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ChicagoTalks Profile: A Look at the Life of a Music Industry Publicist

May 7, 2009 – Brendan Telzrow is a publicist at Biz 3, one of the two major music publicity companies in the Chicago area. He’s a quiet guy-sort of the quintessential man behind the scenes.

But through his job at Biz 3, Telzrow has met and traveled with some of the biggest acts in the independent music scene. Biz 3 now handles Daft Punk, The Cool Kids, Asher Roth, Flosstradamus and Atmosphere as well as other artists.

Telzrow, 25, joined the company soon after it was started out of the apartment of Kathryn Frazer, CEO and owner of Biz 3, in Wicker Park.

Wearing an old button-up shirt with a dark undershirt, Telzrow walked into Rodan, a bar in Wicker Park, one recent day. He flopped down into a chair and let out deep sigh. “Man, what a day,” he said.

Telzrow sports very short hair; in fact, any shorter and he would be bald. He’s of medium height and his beard is just to the stage where it’s grown in, but he doesn’t need to start taking care of it. He nervously glanced at a reporters notebook during a recent interview. It isn’t until after drinking a beer that he started to loosen up.

Telzrow is originally from St. Paul, Minn., and said he always had music in his life while growing up. Neither of his parents were musicians, but he grew up listening to all different types of music. “There was always music being played in the house, so I did grow up with some good influences,” he said.

Telzrow moved to Chicago six years ago to attend Columbia College. He wanted to earn a degree in music composition. But like his parents, Telzrow wasn’t at all musical; he only played guitar at the time and hasn’t played in years, he said.

“Now the only thing I really do musically is DJ part time,” Telzrow said. But while trying to earn his degree, Telzrow got sidetracked by the other aspects of college life. “Things got complicated and I got distracted, so to speak,” he said, finishing the last sentence with a childish grin like he just caught spoiling his dinner.

Telzrow then decided to move in with a friend of his named “Johnny Love,” who was promoting parties at the time. The duo moved into a loft right off the Damen Blue Line stop on the Northwest Side of Chicago in Wicker Park.

“That didn’t last for long though; after a few parties our landlord had to evict us,” he said laughing. “And the next landlord kind of had it out for us, so the second we had anything close to a party he evicted us as well. Ah, fun times.”

His eyes lit up by the nostalgia. He stopped for a second to reflect and quietly chuckled to himself.

By throwing parties, Telzrow met Frazer, who asked him to host a party sponsored by Biz 3 and Puma. He then began an internship at Biz 3 and worked his way up through the ranks to be a publicist.

Telzrow explained the job of a publicist. “I sit at my computer and communicate with people like you all day long. Being a publicist just requires you to be flexible to work long hours and be really organized.”

Telzrow said he sits down at his computer around 9 a.m. and starts pounding out e-mails and making phone calls with bloggers, reporters, managers and artists themselves, with the sheer intention of getting an artist’s name out there for someone to see or hear.

And the traveling?

“Depends, but I usually get to travel three to five times per year. Regularly go to CMJ, SXSW, Coachella” Telzrow said, all of which are major music festivals for the independent music scene. “And random press trips to NYC or LA if the situation arise,” he added.

He is happy with his salary.

“I mean I didn’t roll up here in a Mercedes Benz or something, but I am at a place where I am making more money than I ever have before, and I am pretty comfortable,” he said.

Giselle Wasfie, a former editor at the popular independent music magazine URB, has worked closely with Telzrow and Biz 3. “I know the founder, Kathryn (Frazer) doesn’t take on any artists she isn’t personally passionate about and I respect that to the fullest,” said Wasfie.

Wasfie recalled hitting it off with Telzrow the first time they met. “I first met Brendan at a show here in Chicago last winter. I kind of felt like I already knew him because we’d worked together so much via e-mail and over the phone. Then he started buying me drinks and I liked him even more,” said Wasfie.

And when it comes to the bigger issues, like the recession and the struggling music industry, it doesn’t seem like anything is really bugging Telzrow. In fact the struggling economy has only helped his business, he said.

“Before, all the major labels had an in-house publicist work with their artist. Now they’re getting rid of those departments and hiring us for specific artists or bands, which is nice because now we are able to work with more well-known artists,” according to Telzrow.

Telzrow has considered moving to either New York or Los Angeles, the music industry’s two major locations. “My whole life I have lived in the places that have rough winters,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind living somewhere where it is warmer all the time.”

On a more serious note he said Chicago has the right mix of “big city in the Midwest.” “There are so many great artists and venues here in Chicago, you really get a good variety here,” Telzrow said.

Telzrow said he is unsure about his plans for the future. He has thought about going back to school to get a degree, but not anytime soon.

“I don’t think I will be a publicist forever, but for right now I am really happy with what I am doing and that’s all that matters to me.”

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