How to not be a douchebag
Like all music writers, I see literally hundreds of press kits in a given year. Some are very good and informative, some are abhorrent, and some are just lame. When preparing a press kit, a local musician probably has little information on what to include, how to prepare it, and what it should say or not say. So, rather than reviewing a show this week, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my thinking on press kits—the good, the bad and the Hall of Douchebags.
First: If you have to tell me about the buzz, then there is no buzz. One CD in my current stack features a prominent local producer, one that I actually like a great deal. The CD itself sounds quite good—jangly pop music with solid hooks—and the production is clean and clear. But the press kit itself starts to get sticky with the use of one important word: “legendary.” The producer is terrific, but he’s hardly legendary. I’d probably buy a phrase like “great local producer” or even a “super double dope producer,” but at “legendary,” I lose interest. The kit goes on to claim that “In 2004 [this artist] enjoyed uncompromising success.” I’ll grant you that success can be defined in various ways, but this is just laying it on too thick.
Second: Don’t embarrass yourself in your photograph. To fully understand the implications of this, you’ll need to do some outside research. Visit www.rockandrollconfidential.com and explore the Hall of Douchebags. It’s a collection of particularly onerous band photographs spanning the last few decades of rock. Many photos I receive in press kits, with scowling expressions and puffed-chest postures, could easily fit into the hall.
Of course, the question that rises to the surface is “OK, you smug bastard, what does a good press kit look like?” To answer this, consider what purpose a press kit serves. For me, as a music writer, the press kit needs to supply me with the necessary information to write something on the music. I’d like to see comparisons with other bands; clear biographical information, including some kind of discography; and a clear idea of where the band is from (Northern California isn’t specific enough). There should be a copy of the most recent CD, a high-resolution photo that could run in the paper—with each band member identified by name—and perhaps some realistic plans for the upcoming year, including any local shows. Every band is receiving “label interest,” and every band has “tour plans,” so give me something more specific than that. Otherwise, you’ll end up sounding like every other douchebag band out there.
Don’t pump the text full of grandiose adjectives and unrealistic claims. Every band thinks its sound is original, and it’s almost never true. Be honest about the sound and be confident. Give us writing that is informative without trying to jack us off. We have spouses to do that for us already.