Still A Pistol: PR King Mitch Schneider Looks Back (Ozzfest) And Forward (TMZ)
Celebrating 15 years in the publicity business this month, the Mitch Schneider Organization is more than a PR company, it's a bonafide taste maker. It's garnered both the trust of the music world's biggest artists and promoters (Sex Pistols, X, Coachella, Ozzfest) and consistent consideration from us press peeps (no small feat considering music journos are often inundated with press releases, pitches and product non-stop). In a nutshell, if you write about music and you get something from MSO, you take a look.
Schneider has assembled a great team, but it's his ebullience and enthusiasm that's at the heart of the company's success. Despite decades in the increasingly tumultuous music biz, the guy always seems jazzed, never jaded when we see him out and about, whether he's at his client's gigs or not. However cliche, he really does live and breathe music. He started off as a rock journalist himself, after all.
Schneider (right) and client/pal Steve Jones at MSO's 15th anniversary party at the Roxy. Photo by Lina Lecaro.
The New York-to-LA transplant had his hand in both the beginnings of the NYC punk scene and LA's burgeoning underground as well, going out every night to soak in artists like Wall of Voodoo, The Plimsouls, the Blasters, the Go-Go's, Johanna Went, and his faves, X (whom he would later sign to MSO). From The Masque to Madame Wong's to Club 88 and to The ON Klub, it was all covered in his column "Talk Talk" for BAM magazine.
Read about Schneider's seamless shift into PR in our Q&A after the jump and get the scoop on the live music-filled milestone bash at the The Roxy in this week's Nightranger.
WSC: How did you make the transition from rock journalism to PR?
MS: Back in NYC in the mid-70s, I was writing for Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Circus--a terrific time not only for music (five nights of David Bowie at Radio City Music Hall! The Dolls at Mercer Arts Center), but the record company. Money flowed so there was always amazing parties when bands came to town--I remember a Black Sabbath indoor pool party where a celebratory cake was tossed into the pool and no one blinked. After a few years of writing album/live reviews and features, I wanted to try life on the other side of the fence--voila, publicity! No jobs were available in NYC so I sent my resume out west and got a job at Solters/Roskin/Friedman PR in LA.
By day, I repped MOR acts; at night I was seeing great bands like X and the Screamers. After working at SRF, I joined forces with Michael Levine and became a partner in 1988, then spun off to open MSO in 1995. I've been a publicist since 1979.
WCS: What are some funny or memorable highlights from your 15 year history in PR?
MS: Back in the '80s. I read "Muzak" was going up for sale, so I suggested to (my client) Ted Nugent that he make a bogus offer to buy it. We intentionally made a low offer so Muzak would decline, which they did. The idea was, if Ted bought it, he would destroy Muzak because it ruined the best minds of a generation. So much publicity resulted! It was hysterical.
When the Sex Pistols first reunited in 1996, I suggested to the guys that they offer to do a benefit concert for Princess Di (a symbolic gesture) who was being mistreated badly by the monarchy. The Pistols sent her a telegram. We got a "no comment" from her--and loads of publicity.
When Korn wanted an idea to launch their 2007 tour for their "See You On The Other Side" album, I proposed a graveside press conference at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, followed by a party at the mausoleum there. Axl Rose came to that one. It was his first public sighting in years--and a great photo op for Korn.
WSC: Totally remember that one. Think it was the first time he showed the corn-rows in public. Almost didn't recognize him. Also, that was the first rock n' roll themed event we recall at Hollywood Forever. You've worked with a lot of heavy artists. Ozzfest bands, in particular. Keeping that scene fresh must have been challenging.
MS: Back in 2007, I had high tea with Sharon Osbourne where she revealed Ozzfest that year would be...free. It was such a radical idea--kind of the like the Symbionese Liberation Army issuing a threat to the world. At the press conference to reveal this, Ozzy had a spray paint can and scrawled "Free Fest" over the Ozzfest logo, keeping the revolutionary message strong. Ozzy and Sharon really inspire me.
My craziest idea scared me. When Korn went on their "Family Values" tour in 2006, they introduced $10.00 lawn seats. And we needed an idea to promote that. So I came up with his lunatic concept. In a Chicago parking lot across from Wrigley Field, lead singer Jonathan Davis stood on a makeshift stage and tossed $10,000 worth of $10.00 bills into the crowd via a huge electric blower. The crowd pressed forward to the barricade, and I thought someone was going to get die in the crush. No one got hurt, but I remember thinking, "Dear God--what have I done?"
WCS: How is the PR biz changing and or evolving?
MS: Because of the Internet, you have to be really dialed in 24 hours a day, for better or worse. If your client is going to rehab, it's best to have a good statement ready since a "no comment"--which used to work years ago--will just not cut it when TMZ has the ability to instantly control the message. So you have to fight against that. Hey, fame is war!
WCS: How do you stay inspired?
MS: As a publicist, I try to get into the right side of my brain as much as possible. That's where true creativity lies. And to do this, you have to tune out the Internet.