Sunday, February 20, 2011

Press Release

I fucking hate press releases. There's nothing more embarrassing than the language of jaded PR guys trying to hype stuff to jaded press guys. It's like hyperbole top trumps, with modifiers for how bitter each player is.

I'm almost 80% bitter, and for a long time i found the best/worst examples of press releases hilarious. Sometimes they'd come from experienced adults convinced that a few snazzy adjectives and a very liberal approach to what exactly constitutes "national radio airplay" would convince, and sometimes they'd come from the bands themselves, a sort of desperate grammatical nightmare parody full of unfulfillable promises to outshine their idols. (ps our singers left now but WE STILL ROCK!!!!!!) I don't read them anymore. I did one too many, i read one for a friends (awesome) band that made me burst out laughing and something broke in my head.

What made it worse is that this band were not new or trying especially to break new ground. They'd just had the misfortune to have someone who employed someone who employed someone who thought it'd be best to sell them in time honoured hyperbole manner, and, as a result, everyone on their industry mailing list had been sent 3 paragraphs that made these gentle unpretentious musicians look like some bastard cross between lads-on-tour and improv feedback nights, when, y'know, they sound like pavement like the rest of us.

i think this is irony: the point of press releases is to show how ass achingly relevant the act is, but the language has evolved to the point that whatever they're promoting almost become irrelevant. It's the wave of hype and presales that drives the industry, and it's pretty much unavoidable.

So yeh, they're fucked from the outset cos everyone writing them has to outbullshit each other, and they're fucked at the end because the people that have to read them generally have a lot more experience reading them and dismantling the bullshit. All press releases should be standardised into a multiple choice questionnaire and being dishonest on it should mean losing a finger. Here you are, music industry, i've done it for you:

for the artist:

please clearly print the name of your act.

what are you promoting (tour/new music/rerelease/pretentious gimmick)

do you feel it's a significant improvement over your previous attempts
(yes/no/pretty much more of the same)

are you photogenic (yes/no/specialist only)

Do you have any media exploitable ties eg famous father/celebrity partner (yes/no/no but open to negotiation)

How important is this release in relation to sustaining a career (make or break time/doing it for the love/just a little something for the fans)

Are you aware of the power the press has over your career? (yes, we try do our own pr/whatevs, it's just about the music man/just try it darling i'm going to be star)

How do you take to public criticism (I ignores all my press/I will be snidey on my blog/I will blackball you and everyone you work with)

For the management

Am I going to gain social kudos by dropping this information into conversation?
(yes totally, a lot of people more important and powerful than yourself already are/maybe if you use phrases such as "underrated" or "up and coming"/absolutely not, people will think you're weird)

Do you think this venture is going to be a success?
(guaranteed money maker/bit of a gamble/i honestly couldn't care less)

What is the chance of any exploitable and quotable negative occurrence during this venture eg police arrest/drug overdose?
(nothing, all danger is carefully stagemanaged/might push a suicide attempt out if things go mainstream/it's like a fucking timebomb thats going to shoot out shards of tabloid-orgasm)

If i choose not to publicise this act, how will it affect future relationships between us?
(that's perfectly fine, one must be true to self/well don't expect any favours if things go well/i will blackball you and everyone you work with)

Awesome. Solving the problems of the music business one joint at a time. Unfortuate that we can't go back in time and plant this so it comes into effect at the point before i start finding things that used to be funny sad, and get all depressed that i'm getting old and am still impatient at the world.

Anyway, the point of this whole post is this: Long times ago, we decided that there should be one over-riding factor that should dictate how all press releases are written: you shouldn't be ashamed to show it to your fans. Cos they're the ones who'll see the most holes; who'll know which bits are exaggeration and whats conspicuous by its absence. If they can read it and not cringe, then you can be sure that the message yr sending is in on the same frequency as those meant to recieve it.

In our experience, at least 60% of press cuttings about our band come directly from our press releases. So yeh. We havn't really done one for a while, we're in a pretty lucky position, the first time since ever, of having a pr guy and a label and management that we trust to speak on our behalf. Until last week when said management suggest that, with all the regional press we've done and with New Fun coming up, we could probably do with one, cos, apparently, not everyone in the world knows who we are yet.

So, as per old dictum, here preserved is our official press release thing. Please read and not cringe.

Hello. This is supposed to be one of those awkward 3rd person resumes that read like a CV whilst attempting to convince you how vital and relevant the band is. I've wasted many curious, then morbidly curious hours reading band press releases; I guess if yr reading this then you have too, and you've long since become immune to the hyperbole and wary of the language of omission. There's nothing here that isn't google-able for more detail or opinions, and we'd hope to be judged on our band and not our ability to write convincing prose. So with that in mind, here is me trying to write an unbiased and neutral summary of something that means more to me and my two friends than anything else, ever, ever. Fuck the 3rd person tho.

Our band is called Johnny Foreigner. We're from Birmingham. You can read what you want into that. We've been a band since 2006. We've released 5 eps, 2 albums and 10 singles. We've lost track of how many shows we've played. We've toured in 4 continents, done enough major festivals to impress girls and guitar techs alike, been wowed and appalled by The Music Biz and we're still here, bedazzled by what we've achieved and in love with the future.

We play what we'd mostly describe as college rock, with occasional bursts of electronica or alt-country or anything else that seems like a good idea at 5 in the morning. We're at that 3rd album stage where we're learning to relax, but we're also learning to be more abrasive. I quite don't know why I feel so obliged to point that out; but so many of the bands we've loved have got to this point and lost their spark, and from our completely subjective viewpoint at least, we still have demons to exorcise.

We write songs about our lives and the things that occur around us. It's the same dull everyday (or mostly night) things that pass through everyone's mind, only more overdramatic. girls, drink, distance, closeness, hope and defeat. We don't think too hard about how songs are going to sound.

Our artwork is always drawn by our friend lewes herriot. You may have realised we have a theme.

We seem to garner a lot of press from the way we treat our fans and how open we are about the machinations of the industry we exist in. We grew up on limited edition glittery 7"s, american imports, record store gossip and pre-broadband downloads. Being young and in love with our favourite bands was like being in a gang, the shows like joyous drunken family reunions. Being able to soundtrack peoples lives is an amazing privilege, and the bands were always at the least courteous and friendly as we'd shakily mumble thanks for a signed setlist. We've been on the other side of the barrier for a while now and it never gets any less flattering. The best bands feel personal, and it's no parlour trick or marketing campaign. We're using the same channels available to everyone else, and I think it's pretty sad that we stick out mostly thru lack of competition; To our minds, this is what a band should do.

We release our records with Alcopop. When our last label became a mess of corporate facepalm, we avoided the subject for a year. We put a record out ourselves, paid for by presales. Like bitter divorcees, we talked about how we didn't need anyone else. We were right but we were lonely. We've always had respect for Alcopop and BSM, we're in love with many of their bands. We share some good friends and everything we heard about Jack made us want to be on their roster. He understands what we're doing and why, and, less personally, sees the decline of The Music Industry and value of songs as an excuse to put more effort and imagination and FUN into the end physical product. Alcopop are everthing we'd want from a record label apart from A Giant Bag of Someone Else's Money; but we've all been broke since long before we started this.

In as much as we plan ahead, this year we'll be touring the UK, then mainland Europe, then releasing our 3rd album. For once, the name has come first but it would be jinxing everything to tell anyone just yet. It's going to be awesome tho.

Thanks for taking an interest, I hope you are convinced.


Matthew said...

Really interesting and relevant to me. I've started doing music reviews for a new website, but at the moment a lot of what they want from me is press releases. So I've spent the last couple of weeks bullshitting about fairly average bands, insisting they're going to blow up, or become huge, or otherwise incur some kind of terrible metaphorical enlargement in 2011.

Part of the problem, I think, is that there's only so many ways you can concisely sum up a band in 100 words. You could go for something weird and abstract, but that's not what promoters want. You could namedrop influences but that's tedious and liable to infuriate the band, who probably fucking hate the Jesus and Mary Chain anyway. You can attempt to describe the music, but how do you do that in a way that isn't literal (they have guitars and like to play in 4/4), riddled with painful analogies (like Sonic Youth throwing a kettle full of Neu! LPs out of the window of a flat in Rochdale! or something), or just plain cliched (buzzsaw guitars, dreamy vocals, catchy riffs, blah blah BLAH)?

At the end of the day, promoters want all that crap and the fans don't, but the labels and PR and whathaveyou rely on the fans being on board anyway, right? So it never ends.

There's no overriding point to this rant, other than to say that I'm bookmarking this particular post for the next time I have to cough up a paragraph or two about Bournemouth's answer to Deerhoof, or whatever.

Bea said...

I liked it. A bit long perhaps, but honest, and definitely no cringing.