Maria Ivey: PR Pro

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Maria Ivey: PR Pro

by Kara M. Bachman

It’s always been hard to get a foothold in the music business, but these days, the landscape is ever-changing and expert advice is worth its weight in gold.

That’s where music PR professional Maria Ivey comes in. She’s the owner of Nashville’s IVPR, a public relations firm that aids a varied roster of artists, including bluegrass heavy-hitters such as Del McCoury. Her list includes artists who connect to – and reflect – her philosophy for growing careers and expanding audiences.

According to Ivey, recent changes require that artists roll with the punches and evolve as the industry faces both hardships and new advances.

“The media landscape coming out of Covid looks totally different than before. As publicists, I’d say we are used to constant change, but this is a new one for us—for everybody, really,” Ivey said. “Longer lead times, a very saturated market, staff furloughs or outlet closures, slashed freelance budgets…all obstacles or opportunities unique to this season.”

For Ivey, a vital component of promotions is that each act has a story. She calls it “narrative-based public relations.”

“With our clients,” she explained, “no matter if this is their first record or fifteenth, we are asking ourselves and them, ‘what’s the story here?’ and ‘How can we connect different parts of your story to specific audiences?’ I believe in the power of a well-told story,” she added. “Each client, each record, each tour has a unique story. It’s our job to tell it in a way the intended audience can receive.”

She became a “storyteller” when IVPR came into existence in 2019. She wasn’t fresh to this kind of environment; she’d worked in entertainment PR as an intern to Tamara Saviano, who provided management and public relations for Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, and Foster & Lloyd. 

“I grew up outside Nashville, so to me, as a kid, the local music industry meant only radio country. She [Saviano] introduced me to Texas country, Americana, bluegrass, and this whole world of roots music. I’m forever grateful.”

She said she had a “cool full-circle moment” last year when this former boss asked Ivey to do PR for her Guy Clark documentary.

“The film was beautiful and went on to win awards at the SXSW Film Festival and was given much critical acclaim,” Ivey explained. “It’s not every day your mentor turns around and hires you to work on their life’s work.”

In addition to her work at IVPR, there are two organizations that Ivey likes to promote to musicians; they both aim to improve the lives of music industry performers. Those two are the Music Health Alliance (MHA) and Backline. 

“MHA’s mission is to ‘Heal the Music’ by providing access to health care through services that protect, direct, and connect music professionals with medical and financial solutions,” she said. “Backline connects music industry professionals with mental health and wellness resources.”

“Both organizations are run by smart, kind, and truly salt-of-the-earth people. Any musician or music industry person in need of help, I’d encourage you to reach out to either or both,” she added.

Understanding that those new to the business need all the help they can get, Ivey was glad to share a few tricks of the trade. She offered the following tips to musicians just starting.

“I’d suggest spending time really honing your story on paper,” she said. “Get your bio, both long-form and boilerplate, really dialed-in. Hire a bio writer if you need help. If you can’t speak quickly and eloquently about who you are, what you sound like …how can anyone else?”

She said the same goes for photos, suggesting there should always be new photos for “every tour, every album, every step.”

Ivey suggests new artists get involved by participating in or attending conferences such as IBMA, the Folk Alliance International Conference, and AmericanaFest. 

“All of these conferences are definitely of the ‘you get out what you put in’ kind. So, I’d suggest plugging yourself in, saying yes to everything, doing the late night and early morning hangs, playing the late showcase slot, going to the panels, and doing the one-on-one mentorship program. The first year you build a network, and the second year you have a road map,” she advised. 

“The biggest mistake I see young bands or artists make,” she said, “is to rush the release of an album. Take your time, build a team, tease the record out on DSPs, and have a tour going. A new album is the artist’s biggest asset. Use it wisely. And strategically.”

 

Many are already fans of IVPR clients, well-known musicians such as Del McCoury, The Travelin’ McCourys, Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Sierra Hull, or Jamestown Revival. When asked if there’s a burgeoning IVPR client bluegrass fans should take a listen to, Ivey suggests Kentucky duo, The Local Honeys.

“I’m obsessed with the new self-titled album from The Local Honeys,” Ivey said. “It’s a modern-ish take on old-time/Appalachian music. This is a songwriting record for me; talk about a masterclass in storytelling. And we should all be paying attention to whatever Sierra Hull is doing. She’s a force of nature.” Ivey recommends seeing Hull live at any chance you get. 

“We are proud to represent the clients we represent,” Ivey added. “I do think – back to the narrative thing – that I’m attracted to clients who have a really strong sense of the story they want to tell. It’s definitely a quality over quantity mentality at IVPR. You can’t pitch something you’re not excited about.”

That “quality” thing has an impact and allows IVPR to keep growing…but in the right way. 

“Every time our internal team expands, we evolve a bit to each new hire’s strengths,” Ivey said. “That’s exciting to me. It’s no longer just my musical tastes, preferences, strengths—the firm becomes a collection of everybody’s strengths.”