Q&A with Betsie Brown of Blind Raccoon and Blue Heart Records, gives new option for musicians around the world

"Our mutual philosophy is based on our love for blues music and the artists. To present the artists and their music in the best way possible whatever their age, color, creed, or race."

Betsie Brown: The Blues Heart of Love

Betsie Brown has over thirty-five years of experience in entertainment and music promotion, media relations & marketing communications, based in Memphis, San Diego, New York and London. Brown established Blind Raccoon in 2008, after a seven-year partnership in Crows Feet Productions. Betsie says: "We provide radio promotion and publicity services, social media promotion and marketing consultation in the blues, roots, rock, R&B, soul, Americana and folk music genres." Professional and community involvement: Recipient of the 2009 KBA Award “Publicist of the Year” bestowed by The Blues Foundation / Member of the Board of the Memphis Chapter of the Recording Academy 2010-12 and 2007-9 / Former Board Member of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission / Board Member (2007-10 & 2002-5) and Vice President (2005) of The Blues Foundation / Member of The Blues Foundation / Member of the Americana Music Association / Former Member of the Folk Alliance / 2004 and 2005 Chair of the International Blues Challenge, produced by The Blues Foundation / Board Member and Communications Chairperson of the former Blues Music Association.

(Photo: Betsie Brown and Blind Raccoon's logo)

Nola Blue (Sallie Bengtson) and Blind Raccoon launched a new label and give new option for musicians via the Blue Heart Records imprint, established between Nola Blue and Blind Raccoon four years ago. Blue Heart Records is a female-owned, independent, full-service record label devoted to championing multi-generational blues and roots artists. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse, consistently enjoyable collection of new blues songs than this one. In addition to being used to promote the 32 artists (34 songs) included, “Blind Raccoon and NOLA Blue Collection Vol. 4” (2022) was compiled with an admirable cause in mind. Betsie Brown, owner of the publicity and media services company Blind Raccoon, and Sallie Bengtson, president of NOLA Blue Records, will donate all the proceeds from the digital sale of it to MusiCares, which provides much-needed support to self-employed musicians during hard times. The emotional release and healing at the root of blues music — for the performer and the audience — has long now translated into wonderful ideals that permeate the community that supports it.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues, Roots and Rock culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Any music one grows up with impacts one’s life. Is it an impact that determines a lifelong commitment to the music? For some, the answer is no. For me it is a resounding yes! Although, I did take some diversions along the way. A foray into banking, interior design, some romantic attachments…. I grew up with pirate radio, a weekly TV show in the UK called Top of The Pops, and bands such as The Small Faces, T. Rex, Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Cream, to name just a few.

Looking back, my first significant live concert on October 4, 1970, in my hometown in the UK, featuring Derek and The Dominos was, although I didn’t know it at the time, the catalyst for the road I took in the late-90’s to be involved in the music industry. And, if that wasn’t enough, having bands from the nearby American armed forces’ base play our local village hall, was an invaluable education that prepared me well for the journeys I’ve since taken, ending up in Memphis, TN by way of London, New York & San Diego, CA.

When was your first desire to become involved in music industry and how the thought of Blind Raccoon started?

Following on from the first answer, the second catalyst was the discovery of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker in the mid-90’s. I had no idea just how much they, and other black blues musicians, influenced British rock. I was, excuse the pun, hooked! I took my PR skills and honed them for blues music publicity & promotion soon realizing that staying in San Diego, although very pleasant, was not going to immerse me in all things “blues.” I moved to Memphis and after a few years of working in the business developed my own company, Blind Raccoon.

"Be flexible and versatile. Always be on the lookout for ideas from other industries to adapt for our music world. Like any other industry, it really helps to know the “right” people. Don’t get bogged down by negativity. It is an industry that has a lot of naysayers unfortunately." (Photo: Betsie Brown, the 2009 KBA Award “Publicist of the Year” & Blue Heart Records' logo; a female-owned, independent, full-service record label devoted to championing multi-generational blues and roots artists.)

What is the story behind "Blind Raccoon" name? What characterize Blind Raccoon & Blue Heart Records philosophy?

I always chuckle at this question. It came from having a family of raccoons living in the crawl space above my back porch. They were a nightmare messing up my wiring! I studied them a little and found out they could live in the wild even when blind. And there you have it!

Our mutual philosophy is based on our love for blues music and the artists. To present the artists and their music in the best way possible whatever their age, color, creed, or race.

How has the music business changed over the years? What do you think is key to a good collaboration?

The industry has changed radically in the last couple of years and will, as I keep reminding folks, continue to change. Most of the change is due to technological development, particularly in music delivery systems.

If you mean a good collaboration with an artist, it’s all about being on the same team understanding what everyone does and pitching in to provide great results for an artist and their music.

Which collaborations have been the most important experiences? What´s been the highlights in your career so far?

All my collaborations with artists/projects/labels are important experiences. As we often say, “We’re only as good as our last campaign.” That said, it keeps us on our toes and, hopefully, allows us to deliver every time.

Having the honor to work with RCA on Buddy Guy’s albums since 2010 is one highlight I always treasure. Joining Buddy at The Grammy’s, where he received “Best Contemporary Blues Album” for “Living Proof” back in 2011 was made even more special as his peers, Pinetop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, walked away with “Best Traditional Blues Album” that same year.

"Looking back, my first significant live concert on October 4, 1970, in my hometown in the UK, featuring Derek and The Dominos was, although I didn’t know it at the time, the catalyst for the road I took in the late-90’s to be involved in the music industry. And, if that wasn’t enough, having bands from the nearby American armed forces’ base play our local village hall, was an invaluable education that prepared me well for the journeys I’ve since taken, ending up in Memphis, TN by way of London, New York & San Diego, CA." (Photo: Betsie Brown of Blind Raccoon & Blue Hearts Records with Benny Turner & Frank Bey)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I’m not sure I miss anything. What I love is still here. Music evolves, and I support those changes even if I may not personally dig the music. Music will always be with us. Each generation has its music preferences. However, I do love it when young people discover rock and blues. That gives me hope!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music industry?

Be flexible and versatile. Always be on the lookout for ideas from other industries to adapt for our music world. Like any other industry, it really helps to know the “right” people. Don’t get bogged down by negativity. It is an industry that has a lot of naysayers unfortunately.

Artists and labels will have to adapt to the new changes. What are your predictions for the music industry?

In all honesty, I have none other than at some point we will be going fully digital with providing music to media and radio. I suspect that is already happening in the mainstream music world. The days of sending out CDs are coming to an end. It is an outmoded system for sharing music.

How do you think the music industry will adapt to it?

I think if you want to be successful, one must adapt. If you don’t, you’re going to go out of business.

Blind Raccoon - Home     Blue Hearts Records - Home

(Photo: Betsie Brown, owner of Blind Raccoon, and Sallie Bengtson, president of NOLA Blue Records with Benny Turner / Betsie Brown & Johnny Tucker / Photo by Bob Auerbach)

Views: 375

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2023   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service