My Artist Relations Journey, Part 1: The Accidental Hobnobber

I once considered it my greatest detour. Come to think of it, I always will. On paper, I was still a copywriter, confined to my desk and accustomed to the sidelines. But then came that series of assignments, where I found myself  – pardon the cliches – rising to the challenge and reaching for the stars. And if we take into account what “stars” refer to in my chosen field, that meant spending time with them too. 

The Adventure Before the Adventure

I guess it began in May 2012 – my 10th month in what pegged itself as the country’s third largest TV network. Not that it settled with that ranking, mind you. Just like any other burgeoning venture, it sure was hell bent on making its presence felt. Just a few months before, it welcomed stars of the Super and the Mega kind to its roster. And by that summer, it was ready to go global.

I was assigned to the U.S. launch, mainly because I was the only one in my team qualified to travel on short notice. Specifically, the International folks needed social media coverage. That, of course, entailed documenting everything, from the mundane activities to the major highlights. More importantly, I had to shake off whatever residual shyness I had left. Because, how else could I gather celebrity material?

Unsurprisingly, it was a two-week whirlwind, from the welcome dinner in L.A. to the after-party in San Francisco. Needless to say, that adventure was just the prelude.

To Vanity and Beyond

Four months later, people from the same group tapped me again. This time, it was for a visibility campaign codenamed Project Vanity. I didn’t absorb the brief at first. But before I knew it, I was accompanying the network’s young stars to high profile events, like that year’s Cosmo Bachelor Bash and David Guetta’s concert. My task then was simple. Apart from securing their attendance, the stars also had to be seen by the press and other VIPs. The partying was just the side perk. 

The assignments kept pouring in soon after. I was the point person when an app launch needed celebrity presence and, perhaps more spontaneously, when the CEO threw a Friday night party at whim. Through it all, I appreciated how I was handled. Sure, I was a novice on that front, but the higher-ups never, at any point, emphasized my inexperience. In fact, they mentored me. And for the first time in my professional journey, I felt empowered. And seen. By the turn of 2013, I was offered to transfer laterally.

At the time, it seemed an unlikely route for someone who’d just completed film school. Logically, the goal was to commit to a life of storytelling and, eventually, direct. But thanks to the hangover from the thrilling past months, coupled with heaps of good faith, I accepted the job without qualms.

Besides, I wasn’t about to turn down my first promotion.

The Big Break

Artist Relations was the name of our minuscule department, if you can even call it that since there were only two of us. Being my boss’s lone constituent meant I always had to be on call, and not to mention, be everywhere.

As the associate, I had to be privy to the activities and needs of the signed talents, from the legends to the neophytes. It was also my duty to seek alternate avenues of exposure, like events and guest appearances – all that while ensuring they represented the network well.

Explaining my function was always a mouthful. But whenever describing my job felt like a chore, I summed it up by this mandate: “To be where the artists are“. Depending on the scenario, I was seen either as a budding manager, a handler, or a talent coordinator. I might as well have been.

What transpired could fill volumes of anecdotes, like Empoy calling me Kuya even if he’s older, Alice Dixson having a blast in Oktoberfest, and Edu Manzano comically reprimanding me for lighting a second cigarette in a row. Being the in-house liaison also exposed me to a kaleidoscope of colorful characters with a mishmash of temperaments, all while having to play the “good cop” throughout. It certainly felt like a tall order for someone who once classified as introvert by way of Myers-Briggs, but I managed by the day.

By second quarter, I’d memorized all their quirks. I knew “Bluer Than Blue” was Wendell Ramos’ go-to mall show song and that Ate Guy loved Chicken McNuggets. As months progressed, I felt I had found my niche. Loosely put, I was the general go-to person for artist-related requirements.

Bittersweet Transitions

By 2014, my boss parted ways with the company, but not before hinting that my role would evolve. In a way, it did. By that time, however, most of the big stars had ended their contracts, leaving me with a smaller stable to tend.

Later that year, I was “adopted” by the Home Network’s Talent Center, who had then welcomed a new head. Under her wing, my focus shifted to training the homegrown artists and discovering untapped talents. And as we started conducting auditions in our new office, I developed the eye for spotting potential. Through whatever level of influence I had, I was also able to land some of them bit parts.

By that time, talent management seemed to be my new endgame, granted I continued that route. Little did I know that the tides would shift once again.

In 2015, a structural shake-up was looming and the Home Network began to change direction. A new talent development consultant came in, sending signals that we were about to be replaced. True enough, come August, we were offered golden parachutes. Two months later, we took the leap.

Limbo

Having turned 30 just months before, I took the turn of events as a necessary shift, like an initiation to a new phase in life. Suddenly, I riddled myself with musings like, “I should be a writer again” and “I should finally continue pursuing film”. Hey, I may have lost an income source, but the possibilities felt vast.  

Yet, the fact of the matter was, I still needed to earn. In the six years that followed, I went through several seasonal projects and short-lived stints, but admittedly, none of them offered the same high. And much as I had hoped to maintain the connections I previously amassed, for collaborations or what not, I learned about the fleeting nature of those connections the hard way. To sum it up, I was deemed a stranger by the very people who told me “Hey, don’t be a stranger”.

My closest shot at stability then was a comeback stint with my first employer, where I did social media and website management for their film festival. But when the pandemic messed up with that in 2020, they pulled the plug altogether. I ended that year grasping at straws.

Yet, somehow, I knew something was brewing. It was around that time when a Network Juggernaut lost its franchise, and the Home Network reopened its doors. That paved the way for key people, including my original boss, to find their way back in. At one of my low points during lockdown, I thought to myself, “It would be nice to be part of that”.

Luckily, the opportunity presented itself two years later, just when I had recovered from surgery.   

Glorious Homecoming

In February 2022, I officially returned as consultant, this time under the Home Network’s Content Partner. My first assignment was to attend the finals of their year-old singer search.

There was a sweet parallelism in marking my return at the refurbished Metropolitan Theater: Career restoration in a newly-restored venue. As I tested negative in antigen, I was overwhelmed by the introductions and the impromptu pocket reunions. The catharsis, however, came went the show went on-air.

As the elaborate opening number commenced, then came the surge of nostalgia and emotion. In contrast to the kitschy and jovial tone of the Randy Santiago-penned theme, I was unexpectedly near tears. It was the most alive I felt in two years, most of which I spent languishing in quarantine and bedridden post-surgery. Suddenly, I was back on track. Moreover, I was back home.

The euphoria continued weeks later when I participated in casting pitches for an upcoming sitcom. And when an actress I mentioned actually accepted the role, I knew I was off to a great start. Isn’t that the essence of consultancy, I thought, for colleagues to seek, if not, listen, to your inputs?

But then, there’s another implication of the word I knew I had to bear in mind: I was merely back on borrowed time.

***** TO BE CONTINUED *****

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