We had the good fortune of connecting with Lindsay Teske and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lindsay, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think taking risks is so necessary for growth. Naturally, it’s not always going to feel comfortable, but you never know what kind of payoff could be lying on the other side of fear.
Reshaping my relationship to risk was probably my biggest learning curve when launching Carnival of Oddities, and it’s something I’m still actively working to strengthen. The idea of risk used to make me really nervous initially, and I quickly realized that my own fear was standing in the way of my own growth. I reframed my thinking around risk by telling myself that it was simply a part of my routine now. If I wanted Carnival of Oddities to ever become all I wanted it to be, I knew that (whether I liked it or not) I had to be actively pushing myself to take chances on a regular basis.
For me, risk taking first came in the form of feeling unafraid to act on my gut instincts. I encountered this with my financial model. As a publicist, I don’t charge clients anywhere near as much as I could, which was definitely a risk. However, it was one I felt a deep pull to take. I exclusively represent independent bands, and a huge reason why bands often aren’t able to afford a record label, an agent, a publicist, etcetera is because their rates are notoriously astronomical. This makes it extremely difficult for anyone who doesn’t come from a position of financial privilege to have a music career. I knew that I didn’t want Carnival of Oddities to play a role in perpetuating this. If I wanted to represent independent bands, I knew I had to adjust my rates away from the industry standard and towards what my client demographic can reasonably afford. Despite being a financial risk, it was what I felt in my gut to be ethically sound and in alignment with the values of the business I was building. I couldn’t create a business that was merely all talk about supporting independent artists — the numbers had to be an extension of the mission. I was cautioned against taking this approach, too, but I’d do it all over again if I had to. The sustainability of a business lies just as much in its ethics as it does in its finances, and I think having made this choice is a big reason why Carnival of Oddities has grown as much as it has recently. This taught me that taking the risk to follow your instincts is often worth it, and I grew to have more courage in my convictions as a result. After all, if you’ve got a strong instinct about something, it’s probably for a good reason.
Very little has happened with Carnival of Oddities that didn’t begin with me taking a risk and emailing someone I didn’t know. I definitely used to feel uncomfortable about putting myself out there initially, and have been guilty of waiting for things to suddenly happen. However, the moments in life where opportunity simply falls into your lap are seldom seen at best. You have to be your own catalyst, and realizing that can be so empowering. For example, I’ve landed a few clients by sending cold emails after finding them on Spotify by happenstance. That’s something a former version of myself would have been terrified to do, and sometimes I do still experience butterflies in my stomach before hitting “send” on one of those emails. But, I think finding small ways to take risks and weave them into your daily routine can be revolutionary. I’ve grown so much from doing this. I feel more confident and in control, and it reminded me that I have the power to make change in my life — something I think is easy to lose sight of when caught up in day-to-day responsibilities.
In all, I’ve found that the payoff that lies on the other side of fear is almost always worth the risk. Risk is seldom comfortable or easy, but I’m a big believer that everyone is a little more gutsy than they probably think they are. We all have the power to take that leap, and we all have the power to learn and grow when we land.
What should our readers know about your business?
Carnival of Oddities is unique in the sense that it’s a public relations agency that exclusively represents emerging bands, and always will. I’ll never have anyone who’s selling out a stadium on the company’s roster. The business exists for the bands who are performing at their local pub on a Tuesday night. So many facets of the music industry aren’t set up for fresher faces to succeed on their own accord, so I wanted to create a company that aimed to only help artists of this nature. For example, it’s extremely common for otherwise talented bands to be denied deals or representation because they don’t have a certain amount of followers. A majority of independent bands work on their music on top of day jobs, and people with packed schedules like that simply aren’t going to have the luxury of time to “grow a social media following.” Skilled artists with so much to offer are being written off every single day because they simply have bigger fish to fry between 9-5 than that status of their Instagram. Carnival of Oddities exists to represent bands like this. When I take on a new client, I don’t give any consideration to their followers or streams. I solely focus on if I like the music and if the working relationship would be compatible. I think that making decisions primarily based on the quality of the music is imperative to nurturing the global talent pipeline, and I wish it was more common that it is. I sometimes get asked if working with independent bands is a sort of stop-gap while I wait to wrangle in “bigger clients,” but it’s not. Carnival of Oddities was created solely to champion the underdogs. I’m really proud to say that.
Carnival of Oddities also only represents heavy music artists, so the business is also unique in the sense of being genre-specific. We classify heavy music as anything that could be categorized as punk, hardcore, grunge, metal, rock, etcetera. These artists have been pretty ignored over the course of the past few years. They’re not given as much cultural capital as artists in other genre sectors are in media or festival lineups, for example. I sense that shifting a bit now, which is amazing, but it’s a shift that I think is long overdue. The neglect of these artists is the reason why Gene Simmons goes around proclaiming that “rock is dead” every few years. It’s not, of course, but it has gotten so little mainstream attention in recent years to the point where I can completely understand where that comment has come from. When I was doing my master’s two years ago, I wrote a research paper on the myriad of gatekeeping barriers emerging bands face in trying to break through, and one of my findings was that it is indeed harder for, say, a newer punk band to rise through the ranks than it would be for a new pop star. So, a part of the reason I decided to make Carnival of Oddities genre-specific was because I felt it was the heavy music sector that needed public relations support the most. The other reason is because that’s simply the type of music I love.
I got really into Led Zeppelin when I was in 6th grade, and from then on, anything that could fall under the general umbrella of rock became a linchpin to my life. I became obsessed with exploring all the different sub-genres within rock, its function as a form of sociopolitical commentary throughout the decades, its sonic evolution, the different subcultures that it birthed all around the world, and more. Rock music made me who I am. It has been one of the most significant facets of my life, and always will be. I believe in it more than I could possibly articulate. So, when it came to Carnival of Oddities, I knew I wanted to represent artists whose sound I believe in and love more than anything else. Particularly since a lot of the wider dialogue about rock seems to be anchored around legacy artists, I wanted Carnival of Oddities to prove that newer bands rising through the ranks were very much carrying the torch in their own right. The state of guitar music right now is incredible, and a majority of it is coming from bands whose names aren’t yet known. Carnival of Oddities is here to change that.
Launching Carnival of Oddities definitely wasn’t easy at first. I began this journey during a COVID lockdown, so as a result, it took about six months before I started profiting. I felt like a sitting duck for those six months, for sure. Gigs weren’t happening, and bands couldn’t meet up to record. One of the few things I could do was send emails, so I decided to spend that time networking as much as possible. I sent emails introducing myself to publications and radio stations who I knew covered heavy music, venues that hosted emerging bands, and companies with similar values to my own. I formed a lot of wonderful working relationships in that window of time, which I’m appreciative for. It was nice to be able to grow the community around the business while I waited for the business itself to grow. Those six months were also difficult financially, and that’s something I think is important to be really candid about. I wasn’t profiting from the business, so I had to scrape together an income from other means while I waited to. I wrote articles. I made a Depop and sold my clothes and books. I took a job at a pub once hospitality venues were able to open again (though that was admittedly short lived; I’m an atrocious bartender). I then replaced the pub with a temp job at the London Film Festival. It was exhausting, and waiting for things to begin to fall into place really weighed on me. It felt like I was packed up and ready to board a train that wasn’t pulling into the station.
While these six months were definitely crazy, I’m grateful they happened. Running a business is full of peaks and valleys, and I feel stronger for having gone through a valley before I even began profiting. This experience also taught me, crucially, that running a business will sometimes require a degree of sacrifice. I pulled (often flat and foamless) pints of beer for strangers in order to try and build up an advertising budget. Pretty much nothing about having a young company is glamorous or easy, at least not in my experience. What it is, though, is a balancing act. I think learning that early on made me more equipped to deal with challenges in the future.
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and spent a significant portion of my childhood thinking that I wanted to be an actor. I never, and I do mean never, would have guessed that I’d one day be living in London and running a PR agency for emerging rock bands. I’m so happy that my life is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. It just goes to show that you never know what kind of journey your interests will take you on, or which interests will rise further to the surface with time. Running Carnival of Oddities has really made me fall in love with the unpredictability of life in that sense. It also taught me that one of the hardest parts of starting a business is simply deciding to start it. I think people can do really powerful things with their passions. I’d encourage anyone pondering a business idea, no matter how niche they may think it is, to go for it. The world is wide, and there’s room for so many ideas to thrive. If a love for heavy music and up-and-coming bands can turn into a business, then I like to think that nearly anything is possible.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m answering in the context of London, since that’s where I’m based right now! By way of food, anyone who likes Italian should check out Misto in Mayfair. I recently became vegetarian, but I’ve seriously had dreams about chicken I had there once. I also love Dumplings Legend in Soho. It’s open really late, which is awesome, and I would eat their soup dumplings every day if I could. I bring my family there whenever they’re in town. For stuff you can take on the go, I definitely recommend Yum Bun and Dom’s Subs (look them up on Instagram, you’ll see what I mean).
Unless you’re seeing a special exhibit, general entry for museums in London is free, so I’d say that’s definitely worth taking advantage of. My personal favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum. I’d also encourage anyone visiting London to take a day trip to another city in the UK.. Since it’s such a small country, it’s so easy to get around through train journeys — none of which are terribly long either, unless you’re going pretty far North. Three of my favorite cities in the UK to visit are Brighton, Bristol, and Cardiff. They’re all relatively quick to get to from London, and are easy and exciting to explore.
While London has loads of lovely green spaces, my personal favorite is Hampstead Heath. It provides a gorgeous view of London’s skyline and is absolutely massive, so you could reasonably spend an entire day exploring or hanging out there. It has ponds you can swim in, natural terrain to wander through, tennis courts, a cafe, and so much more.
Regarding places to drink, I’d encourage anyone visiting London to simply stick to pubs. They’re the institution that they are for a reason, after all, and no two pubs have exactly the same feel or culture to them. London has loads of excellent bars where you can buy fancy, expensive cocktails, but I really think there’s something to be said about merely pub hopping around the city. It’s one of the most interesting ways to learn about the neighborhood or part of the city you’re in.
I’m also a big advocate for simply wandering around London and exploring by foot. That’s how I both learned London, and discovered some of my favorite places within it. It’s too easily walkable to not take advantage of, and you’re bound to stumble across so much more than what the guidebooks will tell you. After all, there’s a beauty in choosing your own adventure.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m forever grateful to Matt Melis, the former Editorial Director of Consequence (formerly known as Consequence of Sound). I was one of Matt’s editorial interns for almost two years when I was in college, and his guidance shaped and strengthened the way I write about music. After my internship I stayed involved with the publication as a freelancer, so I was lucky to be able to keep working with Matt. He has given me so many incredible opportunities over the years, and I found confidence in my voice as a writer thanks to him. What I’ve learned from Matt has played a huge role in Carnival of Oddities. I apply everything he taught me when writing press materials for clients, pitches, copy for the company’s website, and more. He’s a huge reason why Carnival of Oddities is what it is.
Above all else, though, Matt was the first person in my career to take a chance on me when he gave me the internship way back when. That means more to me than I could ever say. I hope that through Carnival of Oddities, I can keep passing the baton and taking chances on people in the way he did with me. A gesture like that is life-changing.