This week meet Ilka Erren Pardiñas, publicist and founder of Fly PR which has a roster of clients working in music, art, film, literature, visual arts and business, architecture and design who she creates and implements campaigns for. The team also represents select business and entrepreneurial creatives. Ilka is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the industry and an advocate for vinyl.
Ilka is a California native born to German and Mexican immigrant parents. She is a forerunner in the area of green and sustainable publicity practices and has managed carbon neutral campaigns. She is a part of the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce (as Vice President and director of publicity for over seven years), and for the German American Business Association where she served as Executive Director. In her free time she is out seeing live music, traveling, hiking and being out in nature.
We connected recently over a project I was working on and then realized we were also working on things in parallel for a Smog Veil Records project. She has worked with them for over 10 years and implemented some of the sustainability practices mentioned above. Enjoy this look into the industry from a different angle.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I was born into a very unorthodox life in San Francisco. We lived in warehouses before “artists lofts” was even a thing (this was circa 1970s). My father was an artist and a local celebrity in a way. My mother was a highly independent woman running her own business. So we were always attending live performances, happenings, protests. Everyone in my life was an artist, musician, dancer, painter. It was very natural for me to gravitate towards the music industry. Being an avid ‘talker’ and thinking I wanted to be a writer or a journalist made publicity a naturally good fit.
What is a day in the life like?
Every day is a bit different but all days now include working to keep up with requests arriving via email, messenger, text, phone and so on. It is all communication all the time. Incoming, outgoing. We make a lot of press announcements so there is collecting information, checking facts, writing press materials. There is conceptualizing how to proceed with the campaign to yield maximum results for clients. There is a pretty substantial social media component although we focus on publicity and not marketing (has just become par for the course). There is a lot of research constantly to make sure we are targeting the best match for the client. This means always staying on top of which writer, editor, freelancer will be most interested in the client and story and music we are pitching.
Since I am the sole account manager at Fly PR I am also handling all the client needs, work agreements, invoicing. Am always courting new clients. Am always keeping an eye on bands, new music, new online platforms and music publications, what’s happening in the industry, where I should be networking and so on. As a publicist you’re always up against ever looming deadlines so you are always under pressure to get more done than can possibly be achieved in a single day. We strive to deliver results that will be satisfying to all involved every day. It is a never ending marathon. It is a game in which the target is constantly moving.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I have worked with Smog Veil Records since 2003 and so many of the campaigns with the label have been epic and historic really. Starting with Rocket From The Tombs which morphed into work with Pere Ubu which has ultimately lead to the Peter Laughner 5 LP box set we are currently working on.
In 2007 Fly PR worked on both the Wis Tavern Building (WTB) and the performance art piece called Complaints Choir for the label. The WTB campaign actually put us firmly at the front of the “green and sustainable” movement and netted an incredible amount of press. These Smog Veil campaigns are definitely all highlights of my career.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
I think the most difficult part of the job is simply how demanding it is. How much of my time it takes up. How brutal this industry can be. How tough it is to be a woman working in the music and entertainment industry. How un-level the playing field really is. How much shit you have to take as a publicist / woman. You have to really have a tough hide, and be tough as nails, and tenacious as hell. It is not for the faint of heart.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Passion for music is what gets you into the music industry (well, that and connections). But to want to be in the music biz I think you really have to have a passion for it. Especially on the publicity end of things. You are communicating with people all day long about music, artists, albums, new releases, touring, events. You have to want to be working in music, loving the game, to be good at this.
Immersing yourself in music and everything to do with music journalism is key. Networking is crucial. Attending music conferences is very helpful. And even if you have killer connections you’ll most likely still need to do at least one internship. And I really recommend interning. It’s your chance to get an insider view of all the various aspects of the biz and then you can decide where you fit in: publicity, marketing, management, A&R, record label job, booking, etc.
At Fly PR I’ve run a robust internship program since 2005, helping women, LGBTQ and minorities gain access to music and entertainment industry career opportunities.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes! I love vinyl! And I really have to thank my mother for that. She has always had AMAZING taste in music and was always surrounded by fabulous and amazing friends including Maya Angelou, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, John Handy. My step dad was a Master Ghanian Drummer who taught members of Santana and Journey. What I loved about the wild parties my mom threw was everyone was spinning vinyl. Taking platters off, putting new records on. The albums were not treated as holy objects. It was the music, the sound coming out of the speakers that was holy. That was the most important part. I later worked at a high end stereo equipment boutique in Heidelberg, Germany. They had the top of the line equipment. There I learned how much people make a cult out of vinyl – and this was during an era where CDs were still a bit ‘new.’ I have a fairly vast music collection of both vinyl and CDs and cassettes and of course digital. But I frankly always hated the CD format. Vinyl all the way for me!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I love that we are having a vinyl boom right now. I worry that like all good things, it will come to an end. For publicity I see a lot of firms spreading themselves in every direction trying to stay in business. This means they are doing as much social media and pitching to Spotify playlists as they are doing actual publicity. This really muddies the water and people get really confused about what they are actually hiring a publicist for. And of course any time there is a recession looming the first budgets that get cut are for things like publicity. So there is always a lot to worry about.
Tell me more about what you’re listening to right now:
I love all music. I grew up with every kind of music and love seeing music live most of all. One of my favorite recent music experiences was attending Monolith on the Mesa music festival in Taos, New Mexico in May. Full disclosure, I am doing publicity for MOTM – but seriously – it was AMAZING! I love tons of instrumental bands and music that has a psych, drone, doom, ‘world music’ touch.
Anything from Secret Chiefs 3 to Lisa Bella Donna to The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices to Dead Can Dance to Tinariwen …and then there’s all the super abrasive punk, rock and metal. I love raw rock’n’roll, garage rock, proto punk… Easter Monkeys, Hy Maya, Peter Laughner. I’ve always been obsessed with Wino and The Obsessed… I love flamenco and groups like Lole y Manuel or ancient finds like Eza Deeb and his Arabic Orchestra or Cal Tjader. There is so much great music out there. I am still absolutely excited about listening to music and seeing music performed live. Really and truly — music saves!