Public relations powerhouse Carleen Donovan has had her eyes on Music City for a number of years.
She’s a veteran of music publicity, who, at just 20-years-old, launched her career as Head of PR for influential independent label Mute Records after a series of internships. She went on to hold Senior Executive roles at KSA Publicity and Press Here Publicity, in addition to the post of Executive Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing for Career Artist Management / Live Nation.
In 2015, Donovan founded DPR, which flourished and grew for five years before the 2020 launch of The Oriel Company. With teams in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, the company represents Grammy Award-winning artists, Academy Award-winning creatives, Fortune 500 companies and global philanthropic organizations. In the music industry, The Oriel Company counts artists Zoe Kravitz, Maroon 5, Questlove, Robyn, André 3000, Phoebe Bridgers, Kelsea Ballerini, Reyna Roberts and Old Dominion as clients, as well as UTA’s Nashville division and Stagecoach Music Festival.
Donovan says that even though people thought her and her partners Chloë Walsh and Jen Appel were crazy starting The Oriel Company during the onslaught of the 2020 pandemic, it was the right time for them.
“I was based in New York and we had expanded to LA in 2018, but I was looking to grow our base there because so much of the music industry is based in LA and Nashville. We represent a lot of actors and we do a lot of corporate consulting in the film and television space, so we just needed a bigger team in LA,” Donovan shares with MusicRow.
Donovan’s wish to expand to LA led her to joining forces with Walsh and Appel. That’s when the firm officially changed names from DPR to The Oriel Company.
“That’s how it all began. We started expanding and growing from there, which led us to Nashville,” she says.
Donovan’s introduction to Music City was through Old Dominion’s 2017 album Happy Endings.
“I’ve always worked with bands and touring musicians, so I’m very familiar with that strategy. That was one of the reasons they approached me, they saw my work with Maroon 5 and The Roots, who really both made their names not only from their albums, but in the touring world.”
To help The Oriel Company grow its Music City presence, Donovan tapped 15-year music publicity veteran Charlotte Burke Bass to become Vice President of Nashville Operations. Bass joined The Oriel Company from Beeline Agency, a public relations and strategic communications firm she founded in 2020. Prior to that, Bass spent over five years at Big Machine Label Group as the Director of Communications, as well as seven years at ID Public Relations in New York City.
Bass said that the highlighted intention by the company to contribute to philanthropy aided her decision in joining the team.
“I was reading Carleen, Jen and Chloe’s backgrounds and all of the work that they do outside of the entertainment space. That was really inspiring to me. I thought, ‘Wow, these are three incredible women who do work not only for their clients, but for their communities.’ That was really important to me,” Bass shares.
Speaking of incredible women, The Oriel Company boasts an entirely female staff.
“It wasn’t intentional. Men are welcome,” Donovan says with a laugh. “But we are all female—female founders and female staff. Everyone works really well together.”
The strategy at The Oriel Company is that of a multi-faceted approach. Most of their clients are multi-hyphenate entertainers who operate in different verticals both in and out of entertainment. Country star Ballerini, for example, is an author, a face of CoverGirl, an Aerie Partner and now a voice actor in Dolly Parton’s Run, Rose, Run.
“The work that The Oriel Company does expands beyond straightforward music publicity. A lot of the clients that we work with not only are musicians, but they may have their own fashion line, be actors or directors. You never know what’s going to happen,” Bass says. “We not only work with these artists, but we also work with different corporate clients that touch all different verticals across entertainment. That helps us help our clients when we’re able to have our hands in so many different parts of entertainment.”
As for Donovan and Bass’ goals for the Nashville office, the women are looking at strategic growth and projects.
“We want to continue the work that we’re doing, continue to super-serve our clients in every way that we can and eventually grow our base here,” Bass says.
Donovan says, “We look for projects that we can creatively invest ourselves in. Most of our clients have been with their publicists who are members of our team for 5 to 20 plus years in some cases. It’s really a family atmosphere.”
She sums, “We aren’t siloed as publicists. When you come here, you get the strength of the firm. Our resources and network are shared with the clients across the board. Every project is a priority, so when we find stuff, we look for projects we can all get behind.”
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