As we speak, Rocks Off is going through the concert listings one by one looking for something of interest for which to write amusing articles laced with the finest penis jokes. "What, ho?" says we. "This band Indiginis has a capricious moniker. Undoubtedly their music is equally full of whimsy and sly character. We shall find them and exhibit them for the Houston masses in celebration of their show tonight at Fitzgerald's."
No, actually we won't.
We tried, we really did, but Indiginis is guilty of a multitude of sins that, frankly, make them not worth the effort that it requires for Rocks Off to interview them, or listen to a single note of their music. These sins are sadly committed by many of our own hometown heroes as well as the touring acts - who are being triply stupid by adding traveling costs to their failure to abide by common sense.
One of those sins, of course, is actually being named Idiginis, which we didn't realize until our editor told us. This goes back to our most often shouted complaint of bands not really thinking through their names. Either the name is already taken - and yes, being in another country still counts as taken - or you get a name like Idiginis that annoys a reporter so much that he uses the rage from having to type it to fuel a 1,700 word article.
You know, for an example.
A complaint often leveled at Rocks Off is that we tend to follow the same bands without adding new acts to the rotation. This is not true, but for argument's sake let's say it is. There are two reasons we do this. The first is that the bands we follow are awesome, but the second is simply that they also make it easy to write about them. Here are some of the things they do.
HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE
You do not exist if you are not on the Internet. No, you do not. It is very important that your band be on Twitter, a Facebook, MySpace - yes, still - and preferably have Bandcamp and ReverbNation pages, a Wikipedia entry, and official YouTube channel, and a regular old Web site.
We know that sounds like a lot of work to maintain, and believe us it is, but it is also absolutely necessary. Just as some people used to respond to flyers at clubs, others to ads in the paper, and still others to radio and television, people looking for music want to go to their preferred venue for information. You had better be there.
When you aren't there, it annoys people looking for information. Speaking of...
HAVE AN INTERESTING ONLINE PRESENCE
Nothing says, "This band is a half-assed effort with no future" worse than a placeholder page on Facebook, MySpace, etc. It is very important that you get some songs up. That's the first priority. After that, you better have some pictures, videos and a short bio. Bear in mind we said a short bio.
There's no reason to go on and on unless you have a real spiffy writer in the band or you have some stories that are so cool that it would be impossible to mess up. Say for instance you had your gear stolen, only for it to turn up in the hands of the band you opened for the next night. That's the kind of story you'd put in the bio. Everything else should boil down to three sentences.
PROVIDE BASIC, ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
First off, every place you set up shop on the Internet needs to have a basic contact email listed right on the front - or at least in the "Info" tab on Facebook. No exceptions. This is actually the most ridiculous and the gravest sin that Rocks Off runs into, and the one that most assures that we skip you and move on to the next band.
These days all reporters prefer to talk to you through email, we promise you that. Not only can we cut and paste your responses for a story, we can set up folders just for your band, receive attachments, and check for your emails through our phone. If you're worried about spam from putting your address out there, there are two things you can do.
The first is write out the "at" and the "dot" in the address. For example, our email is jef_rouner at yahoo dot com should you want to send us anything regarding your band. The second thing you can do is get over it. Spam is part of life.
Another important piece of information is where your band is from. Please don't be cute; we really want to know this. Sure, the first time you see a band list its location as "in all your mom's orifices," it's cute, but we're not putting that in a story.
The last piece we want is the names and instruments of the people in the band, and please list your instruments in order of most played to least. If you are the lead singer who occasionally throws on a guitar for a rhythm piece, you are the singer/guitarist, not the guitarist/singer. The clearer you make what everyone does, the less likely we are to mess up the information.
One more thing under this heading: You may judge from our byline that Rocks Off has zero problem with stage names. However, if you respond to an email as Brad, but are listed on the website as Poonsticker, you need to tell us that. If you're not using stage names, please list the last names of all the members on the Web site.
Nothing makes your album or concert review read more like a high-school newspaper article more than just using first names. Being afraid to use your last name on your band's Web site is like being too embarrassed to buy condoms. Both acts pretty much state you're unworthy to perform the activity they're linked to.
REPLY AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE
The most important thing after having an easily accessible email address is answering it. Quickly. The press game is very time-sensitive. We want to coincide with a show, or an album release, or a current event to boost the readership. This means that we are working under the gun, and nothing makes a writer more insane than waiting on the subject to answer their email.
Check the contact email often, and make sure you check the spam filters daily for things that may have gone to the wrong place. If you can't get back to the person immediately, try to at least drop them a sentence letting them know you got the email and when you think you'll be able to respond.
DESIGNATE A PRESS CONTACT
In most bands, this is going to be one of the members. Regardless, it's a very good idea to have one, and only one, person responsible for talking to the press. It helps to build the relationship if we get to talk to the same person over and over again, and familiarity breeds better, or at least deeper, stories.
It's a good idea to make sure everyone in the band is on board with this. To look at our own coverage Dann Miller is the only member of Black Congress. He's not of course, but he's the one who responds when we ask a question, so he gets his name in print. You don't want the rest of the members screaming about spotlight hogging, so it's best to get this all out in the beginning.
LITTLE EXTRAS PAY OFF
Lyrics are right at the top of the list. The last time Rocks Off saw a lyric sheet, we were writing it out for our own damn album three years ago. It would be wonderful to read along with the song, and it's really to your benefit, as it tends to make the listener pay more attention to the song if he's focusing on it visually as well as aurally.
And there's no reason to stop there. Is there an amusing anecdote about a song? By all means share it. Let us know the origins of the album, the reason for a concert, or the purpose of a new direction. In a perfect world, every rock journalist would be able to appreciate each work just as it is and translate that into an in-depth critical review.
In the real world, we 're busy people with deadlines. Help us to understand what you're doing.
LET US DECIDE WHAT'S NEWSWORTHY
Whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, you should tell your press contact. Sure, we may just say, "That's nice," and move on, but we may not. Hell, what you're telling us may spark a whole slew of ideas about articles, all of which will have their genesis in you.
Rocks Off loves to repay those precious moments of creative spark by talking about your band. This is one of the reason having one person continually in contact with the press is helpful. We'll be used to hearing from you and more likely to listen to what you say.
PROMOTE OUR ARTICLES ABOUT YOU... YOURSELF
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The world of entertainment journalism is very different than what it once was. Before, artists needed to get into print for exposure. Now, we need you as much as you need us! The best way to make a writer, a blog, or a newspaper your friend is too make sure you spread your story around as much as possible via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If we see that an article on your new album brought in a lot of pageviews and comments, we're going to be dying to write about you again. You're good business. Make sure you repost a link to stories that people write about you. After all, your fans are the target demographic. We get new readers, you get new fans, and everybody moves one rung up the ladder.
Rocks Off hopes this helps you get on here soon!
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.