Music industry PR pro Wes Davenport shares hope for PR’s virtual future

Even for an industry that is built on in-person interaction and performance, some digital tools offer a broad new horizon for reaching media outlets and driving awareness.

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Wes Davenport is focused on the future in his role working with university students who are also employees of °1824 at Universal Music.

The program offers young pros the chance to work with Universal music Group’s recording artists—before they even graduate from college. Offering young pros a chance to flex their creative muscles, Davenport says he is daily inspired by his work.

 

We spoke with him about how he sees the changing landscape of public relations for the music industry and beyond, especially with his front row seat working with the industry’s future leaders. Here’s what he had to say in our latest in the “Day in the Life” series:

1. What’s the first thing you do every day when you wake up?

Davenport: I take care of my pets, get some morning reading in with a physical book, then get sunlight and exercise with an outdoor run. It’s all about waking up my mind and body with something other than the screens I stare at the rest of the day.

2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?

Davenport: On the company org chart, it’s SVP of °1824, Todd Goodwin. I’m very lucky to have him as a boss, mentor and friend. We mix in short-term goals and long-term vision with chats about records, memes and life. Whomever I’m speaking to in the moment, I try to treat like the most important person.

3. When do you plan to go back into the office? Do you want to go back?

Davenport: I’m open to returning to a regular office at some point. Working from home, I thrive off of getting coffees, lunches, and going to events. Be it an office or working from home, I’m looking for the feeling of being in motion and connecting with people in person.

4. What’s a new tool you have discovered that you just can’t live without?

Davenport: In 2020, we added an offering to our PR toolkit that has become incredibly popular with our media partners and labels: virtual press conferences.

Press conferences with artists over Zoom allow emerging media outlets to engage with our artists in a forum they may not otherwise have access to—and moreover, it maximizes our artists’ time by speaking with multiple publications at once. We have also built community among our media network’s writers by bringing them together in a digital space. Even with people returning to work at places outside of the home, our virtual press conferences are experiences untethered to location, allowing for tastemakers to connect with artists across the world.

5. What was your favorite work memory from the past year?

Davenport: With the help of my team, I produced a video game concert experience with Island Records artist Tove Lo in Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” To pick concert attendees, we ran a contest where fans could enter to win a digital concert ticket by creating Tove Lo-themed in-game merch. YouTuber Nintentalk created an imaginative concert venue complete with a stage, DJ booth, and photo opps.

The pure excitement of the fans is what stuck with me. They were so nervous to “be on stage” before the concert livestream, and the pure elation at getting to meet their favorite artist through their favorite game was priceless. Both music and gaming press covered the virtual experience, getting Tove Lo in front of those two audiences that frequently overlap.

Below are some notable press highlights from the experience as well:

6. What has been the biggest “lesson learned” from 2020?

Davenport: People need meaningful connection, both in-person and visually.

“Zoom fatigue” gets a lot of heat, but I believe that’s just overall fatigue in disguise. So many of my conversations used to be over phone where I couldn’t pick up on facial expressions and personality cues. Seeing people over video conferencing enhanced so many relationships. With 2020 in the rearview, I keep coming back to the value of digging in and being present with the person in front of me, be it through a screen or in-person.

7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for 2021?

Davenport: There’s value and meaning to building relationships early on. At °1824, we’re working with both the present and the future of the music industry: our own young professionals, rising artists, influential creators, podcast producers, playlist curators and media founders. Investing in talented, creative people prior to them building a massive audience or social clout pays off.

8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR? 

Davenport: I’m working with the future of [public relations] daily with my incredibly talented employees, who are also university students. °1824 hires young creatives and collegiate students to do impactful work far beyond the scope of a traditional college or ambassador program.

My PR reps are crafting pitches, advising artists, building relationships, and helping share the essential music stories. Once they graduate, we have a long track record of placing them into full-time jobs within Universal Music Group and our family of record labels. It’s truly a dream job to get to wake up and work to build a better music industry.

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