Milwaukee music writers aren't lazy; we just want decent artist MySpace pages
A plea to local musicians to help us help you
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Last Thursday, we ran an interview with Milwaukee rapper Dana Coppafeel, in which he accused local publications, including this one, of being lazy when it comes to covering hip-hop. I object to this. Okay, so I just woke up five minutes ago. And, yes, that is a fresh jelly-donut stain on my sweater. But this is all beside the point.
Let me tell you about the people that write about local music in this town. First of all, there aren’t that many of us. A lot of people talk about supporting local music, but I can count on one hand the people that write about it on a regular, week-in and week-out basis. And even those people typically aren't just music writers—they have lots of other writing and editing responsibilities on top of reviewing your totally kick-ass CD.
I'm not complaining; I love my gig. But writing about local music isn't making anybody rich. It's almost always done as a labor of love by big music fans committed to spreading the word about what really excites them in town. (Damn, I’m still driving a Toyota, for crissakes. I could die at any moment, just because I have an urge to tell people that Jonathan Burks is a really good songwriter.) The nice thing, though, is that if you hate the music writing in Milwaukee, there are more than enough opportunities to put your money where your mouth is and do it yourself. (Just send me an e-mail to get started. If you can put a coherent sentence together, we'll even pay you! Or you can start your own blog. I hear them things are popular these days.)
To me, writing about local music is inherently not lazy, and a lot of this has to do with the musicians themselves, who don’t always make it easy to shout about their God-given genius from the mountaintops. Giving a local musician free publicity sometimes requires days and days of sorting through barely updated MySpace pages, e-mailed interview requests that still haven’t been answered three weeks later, and fuzzy, half-assed band photos that were apparently shot by Ray Charles at the height of his heroin addiction.
If the local media isn’t covering you, one of the following is probably true: 1) They’ve never heard of you, 2) They’ve heard of you and don’t care to hear more. We’ll get to No. 2 in a second, but first, let’s address how we can remedy No. 1.
1. Drop us a line!
We love hearing from musicians. If you have a show coming up or an album you’re putting out, send us an e-mail. Honestly, send us an e-mail. (Here’s that address one more time.) And don’t worry about whipping up some fancy press release. Just give us the important details—show date, show time, venue, cover charge, supporting acts—and, if possible, a link to where we can download your record. You have no idea how much we love hearing new music—and, you know, judging it. (Oh, and the sooner the better with this. We prefer at least two weeks notice; sending out your information a day or two before the show is a recipe for being ignored.)
2. Update your MySpace page more than twice a year
Every artist MySpace page should have the following:
- A (non-jokey) bio that succinctly sums up your music career up to this point.
- A decent photo that could run with whatever we write about you.
- Streaming music, so we can decide whether you’re awesome or sucky.
- An updated list of upcoming concerts, so we can put your shows in our calendar.
- Contact information (It would be great if local venues had this information, too. Oh, and it would be really cool if venue websites spell-checked band names and removed canceled shows from their listings. But let’s not get greedy here.)
You’d be amazed by how much easier it is to write about someone when you can actually find background information on them and can easily set up a follow-up interview to learn more.
3. Don’t worry about press
Let’s say you have a spiffy website and you regularly send out e-mails to media outlets about your shows, and you’re still not getting coverage. Here’s where people’s feelings start to get hurt: It’s possible that local media gatekeepers just aren’t into what you’re doing. (They might also be trapped under a bookcase. But it’s probably just your music.) Don’t take it personally. What does the stupid media know anyway? They’re just a bunch of pinhead hipsters! Besides, a story isn’t going to make or break you. Hard work and undeniable artistry will. Look at Jaill—most of the Milwaukee music press slept on that band for years until it signed to Sub Pop in 2009. In the end, hype will only take you so far. The media is fickle, but musical brilliance is forever.
I hope this is helpful. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work. After all, this king-size bag of Cheetos isn’t going to eat itself. All I ask is for music-makers to be patient with us music writers. If you can help us help you, we’ll get around to singing your praises eventually.