When Elizabeth Cawein left her job with the Memphis Music Foundation amid a restructuring of the organization, she had a choice.
The Memphis music fan could stay in the city and settle for a public relations job not connected to the music industry, or she could make a music-related PR job her focus and end up leaving town.
“I decided I didn’t like those options,” said Cawein, the founder and CEO of Signal Flow PR, a specialty public relations and publicity firm focused on musicians and music businesses. “I was going to instead make things up as I went along, and here I am.”
Here she is, indeed. Since launching the firm in 2011, it’s gone from an idea and a determination to make it all work out to something that quickly took shape.
Cawein now has space inside the EmergeMemphis building Downtown. She hired her first account manager earlier this month, and she uses at least one intern every school semester.
“I prefer working with Memphis artists. It’s easier to be on the same page and have a face-to-face sit-down.”
– Elizabeth Cawein
Meghan Stuthard, a University of Tennessee graduate, is Signal Flow’s new account manager. She moved to Memphis after graduating to pursue a career in law, then switched gears and ended up working in sales and later with the Hi-Tone Café.
Cawein, meanwhile, built up a portfolio of clients she’s worked with, primarily local acts that range from Myla Smith to Chris Milam.
“It started out as my idea to be a publicist,” Cawein said. “While that is still what we do, what we also do a lot of is in marketing and the digital space, with a music focus. About half of our clients are independent artists and bands, and half are more on the corporate side – music nonprofits, venues, businesses, things like that.”
In the recording industry, the phrase signal flow refers to the path a signal follows from a source, like where an instrument is plugged into a jack, all the way to output.
It’s a good metaphor to represent Cawein’s business. Musicians, bands and music businesses all can plug in with her, and she’ll help generate an image and story that complements their sound.
While at the music foundation before starting Signal Flow, she did work similar to what she’s doing now. She handled media relations and communications efforts for the foundation as well as helped manage its online presence, coordinate social media efforts and plan social media campaigns and strategy.
She also helped with press release writing, developing communications plans and goals, PR strategy and social media campaigns and tactics, among other things.
Cawein began singing and playing the clarinet in elementary school, and she never lost the love of music. She studied popular music musicology and vocal performance at Brunel University in London.
She’s also lived for a time in New York, and elsewhere in her career she’s worked as a social media specialist and blogger.
She founded Signal Flow with two clients. The company now has a roster of around 10 clients at any given time. Last summer Cawein taught music marketing at the Stax Music Academy, and she’s currently an adjunct professor at the Visible Music College.
Her community involvement has included serving on the board of the Memphis and Shelby County Growth Alliance and the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market entertainment committee.
Cawein has a background in journalism as well as PR. It’s part of the strength she believes she brings to the table for anyone in the music business, since she comes from the worlds of both a writer and someone who’s worked in publicity.
“Some of the publicity part of what we do includes the traditional things like pitching stories, managing interviews and booking radio and TV appearances,” she said. “More and more, marketing is really growing for us. We’re also doing campaign planning, brand and image consulting and graphic design.”
In October, Signal Flow moved into EmergeMemphis.
“I do mostly in-town stuff,” Cawein said. “I prefer working with Memphis artists. It’s easier to be on the same page and have a face-to-face sit-down. Also, part of the reason I got into this is because I love Memphis music and promoting Memphis musicians. That’s a passion point for me.
“I love the history of our music scene. There’s so much happening here, if you just open your ear for half a second.”