bands: how to promote yourselves to music blogs

July 8th, 2009

IPMN is winding down and there are a few things I’d like to talk about. First is my recommendations to bands about how to approach music blogs.

Ipickmynose is certainly not in a class with Stereogum, Brooklynvegan or Gorilla vs Bear, but I still post about bands I like and bands still try to get me to post about them. I’ve gotten a lot of emails over the last 2+ years from bands. Sometimes I get dozens a day (and more from labels and PR companies). Basically this means I’m probably not going to listen to everything a band sends in. How do I decide what I’ll listen to then? Some of it is random but often it’s what is in the band’s email.

How to promote your band to music blogs/ bloggers:

  1. Remember music bloggers are people
    Less a specific recommendation than a general reminder. Few music blogs are so big that they have hierarchy or paid music writers. The vast majority of music bloggers do it because they love music and want to find and share music. I like being approached as a person and a music fan.
  2. Personal attention from you helps get personal attention in return
    If you want me to spend 10+ minutes with your music–at minimum I’ll listen to four of your songs on myspace–you may want to spend more than 2 seconds adding my email address to some big mass mailing. I don’t expect you to write a completely new email to every different blogger, but some personal attention at the beginning is nice. Bloggers often put their names on their blogs; use it. Showing that you actually understand the blog and truly think the blogger might like your stuff based on his taste is even better.
  3. Be honest
    The single worst email I’ve gotten said “I’ve been a fan of your blog for three years!” At the time, I’d had a blog for a year and a half. I like to be flattered just like everyone else, but it’s easy to tell if you just searched for “indie folk music blog”, found my blog and then email me about your indie folk band; in such a case, claiming you love my blog doesn’t get you anywhere. Also, don’t pretend you’re a fan of a band that’s trying to share a new discovery with the blogger if you’re actually in the band. There’s no need to lie.
  4. Send music you’re proud of
    I’ve received a lot of emails with links to demos or live recordings. Or the email will say “we recorded these in a hurry”. If you’re saying things like that, it’s time to record the songs better, not to try to promote them. I know music bloggers loved Lily Allen’s demos, but in most cases, sending demos will just cause the blogger to discount your band.
  5. Find out how the blogger wants the music
    Music bloggers are all different (that’s important to remember in general!). Most will tell you how they like to get music, though. I like myspace links with an offer to send a digital/ physical copy of the album if I like it. Some hate myspace; some love getting mp3s in the emails. Some would rather you just send the CD. Figure out what the blogger wants and do it.
  6. Give the blogger an idea what (or who) you’ll sound like
    I get emails with “Hey, check out our music” and then just a myspace link. Unless I’m in a mood to click on random links, I usually don’t listen to these. In your email, give a general description of what your band sounds like. You can also compare yourself to bands the blogger knows (or may know). But think this through; little pisses me off like feeling duped by a band who claims to be “indie pop” or “post rock” or to sound like Neutral Milk Hotel when they sound nothing like that.
  7. If you offer something, do it
    If you said you’d mail the CD, do it. If you said you could get them on the guest list for the show, do it.
  8. I hate when bands “follow up”…but it’s effective
    Despite not liking it, I have to admit that there’s a better chance I’ll listen to their music when a band follows up.
  9. If a blogger replies to let you know he didn’t like your music, politely accept it
    I understand most bloggers don’t let bands know if they listened to their music and don’t like it. If I were in a band, I would want to hear back, even if it’s in the negative, so that’s what I do. I don’t like writing emails like that, so it’s even harder when a band comes back with a hard-sell or a plea to reconsider after that. Also, don’t ask why I didn’t like it as I’d rather not detail out why I don’t like a band.
  10. Don’t add a blogger to your mailing list
    This goes along with the “personal attention” one. Though there might be exceptions if you know a blogger really loves your stuff (though wouldn’t they just add themselves in that case?), just don’t add people to your mailing list without asking. If I didn’t like your stuff to begin with, getting constant reminders about your shows will only get me to mentally filter your band out entirely.
  11. Give the blogger something they can post
    Myspace links are great, but I’m going to have to be ridiculously psyched about a band to tell readers to go to a band’s myspace page without having an mp3 or video in the post.
  12. Find the sweet spot time-wise
    I’ve gotten emails about a show two months off and I’ve gotten an email about a show the next day. In both cases, I ignored it; in the first case because it was too far off to even consider and in the second because it was so close I already had plans. Two weeks before a show is about right (for me) while a month or two before an album comes out is fine.
  13. Actually read the blog/ be a fan of the blog for a while before you send in music
    This may be the hardest to do. There are just too many blogs out there to read them all. But if I notice a regular reader/ commenter (bloggers remember who these people are, trust me) sends in their music, I always make time to listen to it. I’ll even give it a few chances if I don’t like it initially.

I recognize that doing all these things isn’t easy. Promoting your music well isn’t easy. It’ll take time and effort.

ipmn radio, mp3-only RSS feed fixed

January 15th, 2009

The ipickmynose radio feature on the radio, on the right, is fixed. Remember, also, that you can pop it out and listen to the tunes I’ve posted while you go about your web business.

Along with that, the mp3-only RSS feed is also fixed. You can use that in your RSS reader, or in iTunes.

Thanks for your patience while I fixed that.

microsoft produces cheesy music software, hilarious infomercial

January 10th, 2009

Wow. I find it hard to believe that someone produced this with a straight face.

So you can make incredibly cheesy songs with little effort. I’m thinking I should have a contest–make up a song about your favorite type of cheese, perhaps, send it in. I post top entries, people vote and the winner gets a prize. Yes? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do it.

Download a free trial (if you want to produce this century’s Casio-demo-mode hits).

(via)

Update: Wow, mrzarquon at Mefi music ran David Lee Roth’s isolated vocal track on “Running with the Devil” through Songsmith. The results are unbelievable. You can’t understand till you listen.

who buys Chinese Democracy on vinyl?! (or, year end sales numbers)

January 4th, 2009

Some people are quite abuzz about the year end music sales numbers. Downloads continued to go up and CD sales continued to decline, much as people expected in each case, but vinyl sales went up…and a lot.

Physical album sales fell 20 percent to 362.6 million from 450.5 million, while digital album sales rose 32 percent to a record 65.8 million units.

Ironically, as digital downloads grew, vinyl album sales also climbed. In 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased (1.88 million) than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

More than two of every three vinyl albums were purchased at an independent music store during the year, the company reported. The top-selling vinyl albums were Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” (26,000 units), the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” (16,500) and Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” (13,600).

Seriously, who buys Chinese Democracy on vinyl? It’s the third best selling piece of vinyl this year and it only came out two months ago! I’m not saying people shouldn’t just that I can’t imagine anyone–certainly no one I know–doing that. Let me know if you were one of the 14K in the comments.

song obsession friday! (for the week ending Jan 2/ year of 2008)

January 2nd, 2009

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

This week I asked contributors for either their song obsession of the week or their top song obsession of the year (or both). My top song obsessions post is forthcoming, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, here’s an honestly pretty odd set of songs.

Adrian (me):
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (mp3) (buy)

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I was mining the soul section at Dave’s Music Mine with an Aretha Franklin collection already in hand when I saw the Ben E. King CDs. I liked his songs that I knew (“Stand By Me”, “Spanish Harlem”) and I recognized a few more plus the Drifters tunes, so I decided to pick up this collection. (Incidentally, I’ve found some great gems in this manner–buying collections for the oldies artists whose hits I like.)

“Spanish Harlem” is my favorite song of his as of now, but “Stand By Me” is first one the record. That figures in because I decided to use my CD player for the first time in a year+ the other night, putting this disc in to fall asleep to. So I put it on and dozed off, but I had a bit of a restless night and each time I woke up, I’d put it on again, only to doze off again. This wasn’t a song obsessed so much as a song that I repeated a bunch of times.

But while I’m on the topic of “Stand By Me”: while it brings up images of young Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton or teenagers singing in a group–or is that just me?–when you listen to the song, it’s pretty great. Classic production and great vocals.

Keith:
Friendly Fires – Lovesick (mp3) (buy)

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I have the tendency to overthink these categorical qualifications, such as “song obsession of the year.” What criteria should be used to make such a judgment? The song I listened to the most? The song I repeat played the most? My favorite song on my favorite release? The song with the longest tenure of obsession?

In the end I scrapped the calculations and selected a song that didn’t impress me much at first but kept coming back around begging to be heard again, to the point where I had to purchase the disc just to have that one song. That disc has made the trek from office to car to bedroom and back many times, obediently servicing my obsession even when it could not be sated. So I guess that is the criteria for most obsessed … it’s not the best song of the year but it’s the one that has consistently refused to go to the back of the bus.


Scott:
Sonny Sharrock – Portrait of Linda in Three Colors, All Black (mp3) (buy)

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Karl Blau – Noah Richards Sun (mp3) (buy)

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my song obsession for the week has been ‘portrait of linda in three colors, all black’ by sonny sharrock off of black woman.

i’d have to say that ‘noah richard’s sun’ by karl blau off of am is my song obsession of the year. i don’t know if i already sent that one in, but that’s my most played song this year on my last.fm page, so i guess that is my 2008 song. maybe it’s up there because i set it as my alarm on my ipod and then forgot about it, letting the playcount rack up…i once had it rigged to my computer speakers as an alarm clock and the opening tone scared the s*** out of my sleeping roommate (i usually try to be more considerate (i meant it to go off quietly) and he’s a deep sleeper). he was confused and terrified and later reported that he thought waking up to that sound meant that ‘things are going to be different now,’ which i interpret to mean his liminal consciousness treated him some sort of vision of the end of the world or visitation by supernatural beings or something in that scope.

Andy:
J. Tillman – High Enough to Raise (mp3) (not available as far as I’m aware)

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This is one of a few tracks that Josh has posted to myspace, and which have subsequently disappeared. (daytrips, anyone? I can’t find a copy to save my life.) I understand the desire, as an artist, to have control over output, but damn – this song is good. The sparse (how often do I use that word in these blurbs?) production is an open toll lane to my heart, and lines like “No one’s sure, but everybody knows what you went in there for” just kill.

So yeah, it’s obvious that I’ve got a man/music crush on the dude, but it’s with good reason, at least.

!RIAA drops suits!

December 22nd, 2008

I found the news that the RIAA will stop initiating new lawsuits against downloaders pretty surprising–instead they’ll work with ISPs to issue take down notices to the individuals.

After years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy.

The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

It’s good news for that the industry that the biggest American music association is taking what appears to be a step in a reasonable direction here. We’ll see where this next step takes us.

gnr–>dr. pepper and big “rock” bands exclusive at “big box” stores

November 9th, 2008

You may recall that earlier this year, for some inexplicable reason, Cadbury-Schwepps (now Dr. Pepper Snapple Group) offered a free can of Dr. Pepper to everyone in America[1] if Guns N’ Roses’ long in-production Chinese Democracy came out in 2008. Well, Chinese Democracy is coming out exclusively at Best Buy later this month and Dr. Pepper has confirmed they’ll hold up to their end of the offer.

While I don’t think I need any more GNR, I’ll take free Dr. Pepper for sure, so maybe it’s not all bad. (I’m a bit of a Dr. Pepper fan–I’ve even been to the museum in Waco, TX.)

What’s interesting is that Chinese Democracy isn’t the only big rock band going the exclusive route: AC/DC’s latest, Black Ice, is available exclusively at Walmart.

With the efficiency of modern physical and digital distribution methods, it seems to me like the best way to get music to the most people is to make it easily available to the most people. It puzzles me, then, what bands/ labels see in these exclusive deals. Are they getting money from the retailers? Or are they just getting premium placement and added promotion?

While smaller labels and self-released bands seem to be getting better with regards to making logical choices about promotion and distribution, big music continues to puzzle me.

[1] Except Buckethead and Slash

odds and ends, part 22

October 27th, 2008

Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy champ, has an interesting blog post about Elliott Smith that also includes a fun trivia question:

When I was in high school, I had an Otis [Redding] greatest hits CD that had “Cigarettes and Coffee” on it, which I used to listen to over and over. Great song. But “Cigarettes and Coffee” is not the only Otis Redding hit whose last six letters spell a delicious hot drink. Can you name another?

For the answer head to the Ken Jennings forum or highlight or click the following “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”.

Fun stuff. I should start a weekly trivia column here. For the music NERDS!

Malcolm Gladwell (of Tipping Point fame) wrote an article about late bloomers in art and literature:

Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth. Orson Welles made his masterpiece, “Citizen Kane,” at twenty-five. Herman Melville wrote a book a year through his late twenties, culminating, at age thirty-two, with “Moby-Dick.” Mozart wrote his breakthrough Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-Flat-Major at the age of twenty-one.

Picasso was the incandescent prodigy. His career as a serious artist began with a masterpiece, “Evocation: The Burial of Casagemas,” produced at age twenty. In short order, he painted many of the greatest works of his career—including “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” at the age of twenty-six. Picasso fit our usual ideas about genius perfectly.

Cézanne didn’t. … A painting done by Picasso in his mid-twenties was worth, [economist David Galenson] found, an average of four times as much as a painting done in his sixties. For Cézanne, the opposite was true. The paintings he created in his mid-sixties were valued fifteen times as highly as the paintings he created as a young man. The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.

I wast trying to think about this in terms of musicians. In classical music terms, examples seem quite easy. Mozart was impossibly precocious. Copland, on the other hand, wrote his best music starting in his late thirties and early forties.

In popular music, finding the precocious is once again easy: the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Beirut, Stevie Wonder and Simon & Garfunkle all had noteworthy accomplishments in their teens. I’m sure there are many examples from hip hop as well, such as Biggie Smalls.

The late-bloomers, it seems, are harder to pin point in popular music. Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam was 28 when Creek Drank the Cradle came out. That hardly seems to qualify him as a late bloomer. Bob Pollard may be a better example: he was 36 when Guided By Voice’s break out album, Bee Thousand, was released (though their first real outside exposure came a couple years earlier). John Vanderslice is now 41, though he’s been known in growing circles since his late 90s work in mk ultra. Bob Dylan released some acclaimed music later in life, but few would argue that it matches his work as a young man.

Is popular music really a young person’s game? Do you know of any good examples of late-bloomers? It actually seems fairly reasonable that there wouldn’t be: popular music has an image of being something for young people so that would discourage older people attempting at large-scale success, and financially, few would attempt to grow in it once family responsibilities and other later-life financial burdens were apparent.

I liked this video of the “I Saw the Bright Shinies” by the Octopus Project. I’d written about the song before.

old-timey vs. bluegrass vs. folk

September 28th, 2008


old-timey musician Tommy Jarrel

With Hardly Strictly Bluegrass approaching, I thought this might be a good time to step back and explain a little bit about the differences between old-timey, bluegrass and folk musics. With things like the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack mixing the three fluidly, it’s not always obvious.

I’m speaking with some amount of generality here. This is more of a primer than an in-depth look at the differences.

Old-timey: Old-time music is a pretty general genre of music mostly from the Appalachian mountains, though music from the Ozarks and other regions is referred to as old time as well. It’s largely derived from Scottish, Irish and English influences, but the banjo, on which much of the music is played, and some of the rhythmic components come have their origins in Africa.

Tunes can be with or without vocals. The instrumentation is varied: from acapella vocals to a full set of string band instruments, but typically, it may have fiddle or banjo and guitar. The banjo may be played clawhammer and the guitar flat-or-finger-picked.

Vocals are often solo (without harmonies). The instrumental melody line is often carried in one instrument throughout while the other play chords or all are in unison. The harmonic structure is often modal rather than following chord progression as such.

Frank Bode and Tommy Jarrell – Susannah Gal (mp3)

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Charlie Higgins and Wade Ward – Willow Garden (mp3)

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Bluegrass: Bluegrass music is a fairly modern invention, dating from the late 1940s. While it hasn’t always been popular, it is pop music in that it’s been recorded for and broadcast to the masses essentially since its inception.

Bluegrass songs usually have vocals characterized by strong harmonies (especially the high vocal line). While the instruments are similar to old-timey, their function differs: instruments trade off the melody and soloing between vocals lines. They switch roles (lead, backing) rather than being more constant throughout.

The guitar is usually flat-picked and the banjo is usually played Scruggs-style (or three-finger style). Songs follow a more pop song structure (verse, chorus, bridge) than old-timey music.

Bill Monroe – Shady Grove (mp3)

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Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys – Traveling the Highway Home (mp3)

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Folk music Folk music has a lot of different connotations for different people.

My teacher George Ruckert gave me the best definition of folk music that I have heard. According to this definition, a song must have:

  • anonymous authorship
  • multiple versions

I’m not talking about Folk revival or folk rock or indie folk, but folk, in it’s most broad and most original sense. It’s also a sense which doesn’t preclude music from around the world–Japan or India or Senagal can equally have folk music in this definition.

As such, folk can overlap both old-timey or bluegrass music, though bluegrass tends to have a lot more composed songs.

A good example of an American folk song is “John Henry”. It seems no one knows where the song came from or if the earliest version of it were in song or in written form–though if you follow balladry, we know that stories like Robin Hood were mostly passed down by song. As you can hear below, there are many versions of this song. It’s important to note that while these versions sound different, the songs are also different in content and lyrics. In fact, in ballad study, like the Child Ballads, song versions are only cataloged by lyrics.

Leslie Riddle – John Henry (mp3)

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Bill Cornett – John Henry (mp3)

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Ed Lewis – John Henry (mp3)

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jenny lewis, deerhoof having epic battle at elbo.ws

September 16th, 2008

The twitter stream of music blog aggregator Elbo.ws alerts us of an epic battle for top track raging between Jenny Lewis and locals Deerhoof. Move over Beatles v. Beach Boys. Move over McCain v. Obama. We have a real battle brewing.