Music press: The necessary evil for bands


SANTA CRUZ, April 14, 2014 — Through the course of creating a new album, there are several stages a band must endure. While some are magical outbursts of collective creativity, most are tedious sand joyless. Once a band’s record is complete, the label must embark on the unenviable quest of convincing people to purchase it. Enter a publicist, and the weary battery of interviews to be conducted by whoever is unfortunate to be deemed the band spokesperson.

If the label is genuinely enthusiastic about the project (not always the case), the publicist will be extremely busy arranging meet and greets, radio and phone interviews, features in local weeklies, and guest DJ spots. An album can have the best songs anybody has ever heard on it and it will not make a lick of difference unless it sells.

In a music industry on the decline, sales and profits are not guaranteed. There are thousands of bands, all clamoring for the same precious few dollars consumers are still willing to spend. A label which wants to recoup its costs has to trick and cajole the public into believing it’s product is interesting enough to support. They must also find an angle or story which will elevate the band above the din of every other group tossing their cacophony into the breach on a daily basis.

The phone interviews are often scheduled back to back to back, over several hours. Some of the interviewers do their homework, know the band and its history, while others are just asking generic questions and are as eager for it all to be over as the interviewee. The entire pretense is almost embarrassing, for both parties. It is a necessary trapping of the process and, while nothing new or enlightening is usually uncovered, the label and the press can pat themselves on the back at it’s conclusion, assuring themselves that they have done their part in perpetuating the industry’s odious machinations for another day.

As the interview progresses, the artist can almost predict the incoming questions. They rack their brain to come up with answers that do not sound tired or self-aggrandizing. The more interviews they do, the worse they hear themselves sounding. They are tasked with putting a bow on what is not always an attractive package. They must manage expectations and craft an image for their band which will appeal to fans and neophytes alike. They must avoid any unpleasantness, skip over anything which could show the group in an unflattering light, and they have to pretend that they are the most important band on the face of the earth without coming off as pretentious.

If the artist has successfully navigated this repetitive minefield of tepid interrogation, the band will notice a spike in album sales, as well as attendance in their shows on the album’s supporting tours. This charade repeats itself infinitely, and will endure until a preferable alternative is found. Certainly there must be ways to announce something new and create a buzz without resorting to the bland interviews which reveal nothing, and the mailed-in appearances by exhausted bands who want nothing more than to sleep on a real bed and a clean change of clothes.

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.

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Russ Rankin
Santa Cruz, California native Russ Rankin is the vocalist for the seminal California punk band Good Riddance, the hard rock band Only Crime as well as currently performing original songs as a solo artist. In 2007, Rankin turned his life-long passion for hockey into a job scouting California for WHL teams. Rankin is a dedicated vegan, an avid animal rights advocate, a political activist and has been a regular columnist for AMP Magazine and New Noise Magazine, as well as contributing to Alternative Press, Razorcake and others.