Friday Interview | Music publicist and eco-activist Lydia Laws
Founder member of a global environmental movement in the music industry, managing world-famous artists, surfing - and maybe using her marine mammal paramedic qualification. All in a day's work for Lydia...
By Laura Kingston
Let’s start at the beginning! Tell us about you and your business?
OK! I live in Whitley Bay, operating an international boutique PR and communications agency – Lydia Laws PR (LLPR) which I set up four years ago. I work with a range of artists, labels and event brands – specialising in one of my main passions – electronic music. Artists I currently represent include Sasha, BLOND:ISH, Elliot Adamson and many more, alongside exciting new talent in the industry.
Living in the North East, I grew up as a real ocean lover and enjoy snorkelling, surfing, swimming and spotting marine wildlife. Around two years ago, my client BLOND:ISH (Vivie-Ann Bakos) founded an initiative called Bye Bye Plastic which aims to eliminate single-use plastic in the music industry by 2025. I’ve been involved since its inception and now we have grown to a team of 10 women. I handle all of our communications and also organise worldwide events such as beach cleans and speaking on panels to raise awareness.
What an amazing career! How did you get into it?
I studied English Language at Newcastle University and during that time volunteered for a charity called Freedom from Torture which provides therapeutic care for survivors of torture who seek refuge in the UK. After graduating I was lucky enough to spend six months in Ibiza working as a music journalist for Ibiza Spotlight which was amazing. Following that, I worked as a staff writer for Pulse Radio and then worked for three years as Head of Digital press for Neighbourhood PR – an international PR company for the music industry which has offices in London and Newcastle. I realised that I could have the freedom to do this for myself and set up Lydia Laws PR.
Was it scary for you setting up your own agency at 27?
It was actually way less scary than I could’ve imagined! The scary part was the ‘what if’ worrying that comes before you take that leap, I guess that whole ‘fear of fear itself’ thing. In reality, it was incredibly liberating. Even now almost four years on, that feeling of achievement I get when I bag that magazine cover or BBC feature for a client never wears off – it means even more because I’ve done it for myself.
It’s fantastic that you are operating an international business from your home in Whitley Bay – do you think that’s down to an increase in people working digitally?
Yeah, I think the freedom to work from anywhere is constantly growing thanks to technology. There are 10 women now working in Bye Bye Plastic, and we will meet on Zoom – from Newcastle, London, Barcelona, Dubai, Amsterdam…it’s so easy! And the internet is just constantly getting better as well, even when I’m travelling in Fiji or other little islands more off the map, I can still actually get online to check my emails or have a conference call! I think the fact that music is such an international business as well that, for me, there’s no reason for us to all be in the same places. I have clients and colleagues all over the world.
Photo credit: Eleanor Weitzer
What is your advice to women who are told that you have to move to London or abroad to make it in fashion, music, PR or other industries?
I used to get asked ‘when are you moving to London’ all the time! I think it just feels like the easy obvious thing to do, move to the capital. There are women making a name for themselves and building a successful career in every possible field all over the UK, whether they’re in remote villages in the countryside, by the sea, in cities…
I think it’s important to keep an open mind to travel generally, especially earlier on in your career, but there is always a way to make things work from wherever you are. If the place you live has your heart then you can always find a different route from the norm. Be more open to jobs outside your comfort zone in your chosen field, or try approaching companies that might not have realised what someone like you could do for them. Find that niche and start your own business. Negotiate with full-time roles that are based elsewhere and see if there’s room for movement to work from home. Challenge the system!
How do you stay motivated working from home? Do you work in any local coffee shops too?
I’m actually quite lucky as I get less distracted squirrelling away at home solo than I do in an office environment. If I do need a change of scenery and a sugar fix, I might head to Kith & Kin with my laptop for a peanut butter blondie…
So tell us more about Bye Bye Plastic?
This is our second year and we’ve been so pleased with the response. we now have more than 2,000 DJs, agencies and club partners on board, as well as receiving media support from BBC, the GRAMMY’s, Clash Magazine and more.
Our first call-to-action is what we call the Eco-Rider – asking DJs to request that no single-use plastic – including plastic bottles, cups or straws – are provided in the DJs booths they play in. Artists who have signed up include Pete Tong, Patrick Topping, Annie Mac and more, giving the campaign’s #PlasticFreeParty movement huge reach.
This is just our first initiative, next, we’ll be looking at carbon offsetting. Our team are working to provide solutions for clubs, bars and venues and they have found the best alternatives to single-use plastic that they can use. One of our primary goals is to assist clubs and festivals in making the transition to go fully single-use plastic-free by offering these researched and cost-effective solutions for them.
I think now more than ever there is a need for people to be able to enjoy the escapism that dancefloors can offer, but we want to be able to do this in a way which doesn’t harm our beautiful environment.
Find out how you can get involved, by visiting www.byebyeplastic.life.
And finally, what are your North East favourites?
The Boatyard is my go-to for the perfect brunch and the best vegan cake around. The in-house granola and the Turkish delight Victoria sponge (supplied by Zen Bakery) are both sublime! I often do urgent ‘cake runs’ there the second I see them post about a new cake on their Instagram, ringing in advance to reserve a slice (or 2)!
Also Cullercoats Coffee for delicious oat lattes and so many friendly faces. They deserve a shout out for providing a safe haven for us to warm up after 6am surfs/swims in Cullercoats and Tynemouth! I love the community feel in the North East, everyone is friendly and looks out for each other.
Hoochie Coochie is my favourite bar/club hands down. There’s a sort of New York jazz bar feel to the place, they have lots of live music as well as DJs and there’s always great energy on the dancefloor! It’s not-for-profit too which I love.
I travel a lot for work, and it’s so easy to get to the key spots I need to, like Ibiza, Amsterdam, Barcelona direct from Newcastle Airport. It’s also so easy to fly to Tenerife if I want some last-minute winter sun…
The walk from Whitley Bay beach to Cullercoats then Tynemouth and along to the old low light is my favourite walk. It’s absolutely stunning, especially on a sunny day, and you can stop off for vegan(!) fish & chips at Laura’s Fish Bar en route. It never fails to make me feel so lucky for living here.