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April 29, 2013

Hot Off the Press: Damon Campbell, CEO/ Founder, MuziksMyLife.com

interview bomb

Damon Campbell, CEO/ Founder MuziksMyLife.com

Hey there, my name is Damon Campbell. With persistence and dedication,  I’ve managed to turn a teenage hobby into a promising career path—one that includes exclusive interviews with A-list musicians, recognition from some of the world’s most respected media outlets, and the satisfaction of making my family proud.

But none of this would be possible without all the wonderful people who’ve supported me over the years, so I would like to take a moment to thank you in advance for reading this interview, which I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of!

-Damon Campbell

1. How did you get started in music journalism?

When I was in high school, I’d spend every night on the computer downloading new music and keeping up with all my favorite hip-hop blogs, and I started to notice more and more of my friends asking me to update their iPods for them as a result. Eventually, I was becoming so invested as a fan of the culture that I decided to make my own site as a way to help other kids like me, and I called it MuziksMyLife.

Soon thereafter, my brother brought me to Kanye West’s “Glow in the Dark” concert in Detroit for my 17th birthday, which I can honestly say changed my life forever. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to make a full-blown career out of my passion for music, and it’s been a snowball effect ever since.

2. A lot of artists are seeking blog and Internet coverage. Where do you see the role of the video journalist in a musician’s career?

The thing to remember is that the Internet never forgets. 50 years from now, someone could be surfing YouTube and stumble across an interview of mine for their very first time. So I feel like I owe it to myself and the artists I’m interviewing, as well as the viewers, to make each one timeless, thereby maximizing its potential for future enjoyment.

Look at it this way: tomorrow I could interview an upcoming artist, who goes on to become the next Michael Jackson. Or better yet, the first so-and-so. Suddenly, everything they’ve been a part of becomes a historic moment in time, including their past interviews—they become iconic.

Even if an artist is just starting to build a descent buzz, their new fans are gonna be digging up old interviews to get a better feel for who this person is. By that same token, someone could be so intrigued by an interview of mine that they end up wanting to see more of my work. In which case, they’re just a click away from possibly discovering their new favorite artist.

So it goes hand in hand, and we feed off each other’s success—both that of the past and of the future. That’s why I go into each interview with the mindset that it has no expiration date…because under the right circumstances, a 10-minute interview could potentially last a lifetime.

3. What techniques do you use on your interviews?

I feel like in-depth research has become sort of a lost art when it comes to interviews, unless your name starts with “N” and ends with “ardwuar.” A lot journalists and their employers seem to be solely concerned with what just happened or what’s about to happen, and when such and such is gonna drop. Basically, they’re focused on delivering the news. Which is completely OK if that’s your M.O., because I believe everything serves its purpose.

But at the end of the day, these artists are human beings. They all have real-life stories just like you and I. And I believe that people are interested in not only seeing a different, perhaps more relatable side of their favorite musicians, but also in actually hearing those stories. Because that’s the sort of stuff I’ve always been interested in. Growing up, for example, I would always read biographies about my favorite athletes and musicians. I would see them on TV and wanna learn more about who they were as individuals, and how they made it to where they did.

So what I do to prep for my interviews is gather up all the information I can possibly find, and then just sort of sift through and pick out the most interesting topics before aligning them in a way that everything can hopefully tie together from beginning to end, making for a more fluent conversation. Jay-Z once said that “there’s poetry in how someone does an interview” and how they “segue to the next subject,” so I’ve always placed a lot of focus on transitions and what not.

In terms of actually conducting the interviews, I try to make artists feel as comfortable as possible; especially since interviews, in their nature, could potentially be somewhat awkward and intimidating. So I try to ease them of that stigma by matching their vibe and being as polite as can be. But in order for that to work, it can’t feel forced, so it really just boils down to your ability (or inability, for that matter) to strike up a casual conversation with a complete stranger while maintaining some entertainment value. All in all, I just see my interviews as an extension of my personality.

 4. As an editor and site curator you are bombarded with requests by publicists. Can you share any real-life examples of good or bad pitching?

First off, I’m extremely grateful to finally be at a point where certain publicists are taking notice and reaching out to me, because there was a time when I would’ve been lucky to even get responses from some of these people. And I still have to scratch and claw for a lot of my interviews, so it’s always great when opportunity comes knocking.

For example, the interview I did with YG was pitched to me by a publicist at Def Jam who accidentally got my name wrong and referred to me as two people instead of one, before later apologizing for her typo. But I wouldn’t have cared if she called me Santa Clause, for that matter, because if it wasn’t for that initial email, I wouldn’t have been able to do the interview.

The best part about that pitch, as well as the one from a publicist at Roc Nation which lead to my interview with Casey Veggies, was that they were personalized. They were sent specifically to me, regarding the artists’ shows in my area, so it wasn’t like I was bcc’d on some email blast. I feel like it’s always best when these sorts of exchanges occur organically.

 5. What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?

Fortunately I’ve been able to experience quite a bit these past few years, but I would still have to consider my interview with Wiz Khalifa to be my greatest career achievement thus far. That’s what really got the ball rolling for me.

I was 19 years old, it was only my third on-camera interview (fourth overall), and “Black and Yellow” was peaking at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, on its way to becoming No. 1. Needless to say, considering the circumstances, it took a great deal of persistence for me to land that one. But I was finally able to convince his right-hand man, Will, who’s gone on to help me set up several Taylor Gang interviews since.

In fact, Wiz even made an unexpected appearance during my interview with Berner this past summer, and a screenshot of that cameo somehow made its way into his video for “STU” off ‘Cabin Fever 2’. So it’s crazy how one thing can lead to another.