On the week of August 9, artist Mike WiLL Made It hit newsstands everywhere on the cover of Billboard Magazine. Best known for writing and producing hit singles like Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” Mike WiLL has released mixtapes of his own and built his success from the ground up. Most recently, Mike WiLL released the music video for “23” featuring Miley Cyrus, Juicy J and Wiz Kalifa. Working alongside Mike WiLL on the road to the Billboard cover was his PR team at Audible Treats, including three alumni: President Michelle McDevitt (G ’05), Director of Marketing Gavin Rhodes (G ’05) and VP of Publicity Dan Friedman (G ’10).
“He wasn’t well known when we started working with him,” said Friedman. “He had produced the song ‘Tupac Back’ for Meek Mill and Rick Ross, and that was the one big placement he’d had when we started working together.” Mike WiLL had also produced mixtape tracks for local packs from Atlanta like Waka Flocka Flame when he started working with Audible Treats two years ago. Audible Treats’ campaign for Mike WiLL has been a building process, starting with small hip-hop outlets, that eventually led to bigger ones like Complex, Fader and XXL. From there, McDevitt and her team were able to transition to cross-genre outlets, ultimately leading to Billboard.
While a Billboard cover is a feat in itself, Mike WiLL’s is a unique accomplishment, since many music outlets are hesitant to put producers at the forefront, primarily because they are not as visible as artists. “The fact that he was on the cover by himself and not accompanied by somebody more recognizable…it was sort of an ongoing process where somebody had to be the first one to do it,” said Friedman. “I’m hopeful that it’ll open some more doors to outlets that we think would be good fits to do similar pieces, and hopefully we can do more covers with him going forward.”
90 percent of Audible Treats’ artists fall under the hip-hop umbrella, the other ten percent made up of soul and some indie rock, list artist Nylo who McDevitt describes as “Aaliyah meets The Weeknd.” With different genres come different PR tactics like tailoring pitches to fit each outlet – “knowing which writers and which outlets are going to be perceptive to what you’re trying to get them to listen to,” said Friedman. “The most annoying thing that writers complain about it getting pitched music that isn’t their specialty.”
McDevitt never thought she would start her own business before developing Audible Treats in 2004, but now she has begun to view everything with an entrepreneurial mindset. “When people tell me about business ideas now, my mind starts racing and I think, is this viable? How much would you need to get? Would it really work? Who are customers and competitors? I can think through an idea in five to ten minutes and tell if it’s viable or not.”
One of McDevitt’s biggest takeaways from the Graduate Music Business Program was learning to be independent, and that it was up to her to make things happen. While NYU can be used as a springboard, McDevitt had to invest herself, ask questions and network. Friedman agreed, adding, “There are good resources offered through the program, your classmates, Stern classes and people who aren’t directly under the Steinhardt umbrella. The classes give a good foundation, but you have to put your own effort behind that foundation to get to where you want to be.”
To aspiring student/entrepreneurs, McDevitt offers this advice: “Network as much as you can. People are open about sharing their stories. You can always learn from somebody else’s pitfalls, which you can then avoid. Think about what niche you fill and how to reach your target demographic. Communication skills can’t be emphasized enough. Be clear, to the point, and professional in emails and phone calls.”
McDevitt has recently been appointed an adjunct professor in the Graduate Music Business Program. Audible Treats was also cited as a Top 25 PR Firm on Social Media in 2013 by Uwire, alongside PR firms from a variety of industries. Follow McDevitt on the entertaining Audible Treats Twitter.