Interview with Oleks of Grand Sounds Promotion

Hi! Grand Sounds Promotion has been a significant player in the music industry since 2012, working with a diverse range of bands and labels. Could you share the journey that led to the establishment of the company and the pivotal moments that have shaped its growth over the years?

[ |]

Hi there! I started Grand Sounds Promotion back in 2012. At that time, I was already running my own label and fanzine since 2003. I needed additional exposure for my activities, and one day, I thought about how to attract more attention to my releases. The idea struck me – having been deeply involved in the heavy music scene for about a decade through my label and magazine, I had amassed millions of contacts, spanning the press and other labels alike. With this realization, I began crafting a promotion plan, detailing when, to whom, and through what channels I would carry out my promotions. This marked the birth of Grand Sounds Promotion.

The pivotal moments, of course, came during my work. Cooperating with well-known bands and labels led to more contacts and a deeper understanding of how things work. With support from some of my old friends and partners, I was able to build a substantial network within the music market, and I continue to do so to this day. Growth doesn't come without effort, and I'm always exploring new opportunities and ways of publicizing, constantly busy but finding it all to be worth it. Grand Sounds is a professional agency that does not engage in a 'sending a bunch of spam' approach, but rather focuses on building well-established relations with the media. This approach helps to maximize coverage for various albums.

In short, what are you doing?

In short, my services include consulting and creating promotional plans for maximizing successful publicity. I handle press promotion for albums, EPs, and singles, as well as securing ad space in key magazines and organizing exclusive premieres. Additionally, I manage the promotion of YouTube videos and more. To put it simply, I act as a bridge connecting music and media. I have primarily established exclusive personal business relations with magazine editors and radio stations.

Your company boasts an impressive array of connections to various media outlets, both independent and major. How do these extensive connections contribute to your unique approach to promoting bands and labels?

Yes, that's true. However, I do not believe this fact significantly influences the approach. It's more related to the drafting of a promotional plan, as some editors have strict submission dates, some require albums months ahead, while others do not prioritize the release date at all, and so on. And this is always based on my personal agreement with certain editors.

Collaboration with renowned bands like Batushka, Vader, and Hecate Enthroned highlights your capacity to handle high-profile projects. Could you walk us through the strategies you employ to ensure the success of such significant promotional campaigns?

No, I cannot walk you through the strategies because it is top-secret information 😉 (Joking, to tell the truth, each release comes with a specific approach, so I cannot describe it as something 'neutral' or 'typical'.) However, I can share a bit about the aforementioned collaborations instead. I worked on Batushka's debut full-length album, "Litourgiya," back in 2015. It was a fascinating experience because it was surprising to see a new and unknown band garner so much attention from editors. Many magazines posted news, wrote reviews, and more. It felt like witnessing something small evolve into something much bigger, and it was certainly a rewarding experience.

Regarding Vader, I collaborated on their album "Future of the Past II - Hell in the East" in 2015. On this album, Vader recorded cover versions of some notable metal hits. It's important to note that this isn't a studio album in the traditional sense.

For Hecate Enthroned, I was involved in promoting their 6th studio album, "Embrace of the Godless Aeon," released by M-Theory Audio. Collaborating with both the band and the label was an incredible experience. It's always rewarding when everyone involved understands what needs to be done and when.

While there are other well-known names I've worked with, they belong to a different story, as you specifically inquired about these three bands 😉.

In an age of digital media and shifting consumption patterns, how do you ensure that your promotional efforts effectively reach the target audience of the bands and labels you work with?

As Grand Sounds PR functions as a publicity company, our focus isn't on directly gaining attention from the public. Instead, we channel our efforts towards garnering attention for the band's music through press and radio platforms. Magazine editors possess a profound understanding of their audience. Hence, when an editor embraces a particular band, it signifies their confidence that the audience will resonate with the material. In the current landscape where 50-100 albums are released weekly, standing out becomes a challenge akin to a battle or a lottery. Nevertheless, we offer the personal assurance that the majority of our media partners meticulously evaluate the content we share. Only after thorough assessment do they decide whether a particular album merits their coverage. This fact enhances the potential for visibility and recognition.

From Metal to Rock, Grindcore, Stoner, Progressive and beyond, Grand Sounds Promotion caters to a wide spectrum of music genres. How do you adapt your approach to suit the unique characteristics and fan bases of these diverse genres?

It is a demanding and labor-intensive process that requires genuine dedication. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy my work and consistently approach it with unwavering devotion. I make it a point to spread the word to a wide audience while also crafting a specialized strategy to ensure that the most pertinent press outlets receive the material. This prioritization of strategy is of utmost importance.

Tour promotion is a crucial aspect of a band's visibility and reach. Could you share your experiences and insights into successfully promoting tours for bands like Overkill and Incantation?

I apologize, but I cannot speak to the success of those tours as I, regrettably, was unable to attend any of the dates. My role primarily involved regular tour promotion, such as generating information and attracting media attention, as well as securing accreditations for select journalists. When it comes to bands like Overkill or Incantation, I am confident that these two acts will consistently draw a full crowd to the venues 😊. For underground bands, embarking on tours is always a competitive endeavor. It's important to first amass a dedicated fanbase, as gig organizers typically prioritize bands that can bring in a substantial audience. As a result, achieving success requires a significant amount of hard work.

The visual representation of a band is often as important as its music. How do you collaborate with bands and labels to ensure that their visual branding aligns with their identity and resonates with their audience?

I have never been involved in aspects like band or label branding, nor have I participated in cover art approval. My involvement typically centers around working with the finalized product, which includes finished cover art and completed songs. However, there are instances where I observe a band's branding and wonder what inspired them to adopt certain peculiar concepts. Additionally, there are times when emerging bands reach out, sending their music for consideration. After listening, I say, "I'm sorry, but let's reconnect in the future. Sending your music with such low quality could potentially have negative consequences for me" 😊. This scenario does occur occasionally. Therefore, I strongly recommend ensuring the quality of both your music and cover art before reaching out to PR professionals.

Grand Sounds Promotion's roster boasts both established acts and emerging talents. How do you balance your efforts between promoting well-known bands and providing a platform for lesser-known but promising acts?

Ugh... There isn't a specific balance, but working with new bands is always more challenging. Despite investing the same level of effort into every album, whether it's an established, well-known band or a new and unknown one, dealing with lesser-known bands is often more demanding. This is because you need to ensure doubly that you're delivering their material to the right ears.

Over the years, you've worked with various labels, including M-Theory Audio, Argonauta Records, Avantgarde Music, Fuzzorama Records, Odium Records, Sliptrick Records to name a few. How does your approach to promoting labels differ from promoting individual bands, and what role does this play in the overall music ecosystem?

Yep, there are some differences between promoting band releases and promoting label releases, but they are not extremely significant. The approach is somewhat distinct, but these nuances are mostly internal details.

There isn't a particularly distinct role within the overall music ecosystem. Ultimately, the work involves promoting music, whether it's for an independent band or an established label. The key is to put in diligent effort into promotion, and that's the crux of it 😉.

Are there specific bands or labels you would avoid partnering with, and could you share your reasons behind your decision-making process?

At the moment, I cannot recall specific bands or labels, but I can say that I do not accept any band or label from the terrorist country russia, and, of course, those who support the russian war against Ukraine.

As a professional with many years of experience, you must already know which countries produce more skilled bands and understand that promotion is highly important for an album or EP. And from which countries bands might not be taught enough and might not understand the importance of promotion?

Yes, sure. The most skilled bands come from Germany, the USA, and Scandinavia. The least skilled bands come from South/Latin America and some European countries. It's not about money, but rather because they might not fully understand the importance of proper album promotion, press release, timeframes and so on. Some bands think that recording an album automatically guarantees attention from magazines and radios, but unfortunately, that's not how it works. You cannot achieve proper promotion by yourself by sending bulk spam emails that end up in the spam folder. The importance of PR agencies lies in our well-established business relations with the media. Editors are always interested in submissions from us to determine whether a particular band is intriguing enough for them.

And that's not some kind of "IMHO", you can easily find this information on some key webzines where editor says they "prefer to get the material from the PR company".

Are there any hobbies or activities that you are particularly passionate about and enjoy pursuing in your spare time?

Absolutely! There are some, but I'm sure they are quite typical. Besides music, I love traveling, discover new places, visiting the gym, gathering with friends, and reading books. Additionally, I have a fondness for craft beer, enjoying cool IPAs with my friends and exploring new beer varieties, and so on.

Throughout your musical journey, we understand that your passion for metal music is evident. Could you share with us the pivotal moment or experience that ignited your love for metal and led you into this captivating genre?

Sure, here we go. It happened back in 1991 when a friend of my elder brother left a cassette with an obscure layout (DEATH - Leprosy) behind. As I have always had a love for music from my early days, I decided to take that tape, intrigued by its scary front-cover, and couldn't resist giving it a listen. At first, the initial couple of listens seemed like I was hearing some incomprehensible noise, but around the third time, my perception shifted, and I realized that I was in love with that music! I couldn't believe it! I craved more and more, leading me to delve into the world of metal music, searching for metal cassettes, vinyl records, and so on. A little later, I started exploring metal press, delving into well-known magazines, and eventually, I discovered fanzines. And that's how my journey into the world of metal began ;)

What advice can you offer to bands who are considering working with Grand Sounds PR?

Here we go: firstly, ensure that your recording quality is sufficiently high and that your cover art is well-crafted, demonstrating your readiness to present your music to the world. Secondly, which is equally important, get in touch approximately three months before your official release date. This timeline allows us to establish an effective and professional promotional plan. By following these two steps, we can ensure a well-structured and seamless campaign.

When considering the multitude of PR agencies around the world, how do you manage to find your balance amidst them and what are your thoughts on the competitive landscape?

Oh, man, absolutely. Just like in any other business, there's a certain level of 'competition' among PRs. However, to be honest, I don't really focus on whether other agencies are better or worse. My schedule is jam-packed with work, so I hardly have time to pay attention to that. I have numerous clients I work with on an ongoing basis, from album to album, and the rest come through searches or, more importantly, by recommendations. Someone might assume that running PR is simple without sufficient knowledge of how it operates, but it's actually demanding work that requires 100% devotion. It doesn't function as simply as a "write-click-and-done" process.

What is the strangest question you've received from bands during promotion?

The strangest question is: "Why didn't THIS or THAT magazine write a review of our album?" This is actually a quite peculiar question. Even though people guarantee checking the material, nobody is obliged to follow through. If an editor enjoys your music, you will receive coverage; if not, then of course, not. It's similar to visiting a music store where you might browse through 20 albums but only purchase 2. Editors are, first and foremost, regular people, not robots; they are unable to write about everything they receive.

What are your working hours?

Monday to Friday: 7 AM - 8 PM (CET) | Saturday: 7 AM - 11 AM (CET) | Sunday: Day off.

Looking ahead, what aspirations do you have for Grand Sounds Promotion in the ever-evolving landscape of music promotion? Are there any upcoming projects, partnerships, or developments that you're excited to share with us?

In the ever-evolving landscape of music promotion, to me personally, the only one thing is in priority – to develop and be on one wave with the music industry, to make your possibilities wider, to bring more good music and again – to develop, to develop, to develop… and never stay at one place!

Yes, I’m working on some new projects, partnerships, developments and so on; learning some new directions and possibilities, but I won’t talk about them in front, it gonna be visible when live 😉

Thank you, Daniel, for your support! Dear bands and labels, if you feel you need media exposure, get in touch - grandsoundsmetal [AT] gmail [DOT] com