometime around high school you were allowed to quit, it sounds like, and that’s exactly what happened with me.


Kaytee: Oh, I love that. What’s funny though is that when I was allowed to quit, (it was high school) and then a couple of years later, (still in high school), I decided that I wanted to learn how to do pop music because it was very different, so interesting. No, I’m not dissing pop music at all but of course, the structure is a lot less complicated by nature than Suzuki piano. I was playing classical. I wanted to learn how to do pop and so I went back on my own accord to playing so I think that was a big triumph for my mom.


Jason: Awesome. I did a very similar thing. I kind of stayed away from piano for several months and then all of a sudden it was, wow, I can play whatever I want and Green Day was just coming onto the scene. I remember pulling up Green Day and nobody’s ever heard somebody play Green Day on the piano back then. It was pre-YouTube and pre-Internet, and all of a sudden, I just found this new joy with music and I think what’s been really neat to see with all of the YouTube and the resources online now, with guitar tabs and all the chord sheets that are out there, it’s much easier to kind of see, wow, I can do cool stuff, not just be stuck playing Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, who are great, but it’s not always the funnest thing especially when you’re a teenager, right?


Kaytee: Yeah, absolutely. Oh, my gosh, I played Taylor Swift all day, every day.


Jason: Oh, yeah. Awesome. Growing up, did you expect that you would continue to do anything with music or have a career that touched on music like you’ve done? Or were you like, I don’t want to go anywhere near music because there’s no money in music?


Kaytee: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m thinking back. I haven’t thought about this in a while. Yeah. I actually went to college for musical theater. I auditioned and went to the school and all the things and unfortunately, at that point, I just wasn’t willing to work as hard as I needed to make that happen. 


Then I found this parallel love of media and PR. The day I called my mom and told her that I was switching my major to Public Relations and Advertising in a Minor in Spanish. I think it was the best day of her life because as an artist herself, she was always kind of like, I don’t really want you to go into the arts, but if you do, I’ll support you type of thing. So, yeah, I did. I was always acting on stage and such in high school so it was always just a part of me. Actually, this is just a fun anecdotal story, not intentionally trying to name drop but I did a play with Amy Adams when I was a kid and my mom did a lot of work with her and such, and so she taught me to dance.


So there’s just been a lot of love throughout my life surrounding the arts and I was always interested in continuing that in some way, shape or form.


Jason: So, you left the music side and you thought, okay, I’m going to go into PR and marketing. What drove you to want to help musicians? Was that your intent? I’m going to help music people get press releases and just get stories about them, or how did that kind of come about?


Kaytee: Yeah, well, initially I was working in film and television and doing Oscar and Emmy campaigns and then I segued over to music. I think as for all of us, we’ve all been helped by music at some point in our lives and coming from the background that I did and seeing how the industry was and the access that musicians had, it’s a lot different now. There’s a lot more access but at that time, there were a lot of gatekeepers. It’s really hard for musicians to learn things themselves without paying a lot of money. There’s a lot of scamming that was happening, just all of the above. 


So I literally woke up one morning, I was sharing this with you earlier. I woke up one morning and I was like, I’m going to start a PR firm in music and the basis of it is going to be teaching independent artists how to do their own PR because I feel really passionately that that is an educational tool that could really help a lot of people because realistically, musicians, independent musicians, can’t financially afford a publicist, paying them $5,000 a month for the rest of their life.


PR is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s definitely a long-term strategy. So I wanted people to be able to learn the skills themselves and then the time and place you can hire someone and that’s great, but then you also have the background and knowledge to know who you’re hiring and if they’re a good fit for you and if they’re feeding you bullsh*t or if they’re legit. There’s a lot of that out there on both sides, wonderful publicists and then there’s a lot of kind of pay-for-play type things. So, yeah, that’s where everything was born.


Jason: One of the things that drove me to want to start this podcast, we called it Successful Musician is as I looked back 20 little over 20 years ago, and the commentary and the belief system that I kind of formed in my own mind was that musicians can’t really make money. This isn’t possible. I think if you go back 20 plus years, that was kind of the label, and there were a lot of gatekeepers and walls that were nearly impossible for the normal independent musician to break through unless you were the chosen one. 


My hope with this podcast is hopefully we’re getting in front of some audiences of these independent, maybe even 20-year-old person, just like you were in school that decided, you know, I don’t want to go into music because I want to do PR. Give people an idea. What do they need to know and is it even possible to do music? So if you were sitting in front of a classroom of theater students and you were in that room, maybe, or had the younger you in there too, and you could give yourself some advice, what would you tell them and teach them about PR and advertising that they might need to know to help them be successful?


Kaytee: Focused on anything is the number one piece of advice I would give. But, yeah, just generally on PR, like I said, it’s a long game strategy. So there’s a lot of misconceptions around PR that you hire someone and they’re going to make you famous overnight and that’s just not the case. There are also misconceptions around the correlation between an article and streaming. So if you get an article in Rolling Stone, you would think that it would up your streaming a lot and bring in a lot of new fans and that isn’t always the case. So my goal is to make sure that there’s a lot of transparency around that and so the artists know exactly the purpose of PR because it’s definitely one of the main pillars of your release strategy, or it should be, but the purpose is to help. Tell your story online so it supports your SEO, your search engine optimization. It’s great for social content. It’s a great talking point for other interviews. You could add it to your marketing materials, to your bio, and it also can snowball into other opportunities. It’s not a quick fix and you need to think about it from just a longer term, building off of each other and building off of each opportunity.


So I would set everybody up straight with that knowledge around public relations.


Jason: One of the things, as I was working in the banking industry, I went through some basic PR classes and learned about a press release. So my guess is there are several people that have probably never heard what exactly a press release is. Please kind of explain. Is it that email that you send to somebody with a story idea? Or are there certain elements that are important in that? There are basic things that I remember learning when I was in my PR classes back in the day, but you do a DIY (do it yourself course) on how to do PR? What are those things that these musicians need to know about in a press release?


Kaytee: Yeah, so again, there are some misconceptions with press releases as well, right? PR. 14:58 Press release is not your entire PR strategy. So I just want to make that super clear so there’s no confusion. It is a tool that can absolutely be really helpful but it is not your campaign. When you are writing a press release, you want to think of it as an announcement so it has to be something really newsworthy that someone besides your mom and your grandma would be interested in.  So you have to think, which can be really challenging when you’re an artist because you think and we all think, anything that we’re all involved in, but this is so interesting because it is interesting to you and that’s fantastic, but it needs for it to actually have pressworthiness. It needs to be interesting to your local news or a blog that focuses on the genre that you’re in. So it needs to be really specific and I think I’m going to include a video -one of my videos that teaches you how to do a press release in the show notes and that’ll go into the actual logistics and details of how to write one.


A press release can be included in an email that you’re sending to press. 16:20 So some people do mass emails. I do not recommend that. I recommend that you choose writers who are specifically interested in the type of music that you are promoting or the story or whatever it is. Maybe it’s a local press, which I love doing. Local press, great avenue for our artists and writing a very personal pitch to the person because they’re getting hundreds of these pitches every week. So it’s really important that you stand out to them and you don’t make them feel like you’re just blasting everyone and their mother whose email address you have. PR is all about building relationships. That doesn’t mean that you have to have the relationships prior to promoting your project. I have gotten huge press placements, GRAMMY.com, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar, Ear Milk, without having these previous contacts. They have just been trailblazing and finding the right person who would be interested in the story. Then of course you can reach out to those people later. But yeah, when you’re sending a press release, just make sure it’s really targeted and the press release itself will stay the same.


17:47 You send an email with it in the body of the email, never attach it. That’s a big no no. Big pro tip there. Always put the press release in the body of the email. Don’t ever attach anything, including PDF. I see that a lot. Then write a nice little note to the person telling them why you think that they would be interested in it and stroking their ego a little bit, even like, oh, I saw this article that you wrote the other day and I really liked this part of it or this was really interesting to me, this resonated and here’s my project, I think you’d like it because of this, but really short. He wants to be very concise. So, yeah, those are my top tips for press releases.


Jason: Got it. I know you’ve just recently helped one of your clients got a Grammy nomination. I know you’ve helped kind of provide collaborations. I know you’re really good at introducing other people to each other for the right types of things. I really applaud you for that. 


Talk to me a little bit about this client that just got a Grammy nomination. As people are listening to it, it’s probably right around the time that’s going to be actually finding out if they win as well, which is awesome. How would one even go about thinking, okay, I want to win a Grammy. How do you wake up one day and how do you help somebody achieve that? I mean, as a plan that probably takes them 20 years. What advice do you have for somebody wanting to do that?


Kaytee: Absolutely, it’s possible. So her name is Cheryl B. Engelhardt. She’s up for Best New Age Ambient or Chant album and she has had this goal for I can’t remember if it’s a decade, might even be more than that.


Jason: It gets more than that.


Kaytee: More than that. It’s got to be more than that. I mean, we’ve been working on this for at least four years now. So again, it’s all about relationships. You got to get into the community. You want to be a member of the recording academy and you really just want to start meeting people and sharing music with them and the building blocks for us. We’ve been doing press together for about four years and this is her third New Age album. So all of the other albums and press that have happened because of those albums, those people have all been really supportive of this album. So again, it’s a long-term game, right? She didn’t wake up yesterday and was like, I’m going to win a Grammy. It’s been a really thoughtful process and we’ve just been building community through outreach for years. There’s a lot more that’s involved than that. From my perspective, that’s a lot of what my job would be.


Jason: I know a little bit about behind the scenes on this one specifically but I think what she did was really impressive. Even before she wrote the music, she thought up, there was a story behind it. I’m going to go get on a train. I’m going to write this music, and while I’m on a train right across the United States… I think a lot of times as artists, we maybe just, oh, I was in the shower, and I had an idea for a song. You talked about having a story or something that other than your grandma and mom want to talk about here. It needs to be more interesting than getting in the shower in the morning and having an idea hit you, right?


Kaytee: Absolutely. That’s a great point, Jason. This was a really thoughtfully thought-out project and that’s really helpful when it comes to PR because that story is already there and it’s authentic and so that goes a lot farther than if you’re just trying to come up with something on a whim. So, yeah, that is a great piece of advice, actually. Thank you for pointing that out, that 22:13 if you’re looking to do press or achieve some sort of accolade or whatever it is, you want to have a very robust story around it. So this is the first album that’s ever been written and recorded on a cross country train. Less than 20% of all nominees in this category have been women and this album was written, produced, mixed and mastered by all women. Actually, it worked out really well in the way that there are a lot of different talking points. Also, she wrote it after her best friend had passed away. There was a lot of emotion that was authentically in this album and a lot of healing that came from it. So for us, there were a lot of components that just kind of came together and that’s where the magic can happen.


Jason: As you’re explaining some of these, it’s just reminding me of some of the training that I went through. So I’m a marketer. I do lots of funnels and for anybody who does that world, you’re looking for the headline or the hook. What’s that hook?  I think that applies in the news all the time. If you’re probably reading the news, whatever the topic is you’re interested in, every one of those stories is going to have that seven or less word kind of headline to hook you and bring you in. I think as an artist, if you can’t come up with your own hook or headline that would be on the front of that title of that article that might be written, it’s probably not a good enough story yet. I would encourage everybody, as you read the news, if you are a musician trying to do PR or thinking, what is newsworthy? Just take 10 seconds after you’ve read the news for the day and think, okay, do I have anything? What would be the headline for the album or the song I’m working on? Or the project that’s going to be coming? Maybe it’s even something that’s going to take five or ten years to do, but have that in mind. I’ve just seen it over and over again. It helps so much more when you’ve already figured out that hook because that’s usually the hardest thing, I think, for those news editors. They’re really good at it.


Kaytee: Yeah, that’s a great strategy. 24:47 Clickbait is not what we’re going for but you do want them to click. The writers, their job depends on that. So the way that you can help them is by creating something that is just so easy for them, that they’re like, hell yes, this makes sense. Right? People are going to want to listen to this and then that goes into the next step. Once you do get a press placement, you want to share it everywhere because again, that’s what their job is, to get as many clicks as possible. So you want to help them in that way. You want to nurture that relationship with them and then the potential of you working with them again in the future is higher.


Jason: As you’re saying that, I’m just thinking of PT. Barnum. Everybody knows his story and how he would kind of come up with these crazy outlandish things that were sometimes true, sometimes not true, but he would play with the media sometimes to make these outlandish headlines so people would come to the museum to see his things or whatever the thing he was working on. 


When I was working in a bank for twelve years. Right out of college, I worked in a bank.  I was a stuffy banker but I was a marketing director at a bank. We really have the same career path. We were musicians, we quit music and we went to work in banks. I did that. As I was about four years into my career in the bank there, I found out from one of our branches that they had had a school come to them and the 6th graders had decided we wanted to collect a million pennies. They wanted to know, (this was 1520 years ago), could we come in and trade pennies and what would a million pennies look like?


It was this really kind of crazy idea of, well, if there’s really a million pennies, will that even hold or will it spill out of this container that they’re going to try and put it in? We helped them work with an engineering firm, and they built this massive plexiglass and metal container that sat in the middle of the school for almost five years while they filled it. It was the centerpiece in the school. I kind of came in right as they were saying, hey, we’re almost at a million pennies now. What do we do? The kids decided they wanted to take that million so they voted as a grade what they were going to do to help other people with that million pennies and they decided they were going to go build and fund teachers in schools in Zambia. They were going to help build a school, get them books, and then it was going to fund multiple teachers. It was really neat what they’d accomplished.


From a press release type of thing, I look back on that and wonder what a million pennies look like. We had to build this crazy box to hold the pennies. Oh, by the way, I’ve got kids, and I scheduled to have an armored truck come to pick up the pennies as they were shoveling them and scooping them. It took them almost three and a half hours to scoop pennies out of this and it was so fun. 


I blasted this to all of the four news stations here in Utah where I’m at, and I thought, I don’t know whether anybody’s going to show up. Maybe a newspaper will show up but I gave them the times. The armored car is going to go there. We’re going to have all these kids helping to bag pennies and if you’d like to be there and it was a little bit north in this remote area where I don’t think the news stations go up there as much. So they’re always kind of looking for that small town in Utah. Kids decide to get a million pennies and donate a school to Zambia and we ended up having four out of four of the TV channels go up with news crews.


Kaytee: Yeah, they love that.


Jason: It was crazy, but I think there were all these elements of something that nobody’s ever seen before. Kids doing something good, helping do something. There are all these elements kind of and then the stuffy bank, the stuffy bank just sent the truck. But we got all kinds of press for it.


Kaytee: Totally. There were great visuals, too, that big one when you’re working with TV, because they need those visuals.


Jason: What was so cool with that, though, is the next day I found out it aired on Good Morning America, and there were like 72 other stations that picked up the exact same story and we aired all over the country. I’m not sure it helped the little hometown bank. We were that much but made you look great. I got a few Atta boys, I guess, from the executive team there and it was great. 


The reason I bring that up is there’s all of these elements of the visual and something interesting, something nobody’s seen and as musicians, we’re probably doing and thinking of things like that and we don’t even realize that it’s something unique or maybe as you’re getting ready to record, could you bring some element in that would be different and make it special? Or maybe it’s just bringing your fans in to participate in some way so that you’re involving more people. There are opportunities always. I think if you just have your eyes open. Those are missed all of the time as creative people.


Kaytee: Absolutely. Something that this is not just a music release, this is the red carpet. It’s a Grammys. Something that Cheryl is doing. You just said to involve your fans, and she’s really good at that. She’s having all of her fans send her their signature and her dress is going to have all of her fans and friends and loved ones signatures on it which is a great red carpet. They’re like, who are you wearing? So it’s a great fit for that. But yeah, involving your fans, collaborations, other artists, there’s just sky’s the limit.


Jason: We’re about out of time, but I know you’ve got a course that’s the DIY Musician or for DIY, PR or Public Relations. Talk to us a little bit more about that course. You said you kind of created this to help musicians to know what to do and tell us more about that.


Kaytee: It’s called the DIY Music PR Academy and it teaches you literally exactly how the major labels are doing PR for their artists. So same format, and I show you exactly what I’m doing for my clients who pay me very well monthly. I just feel really passionately that artists should have exposure to this type of education because PR takes time, it takes a lot of effort, but you are 100% capable of doing it yourself in trailblazing contacts. I literally had zero contacts when I started this company and I’ve done a lot of fun things for my clients and that’s all from just creative strategy and my DIY strategy that I’ve created. So basically, if I can do it, you guys can do it and I just feel really passionately that we should all have access to education. Education is power, so that’s what it is.


Jason: I think what’s interesting is in hearing you talk about this, what you’re doing is you’re actually making anybody that goes through there’s going to be a much better client for any PR firm that gets hired. I sometimes see musicians thinking, oh, I need to sign a deal with a record label, or I need to have a publicist, or I need to have a manager and oftentimes it’s almost like a cop out. I feel like that they just expect somebody else to discover. How awesome they are and that’s usually how it works.


Kaytee: No. As musicians are entrepreneurs, you are in charge of making magic happen and it goes far beyond just making the music. When you’re hiring these people, it’s really important that you know their job so that you’re putting your money in the right place. There’s also a time and a place for PR. You know, if you’re just starting out, it doesn’t make sense for you to be spending thousands of dollars on hiring a publicist but it does make sense for you to be reaching out to local media and to be cultivating these relationships on your own. 


Then when it comes time, 33:49 because PR, it doesn’t create the opportunity, it supports the opportunities that are already happening. So you don’t want to hire someone and just be like, oh, I’m putting my life in your hands, make me famous, right? That’s not what it is at all. It’s supporting the snowball effect of what you’ve already created. When it is time to hire someone, then you know that the person is the right fit, that what they’re doing is authentic because there’s a lot of scammy things out there, there’s a lot of really fantastic publicists.


So it’s important that you have a connection with the person. You know that you’re going to get the attention from them that you need and that you want and that they’re going to be doing good work for you. So if you have the knowledge base of what they’re actually doing, then you just have a deeper understanding of where your money is going and what you can expect from the process.


Jason: Awesome. So one of the questions I often try to ask people is, when you hear the word successful musician, what comes to mind when I say that?


Kaytee: That’s a great question. I would say creating art that is authentic to you. Any part of the entertainment industry, a lot of it is ego based and removing your ego from the situation, from the art that you’re creating and creating art that is actually authentic to you and not doing it from a place of wanting approval from the rest of the industry, that’s going to get you a lot farther than just trying to copy what everybody else is doing. If you’re having fun doing that, then opportunities are going to open up for you.


Jason: Awesome. As you look back on your career, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of mentors and really smart people help you along the way. What’s the best advice I guess you feel like you’ve ever been given by somebody that was a mentor?


Kaytee: Meet people, go out and have conversations. First of all, people are really interesting and I know it’s hard after COVID. We have to flex this other part of our brain that hasn’t been working for a couple of years but it’s just so important to have that human connection because you never know who you’re going to meet, and you never know where that conversation is going to lead. I’ve had so many interesting conversations that have just led to the next opportunity and the next thing. So PR is about relationships, and if you have a face to face with a blogger or a journalist, your chances of breaking through the noise and getting a placement is so much higher than just an email outreach.


Jason: Awesome. Well, Kaytee, if people want to find out more about you, where’s the best place to go? I know we’re going to put a link to one of your videos that you’re giving away for free and the show notes, but where should they go to learn more about you and how you can maybe help them?


Kaytee: Yeah, just go to my Instagram and connect with me on Instagram. It’s @kayteelongbecker and maybe you can put that in the show notes.


Jason: We’ll put it, we’ll put a link in there for sure.


Kaytee: Okay, great. Yeah, just shoot me a DM. I do something I call an Express campaign, which includes the Academy. I’m actually not selling the Academy individually now. It’s part of the express campaign that I’m doing for artists. So you get a certain amount of press placements. You get access to the Academy, so you get a little bit of both worlds. You get some social content and online exposure, and then you also get to learn how to do a PR campaign from start to finish.



Awesome. Kaytee, thank you so much. I think you’re filling a gap that there’s not very many people doing a great job in the PR world that I know of to help artists. So I appreciate you taking the time to do that and spending time with us today.


Kaytee: Well, thank you, Jason. I appreciate you having me. It has been so fun.


Jason: Thanks so much.


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Finding success and fulfillment in the music industry is possible. Looking forward to seeing you in our next episode.



How to Connect with the Featured Guest:

Kaytee Long Becker is the owner and founder of DIY PR, INC. in Los Angeles. She is a public relations and communications strategist. In addition to full-service PR and coaching, she has worked with many major recording artists and award shows such as the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards, and the American Music Awards. She is the creator of the DIY Music PR Academy.

She was also honored as a “2020 Trailblazer Publicist” by Women In PR.

What You’ll Learn

In this episode, Kaytee tells us her story of how she found this parallel love of media and PR and how she woke up one day and wanted to establish a PR firm in music.

She also shares some big PRO tips on how to create a captivating PR pitch and shares with us literally exactly how the major labels are doing PR for their artists.

Things We Discussed

  • How PR is a marathon and not a sprint

  • What makes a captivating PR pitch

  • Misconceptions around PR

Connect with Kaytee Long Becker

Instagram (Personal)

Instagram (DIY Public Relations, Inc.)






Connect with Jason Tonioli







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