Twenty-five years is a long time for any business to survive. Many marriages don’t make it to their Silver Anniversary, much less businesses. Throw in a rapidly changing media marketplace, and the idea that Green Galactic, a boutique publicity firm owned by Lynn Tejada and devoted to some of the most adventurous and experimental artists out there, made it to 25 is even more impressive.
Think about it: When Tejada started Green Galactic, dial-up modems were the norm and CDs were the future of the music industry. Few people had an email address, and most of those ended in “@aol.com.” Social media was unknown, Mark Zuckerberg was nine years old, and the words “blog,” “vlog” and “website” were yet to be coined; you’d be more likely to come across the word “streaming” in a copy of Outside than Rolling Stone. A large part of a publicist’s job was rolling calls, working the phones, and they were judged by the size of their Rolodexes.
Talking from her office in the Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, composer/producer John Tejada, she attributes Green Galactic’s longevity to her “adaptability” and “stick-to-itiveness.” She describes herself as a “craftsperson in the field of PR,” who isn’t sure if she’s a “businesswoman trapped in the body of an artist, or an artist trapped in the body of businesswoman.”
Her adaptability is obvious in her client list. Green Galactic started as a Los Angeles dance music DJ record pool. The Detroit native had no experience in the music industry, but one of the company’s founders invited her to become a partner because, she says, she “had a laptop and seemed organized.”
Plaid performing at Green Galactic’s 20th anniversary, 2013. Photo by Ryan Miller.
It also helped that before moving to the West Coast in the late ‘80s she moonlit on the weekends as a bartender at the City Club, a legendary Detroit nightclub/disco that was one of the earliest to feature the style of dance music known as “Detroit Techno.” Without realizing it, she had “soaked up club culture” and knew who many of the key DJs, remixers, producers and record labels were. In less than a year she ended up becoming the sole proprietor of the company. The first check she received (beyond the DJ’s membership dues) was from DJ/producer Carl Craig for West Coast retail promotion for “Throw,” a record he released under the name Paperclip People. (“I was thrilled and dug into the assignment with purpose.”)
Today, recordings makes up a small fraction of the projects she’s working, with theatre, film, art, dance, and musical performances taking the lion’s share. Her firm has represented iconic performance artist Rachel Rosenthal, important art-with-a-purpose nonprofits, fairs and festivals such as VisionLA ’15, Climate Action Arts Festival (leading up to the Paris Agreement in 2016), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater productions by acclaimed writer-director Daniel Talbott, graffiti and rave documentarian and author Jon Reiss, raw food pioneer/neo-jazz siren Lesa Carlson, NASA rocket scientist-musician Morgan Hendry and NASA-fueled multimedia shows (BELLA GAIA; both also having to do with climate change), experimental theatre director, composer and actress O-Lan Jones (seen in many Tim Burton films), and even Rosenthal’s protégé, Joshua Tree-based artist Linda Carmella Sibio.
Tejada’s also had to change her methods to keep up with the times. When she first started, getting a review in a national newspaper or magazine was a key objective. Today, most outlets have sharply cut back on their critics, and the emphasis is on getting previews, interviews, and having the artist’s event included as a pick in various “Top Things To Do This Weekend” lists. “It’s necessary to constantly reinvent the wheel,” a challenge she relishes. “I’m adventurous and I’m not afraid of hard work,” she says.
More importantly, Tejada approaches each campaign by “getting dialed in with the client.” It’s a collaborative process, and one that she enjoys. “No idea starts in a vacuum,” she explains, “it starts by asking, ‘What painting shall we paint together?’” Peter Manning Robinson, an avant-garde pianist and composer, describes the process as “simultaneously hands-on and transparent.” After discussing the project, she comes back with tons of ideas. What impressed Robinson is that she’s not interested in “making herself look good, but the project.” Tejada explains, “If they’ve entrusted their precious project with me, I feel an enormous responsibility. The frustrating thing about publicity is that there’s no guarantee as to what the results will be.” Part of her job is managing expectations, another is walking the client through the process. “I’m constantly in touch [with them] and open about what we can do together.” She finds that campaigns are more successful if someone is referred to Green Galactic (which over 95% of her clients are) because they’re “already sold on the fact that we’re the right firm for the job, so we’re starting out on the right foot and envisioning great things together.”
Mike M. Mollett/Mudpeople from VisionLA ’15.
Tejada is especially happy when she can help them with “branding.” Many artists, she says, are great at writing or directing or performing, but are less able to judge what’s captivating in a press photo or flyer. Artists will “create something amazing,” she says, but “have no idea how to visually represent it.” She didn’t have visions of being an artist herself, but is “a mega fan” and loves working with them. The pride she feels, and how closely she connects with her clients, is apparent when she talks about them. She tears up, her voice shaking, as she describes them. “I’m in awe of the people I work with,” she says, becoming more emotional. “They’re very special to me.”
O-Lan Jones says, “there’s nothing generic” about Tejada or Green Galactic. “Lynn interrogates me to the ends of the earth to discover exactly what it is I’m doing with a project, and how to best express it to the public.” Dan Froot, a producer and performance artist – whose “Pang!,” a collection of live “radio plays” based on interviews with poor or immigrant families making their way in 21st century America, toured to great acclaim and a Green Galactic client since 2012 – says Tejada “has always expressed a deep connection to my work . . . [She] thinks about the mission of the project.” Froot says she calls him at all hours of the night if she had an idea. Working with her, he says, is “not like a business relationship but more like a family.” Speaking of family, one client – the duo Wajatta, made up of Reggie Watts and her husband John, who recently released an album, Casual High Technology – mixed business and family in a literal manner. John laughs when asked if she woke him up at all hours if she had an idea.
Wajatta at the Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles, 2018. Photos by Allister Ann.
Tejada insists it is the artists who inspire her best ideas. “The more creative the client is, the more it rubs off on me. Robinson, who performs on a modified Steinway he calls a “Refactor Piano” to create unique, improvised soundscapes; since no two performances are alike, in addition to a showcase concert they came up with the of idea inviting small groups of journalists, promoters, and vegan music lovers to his Bel Air home, where he performed and cooked vegan meals. It was, he says, a perfect way to present himself.
Wajatta’s “Runnin,” from Casual High Technology
More than anything else, what impresses you about Tejada is that, even though she’s been running a company for a quarter century, she projects an infectious enthusiasm about the company and her clients. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Tejada for nearly two decades, and she recommended me for this story.) Robinson says that in a business where it’s easy to become jaded, Tejada is unaffected, affectionately describing her as “a crazy lady bopping along involved with interesting projects and tons of ideas.” For her part, Tejada says she loves working with people who have a “positivity” and believes we can manifest great things together. “I’m a fan of creativity,” she notes, adding that she believes in the old saying “do what you love, the money will follow.”
“My pursuit is happiness,” she says. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
Featured image: Linda Sibio. Photo by Jeremy Gladen.
Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art and afforded him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk and new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters such as Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let’s Make A Deal and Rock Star: INXS.