You're in a band. You've gigged and learned thru blood and silence what works and what doesn't on stage. You've gagged your creative self working for the likes of Walmart and KFC, daring to earn enough filthy lucre to release a CD. You've just spent $2k on 1000 CDs with a 4 pg insert and a 1 color cover (all you could afford after mom's silverware went the way of eBay). It's shrink wrapped and bar coded to go to amazon.com, to sell at concerts, to gain airplay. But you need reviews. And you need ones good enough to quote. Here's how you thrill the reviewer.
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First, include bio info about yourself. We reviewers are a simple people. If we're too dense to realize what your music sounds like; or if it's been a bad week and the Last thing we want to do is listen to music we not might like for not much or no money; at least we can filler up with biographical content about You and the Band.
In the light of no names to drop, no whopping sales figures to quote, no super powers to expound, just say something. Dreams. Ambitions. Education. Influences. A life's story. In under 2 pages (assuming you have nothing extraordinary to boast on). When 'just' a CD arrives in the mail, that's not all the story. True, the music should speak for itself. But it's just as true that You should speak for Yourself. Surely you've done Something besides make this album.
Also, if you're proud of your lyrics and didn't have the bread to have Disc Makers put them in the booklet, why don't you print a couple out and send them with your release. That's pretty cheap. Even if you don't do rap, but you fancy yourself as a lyric-heavy writer, or words are your bag more than music, you'll do yourself a disservice to assume the reviewer has an ear good enough to catch what you're saying first time out. The listener - the critic - may only play your CD once before passing on to the next in the pile. Make his job a little easier. It could come back and help you.
Money orders, fur coats and expensive jewelry are of course always welcome to the average reviewer. But unless you're a Cole Porter, even a t-shirt with a band name is costly. Still, you must think creatively. Go to the dollar store and scrounge around. See what's interesting, different, check out items that are multi-packed and weigh them in your hand. Will it cost much more in postage to send this with the CD? Alright then, why not buy?
That's not to say that bribery will get your disc a glowing review. But, assuming you're sending your hard work to a critic of note (unless you don't mind quoting papers and zines that no one knows), you Might need an extra edge to get it to the top of the pile. As screenwriters know (and what critic doesn't write unsaleable movie scripts?), anything that puts your brainchild in the eye of the beholder is a good gimmick. Yes, they could hate it or stop the CD turning after 40 seconds, but chances are that would happen anyway if he isn't 'into' your tunes. Look at the positive side:
You're getting your disc looked at sooner because you've included a candy goody or something that made the poor writer laugh for a moment, or because the package smells like Juicy Fruit. I personally know of a few top reviewers that only give a listen to 20% of the submissions they receive. Terrible? Well, considering that often critics don't get paid, or editors only invite them to submit 10 reviews a year for pay because that's all the rag can afford, or the top mags are mostly into top releases (unless you go in for indie-adored pubs), we listeners (reviewers), like audiences, are only human, can only listen to so much while still finding time to sleep with people, eat, screw around with a day job, and other variables. Remember the ol' cereal box ploy. Grab the kid's attention.
Of course, the music is the final leveler, isn't it? Packaged in an expensive folder, including a free frisbee, a raft of Rolling Stone raves, bonus tracks and multimedia extras: the songs are still going to be the deciding vote. I can't comment on how to make That better. It's something you've got to work on and figure out yourself. But I will remind you, the artist, that 'good' is relative. You can always find a competent music expert to love what you do; and hate what you do.
The average critic grew up on Top 40 radio, lived an ordinary life, thinks the same generalities you think. He may hate politicians too, yet do absolutely nothing to see that they're all abolished. He's probably got a couple traffic tickets on his record. The human element may be the same, it's his Taste you have to worry about. Try to find out what they are. Difficult. But discovering personal biases is the key to much promotion, whether you're an actor, painter, or R&B singer. Remember, most guy reviewers will like Mariah Carey's body, but they all won't like the sounds she makes.
Thrilling the reviewer is a monumental task that is hampered by lack of money, reviewer knowledge, time and patience. You should read some reviews at every major site you'd like to see your CD shining upon. Don't necessarily sign up for a PR person to send around your disc unless you're making more money than you need. With a little thought, you can put together a promo pack that's as good as what NY houses submit. Just think about what you want first. If you want to heat up a good reviewer, research to find one that shares your interests, politics, poetry. Don't just send out blindly. It's a waste of resources, and is about as smart as making best friends with your neighbor just because he's there. You never know. Count your knives before they're snatched.
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