When I ask Benita Bellamy how she got into the entertainment industry and what events led her to start her own company, she says, “Oh Lord!” We both immediately burst into laughter. But this marketing and public relations executive has an incredible story, one rooted in faith and following intuition. Having worked in entertainment for over fifteen years, the small town Tennessean got her start at EMI before working as Marketing and Publications Manager for Imagination Stage Performing Arts Center and Label Manager for Sanctuary Records Group, both in Maryland. From there, she also went on to develop the National Promotions Department for Light Records in Nashville.
Then one day, she quit – with nothing, but everything, ahead of her.
“I knew that the business I was seeing being done was not the business that God wanted me to do,” Benita says. “So I quit without a job, without anything.” Luckily at the time, the independent trend was booming. “Independent artists and even consulting were surging, because people were forced to do it,” Benita continues. “They were losing their jobs and artists were being cut [from labels], so people were going indie.”
Despite the changes going on in the industry, Benita really had no intentions of starting her company; however, when the phones started to ring, she found her niche. “There was a bigger need for publicity,” Benita says. “Artists were finding radio people, but they couldn’t find anyone to do PR.” Eventually her efforts evolved into The Bellamy Group, a company specializing in marketing and promotional strategies for entertainment, performing arts, ministry and small businesses.
No matter what level you’re at in your career, publicity is important. “I look at PR as free advertising,” Benita says. “With independent artists, PR becomes valuable. A lot of their budgets are so small that they can’t afford a $5,000 ad in a magazine or a $1,200 month-long run for a banner on a website. If I can get them a review, a CD mention, or a new artist feature in that same space, that’s valuable. That’s where the demand is for me as I see it.”
And Benita’s “demand” can be attributed to her connections. She has an incredibly established network thanks to her experience in radio promotions, being on the road, and working within different genres of music throughout her career. “There are people I met 12 years ago that I still talk to today,” Benita says. Those connections have helped her build essential relationships and most importantly, put value behind her work.
But what about independent artists who can’t afford services like those that Benita’s company offers? “I really try to meet the needs of artists,” Benita says. “Some artists don’t have a budget to do a 6-month PR campaign.” To respond to that disadvantage, Benita offers strategies for artists who can’t afford an extensive campaign, even if it only involves "setting up interviews or giving them a couple contacts that might help get their campaign kick started.”
“It’s hard to be an artist and a media person,” Benita says. “But [artists] do have to do some things on their own. I always tell people it’s okay to reach out and make relationships. You are your best marketing tool. If you want to do some stuff on your own, do it.” However, it’s always good to have a backup. Experts like Benita can “tell you who to call or how to call them.” So often, artists get trapped in cold calling dozens and even hundreds of people to get from one point to the next. Artists need someone to connect the dots more quickly and efficiently for them. “Sometimes it’s a matter of us consulting,” Benita says. “This is what you can do, and these are the people you can connect to.”
Publicity is all about creating content for artists and getting that content into their identified markets. But it goes much deeper than that. Think less cookie cutter. “I’m always looking for the newest website, or the newest magazine publication, or a regional TV show that pops up," says Benita. "I want to continue to build my clients’ fan bases, create new things for them, and even create new visibility for Christian music period. I think that’s what a good media outlet should do – cover all aspects of music. It’s a challenge, but it’s a cool challenge to push music farther.”
Check out Benita’s company, The Bellamy Group, at www.thebellamygroup.com