Monday, August 17, 2009

How NOT to Make it as a Music Journo

Some top tips for maintaining depression during recession.

*Make sure you don't know anyone besides the original five people that were in your group in highschool. All of whom are into equestrian, science or zoology.

*When attending music festivals you intend to review, make sure to show up absolutely inebriated in order to put the "miss every band" factor into full swing. Alternatively, get arrested by undercover cops who think you have drugs, when it's really just some vodka you snuck in smartly, in an unlabeled orange pill container.

*When you score an interview with Dave Grohl, refer to his band as Food Fighters.

*Be a fan of Creed or Nickelback.

*Accidentally tape over your interview with Dave Grohl with footage of Creed, Live in Texas.

*Boycott Pearl Jam, as you think Kurt would approve.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Image in Music Promo

Music Public Relation practitioners help musicians build and preserve a positive public image which they do so through specific strategies and tactics, such as the music video, personal imaging, album cover and logo. Apart from personal image being important in Public Relations, visual imagery in strategies and tactics used are important. For example PR practitioners analyse images in editorial content to measure how effective their strategies were. The idea of a band is to get their message across to their audience, which they do so through the medium of sound. However, sound goes hand in hand with image (both visual image and personal image). Images are used to promote the sound. The purpose of a music promoter is to employ strategies that evoke a response for the public through the visual artefact that is placed in front of them. However, what works for one person may not work for another person. Different genres of music evoke different responses in different people, but as a whole the imagery that is trying to be portrayed needs to have a sense of feeling that gets to the core of what resonates within the individual.

Music Video

In the fifties, the only video recordings of bands were based in TV stations where bands were invited to perform on TV shows such as Bandstand and Uptight, the Ed Sullivan Show (US) and Top of the Pops (UK). At the time, only the biggest bands made their own self-promoting videos, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In the seventies, the climate changed so that shows were developed specifically for broadcasting and promoting the videos of bands. Legendary shows including Countdown and the pioneer of the 24 hour of marathon music video broadcasting, Music Video were the fore bearers of the great institution of MTV, beginning in the 1980’s in America and spreading to Australia in the mid eighties. Video Killed the Radio Star was the first song played on MTV in 1981. MTV's line-up originally consisted almost entirely of rock videos, short films in which singers or groups usually lip-synched their newest releases. MTV’s own style, widely imitated, was typified by jump-cut camera work and busy graphics carefully designed to look spontaneous (Knight 2000, pg1). Closer to home, without a video it was hard for overseas bands to get exposure in such an “isolated” country, for a long time Australia was not included on the tour bill. The Australian music video industry developed along the same lines as the industries of other major Western music centres such as UK and USA, although initially it was dwarfed by the size of those industries.

Bands were starting to realise that a video was an important part of their promotional activities, as it was an effective visual medium to showcase their songs to the wider audience. Music videos gradually became imaginative, and incorporated creative camera and film techniques, such as The Beatles video of Strawberry Fields Forever. In the sixties it was a cheap and low budget video, with the band lip-synching on stage while a group of teens swayed in front. In the seventies a story began to be told, with the eighties an extension of that. The nineties brought in special effects in the music video. Today no band releases new material without an accompanying video if it is looking for commercial success.

Personal Imagery

Bands and musicians have always been image conscious, with the wish to exude a specific attitude relevant to their audience. Different genres of music seem to create a following of groups or subcultures that emaulate a particular personal style that visually represents that genre of music. Visually, one is remided of a style of music through the style/fashion that an individual incorporates onto their body. The current Hip hop scene has created its own subculture, with a strong egotistical focus. In turn making the viewer wonder if the contemporary music video is just a maxicommercial where advertisers subliminally place products and PR practitioners watch the media feed off their client’s clips.

Album Covers

Record albums are often the first point of physical contact a listener will have with a band they like; a standout album cover is therefore important. From the vinyl record to the cd, covers have been historically and visually analysed by critics and listeners. Professional artists may even become involved in the process, for example Andy Warhol designed the cover for the Sticky Fingers album for Rolling Stones, featuring a real zipper on the original vinyl. Pink Floyd considers the multi-dimensional aspects with colour, shape and almost brings the viewer into the scenery of the cover of Dark Side of the Moon.

Posters/ Band Name/Logo

The use of posters, logo and even the name of the band, takes music marketing into a new form of art. Posters and logos must give a sense of recognition that evokes in the viewer the desire to research the band further. Often the most effective logos are the most simplest (an age old idea), for example the Pink Floyd triangle/rainbow symbol, the Rolling Stones mouth, the ACDC lighting bolt, the Queen logo, or Outkast’s crown logo. Some bands have their band name in a constant recognisable font to distinguish them, for example NOFX, My Chemical Romance and Kiss. Some artists go even further and utilise a specific hand gesture, such as rapper Jay-Z.


In contemporary life, online strategies are very important in the promotion of a band. Images are essential in Internet presence. The website needs to be user-friendly. Something may look fantastic, with interesting images, but then it takes hours to simply navigate around to the gallery page. Often, the band’s logo will feature throughout the website, as well as a picture gallery including album images and photos of band members.

In music promotion it is important that visual works with audio. Images create a sense of ownership in the viewer. Does the imagery induce a sense of connection, that the viewer can call their own experience, and the ability to have a journey within your own imagination? If an image is successful in doing this, the message that the image is trying to portray will come across. Hence if a band’s poster, logo or album cover has the perfect qualities and design elements that would appeal to its target audience, then it will be successful in relaying the band’s audio message. Images are important in conveying the “spectacular” of a band to their listeners. Music PR practitioners use these images and create the personal image of musicians to help with their public image which they do so through specific strategies and tactics.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Flunks

Once upon a time, Indie sat upon a rock. With it’s hard foundation it attracted a lot of attention and junk along the way. But when the rock merged with the establishment, Indie departed. She occupied a jukebox for a while, where she came across Punk. Punk went to sleep and his friends thought he was dead. He was simply resting as he waited for a Renaissance. He didn’t know if it ever came, but he had a feeling. So Indie married Punk in the plight to open his eyes.

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York these child-like musos don’t follow any rules. It’s like neo-magic out of the twilight zone with a punk twist. The Flunks frontman Tony says “You’ll remember the day you fell in love with music. Because today is the repeat of your love affair with sound”. No, they haven’t turned into princesses since their last album, but shifted to what they call a more awakened Indie-Punk. Very existential. When was the last time you fell down and couldn’t get up by yourself? Be it blasé or cliché, with a gravity shift, the Flunks will crush the groundwork and stampede your heart’s momentum. No one ever said you can’t be in love without being a sissy. Their 2008 album Ceci N’est Pas Une Band is due out in August. The idea of the album title and imagery came from a famous painting of a pipe by René Magritte.

The Flunks help lighten the feeling of cleaning out dirty sinks and drains if you do it while listening to “Never Too Old For Scooter Love”, which is the first single, due out in July. One song is sad. “Lola’s Hotdog” bluntly put oozes lines of dismay and lonesome. The feeling is that there is no hope. There is no upbeat feel, it is a folk song of impossible qualities. It is truly believed until the ending, where a C major chord sparks a light, and you can see through the tunnel which was originally a hole of blackness with a whole lot of sadness and a hole to peek through and see. This lends the track to being one of the best of the album.

As their moniker would associate, none of the group members flunked out of…anything. All four finished highschool and two of the boys graduated from Arts Colleges. So then where did the name come from? One sunny Downtown day, bass player Scotty was writing rhymes. He realised a lot of cool words ended in ‘unk’. Junk, Punk, Crunk, Funk etc, until he came to Flunk; the finest of them all. It was also very anti-establishment, an imperative image-consciousness to have if he wished to stay a part of the scene he was apparently in. Scotty now also has a fetish for hyphenated words, so uses this tendancy frequently in his song lyrics.

Between albums, The Flunks headed down under to Australia where they recorded four songs off their latest album and meshed with the local talent. They played one Sydney show to sold out fans. Although flanno fashion seemingly died out, The Flunks brought it back with their 2006 released EP, Flanarchy, and had fashionistas in confusion of whether or not to “Embrace the Flannelette”, which was the first track on the album. It was a Sex Pistols inspired album, with extra safety pins, more plaid and plenty of anarchist satire.

They are not so much post-Punk anymore, but more post-Indie on their latest release, with an experimental rock sound, Jimmi Hendrix-likened guitar riffs and Robert Smith-esque (The Cure) vocals.

Rules never stopped a child, so they shouldn’t stop you.


This review also appeared in Sickling Magazine, and features on the bands Myspace page.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Oracular Spectacular

MGMT's Oracular Spectacular takes me back to a time that I hadn't actually been alive in, but feel like I could have been just by listening to their 2008 Sony released album. These boys are straight out of the seventies and have got me crazed on a whole other psychedelic level that I'm left confused. Dumbfounded in a good way. I don't know where to place them. Are they indie rock, experimental, alternative, jungle-surf-safari? I suppose this is a good thing; if you can't be labeled, then the pressure for future conformity disappears. Even checking out the band's website is a trippy experience. is (purposefully?) strange with bold colourful images and a grid placement that wouldn't quite work if you didn't understand the band's mentality.

The album sleevage "invites you to open your mind to the multi-dimensional vibrating Technicolor sounds of Oracular Spectacular". It is an artistically motivated photographic diary of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, who used to be known as The Management.

Thankyou freedom of speech for allowing us access to lyrical purity evident in all tracks especially 'Time to Pretend'. "I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and f*** with the stars. You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars". They jump a decade with their eighties-sounding synthesizer. MGMT bring back the feel of vinyl in 'Pieces of What'. ''Electric Feel' has disco influences but seems to emulate its own genre, creating funky existential ecstasy. With its finale instrumental riff, 'Of Moons, Birds & Monsters' is the kind of track you need when you're driving by yourself on a long deserted highway at night. 'Weekend Wars' makes you want someone in that passenger seat.

I feel like these Brooklynites are the fore bearers/brainchild of some great musical institution/innovation that is yet to come. In this way I label this band "indie neo-acid retro electronica, boheme-hippie psychodelia rock, with a stroke of much-needed audio genius". MGMT are a hallucinogenic metaphor for what can only be called; good music. Refreshingly odd, yet undecidedly potentially mainstream (well, 40 years ago).

Their EP, Time to Pretend also has worthy tracks such as 'Indie Rokkers' and gives way to the suspenseful anticipation that Oracular Spectacular satisfies.

They're real and they're spectacular.

Comments? don't agree?
Let me know if you feel the same blissful nostalgia...
Listen to MGMT on my iPOD to the right...

Photos: Courtesy of Wikipedia

I Used to Love Hip Hop in its Essence & Real

With the rise of global, mass produced, media based "hip hop", all I can stand to listen to these days from this genre are artists like Common, who still exude the same real feel that hip hop grew up upon. Released in 1994, I Used to Love H.E.R is my favourite Common song, although he was still Common Sense at that time. Classic hip hop artists are a rare thing nowadays, but I think Marco Polo defines the cut with Nostalgia and makes me "Backtrack turn back the page".

Even album covers don't strive for that creative element anymore. Music is art, so it goes to stand that the music sleevage should represent the item it contains. Not such a big fan of the Biggie posthumous release, and with the exception of maybe one song, the artists doing the duets probably should have sticked to their own niche and not cramp Biggie’s reputation. OUtkast’s ATliens and Aquemini are trying to reach a bit out of the hip hop box (though pre Stankonia), but still stay there with their bling and booty reminiscent images. I just think hip hop needs to get out the box/label that it’s been put in along with r&b and rap, as there really are great artists of this genre out there eg. Common, Talib Kweli, Maxwell, Mos Def.

Not so bad Album covers include: The Roots-Rising Down, Beastie Boys, Erykah Badu has some cool illustrative ones like World Wide Underground. Miss Badu is the quintessential Afrocentric queen; her lyrics, sense and image corroborate this. A lot of old school artists seemed to elaborate on comic styles, such as GZA - Liquid Swords.

Lots of covers have/had the potential to be exciting, but lacked this element due to artist ego or record label wants, or the need to conform to all that glitters must be good…

Hip hop was defeated by ego and sold out to commercialism.
I used to love h.i.m so there's still hope.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rip-offs Done Well

Weird Al Yankovic cleverly parodies Nirvana's Nevermind album cover, followed by the Simpsons satirical rendition. Apparently Cobain refused censorship of the image (rightly so) and his only compromise was a sticker on the baby's appendage that read, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008