Mike Cubillos owns and operates Earshot Media. I’ve known him for several years now and work closely with him for premieres and such here at Substream, as well as my various other writing endeavors. He’s one of the most down-to-Earth people I’ve met and one of my favorites to work with in the music industry.
Earshot has had a lot of clients, some of your favorites even. The firm has helped with campaigns for All Time Low, Issues, The All-American Rejects, Set Your Goals, even big events like the 2015 Vans Warped Tour, and more.
Lucky for myself, I had a chance to ask Mike some questions about his time in the industry (going on twenty years: wow!). And I even asked him about his start, going all the way back to the roots of his career. Take a look below.
20 years. What’s that been like?
It’s kind of unbelievable. On the one hand, it’s flown by and on the other, it feels like it’s been 50 years. I’m just happy to still be doing this and loving it. I’ve met so many great people and have worked with some very talented and inspiring people along the way. Overall I just feel very lucky.
You’ve worked with a LOT of talented/well-known artists over the years. Were any of them very surreal for you at first?
A lot of them. It never gets old when you meet up with an artist that you’ve admired for a long time and they’re now your client. It’s very surreal when you’re on the phone with someone who’s music you’ve been a fan of for years, just having a casual conversation or figuring out a gameplan for their new record. Or the weirdest is when you’re driving an artist around town doing press and it hits you, like “Holy crap, Fletcher from Pennywise is sitting in my car right now.”
Publicists can sometimes be the unsung heroes in the industry. What would you say is a big misunderstanding between the press and publicists?
It’s obviously a very symbiotic relationship. I think most publicists understand the pressures that writers/editors etc are under, especially in the current media landscape were in. And vice versa. As publicists, we too are under a lot of stress, trying to deliver results for our clients that have an impact and help move the needle. While the number of online outlets continues to grow (and the number of print outlets gets smaller), it’s getting more challenging to weed through all the opportunities that are out there and to focus on the ones that make sense for any given artist. I think as long as both parties are willing to acknowledge these pressures we’re all under, and there’s open communication, there is less room for misunderstanding. I have nothing but respect for writers, editors and music bookers, etc. Especially those that are still willing to champion newer, developing acts. I got into this line of work because of my passion for discovering new music, usually via magazines, fanzines, newspapers, alt-weeklies. To me, a lot of music writers I grew reading were like rock stars in their own right. So to get to work closely with them every day is still a very cool thing.
Run down some of the highlights doing press in music for 20 years.
There are been so many projects I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. I’m really proud to have played a part in the early careers of bands like Avenged Sevenfold, All Time Low, The All-American Rejects and a ton of others. I’m also proud of my long-running affiliation with Reel Big Fish. They were my first big client and the fact that they’re still with me today all these years later is something that I don’t take for granted. Another highlight is the festival work I’ve done on events like Vans Warped Tour, Taste Of Chaos, Music Tastes Good, It’s Not Dead, Punk Rock Bowling and others. I love being part of a huge team of people that comes together to pull off the impossible.
A lot of people in music highlight fatigue, in general, being a concern of theirs. Do you ever feel that? Or the need to be overwhelmed with keeping up? And how would you counter that?
Yeah, there’s always that fear of burning out. This is not a 9-5 gig. It really has a tendency to take over your life, if you let it. I try hard to keep things in balance between work and my personal life, but it can be a struggle. I have an amazing wife and two kids that keep me in check. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought of throwing in the towel and doing something completely different, but I think I love what I do too much to give it up.
Have you done press in any other industries besides music?
I have. I love when my job allows me to delve into other areas outside of music. It’s a fun challenge. I’ve been able to work on tech stuff like mobile apps and websites, and I’ve dabbled in doing press for action sports athletes, authors, apparel, documentary films, producers, food/beverage, art, podcasts, and other sectors, and those experiences have all been great. I love music, but doing press outside of that industry can keep things interesting.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I got started via an internship in college. I first interned at MCA Records and eventually ended up at Zoo/BMG (Tool, Matthew Sweet, Green Jelly, etc.) I started out in the marketing department, eventually moving over to video promotion and then finally in the publicity department. I was fortunate to work for two women (Leah Horwitz and Hanna Bolte) who were not only great at their jobs but were super supportive and let me really sink my teeth into various projects early on. It was a great entry point into the music business and I think it really prepared me for a career in the business.
Do you have any tips or advice for younger people or newer aspiring journalists/publicists?
I would tell anyone that wants to get into PR or music journalism to just get out there and do it. If you’re in college studying these fields, great, but even if you’re not, become involved in your local scene and familiarize yourself with the key players in the music scene. For writers, if there isn’t much going on locally, start your own blog. If you’re a fledgling publicist, reach out to local bands and offer to help them out. Hit up labels or local media outlets about internships. In any of these cases, you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to take a chance on you, especially if you’re respectful and professional and demonstrate a willingness to learn and to start from the ground up.
Find Mike online at: www.earshotmedia.com