Arts Publicist Shocks World: It’s Not About the Money

shutterstock_82521562Meet Harrison Kelly. He runs a firm in Hong Kong called Flatcap Asia which represents such clients as Random House, Hachette UK and the “Shakespeare in the Port” festival. Oh, and he’s only 25.

We assumed his profile in the South China Morning Post would concern the struggles of top agencies as they attempt to expand into Southeast Asia, but it’s more a commentary on the state of PR in the arts.

Get ready for a shocker: turns out that most arts publicists, like the artists they represent, don’t do it for the money!

Why? Because there is none, silly.

As Kelly himself puts it:

“There’s a lot of value in [the arts], which isn’t necessarily financial. Promoting arts and culture is a way of understanding how we live.”

Interesting theory…

The reason for the interview is the Jaipur Literature Festival, sometimes called the world’s largest such gathering, which will take place in Jaipur, India from Jan 17-21. Kelly’s heading up PR for the book gathering and claims he’s managing it like any other event:

“I always try to approach a job as an arts event first and a public relations event second.”

This method has “won him the confidence of some big-name clients.”

Here’s the kicker, though: he’s a former dancer who wanted to make a career as a performer/creative director after working a show in New York but quickly realized that he didn’t quite have “the endless patience needed for a career in the performing arts”. So he studied public policy at university before making his way back into the world of literature and theater by volunteering at various festivals.

Sound familiar? We thought so.

Everyone who works in arts publicity and identifies with this guy, please raise your hand. Hey, you in the back: be honest with yourself, man!