About Jo Rae
If there were such a thing as a royal family of Austin’s music scene, Jo Rae Di Menno would certainly be a member. In addition to spending 10 years as director of publicity for the world-famous South By Southwest Music & Media Conference (which included escorting and organizing press conferences for keynote speakers Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, Carl Perkins, Nick Lowe and Bob Mould), Di Menno has conducted successful media campaigns for Two Nice Girls, Alejandro Escovedo, Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan of Faces, the True Believers, Trish Murphy, Bernard Allison and many others. For more than 20 years, she’s represented some of the world’s top musicians (and trendy record labels like Rough Trade, Ruf and Fat Caddy) – both at home and abroad.
Since opening her own PR company, Hard Pressed Publicity, in 1998, she’s placed stories in most major media, including the Paste, New York Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today, NPR’s “Fresh Air” radio show, Blurt, Spin, No Depression, KUTX (Austin), The Alternate Root, Blues Revue, Jazz Times and countless regional publications, radio and TV shows. She’s represented the Canadian and French SXSW music contingents (Canadian Blast; the French Music Office) and the Dutch Rock & Pop Institute; organized benefits featuring David Byrne, Lucinda Williams, Charlie Sexton, Los Lobos and the reunion of the True Believers. Di Menno also has experience organizing auctions and coordinating media for such events as the famed Ronnie Lane Action for Research for Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS) benefit, one of the earliest major-league rock benefits.
Di Menno started her music-biz career as a freelance writer in Houston, which led to a position as editor of the Fitzherald, the house paper published by Fitzgerald’s Nightclub. (She interviewed a 13-year-old Charlie Sexton, as well as R.E.M., Delbert McClinton, Kinky Friedman, the Blasters and many others). She later served as publicist and the first female DJ at Cardi’s, a popular Houston club, and helped orchestrate the club’s switch from heavy metal to original roots music. Segueing into club booking, she wound up handling East- and West-coast tours for several Houston bands.
In the mid-‘80s, Di Menno became Ronnie Lane’s publicist and caretaker, an experience that took her to England for four months (they went for the Wembley Stadium Faces reunion), and, permanently, to Austin. In the late ‘80s, she began a 6-year stint as manager, booking agent and publicist for various Alejandro Escovedo projects, starting with the True Believers. She also started Di Menno Public Relations, handling booking and management and publicity for several area acts, and began working with various record labels. She took on the SXSW publicity job two years after its inception, and saw it through some of its biggest growth years – and a SouthBy-sponsored JFK assassination symposium in Dallas in 1991, the year Oliver Stone released his controversial movie.
It’s safe to say that Jo Rae’s career has covered most facets of the music industry. Her heart is as much in the job today as it was when she started. She still does whatever it takes. And always gets it done.