by Dan Bolles
Good afternoon, everybody.
I've been meaning to get to this post all week. But between discussing the merits — or lack thereof — of cover songs on the last post, sifting through the remarkable story that is Tinariwen (thirtyseven is right, they're amazing), immersing myself, yet again, in local hip-hop (if you dig rap and/or hip-hop, check out the next Hip-Hop Open Mic @ Nectar's. It's a lot of fun.), and a rather comical run-in with Animal Control (while attempting to berate/fine me for playing fetch with my dog off-leash, said officer stepped in poop. Noting my full doggie poo bag, she let me go with a warning.), time has simply slipped me by this week. Almost.
Woody Allen once said that "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure how accurate his percentage is, but I've found the sentiment usually rings true. Even in cyberspace!
Last week, I was asked to take part in a panel discussion for Big Heavy World's IndieCon 2007. For those of you who missed the column mention in last week's paper, Indiecon is basically a music conference/showcase on a Burlington-sized scale. The idea is to provide a resource for area musicians and industry types to get together and share experiences and knowledge in hopes of strengthening the scene and to offer artists a chance to explore the inner workings of the industry, from promotion and booking to song-craft and history. Like everything BHW founder Jim Lockridge touches, it's a noble endeavor. To say the least, the dude's got heart and we're very lucky to have him.
My panel discussion dealt with "Press & Airplay" and featured Freeps A&E writer Brent Hallenbeck — whom I'd yet to meet until then, oddly enough — WRUV Station Manager Pat Floyd, 99.9 The Buzz Program Director Matt Grasso — whom I'd also not met, despite working in the same building — and folk songwriter Rik Palieri.
To go back to Allen's quote, it's a shame more folks didn't show up. I learned a lot just listening to the other panelists speak about what they do. And being asked to put into words what, exactly, it is I do was a refreshing experience. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day grind, it's easy to forget just how important a role we media types can play, especially in an insular community such as ours. It's good for me to keep that in mind.
Anyway, as stated, the discussion was woefully under attended. In a strange way, that may actually have been a good thing as the evening took on a more conversational tone than it otherwise might have. Topics ranged from the best way to approach the media for press to what to send and when to send it and almost everything in between. Should you be overly aggressive? No, but it doesn't really hurt. Should you just "drop by" the office? Never. Should you send as much info as can possibly fit in a padded mailer? Please, God. No.
The overriding theme of the evening for each panelist, regardless of discipline, was perhaps the simplest and most fundamental aspect of promotion: knowing what you're asking for, who you're dealing with and making it as easy as possible for that person to access your info. You'd be amazed at how many bands, on every level, haven't figured that out. I don't need a Yo-Yo with your band's logo on it (I have one if anyone wants it). I do need a hi-rez pic of your band.
I have boxes of CDs in my office that I will never listen to. Why? Because they have absolutely zero relevance to my job. I'm just not gonna write about some indie band from Western Illinois that opened for Bright Eyes unless they're connected to/playing in Vermont. I will however, respond to their PR person's inquiry and let them know not to waste their time and/or money and why. I believe the estimable Mr. Rae-Hunter's term for this particular aspect of the job was "The Velvet Fist." I prefer "Nerf-Hammer."
Obviously, if you're a musician reading this blog, you know what I do and what I cover. So in terms of getting press in 7Days . . . well, duh. But, the concept resonates beyond the friendly confines of Burlington. I believe Jason Cooley's response to my very first Solid State post is appropriate here, "Do your homework." It'll save you a lot of headaches and cash.
This was only the 3rd installment of IndieCon and, in many ways, the event is still gathering its feet. Hopefully, future editions will draw a few more people. Even if you deal with this stuff every day, like I do, it's still a great learning experience with potential to be an invaluable resource to our cozy little music scene.
In the meantime, my Inbox is always open and my Nerf-Hammer is always at the ready, should ever you need it.
Have a great weekend, Solid State!