As long as I've been writing about
guys in bands I want to sleep with music for the Scene, which is nearing a decade now, I've heard the lament/gripe/accusation that you have to be friends with the writers here to get covered in the music section. (If the writer in question is a woman, she'll only write about you if you've slept together or she wants to sleep with you.) While these are both endlessly amusing perspectives from people who have No Idea How Newspapers Work, they are both patently false. This recent Craigslist post asks that very question again, and this time, by George, deliriously free from the weight of covering music substantially anymore, I'm going to answer it. First off, the question:
How to get a write up in the Scene? (friends and family only?) Sometimes just know that the staff writers of the Nashville Scene are only writing about their own bands or their friends bands. I see the same amateur groups promoted and hyped all the time, with some of the most bizarre and ridiculous Spin/RollingStone/Blender type phrases to describe these bands.
Writing about a live local nobody's band show at the Mercy Lounge "as much of a generation defining moment as Woodstock" or describing a band as "the audience was lucky to get out alive after such a daring performance". . . sounds like their just writing their own myspace bio in the third person. How much does it cost to get a few paragraphs written about a band or is it really just a friends connection kind of thing? I've emailed them several times and never get a response.
The short answer: You're doing it wrong. The long answer:
Jeez, where to start? OK, so we cover a mix of bands in a range of genres every single week in the paper. They are in the paper for a handful of reasons: We actually like the music, we can make a critical case for why the music is good, they are a noteworthy band, they have done something significant, they are playing a noteworthy show of some kind, they have released a record, the lineup has changed, blah blah blah. As I've said before, if we only wrote about bands we personally individually got all jazzed about, we'd just be printing blank pages every week.
That said, just because the bands covered are bands you, Craigslist poster, might find irritating, talentless or lame doesn't mean we're friends with that band. That you call them all amateur bands means you think your band is like, really pro, and that that's a reason to be covered all in and of itself, and that alone tells me your band is probably shitty. We cover the bands we cover mainly because we think they're good. Different strokes, dude. And let me take this time to say I'm really sorry about your dick.
Anyway: A short synopsis of how a music writer's life in Nashville works in terms of how you find bands:
You go to shows all the time. You go to shows of bands you do like. You catch songs by opening acts. You go to clubs where bands you typically think are good play, even when you haven't heard of the other acts who are playing. You check them out. You talk to people whose opinion you respect -- other musicians, writers, club owners, music fans -- and make a note of bands they mention who are worth seeing. You read about bands online. You Google news about Nashville and rock bands and see who else is getting covered. Sometimes you take a chance on a club you'd never go to that often, like the Muse, and maybe you come across something good you'd never see otherwise (case in point: Cowboy Dynamite, who begat Wes Traylor, who begat 50 bands we now cover regularly). To reference something Adam Gold just said when we were discussing this subject, "I know you think opening for SafetySuit at 12th & Porter is the biggest gig you could get ever get, but that doesn't mean we're going to be there."
I know, that sucks, and you're thinking, "Fuck you, you pretentious hipster asshole, for not going to 12th & Porter. Aren't you supposed to be at all the clubs around town, listening to every single band who ever plays and exhaustively combing the city for new talent? Wouldn't it behoove you to comb said city for undiscovered talent? Because how do you know there's not a good band there?" Well, mostly because of time, age, experience, collective wisdom, a really small, non-David Fricke-sized paycheck and a really quick look at the listings.
Still, if the next MEEMAW is playing a show at 12th & Porter, we will find out. We will. Someone will tell us. We will hear about it. And we will go. Our jobs are to keep our ear to the ground. If you don't agree with the signals we're picking up, it's because of the next major point: This whole thing is subjective.
That's right -- subjective! This isn't Guitar Player magazine. This isn't AllBandsWhoPlayInNashville.com. This isn't BandsWhoSellOutTheCannery.com. This isn't NashvilleRock.net, who curated their very own blog about who was worth covering in town, and guess what! We here at the Cream hated 99 percent of the bands they wrote about. In fact, I think we hated 100 percent.
People bitch about how it's the same folks in the same bands getting covered, but we reserve the right to curate a section and a blog that reflects an imperfect collection of our tastes. Do you think if we heard a band we thought was actually good -- but weren't friends with -- we'd ignore them on purpose?
Nashville Cream, from its inception, has been a way to start a conversation about the local rock scene we inhabit. I used to write about bands that the new crop of dudes covering music for us don't give a shit about. So now they don't get covered. This is also a small music town. There just isn't the constant influx of exciting new things. And that's mostly a good thing: It gives bands here a chance to evolve, and we can write about how they've changed over time rather than discarding them for the next hot new hyped major-label-aiming wonder, as would happen in larger cities like NYC or LA. I mean, I hated the first Hotpipes record. That turned me off to them. Other writers continued to follow this band and grew to love them, and they continued to be covered due to that very fact, and that's good -- it reflects a mix of tastes and the band got awesome.
I will say this about the friend thing: Any band you do discover and start writing about, you inevitably become at least acquaintances with them, because you've talked to them about their band, written about them, interviewed them. And from there on out you're going to chat when you see them out. You'll probably keep writing about them because they're on your radar, and they tell when they're doing stuff that's of note. And you LIKE IT, so you write about it.
Sometimes friendships form. It's inevitable in a small town. The Privates are, like, my favorite local band. I think after a few years of covering them I could now say I'm friends with Dave Paulson. But that's way after the fact. I don't cover music much now, but I sit in this office and listen to the discussions day in and day out about what's new and what's good. And I can attest that to one thing: All your bands are getting ripped on all the time, and it's really hilarious.
But seriously, I realize I've addressed none of what a local band can do to get heard by Scene music writers. As former music editor, I will tell you: Put yourself in the path of the writers whose bylines you see every week in the paper or every day. Book shows with the kinds of bands we do write about. Book shows at the venues we do cover. (And I'm mainly talking about local rock bands who want Cream or Spin coverage and beyond: We have an entire stable of writers who cover pop and country and bluegrass in the paper every week, and they have their own subjective tastes, and that's an equally imperfect system. But together, we think it adds up to a pretty damn good mix.)
Go to the clubs, find out who the writers are, introduce yourself. Be a part of the (lowercase) scene to get into the (uppercase) Scene. Yes, you can email us your MP3 or mail us your CD, but that's an entirely different convo about packaging and good subject lines and one-sheets and whether we're free to listen to all the stuff we get inundated with every single day, week in and week out. You're better off just being "good" in the way whichever writer who best covers the beat you would fall into thinks music is "good." And if you're not, then this is the wrong place for you to get be looking to get covered. Besides, if you think you need slobbering coverage in your local alt-weekly to be a success, you're wrong. Ask Kings of Leon.