It’s the 30th Anniversary of EMILY TAN Media Relations, one of the leading “boutique” PR and radio promotions agencies in the U.S. specializing in EDM/DJ culture. Michael Beas, CEO and Founder of Raver Magazine had the privilege of interviewing Emily Tan, this is what she shared up with us at the magazine:
Looking back, what are some of the highs and lows that you experienced throughout your journey?
EMILY TAN: Highs and lows are part of life, aren’t they? It’s difficult to sit here and ruminate on career milestones at a time when Covid-19 and BLM are ravaging society. That said, it’s shocking to realize that I started working 30 years ago and I fully plan to keep going for another 30 years or longer! The highs have been many; the lows I only recall as lessons learned.
Making it the glamorous world of public relations is no small task. You are the principal at one of the top PR companies in the world. What is the secret to your success?
EMILY TAN: I’m just doing what I love to do and what I’m good at. PR is just facilitating communication between my clients and their target audience by way of the media. It’s not rocket science. What it is, is years and decades of relationships. It’s my personal and professional relationships of which I am most proud.
Emily Tan at Dash Radio // Photo Credit: Tommy Capretto
You’ve represented some really big names as clients, especially in the world of EDM (electronic dance music). You’ve repped celebrities including Ice-T and Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue), as well as nightclubs like Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub in Las Vegas, airlines like Brussels Airlines (the official airlines of Tomorrowland festival in Belgium), and even DJ-specific technology companies like iZotope Inc. and Pioneer DJ. In the world of EDM, of course, you’ve repped seemingly everyone in trance at one time or another, from Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Aly&Fila, Andrew Rayel, MaRLo, Tritonal, Dash Berlin and ATB, to Housier DJs/producers like Thomas Gold, John Dahlback, Cedric Gervais, Robbie Rivera, and more pop-sounding artists like Lodato and most recently, the mysterious new artist by the name of DVRKO. What’s it like working with such a star-studded roster of clients?
EMILY TAN: It’s truly an honor working with each of my clients, now and throughout the decades. Some of the biggest celebrities I’ve worked for — Ice-T comes to mind — are actually some of the most down-to-earth. When you reach a certain iconic status, I think uber-famous people feel relaxed around people who really understand what they’re going through. Working for Tommy Lee was crazy, and working for Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, BT and Andrew Rayel was also hectic but in a totally different way. To be honest, I often view the best journalists as the rockstars! The best journalists — John Pareles of The New York Times, my husband Jim Tremayne of DJ Times, John Ochoa of Rolling Stone and Billboard, Benjamin Emile Le-Hay of Blackbook and many others come to mind — have the difficult task of putting out critical, informative, well-researched and solidly written works that can influence legions of readers. They do it day-in, day-out, with little glory or adulation from the masses. The funny thing is, a lot of times when I was hosting press events (pre-pandemic), I would regard this or that journalist as the VIP in the room.
The world of PR can at times be cutthroat with so many people trying to make a name for themselves. How do you stay ahead of the game?
EMILY TAN: Over 30 years, I’ve been asked many, many, many times to grant interviews talking about myself and my work. I have turned-down countless interviews, including TV interviews, because I never felt comfortable shining the spotlight on myself. It’s true that I’ve worked as a television host, print journalist and on-air radio host, but I always put the spotlight on the interviewee. I see myself as a conduit for allowing artists and clients to get their message out to the desired audience. The story should never be about me nor any other publicist; the story should be about the artist. The industry term for a press agent’s duty is, “servicing the media.” That’s what publicists need to remember when they go about their jobs; you are there to service the media. Yes, the client pays me a retainer for my work, but “servicing the media” means that I have to remember that I am there to facilitate the media’s need for covering a story. If I can’t effectively give the media what they need to get the story done, I’m not doing the media or my client any favors. This element of PR is lost on a lot of young publicists I’m seeing these days.
With the Covid-19 coronavirus affecting so many people and artists, what have you done to help your clients stay relevant and positive during this challenging time?
EMILY TAN: All I can do is offer professional, seasoned guidance on an artist’s strategy. The decisions are ultimately up to them. As a press agent, I’m not the one creating the music, the visuals, the (before Covid-19) live-show elements. I’m just the one communicating the narrative to the public. This is one thing perhaps some aspiring artists don’t fully understand; your publicist is not going to make you a star. The publicist is not the one creating the content. And content is king. It’s for this reason that I turn-down potential new-clients every week. EDM artists are already resilient, for the most part. Creative people need to keep creating content and putting it out. Relevance will come when your audience finds you. It’s my job to help the audience find them.
Representing so many artists from all walks of life and from all over the world can in fact take a toll on your personal life. How do you find work-life and home-life balance?
EMILY TAN: This (EDM) industry not only sustains me financially, it’s how I met my husband! We’ve been together nonstop for nearly two decades, now. I’m married to my best-friend and my soulmate. We both understand what the other one is going through on a daily and hourly basis, so the melding of work/life balance is actually pretty seamless. We naturally know how to carve-out personal time together where we don’t talk about anything industry-related. Before Covid-19, I would say the only thing that suffered was my sleep schedule because of all the touring and traveling and tending to clients hitting me 24/7 from all different timezones. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, though, life has obviously ground to a halt in terms of physical travel and touring has completely ceased. So, I’m basically working in my office 7 days-a-week whereas before I was working on-the-run from a laptop in my hotel or airplane, half the time.
With 30 years under your belt I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to experience and visit some of the best places on earth. What are your top three “must see” destinations that all of us should visit at some point in our lifetime?
EMILY TAN: Oh, man, this is a tough one! So many come to mind. You’ve got to visit La Recoleta cemetary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, if you ever have the chance. The North Shore of Oahu, Hawai’i, feels almost like my soul’s magnetic North, just cleansing and cosmically beautiful. One of the most magical places on earth is New York City, my hometown. So many stories, so many memories, so many possibilities, so much action. I’m sure I’ll think of more, but those places stand out in my mind at this second.
Looking back at your career and your journey, is there anything that you would change or do differently and are there any words of inspiration that you can offer those who are looking to make public relations their own life’s journey?
EMILY TAN: There’s nothing I would do differently because everyone’s life is a journey and the experiences we go through make us into the souls we are today. I don’t live with regrets. I cherish every experience as an opportunity for growth and learning. I feel very grateful every day I’m alive. My career is what I do, it’s not who I am.