It’s a music business fairy tale: basement shows led to booking college shows led to music business internships led to Director of Publicity at Matador, and the hero of our story, Shira Knishkowy. The PR powerhouse spends the bulk of her day securing coverage for the label’s roster of seasoned vets like Cat Power and Kurt Vile to up-and-comers Steve Gunn, Julien Baker and more, and working with music journalists who she considers as talented as the bands she represents. In the midst of a changing digital landscape, Knishkowy remains hopeful for the future of her developing artists, and finds that a truly successful day is one where she can see the difference she’s making in their careers. Getting paid to talk about the bands you love all day doesn’t hurt either.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
I grew up in Connecticut going to emo/punk/hardcore shows, which led to me booking shows in college as well as interning for various music companies in NYC between semesters. All I wanted to do was gtfo of school and work somewhere, anywhere, in the music biz, and the first full time gig I got was as an assistant at WME. I quickly realized the booking agency world was not for me and wound up working my way up the music PR ladder.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
I spend my days trying not to annoy writers while also convincing them to spend time listening to and writing about my artists or booking them on TV — while at the same time keeping managers & label folks up to date on what’s happening with their bands, collaborating with our marketing staff, etc.
What do you find most fulling about your work?
I get paid to talk peoples’ ears off about the best bands in the entire world. I’m biased, I know, but Matador has always been my favorite label, so I can’t help but be excited every day at my job.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
Anytime I book an artist on late-night television it feels like a huge win. That’s the main thing that everyone’s thirsty for, and it can be super super difficult/competitive, especially with developing artists. But when you get a booking, and then watch the band’s social media #s climb / their sales grow as a result, you feel like you’re actually making a difference in an artist’s career. It’s beautiful. My greatest challenge is meeting my own expectations, which are exponentially higher than everyone else’s.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
The world of monetized clicks & advertisers dictating editorial content is a bummer, but I am optimistic, still, for the future of media. There are so many brilliant, creative, and hard-working up-and-coming writers who I feel privileged to collaborate on stories with, and they give me hope for the future of music journalism. I don’t know where my career is going to lead me, but right now I am stoked on the regular to get to talk about bands all day, work with inspiring colleagues, go to shows, and make shit happen.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Johnny Beach / Bowery Presents; Elia Einhorn / The Talkhouse; Dylan Marron / Seriously TV; Kim Taylor-Bennet / VICE.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.
Photo by Maggie Shannon.