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Kirri Liepins is a true gem in the music PR world. A 22-year-old girl from Newcastle who started her own business (Rock Solid) fuelled by an unwavering love for homegrown music. It hasn’t been easy, she’s had to face a lot of criticism for being a young successful person.

Kirri can you tell me about your music interests first. Who did you grow up listening to?

I’m a child of the eighties, but I didn’t pay much attention to the Kylie Minogues and the Duran Durans populating the charts. My earliest memory is of a time when I was three years old, sitting in my dad’s garage watching him work while listening to his records. He would play a song (for the sake of example, The Cars’ Drive) and spend five minutes telling me what chart position it reached, trivia about the band members and just what made the song so great. He taught me a lot about music. He was also a guitarist in the seventies, so he could tell me about the business. He planted the seeds to let my love of music grow. I was raised on a steady diet of music from various eras – from 1940’s jazz to British punk. For the most part, though, I was raised on Australian music.

At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in music PR?

I was 16, in high school and facing questions of what I wanted to do once I finished my HSC. I knew that I wanted to be involved with music, but as I explored the possibilities, I realized that I might not be the one performing the music. Instead, I wanted to be the one working behind the scenes, telling the world about these brilliant musicians I would find.

Can you tell me what steps you took in terms of education and experience in order to make things happen for you?

The very first thing I did when I finished high school was to register in a Music Business course at Hunter TAFE. I stayed for two years and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. During my studies I became a member of the group that founded A Major Music Expo, which branched out in 2003 as Newcastle Music Week. I also gained experience wherever I could, like writing for U-Turn Streetpress and helping out with production for a children’s TV series (which included music as well as learning tools).

When I decided to develop Rock Solid, I didn’t really expect such a strong response. While some showed plenty of support, others questioned whether I’d be able to pull it off – not just because of my age, but because I was a woman about to start a business. Something about those two factors unsettled a few people. I think it’s hogwash! I resent the fact that some have not taken me seriously because of my age and gender.

You have achieved so much for your years. What would be your career highlights?

In 2004 I trekked to Sydney to assist with publicity for Jon Stevens, who I’d known for several years. When I saw the first show of his tour, I was overwhelmed with pride and joy. I think I cried – a very uncool thing to do! I think the thing I’m most proud of, however, was hosting the first Rock Solid Showcase last month. Seeing my beloved artists performing on the same stage, having a great time, made all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile. Funnily enough, it’s when the audience is having a ball that I feel the most satisfied. I know I’ve done something right.

I heard you manage Jon Stevens’ official Street Team. Can you tell us what this entails?

This came about when I was working in Jon’s Sydney office. His managers were tossing around ideas for a street team, and what this team could do, and I volunteered my services. My job at the team’s ‘head honcho’ involves inducting new members (teamsters), providing tools and encouragement for the entire team and motivating them in their work. I also developed a rewards scheme, which keeps them pretty happy!

How do people join Street Teams?

Generally I ask them to submit a registration email with their details, so I can tailor their teamwork to their specific regions. I don’t ask them about what they’ve done before, or what other teams they may be a part of. All a teamster needs to bring is their love for their favourite musical act. The biggest fans tend to promote the acts in their own ways, independent of a street team membership, but being part of a street team allows them to work with other fans and have a lot of fun.

What would they be required to do?

Teamsters do the typical street team tasks like handing out flyers, sending requests/votes to radio stations and posting on message boards. But I also encourage teams to be creative and get involved by offering their own promotional ideas. For example, members of Jon Stevens’ street team have met in Sydney to talk about the team, discuss what is and isn’t working, and share new ideas for other ways they can help.

Now there is also news of a music-orientated tv series you are co-producing. Can you tell me more about that?

I am one of four Newcastle-based industry professionals who are keen to create a music-orientated program for our region. I guess you could call us producers, but we all share our work. There’s no room for ego in this team! We filmed a pilot to test-run the idea, but due to technical problems with the filming we’ve had to start again. At this stage we have no idea where the show will end up, but we’re going to keep working on it because we want to take Newcastle’s talent pool into the homes of music fans around the country.

Your business, Rock Solid, focuses on Public Relations and Fan Relations. Can you explain to me the importance of Fan Relations and how you go about building on this?

Rock Solid started out as a street team management business, and during that time I realized the importance of a relationship between the band and its fans. Essentially, the fans are the employers – they have the power to make or break the careers of their favourite artists. So I figured that if you have a fanbase that works closely with the band and its management team, both sides will be rewarded with a steady flow of support and feedback. More importantly, it demonstrates the power of advocacy. A fan with a hundred people in their phone directory is a very powerful person. Imagine what an entire fanbase can achieve if you nurture and support them.

Can you tell me about Rock Solid Radio?

This is a project I started last year. I loved the idea of having a streaming online radio station, accessible to the whole world, to showcase unsigned and independent music – not just homegrown, but also international talent. Getting airplay on traditional radio is only one of many ways to broadcast music to potential new fans. I had a little party at home on the night of the launch – just some friends and I waving party favours and CD’s! It sounds corny, but I was just so glad that RSR would give great artists a chance to be heard by those who otherwise wouldn’t know about them. I add new songs to the playlist as often as I can, and I strongly encourage acts to post or email their works.

Who are your main clients in your business?

Jon Stevens is the biggest name on the roster, but in 2007 you will hear from a fantastic singer-songwriter called Tearsun. He’s starting to make huge waves – he’ll be recording with Stuart Stuart in March and he has a meeting soon with Molly Meldrum. You’ll want to keep an eye out for my other clients too: Wohteba, Lout, The Wireflys and Roxy. They all have unique styles.

Who would you love to work with?

In a dream scenario, my roster would include Sir Paul McCartney, Neil Finn, Sarah McLeod and the Scissor Sisters.

What’s next for Kirri & Rock Solid?

I’ve become involved with a beautiful group called the Lovelorn Living Party. We recently created the Bohemian Love Theatre’s Shiny Ticket Follies, which took the Peats Ridge Festival by storm. We’ll be touring the country later this year. I play drums/percussion and help to manage the stage each night. It’s a wonderfully creative and invigorating experience.

I’m aiming to host a few more Rock Solid showcases this year, and if all goes well I’ll be taking the showcase to other cities. I’ll also be raising money through various activities for Support Act Limited, a great organization providing assistance for musicians and industry folks in crisis.

Of course, while all of this is going on, I’ll be scouting for more Australian and international talent to add to Rock Solid’s books!


For more info: check out www.rock-solid.net.au


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