Charley Bezer: VP of Publicity at Cosa Nostra
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
My name is Charley. I’m originally from London (UK) but I live in Hollywood, Los Angeles with my husband, two cats (Bill & Ted) and dog (Ferris). I’m the VP of Publicity, USA for Cosa Nostra PR a transatlantic boutique PR agency servicing artists and events in the world of rock and metal. I joined the company 18 months ago, just after moving to the US, with the task of expanding their offering into the North America market. Prior to my current role, I was the Head of PR at Live Nation UK for nine years.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I was lucky enough to be offered work experience at Live Nation at a point when they’d just created an in-house PR department. I’d worked other jobs previously, but music was always what I wanted to do so when the opportunity came up for work experience, even though I was 26 at the time, I decided to give it a shot. After about a month of my being at Live Nation they found a way to pay me and give me a full time job. I’ve been in the industry for 11 years now.
You also previously worked for other companies, like Live Nation. What was it like working for such a well-known company? What was your role?
Working at Live Nation was wonderful. A total dream come true. Of course it had its ups and downs but I have nothing but a full heart and happy memories when I look back on my nine years there.
I was Head of PR which involved managing the in-house PR team on overseeing PR support for all of the UK’s touring output as well as managing external PR agencies on delivery of PR strategy for the company’s festival properties including Download and Wireless Festivals.
When did you know being in the business (specifically PR) is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I always wanted to work in music. My father and my brother are both producers so I grew up around it. My dad had a recording studio at our house so there were always musicians around and phenomenal music being made. Unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so the ‘business’ side of the industry was where I set my sights.
Most people that know my family history assume I got my start through my dad and good old nepotism, but he was actually very against me working in the industry because he thought I was ‘too nice’ - people that know me will probably find that hilarious. No one at Live Nation found out who my dad was until about six months in to me working there. I wanted to prove myself and earn the respect of the people I was working with before any of them wrongfully assuming I was only there because I was someone’s offspring. I don’t care so much these days as I feel like I’ve established myself enough as my own entity within the industry for it to not be an issue, but when I was first starting out I really hated it when people would introduce me as ‘the daughter/sister of….’.
I kind of fell into PR. The work experience opportunity I was offered was in that department. I loved it from the moment I started doing it. I remember my first day on the job, we had just announced KISS as one of the headliners for Download ’08, so I was dispatched to the streets of central London with a life size Gene Simmons cut out and a photographer to create content to send to media. I think that was the moment where I was like ‘YES!! THIS IS AWESOME!! “ That and the first time I got an artist on the cover of a magazine. That was also a very career-affirming moment.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
It can be mega stressful at times. You have to really work on at least trying to maintain some work-life balance. I’m really bad at being able to switch off. You also have to deal with inflated egos and illusions of grandeur. If you’re not really resilient you can have days where you feel like your whole soul has been completely crushed into a million pieces.
I’m also personally a big worrier. I worry about EVERYTHING. My family laugh at me for it because my capacity to find a way to worry about anything is phenomenal. The thought gremlins will always try to find a way to make me question myself, my worthiness and whether I’m doing a good enough job but I’ve got much better at ignoring them. With time, experience and really wonderful, supportive people around me, I’ve managed to develop the confidence and conviction to believe in myself and to *know* that I’m really fucking good at what I do.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
Working with and helping to build the careers of exceptionally talented, creative people. The exciting part of working in music for me is witnessing raw artistic talent and self-expression be harnessed in to a collection of songs and then getting to see that body of art take on a life of its own when it released into the world. Nothing beats seeing a sold out show with one of your artists/events and just watching the impact the music has on the crowd. Anyone that loves music has been there, in that moment where nothing else matters but you and the artist and the song. Music is a magical, powerful force and getting to play a small part in the process of bringing it into the world is an honor that I’m always mindful to never to take for granted.
The best part of PR specifically is that you’re helping to tell the artist’s story. Figuring out what makes the artist tick and finding cool and where possible, innovative ways to weave that narrative is challenging but really rewarding when you get it right. Seeing a really great piece of coverage run or having an artist finish an interview you’ve set up and tell you how much they enjoyed doing it is always a huge joy for me.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had one particular mentor as such. I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of really brilliant people and I’ve always tried to adopt the somewhat clichéd adage that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. I’ve been extremely lucky to have been in a lot of rooms with a lot of super smart people. I’ve pieced together and constantly adapted my approach to PR by observing, listening to and asking questions of all those people. The media/PR landscape changes constantly, so to stay on the top of your game you have to always keep your eyes and ears open otherwise you get left behind.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Be prepared to work really hard.
Seek out and say yes to any and all work experience opportunities.
Do the tasks that are asked of you with good grace and a positive attitude.
Remember that no one owes you anything.
We all had to pay our dues and do the shitty stuff. It can totally suck and be deathly boring but those tasks will help give you a great foundation to build from.
Always be open to learn and get comfortable with constructive criticism.
Ask questions, observe and always be nice to everyone.
Pick your battles, not every hill is worth dying on.
Never be afraid to speak your mind or to offer opinions and ideas, no matter how silly you think they are. Some of the best things I’ve worked on have been born from silly ideas.
Go out of your way to do the best possible job you can. Your work and your actions will do most of your talking for you. Take great pride in that and you’ll do well.
Own your fuck ups. We all make them, we’re human. Learn from them and make sure they don’t happen again.
Be respectful but don’t let people walk over you. Never be afraid to stand up for yourself.
Don’t ever let anyone try to determine your worth. That’s on you and only you.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
This is a tough one for me as I think my experiences are very different to many other women in the industry. I can only speak as I have found and as such the answer, on the most part, would be no I’ve never been turned down due to my gender and I can’t recall an occasion where I’ve not been taken very seriously. I think I’ve been lucky. The majority of people I’ve worked with have been supportive and encouraging and always made me feel like my opinion is valid and respected.
Have there been occasions where men twice my age but with half my experience in my field have tried to intimidate and belittle me? Yes, absolutely! Have I let them intimidate and belittle me? Absolutely fucking not! Have I been accused of being ‘bossy’ and ‘aggressive’ when a man in an equivalent position would be applauded for being assertive and going after what he wanted? Yes, on more than one occasion. Did it annoy me at the time? OF COURSE! Do I care or let it get to me in the long run? Nope.
Work hard and keep achieving great results so people have no other choice than to take you seriously. You change people’s minds by showing and doing. Sadly, you find stupidity and ignorance everywhere, in all walks of life. To my earlier point about picking battles, you can punch yourself out fighting the many tiny displays of stupidity or you can let the insignificant stuff bounce off you and save your energy to fight for the things that really matter.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
I’d love to be able to say something impressive and cool here, but the truth is I’m a big old nerd. I love pro-wrestling. I love horror and comic book movies. I’m a huge fan of UFC.
When I’m not working, my favorite way to spend my time is hanging out with my husband and our fur-kids, going to the movies, checking out new restaurants and exploring Los Angeles. Oh and I absolutely LIVE for Universal Studios and the Transformers ride!
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Mötley Crüe. They were my first real love and the band that always epitomized rock n roll to me.
What is something you can't live without?
Music! Macadamia Nuts, Voodoo Doughnuts, my husband and coffee.
Go-to Karaoke song?
I have never, ever sung karaoke. The world has enough problems. Me trying to sing in public doesn’t need to be added to the pile. However, if I did, it would probably be ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ by Bon Jovi. Mostly for the line ‘I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all’.
Tea or Coffee?
COFFEE (I know that’s terribly unBritish of me)
OBVIOUSLY my husband, but also Tom Hardy.
First concert you went to?
First concert I ever saw was The Beach Boys. The first concert I paid for with my own money was Oasis at Finsbury Park.
What’s something that you always have on you?
Ashamed to say my phone – see previous comment about finding it hard to switch off and crystals of some kind (I was a teenage girl in the 90s, The Craft is my favorite movie, allow me haha).
Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with?
At the risk of sounding like a smug A-hole, I’ve been lucky enough to work with pretty much all of my dream artists over my years and I’ve got a pretty awesome roster right now. In terms of artists I haven’t worked with, I think my dream artist in 2019 would be a band like Code Orange. Really exciting and visceral musically, not afraid to speak their mind in the press (it’s rock n roll, not politics, we need more of this). AMAZING live shows and they’re only just getting started.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
No 2 days are the same but my semblance of a routine looks something like this: wake up and answer emails that have come in over night from Europe/the East coast. Walk my dog, do 15-20 minutes of yoga or Pilates and meditate for at least 10 minutes (arguably the most important part of the routine). I get to the office around 11am. Do a sweep of social media and go through all my google alerts for each of my artists. Check out the headlines and what’s trending on Twitter and check out the Daily Skimm email to if there’s anything cool going on in the media agenda that might be relevant to any of my clients. Then the rest of my day is a combination of replying to many emails, pitching interviews/reviews, writing press releases, creating campaign strategies/plans, having calls with managements and/or labels, connecting phone interviews, covering in-person artist promo activity.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Doing exactly what I’m doing now but with a bigger team and a bigger roster.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
For us to have reached a level of equality where we no longer need ‘Women in Music’ awards and suchlike because women are being counted as true equals to men.
For the gender pay gap to be a thing of the past and for there to be legislation and/or commitment from everyone to play their part in making that happen.
For everyone that works in music to feel safe, supported and respected by the people they work with.
For there to be a better support system for women who choose to work and be a mum.
For there to be a structure in place to look after and support the mental well being of those who work in the industry (particularly artists).
For internet ‘cancel culture’ to be shoved firmly into the deepest recesses of the nearest bin.
What are you most proud of?
I’m not very good at taking a step back and taking in what I’ve achieved. I’m more a look to the future and what’s next kind of gal. I guess I’m pretty proud of the fact that I worked my way up from being a work experience placement to Head of PR for the biggest music company in the world in under 4 years. And I’m actually really proud of what I’ve managed to achieve here in the US within the 18 months I’ve been in my current role.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
There are several, these are my favorites
‘Work hard and be nice to people’
‘If you can’t accept it, change it. If you can’t change it, leave it’
‘You can’t polish a turd.’