Oasis PR agent Johnny Hopkins shares career stories
Johnny Hopkins chose a career path that gave him the opportunity to work with bands such as Oasis and The Hold Steady, and travel from his home country of England to the United States.
Hopkins, public relations director at Triad Publicity, gave a speech at the University's School of Communication and Information on April 8, discussing the state of the music industry.
“In England there are all these doom and gloom stories about the music industry,” Hopkins said. “But the industry is in a good state.”
He said public relations and music journalism are now largely online-based, but offered students advice on how to use the Internet as a tool by creating blogs and using social media marketing in PR.
Hopkins went on to tell a story about his adventures with Oasis, as well as his encounter with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, whom he shared a limousine with after an Oasis gig.
Hopkins was with Oasis in New York City in 1996 because the band had a show at Jones Beach Theater. It was overwhelming traveling through New York City with all the bright flashing lights, neon signs and loud music, he said.
The best thing the music industry gave him was the chance to come to America, he said.
“For most British kids my age, we grew up with American popular culture,” he said. “I love it.”
PR agents remain the curators of media that shape public opinion of musical artists, Hopkins said.
“Working with a group like Oasis, there was always some f--k up,” he said. “I spent a lot of my time mopping up these crises.”
Hopkins reflected on a certain instance in 1995 when Noel Gallagher, lead guitarist of Oasis, was quoted by the press saying, "I hope the singer and bass player of Blur catch AIDS and die."
The comment was made at the height of the rivalry between Oasis and rock group Blur, Hopkins said. The comment struck a nerve and caused rumors of homophobia to spread.
In the event a client makes a risky comment, Hopkins said sometimes the best thing you can do is apologize.
The key to a successful band lies in their artistic ability and the dedication of their PR team and music journalists, Hopkins said.
“Back in 1963, John Lennon was asked what’s the secret to your success, and he said ‘We have a press agent, we can’t do our job unless the music is brilliant and the journalists write about it.'”
As a PR agent, you have to be discrete, Hopkins said.
“If you work in PR, you need to be invisible,” he said. “If the work is too visible it destroys the image of the band or artist you’re working with.”
There is also a symbiotic relationship between PR agents and music journalists, Hopkins said. Journalistic influence is important and can dictate how well an artist is received.
“Like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, journalism and PR are closely related,” he said. “In the all-consuming digital age, journalists are still exerting their influence."
At the end of the day, all of the careful strategic planning and promotional synchronization involved in PR is nothing compared to the experiences obtained on the job, Hopkins said.
Hopkins' point about the importance of making contacts resonated with the audience, as well as his statement about the music industry still thriving years after Oasis was at its peak, said Eoin Wenger, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
“I agree that it’s not dead, as he said. With the rise of the Internet Age, the move from physical to digital media was inevitable,” Wenger said. "Making contacts and relationships with people will come in handy down the road and you really have to be open and ready for that.”
Wegner said Hopkins' limo ride story with Campbell and Moss was a clever PR technique. Public relations is of the utmost importance to a band’s advancement in the music industry, Wenger said.
“I really do think that artists are only as good as their promotion team, because I’ve seen bands with great records, that just have no ability to get out there,” he said. “In order to make it in today’s age, and just in general, there has to be some sort of hype.”
Conner Dooley, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, also attended the speech. He said Hopkins' stories confirmed his interest in PR.
“Listening to him really just confirmed my plans for the future because I am looking for an engaging line of work,” Dooley said. “To quote Mr. Hopkins, ‘In the music industry, anything can happen.’”