Career Spotlight: David Kim, Director of Press at Magnum PR
Who are you and what is your background?
My name is David Kim – I’m a 27-year old music obsessed Korean-American. I’ve been involved with the music scene in a number of roles for the better part of the last decade. I was recently promoted to Director of Press at Magnum PR in NYC, and I couldn’t be more thankful and excited for the projects that are on the horizon. I dive into everything I do with the utmost passion and above all else, I try my very best to be a good person to everyone.
How did you get to where you are now?
It definitely wasn’t easy. I was so convinced I’d be a famous DJ at one point. I was making a couple of hundred dollars for shows here and there, even played with guys like Nicky Romero, Thomas Gold, etc. I quickly realized how much work goes into being a DJ/producer and in doing so, gained the utmost respect and curiosity for what these guys do. This was during college and I was also applying for internships/jobs everywhere but nobody was getting back to me. I remember sitting in my fraternity house listening to my friends talk about their internships and career plans, and all I could think of was how terrified I was of graduating. That evening, I got a call from Eric McLellan, who was Seymour Stein’s right hand man at Warner Music Group/Sire Records at the time. He asked me to come in for an internship and it was a game changer. Working there, I learned the basics of being a professional and it was very clear to see how passionate Eric and Seymour were about what they did – it was infectious really. Fast forward from there and I worked at Creative Artists Agency (and got fired), played an integral role in the launch of Thefuture.fm (now Dubset), blogged for Elektro, spearheaded ad sales initiatives for LessThan3, worked with a number of insanely talented artists like Jason Ross, Matt Nash, Boombox Cartel, Illenium, Motez, and more as a freelance publicist, and ultimately was given this incredible opportunity to learn, contribute, and grow under PR legend Sioux Zimmerman’s tutelage at Magnum PR.
When did you realize that you wanted a career in the music industry?
I was always interested but the “AHA!” moment was when I got to pick Eric’s brain on my first day at Warner. In the midst of asking him question after question, we listened to two artists… One was a hip-hop artist (Freddie Gibbs) that he was really excited about and the other was this crazy dude who called himself Theophilus London. For both, Eric’s enthusiasm was just off the charts. I had never met anyone who spoke about what they did with such vigor and I knew that this was a guy I could learn so much from, an industry that I could throw my entire heart and soul into. The second was when I was fired from CAA. I had this stupid idea in my head that I “made it” after I got that job. But in reality, it just made me an entitled little sh*t. Getting fired grounded me and taught me an incredibly valuable lesson about humility, hard-work, and building relationships.
You grew up in NYC. Were you into the electronic music scene when you were younger?
My sister used to listen to Paul Oakenfold and Sasha when I was in middle school while I jammed out to Linkin Park. My first electronic music concert was Tiesto’s Kaleidescope tour at Hammerstein Ballroom in ’09. Seeing Tiesto for the first time connected the dots and I realized that it’s just as much about the experience as it is about the music. I had this misconception that dance music was for weird Europeans on drugs but then Swedish House Mafia happened and they changed my outlook completely. I think the industry has definitely changed since then, I won’t say for better or for worse. We hear certain terms like ‘saturation’ being thrown around quite often but outside of that, electronic dance music artists are experiencing the same issues that artists from other genres are, the biggest ones being piracy and the massive drop in physical record sales. I think technology is making music more accessible, live performances more dynamic, and connecting with fans more seamlessly but it remains to be seen whether that’s an overwhelmingly positive thing or not.
You are a writer at a couple of media outlets (Harder Blogger Faster, and Discobelle Records), in Ad Sales and LessThan3, and a Publicist at Magnum PR. How do you balance all of these gigs and also have a life outside of it?
I am extremely thankful and fortunate to be given the opportunity to work for these companies. The balancing can be difficult at times but in this day and age, I’ve quickly learned that multi-tasking is a very real skill-set that can be practiced and developed through hard work and repetition. It helps that all gigs are within the same industry and that I get to work with such motivated, like-minded individuals. A lot of the people I pitch for PR, negotiate ad deals with, and cover music for, have become friends of mine. In order to succeed in music, I strongly believe that music has to become your life. It’s like a living, breathing entity that we as professionals need to nurture and evolve with. Music started off as a dream for me to chase but that dream has come to life and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t want to have a life outside of it.
Can you briefly explain the life of a publicist to our readers that may not really understand how crazy it can be?
I’ve tried my best to stick to not opening emails or “turning off” from the hours of 10pm – 9am for my own sanity. Between those hours, it’s usually non-stop emails, calls, texts, whatsapps, skype messages, etc. Anyone who works with international clients can attest to how hectic it can be to work with artists in different time zones. I never used to drink coffee, but now drinking coffee before I get into the office is a must. I spend an hour or so each day listening to new music, looking for artists with potential that might need PR services. Sometimes it can be frustrating to deal with so many different personalities but as a publicist, I constantly remind myself that everyone in each artist’s team is only wanting the best for their client. Keeping that in mind helps me to proactively think of solutions to certain situations and to understand the emotional/sentimental aspects behind each interpersonal interaction. Publicists have to wear a lot of hats. Sometimes I advise on musical direction, art/graphics, and contracts. We are friends, confidants, advisors, and more to our clients. No day is really the same and it truly keeps me engaged and on my toes.
I know as a PR agent you rarely ever get to travel with your clients, but on the trips that you can make where is your favorite place to work?
South Beach has become a place pretty close to my heart. I’ve gone to WMC/MMW for the past few years and each year has been such a blessing. New people, new music, fresh ideas… being around so many people from around the world that are striving for similar goals as my own is an opportunity that I look forward to every year.
What are your favorite aspects of your job?
This one is easy – the people. I love the music and I seriously love the people so much more. I am genuinely, sincerely excited, and thankful to talk to these people on a daily basis and to work with them. It’s breathtaking to see an artist’s vision come to life and it’s equally as rewarding to team up with a journalist who is as passionate about a project as I am.
At Magnum, I am so fortunate to work at a company with a boss that trusts in my judgement and believes in me. I’ve been given the opportunity to build a team here and I couldn’t be happier or more excited with the people I’ve brought on board. Quick shout-out to my team – Jorge and Sara – you guys are amazing and I’m so proud of how hard you both work. I hope you are learning from me, as I learn something new from you every day. Thank you both for helping me to better understand how to be a leader.
What is your least favorite aspect?
I’m not a fan of how “clique-y” some industry functions can be and the sense of entitlement that I occasionally run into. I’m never afraid to speak my mind and without pointing any fingers, I’d like to clearly state that a title or position doesn’t make you “better” than anyone. We’re all out here doing our jobs and it shouldn’t be too difficult to do yours without being rude or inconsiderate to someone who is working just as hard as you are.
Is there anything you do for work on a daily basis others might be surprised about?
Not many people know this – I recently started to manage an artist called Adam Snow. I hesitate from calling myself a manager because I still have a ton to learn about management but I’ve been working with him on and off over the past few years and he never ceases to amaze me with his vision and creativity. I spend most of my time reading and trying to learn more about management whenever I have a rare free moment. He has a mixtape in the works and it’s going to be legen…wait for it… dary.
If you could change one part about the work you do, what would it be?
I know this is impossible but I’d love every artist to have an equal chance to be featured on any medium. PR has evolved into a borderline “I got you if you got me” type of business and it can be frustrating and disheartening at times. Some outlets like Run the Trap are working towards giving artists that equal opportunity through the launch of the “The Inbox” feature and I think it’s extremely thoughtful and ethical of them. One step at a time I guess!
Do you have any advice for those trying to find a career path in the music realm?
Ari Emanuel is someone I look up to and I keep a few of his lessons to live by in mind.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you and move out of their way.
- The only constant in business is change – get comfortable with it.
- Fail often, fail quickly.
Outside of those, I’d have to say: do everything with a great amount of passion or don’t do it at all, treat others with respect and kindness, and be fearless in challenging the status quo – the ‘rules’ of life were established by people who were no smarter than you.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Tips, thoughts, feelings, songs, promotions, etc?
Wake up every day committed to being a great person to all others, approach everything with unbridled passion, embrace your creativity/curiosity, think positively at all costs, and above all, be fearless.
A quick shout out to Eric at Warner for teaching me the joy of working in music, Dave at Dubset for having my back, all the artists and managers that gave me a chance to work with them when I randomly hit them up on twitter, and last but not least, Siouxz for believing in me. On another note, I’d love to connect and create with anyone/everyone. Free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.