I first heard about Manimal PR from an artist management facebook group I’m a part of.
Someone was inquiring about them and immediately the post was flooded with fellow managers saying “I’ve worked with Manimal, message me.” It was weird because no one publicly posted they had a good experience with Manimal, just cryptic “message me” posts. So I started digging, messaging everyone. Then I went deeper. This artist also heard from that artist about their experience with Manimal. On and on and on. I spoke to publicists, artists, managers and labels and one of the them told me: “Manimal is the worst kept secret in the indie rock community” and that “almost every publicist knows this guy…no one talks. For me I was scared of legal stuff because he would be the type of guy to go after people for defamation”.
Well, you can’t sue if it’s true. And after months of investigation, speaking with over 20 managers, artists, labels and publicists, obtaining invoices, emails and text screenshots, I feel I need to tell some of these artists’ stories so there is some understanding out there for artists and managers thinking about working with Manimal PR.
Manimal PR Review:
Here are some direct quotes from previous Manimal clients I spoke with:
“My client paid $4K for a 9 month campaign…when there aren’t any results you realize how much of a scam it really is.”
“I don’t think they are thieves necessarily, but they just suck tremendously and are a shame to the industry”
“Working with Manimal ended up making us feel like our material must have been shit, but the publicist we’re working with now is crushing it”
“We’re now working with this new [publicist]. A week into it he secured this person to come out to our show. He delivered press on time. In 3 weeks we had more than 1 write up a week. It was finally really good for the confidence of our band. Really clarifying the shit show that was Manimal.”
“They totally dropped off in the middle of my campaign without warning”
“The one feature we got was botched. Nathalia didn’t clear a press release with my client and the majority of the info on the feature was incorrect.”
“Many times they wouldn’t answer for a week.”
“When I told Paul that I wanted to back out and that I’ll pay you for the first one, but I want my money back for 2nd two. He replied ‘No we have all this next stuff secured.’ He said 4 or 5 big blogs would do stuff. 5 playlists he talked to. But none of it happened.”
“Paul said he secured a playlist, but my friend actually talked to the playlist and they said they passed, saying ‘not our vibe.’ He just lied! He made it up!”
“After we asked to cut ties, Paul started taking credit for our friend’s work.”
“There’s a paper trail of Paul fucking lying. Making shit up.”
“He just took the money and ran. I just didn’t want to bring a lawyer into it.”
“A week before the deadline [Nathalia] disappeared. Every day I would text and email and no replies, never. Days went by. I kept trying, silence.”
“I don’t think they are the sleezeballs that some might think they are. Would I hire them again? No.”
“The press release they wrote was terrible to say the least. So poorly written. It made no sense.”
“I later found out that Paul and his wife [Nathalia] have a film division “Manimal Films” that I feel a lot of the cash was going towards.”
These are direct quotes from Manimal’s former clients. Every person I spoke with asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from them. But I have all of this confirmed, checked and documented. I obtained invoices and proposals to corroborate what everyone told me.
And a publicist I spoke with told me he felt that Manimal is “really good at going after young bands who don’t have experience with PR.” Another publicist said in reference to Manimal “these terrible PR’s make it 10x harder for us good ones.”
With such a poor reputation you’re probably wondering, how are these guys still in business?!
Well, they have big name clients listed on their website under “Clients.” Yoko Ono, Duran Duran, Bat For Lashes, Warpaint, Moby, etc. However, their long list is awfully misleading as I reached out to many of the clients’ on this list. One had an extremely negative experience. One said their experience was okay, but wouldn’t use them again. One of them told me they had no idea who Manimal was. And others did not actually hire Manimal for their PR services but rather had a single or an album put out through Manimal Records. Is it fair to list a well-known artist on their PR website who had one song released through their label? You be the judge.
Manimal does have some satisfied clients too, I must add.
I spoke to a few of them and even some ‘satisfied’ clients had some reservations. One wrote to me: “In the beginning it was slow. The first single was featured on a Soundcloud playlist and nothing more. But the video for the song was featured on *** [Large, well-known outlet, name omitted to protect the innocent], and then I felt that things were flowing more easily — a lot of premieres on [another big outlet]. Towards the end, I felt like they did drop the ball a bit, and I landed some press for myself.”
But this artist referred their friends to Manimal who had horrible experiences and is now regretting those referrals and told me how bad they feel because of it.
Paul asked me to speak to a few of the bands he thought would say nice things about them.
So I did. One artist wrote back stating that they found out about Manimal through Paul (who they are friends with ‘in the LA scene’). The artist said “I personally have had nothing but good experiences with Manimal. He let me know know what was going on and who he pitched to and their responses as it was happening.” This band told me that Manimal got them on a Rolling Stone online blog post (4 years ago).
Another one of Paul’s referrals he asked me to speak with told me they received daily emails and texts and said “they did great work and we felt a kinship.”
And another artist Paul referred me to said “The communication has been amazing, it’s one of the strongest parts of the campaign. They are always there and always answer, to the point where we feel we’ve developed a strong bond with them.”
The owner of Manimal PR is Paul Beahan.
I spoke to him two times on the phone at length. However, it took multiple email attempts to get him to agree to setup a call or answer my questions — a common theme I noticed.
I recorded our conversations to make sure I got everything right and didn’t misquote him.
He’s a nice enough dude and on the phone he’s awfully convincing that he believes he and his team of 7 are doing good work. However, a few things he said really stood out to me and rubbed me wrong.
“25% of [our clients] are entitled little brats” – Paul Beahan, Manimal PR
I pressed him on this statement. I told him that the many artists and managers I spoke to don’t seem entitled. They actually seem to understand what PR is and were most upset that they just didn’t receive regular updates and reports and that Manimal and Paul were difficult to get ahold of. And, of course, were frustrated with the lack of results.
Paul told me that the Manimal team only takes on 30 clients at any given time. The common theme from nearly everyone I spoke to was that they did not receive regular reports and, if they paid up front, Paul and the team were much less likely to respond in a timely manner.
Which is a good time to mention: NEVER PAY UPFRONT FOR A PR CAMPAIGN.
All the other PR companies I spoke to charge monthly. Never up front. Never half and half. A publicist at a major PR firm told me why they charge monthly: “Thats to protect the artists so if something isn’t going that well they can cut without being on the hook for a shit ton of money.” Another publicist, who also charges monthly, told me when I asked about paying up front “I mean, when I remodeled my house, I didn’t pay my contractor for the entire project upfront, so why would I pay a publicist for 6 months upfront?”
Manimal typically asks for payment up front, but many artists were able to negotiate half up front and half at the end.
Paul told me they charge $1,000 “per asset.” They deem asset as a single, music video or album release. So 3 singles and a music video would run you $4,000. This number was fairly consistent from the artists and managers I spoke with, however it did fluctuate a bit in some cases. Paul told me “we rarely charge people up front.” But nearly every artist I spoke to was at least asked to pay up front.
Manimal runs their campaigns quite differently than most PR firms.
They encourage their clients not to set release dates for “assets” (singles/videos/albums) until a blog agrees to a premier. This was a cause of extreme frustration from many of the clients I spoke to. Oftentimes Manimal’s proposals would list dates and time frames for the campaigns. But if they can’t secure a premier by release date, they will ask to extend the campaign.
“We always get something. There’s always an outlet or a roundup. Someone that owes us a favor. We guarantee that we will get a premier. We totally guarantee a premier” – Paul Beahan, Manimal.
I’m confused at how Manimal can guarantee a premier, but not by the set release date. Clients told me that sometimes their single campaigns extended months and months to the point where the client just asked to cut ties and stop whatever work they were doing because it wasn’t working and they were not receiving progress reports or updates. Many clients I spoke to felt like they just disappeared.
I asked Paul about this. He said:
“They know our address and phone number. If we disappeared on people that would be fucked up. If that would have happened we would have been sued by now.” – Paul Beahan, Manimal.
Shade Upon Shade – SubmitHub
And here’s where it gets super shady. Manimal is listed on blog/playlist/label submission platform, SubmitHub as a Record Label: Manimal Vinyl Records. Artists can pay to submit to the label. They currently have nearly a 50% approval rating from 1,778 submissions. That signals to me that they have signed 889 artists who submitted through SubmitHub. Which of course, is not the case.
Paul told me flat out that they sign about 5 artists a year from SubmitHub for a single deal.
So how do they have a 50% acceptance rating?
What they are doing is accepting anyone who isn’t totally awful, saying something to the extent of:
“Good news! I’m interested in talking more about your music and ways MANIMAL VINYL RECORDS might be able to help you… We would love to work PR/Marketing for you, feel free to email me [email protected] if interested.”
Do you see what just happened?
Artists think they are submitting to a record label, but they turn around and sell them their PR service.
This is a bait and switch if I ever saw one.
When I alerted Jason Grishkoff, the founder of SubmitHub, to this, he seemed well aware and seemed content listing a tiny red disclaimer in their description reading “Users have reported that some of their services may require payment.” If I wanted to maintain the integrity of SubmitHub I would ban this practice and make it against their terms.
But Jason did tell me that Manimal is one the most “active submitters on SubmitHub” — which is probably why he doesn’t want to upset them. They bring him big business. Paul justified using SubmitHub instead of his direct contacts with “Unfortunately a lot of those outlets who know Manimal are like ‘sorry Charlie you have to use SubmitHub.’ So we have to submit for pickups on there.”
When I inquired with Duran Duran’s management — discussing how I had received reports from multiple musicians who felt like they were scammed by Manimal PR for thousands — their manager called Paul. He then called me and said that Duran Duran’s manager told him that it sounded like Manimal messed up a campaign for my girlfriend or something. Paul flat out asked me this. “This feels personal” he told me. And I told him, while no this has nothing to do with my girlfriend, but yes it is personal because I’m an artist.
When I hear from multiple artists who feel they were taken advantage of, it feels personal.
Over the course of my music career, I’ve had countless shady ass companies and people contact me for various scammy things. It drives me insane. I have a platform. Most indie artists don’t. I’m not afraid of getting sued (because the truth is on my side) and I’m not afraid of being ‘blacklisted’ because my reputation is well established. And frankly, calling out injustices against musicians is more important to me than my hurt feelings when they inevitably send me threatening, spiteful emails attacking everything and anything about me personally. Or getting their minions to post in the comments hateful things about me. Rise above!
Speaking of which, if you are an artist or manager and feel you have been taken advantage of, feel free to reach out to me ([email protected]) and I’ll investigate. Nothing drives me crazier than people who take advantage of musicians.
If there was one artist who had a bad experience, I wouldn’t have looked into Manimal.
You can’t please everyone. There will always be sour grapes with every company. If there were two, well, then I might start to dig deeper and ask around. But the more I dug, the more victims I found in Manimal’s wake. And that’s why I felt I needed to investigate and share my findings with the general indie music community.
After my months of research, I’ve determined that Manimal PR seems to be more dysfunctional, incompetent and greedy rather than running a complete scam.
If they want to improve, I would encourage them to send their clients detailed reports every two weeks — like most other publicists do. Detailed reports. Not merely a list of press they hit up. But excel sheets of the outlet, submission date, and the status “passed, approved, premier, no response, etc.” This shows proof of work. To be honest, I don’t know how they are able to keep anything straight without reports of their own. Every publicist I spoke with, except Paul, keeps reports like this. One publicist said that he just removes the contact information and sends over his personal reports to the client and highlights all the responses.
Of course clients want lots of coverage, but above all, they want to know that they’re not wasting their money.
Manimal should stop taking on artists they don’t feel they will be successful with. When you have a 25-30% (Paul’s numbers) dissatisfied client base, it’s time to change the way you do business. You should have less than a 5% dissatisfied client base. Take on fewer clients. Be more discerning on who you choose to work with. When I told Paul that an artist told me they paid Manimal [a very large number] up front, Paul’s response was “I wish! If we [charged that] I’d be driving a whole different car.” This response makes me believe that Paul and Manimal are using Manimal PR to merely make money. Paul did tell me that he’s not in this to make money. And I believe he didn’t get into the music game to make money, but rather because he loves music. However, it seems Manimal has lost their way.
I highly encourage Manimal to take a long hard look in the mirror and reevaluate how they conduct business.
Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based musician and the founder of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake and Instagram: @ariherstand