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Nan Lewis opened Entertainment Works in 1989 as a direct result of her love with reggae music. A professional publicist since 1974, she is well-versed in marketing and promoting products and services through editorial coverage in the media so, when she was asked to manage a PR campaign for a reggae band, switching to the music industry was an easy transition.
Irie Magazine caught up with Nan Lewis to learn more about Entertainment Works and the Musical Prophet, Ras Midas.
Official Website: Entertainment-Works.biz
IRIE. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you originally from and when did you discover reggae music?
Nan Lewis. I’m from Massachusetts, I’ve lived on the East Coast all of my life. I started my career as a professional publicist in 1974, learning about marketing, advertising, public relations, and media relations on Madison Avenue — back when Madison Avenue was the hub for the world’s big advertising and PR agencies. I first heard reggae music in 1984; I was living in Durham, N.C., and I saw a local cover band doing Marley songs. I loved the rhythm of the music, so I started checking out Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs…
IRIE. How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?
Nan Lewis. By happenstance! In 1989, I had been a publicist for 15 years – mostly in the interior design industry and for non-profits – so I knew how to market products and services. A band from Baltimore was playing in Durham and, not seeing any publicity for the gig, I mentioned to them that I was a publicist. The response was, “Come to Baltimore and work with us.” I moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and did just that.
IRIE. You founded Entertainment Works in 1989 and over the course of your career, have managed to represent/work with many artists. Artists include Clinton Fearon, Nasio Fontaine, drummer Winston Grennan, plus Rock N’ Roll inductee Bernie Worrell [co-founder of Parliament Funkadelic], and R&B group Friends of Distinction… Were there any obstacles or surprises in setting up and running your own PR agency?
Nan Lewis. Surprises? Yes! I had hardly chosen the agency name before bands and artists were contacting me! The biggest obstacle was Nan Lewis: forcing her to leave the office. For the first several years, I worked 14 hour days, seven days a week.
One of my career highlights was RAW [Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide] founder Papa Pilgrim asking me to join RAW’s Board of Directors as the PR Coordinator for the organization.
IRIE. How did you and Ras Midas meet?
Nan Lewis. Ras Midas heard about Entertainment Works, called me, and hired the agency. Then based in California, Ras Midas was touring in the U.S. that summer ; I picked up his booking in Chicago, and booked him shows to Maine, to Florida, and to New Orleans. Naturally, I booked a show in Baltimore, and we met in person in July 1990. We worked together throughout the 90s.
In the meantime, I was also the Marketing & PR Director for a Baltimore-based company that booked national touring Broadway Shows. Moving to Florida in 2001, I closed EW in 2002 and took the position of Marketing & PR Manager of the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg; health issues prompted my retirement in 2009. In January 2012, Ras Midas called and asked if I would re-open Entertainment Works to work with him again; I said “yes” without any hesitation. I knew his work ethic, his professionalism, that he was very committed – and very talented.
And I had always liked what Ras Midas stood for: his “One Love Revolution” philosophy promoting equal rights and justice, acceptance of others, and peaceful co-existence.
IRIE. What makes representing Ras Midas, the Musical Prophet, special to you?
Nan Lewis. A publicist’s success is hinged on their relationship with the media. Entertainment Works is Nan Lewis, and Nan Lewis is Entertainment Works. If one EW client snubs the media, it reflects on me, on the agency, and it could compromise future work for other clients. I never worry about Ras Midas missing an interview; he is one of the most professional artists I’ve ever known. And, importantly, Ras Midas is special. He is an authentic person. A talented songwriter and composer. He has a distinct voice and a wonderful stage presence; his performances have been consistent over the 27 years that I’ve known him. Ras Midas is special because he is the real deal: a genuine roots rock reggae foundation artist with original rhythms and melodies, thought-provoking and conscious lyrics. I am honored to represent Ras Midas.
IRIE. When choosing an artist to represent, what qualities, traits or behaviors are you looking for?
Nan Lewis. First, the artist’s lyrics must be clean. No slang, swearing, no derogatory terms or words. First, yes, twice, recordings must be made with real musicians – no computers. And, yes, first once more: the artist and I need to “click,” establish a good understanding so we can work together comfortably.
IRIE. When is it the right time for an artist to hire a PR company?
Nan Lewis. or specific performances, a publicist requires at least two months to research the local media, establish a relationship with the media rep, pitch the story, and score interviews. For a new album release, a year will allow the creation and implementation of a full-fledged international PR campaign and the time required to implement it – to schedule publicity to hit when the album is released, and to continue after the release to ensure the public’s interest in the album/artist increases. As a professional in the marketing industry for over four decades, I also provide advice and counsel on album artwork and inserts, editing the copy to meet professional AP [Associated Press] standards and confirming all credits and important links are included.
IRIE. What are your immediate/future plans for Ras Midas? Entertainment Works?
Nan Lewis. ARas Midas and I work very closely together; however, he is the client and the final decisions are his. We’ve been focusing on the release of RASTAMAN IN EXILE [16 October 2016 on JML Records], and now we are concentrating on the publicity for the CD. EW coordinates bookings for Ras Midas, so concurrent plans are to partner with an agency in Europe for the first leg of the Autumn/Winter 2017 “Rastaman In Exile Tour.”
With the agency’s main focus on Ras Midas, my current and continued plans for EW are to provide dependable and professional marketing, PR, publicity, and media relations services to recording and performing artists.
IRIE. Give thanks Nan Lewis!
Nan Lewis. Thank you, Nico! Without the media, I am not able to do my job. As a publicist, I stay behind the scenes; EW is hired to get publicity for its clients, not for itself or me. Being invited to be interviewed by IRIE Magazine has been an interesting experience! Onward and forward, with peace and love…