Editorial bias in music

18th March 2014

Editor admits his web site is biased.

Following claims that the content of Music in Leicester is biased, Trevor Locke commented: “Yes it is.”

As Editor-in-Chief of the Music in Leicester web site (responsible to the publishers for its day-to-day upkeep,) I want to make it clear that it is biased. Neither I or the publishers have ever said that it would be unbiased.

This blog article clarifies what that bias is and why it exists. Firstly, we are biased to Leicester and Leicestershire in our coverage of live music. That is why this website is called Music in Leicester. We do cover bands that are from other areas of the East Midlands and bands that come from elsewhere in the UK (and the rest of the world) to play here. We have no pretensions of being a national music outlet.

Secondly, we are biased to what, in our opinion,  is good music. We do not write reviews of bands that we consider to be less than good. We do not publish reviews that run-down, deride or negatively criticise bands that fail to meet our standards of good music. When I say “our”, I mean the writers who contribute to the website and of course the company that publishes it. If someone offered a review that was very critical of a band and dismissive of its musical abilities, I doubt we would publish it, even if the article was technically argued and the analysis carefully set out.

Unlike some reviews we have seen on the Internet, we do not want to take this approach to musical criticism. If a band is  bad we prefer to say nothing.

We do sometimes comment on the short-comings of a music act but that is usually in a review that offers a generally positive stance on the band and its performance.

We do see bands, at shows we attend, whose performance is less than adequate and we see singers whose work is below standard.

If we have failed to publish a review on a gig or a band that we have seen, it will be only because we have not yet got round to it. So, if you know we have seen your band but have not yet published anything, that should not be taken to imply that we think it is bad in any way.

So what do we define as being “good music”? To my mind there are three main criteria:

1. The band plays music that is listenable and enjoyable. That applies across all genres of music – from hardcore metal to soft folk. If it is music, then we will write about it.
2. Music is good if the audience reacted reasonably well to it. Leicester audiences are nearly always polite – they will applaud any act, however bad. Unlike some crowds however they do not boo an act or even worse ignore it completely. So we have to look for other signs of appreciation or disinterest. You can tell a lukewarm response when you see one.
3. One band might have good points and bad points. It is possible to watch a band that was generally fairly good but lacked something important. Some bands have remarkably good front singers backed by musicians who were ok without being impressive.

Our sense of “good music” is fairly ‘broad-church’ and very inclusive. We do not have set attitudes to what is good and what is not; we do allow writers a lot of latitude to write enthusiastically about the bands they personally admire. In some websites I have seen, a guy has turned up at a gig, dissed off a band he personally did not like and has given readers his own bias on music – telling us nothing about the gig or the audience that was there and leaving us only with a knowledge of him as a person.

I hope that we are not as bad as that. I do however recognise that some people regard the art of music criticism as requiring closely-argued reasons as to why a band’s music was good, indifferent or bad. I sometimes read the Guardian’s rock music columns, as well as those in NME, The Fly or other publications. Styles of music journalism vary a great deal. Some of these column inches go right over my head; others seem to portray negatively critical reviews as being cool. I personally don’t like music magazines that are written by 20 year olds for other 20 year olds –  where being seen to be cool or hip is the over-riding requirement.

Most of our reviews are not written for music buffs. As I have said elsewhere, our writers are just fans of music and they are writing for other music fans. Few of us are musicians. When I am at gigs I will sometimes ask musicians in the audience about some technical aspect of what we are hearing, e.g. “Did you think that band is tight?”, or “Is that person singing in tune or off key?”

Most of our writers do not talk about the way a band made key changes in the third bar of the intro or used a riff that was straight out of [insert a name of a well known band here and one of their more obscure albums].

If most of the people who stand before the stages we frequent do not understand the technicalities of the music they are enjoying, it does not need us to blind them with musical science and to prattle on about erudite aspects of rock.

What we try to do is to celebrate the feeling of the set, the atmosphere of the night, the vibe of the band, the enjoyment value of the gig. We have adjectives that we use to describe what we heard and the emotional impact it had on us and the crowd and we might also tell readers something about the band and give a link to its website.

When I have been at gigs, I might ask a variety of people what they thought about a band. In some cases that results in a divergence of onion – from “ace” to “shit.” Any group of people at a gig will vary in its reaction to a band, from very positive through to negative.

Some have complained that we [at Music in Leicester]  are biased to certain kinds of bands and certain styles of music; I find that very difficult to believe. Ours is not a wiki website; it is not intended to be an encyclopedia of Leicester’s music. If it was it would have to be unbiased but since it is not,  we stick to our intended bias and this article has tried to make clear what that is.

The bias of this website is towards good music; we don’t run votes or polls about this – we just trust our own judgement.

Promoting artists

How do you promote an artist? By promote I mean publicise, market, shout, plug, etc.

This page forms part of our archives

I thought I would blog about this as it is something I have been doing for some time, for bands and for individuals.  There are some basic things that I have been doing.

Promotion is often about getting an artist’s name known. It’s about pushing that name around, largely on the social media, primarily Twitter, Facebook, Reverb Nation, Myspace or what ever else comes to hand that seems to work.

You believe that an artist is worth promoting or you see the potential in a band and you want to give them a helping hand.  I promote acts through my magazine #Arts in Leicestershire. That sits at the centre of a web of social media connections. Bear in mind that Leicester/shire is a place brimming with musical talent of all kinds and beyond that many artists who work in comedy, dance, digital arts, photography, painting, poetry, writing and so on.

Apart from shouting about a named act or artist, I also have to say why they are good.  We do this through setting up profiles and through reviews of their work. If they bring out an album, EP or track I promote that. If they have show, gig or exhibition, I push that out too.

Apart from Internet-based work I also issue press releases and plug songs with radio DJs. True, most of this happens on the Internet but there is still a big world of paper-based newspapers and magazines that will take material about artists and their work. We can’t neglect this, no matter how powerful, the web is, people still read paper and listen to the radio.

So why do I do this? There are plenty of people out there who do their own publicity and some of them make a very good job of it. I still think that an independent voice has some value. There is always an advantage in a third party saying how good an act is. It’s good that an artist believes in themselves and can tell the world how good they think they are.  Some weight does, however, attach to an independent voice agreeing with that and proclaiming why they think this act is worth looking at.

When I say I am indepedent I really mean that. I do not manage bands, singers, actors, dancers or anyone.  They do not pay me to be their press agent. I do it because I am genuinely passionate about their act or work. I do it because, as an editor and journalist, I am driven by the same passions about arts, whether I am writing about them or promoting them.

It’s a little dream that I have, that I could play a small part in getting a band or a singer to the top and giving them a bit of a leg up the ladder of success.  I don’t do this because I have to do it; I do because I want to do it. In a city so rich in promising talent, which ones do you choose?

I use my instincts.  If I see an act that is  established and everyone else is coo-ing about them then I feel confident that I am probably right to also add my voice to the chorus.  Sometimes, I see a new act, as yet rather rough and raw, but I sense a potential. I see something beyond the inexperience, the lack of professionalism, I sense something in that band or act which looks like it could grow and get somewhere.

I have often stuck my neck out and given the thumbs up for someone when everybody else has ignored them.  That’s because I see something that they don’t see. It does’nt always work.  It’s not just about artistic ability.  The acts I tend to get behind these days are those that believe in themselves, the ones that really want it, the bands or singers who have a dream, who see themselves making it in the music business or in the world of comedy, and so forth.

I have also met people who clearly were born with talent but who, for what ever personal reason, will never make a go of it because they lack the two vital things that are needed to run alongside natural ability:  self-worth and determination. Not everyone has this. I’ve tried pushing people because I think they have real ability. They have got no where because either they are lazy, have no ethic of self-sacrifice or because they really could not hack it.

The arts world is full of people who spend years muddling through, doing what pleases them, wallowing in self-gratification but have no concept of a personal career, no sense of path or direction.  There is no point spending time promoting acts or artists that clearly don’t really want to get to the top.

To be successful in anything requires generous slabs of self-discipline and more importantly self-sacrifice.  Many people, me included, have to make painful sacrifices in the cause of success.  Often. OK, maybe not always.  Some are happy with this, however uncomfortable it feels at the time.  Others, however, are either too timid or lack the confidence or sense of personal security to defer some of the things their friends are enjoying in order to get rewards later on.

I love watching those interviews with young athletes who dream of Olympic gold. They undertake punishing regimes of training, get up at stupidly early hours of the morning, train relentlessly for months on end, forgo so many of the things their friends are enjoying, just to stand a chance of getting a medal hung round their necks.

The arts do not generally impose such rigorous deprivations. Even so, there is no gain without pain, even in the world of rock music. Whilst I deplore cheating – whether in athletics or in music – I can understand why some people see that as being the solution for them. I don’t believe in fast tracks to the top. Making it into the big time requires years of dedication. Singers who get catapulted into stardom, by record labels or by TV talent competitions, often come part and can’t cope with the pressure.

As I have often said, acts that go somewhere have two assets:  themselves and those who are ready to support them. Behind every rising act there is an (often unseen) iceberg of supporters, street teamers, publicists and, not least, fans who are egging them on. Tips with no underlying iceberg sink very quickly.

Band promotion

Filed under: Band Promotions — webmaster @ 12:12 pm
It’s a shame when a good band sends us a promo pack that is complete crap. It happens a lot. Some bands are good at playing music but when it comes to producing printed, promotional stuff, they fail to do themselves justice.
Here are some horror stories about promotional packs received at the GYBO office
Blank CDs sent in without even the band name being written on the CD – so now we have a collection of blank CDs and have no idea which bands are on them.
No date on the CD to tell us when the tracks were recorded.
No song titles – so if we want to discuss a song we don’t know what it is called.
Info sheets without any contacts details on them – a two page closely typed essay about the band’s history and no contact details — not even a phone number.
Hand written letters in spidery writing which we have difficulty reading
Failure to understand the difference between a website address and an email address – email addresses beginning with www.
Band info sheets that tell us the band is based on the UK but not where exactly
Photos of the band that are so poorly reproduced you cant make out what they are
Biog sheets with masses of irrelevant information – we havn’t got time to read all these minor details and really dont need to know all that stuff anyway.
Photos with no explanatory captions, so we cant understand much about what the photo shows us.
Biog sheets that fail to explain what type of music the band plays – are they heavy metal, punk, pop rock or rootsy folk rock – it doesnt say.
Sometimes we are unsure as to why this stuff has been sent in.
Large amounts of material, CDs and even DVDs but no covering letter asking us what to do with it.
What do these guys want? Show bookings? Album promotions? Management services? A review? They forgot to say.
A one line letter or note asking “please consider this band for a show booking” or “Please write a review of our latest album” would at least tell us what they want
So if bands are sending out this stuff to venues or record labels, it is hardly surprising that they are not getting any bookings or interest back.
We now have a large collection of band press and promo packs and 100s of sampler CDs
This rather poor collection of material helps us to figure out how to make an effective pack that will actually be worth the postage and get the band results.
For tips on how to write a good pack read the comments on this blog entry.
See details of our promo pack writing service on our main web site Get Your Band On

Published: 24th October 2009

Promoting Your Band

It’s a shame when a good band sends us a promo pack that is complete crap. It happens a lot. Some bands are good at playing music but when it comes to producing printed, promotional stuff, they fail to do themselves justice.

Here are some horror stories about promotional packs received at the GYBO office.

Blank CDs sent in without even the band name being written on the CD – so now we have a collection of blank CDs and have no idea which bands are on them.

No date on the CD to tell us when the tracks were recorded.

No song titles – so if we want to discuss a song we don’t know what it is called.

Info sheets without any contacts details on them – a two page closely typed essay about the band’s history and no contact details — not even a phone number.

Hand written letters in spidery writing which we have difficulty reading

Failure to understand the difference between a website address and an email address – email addresses beginning with www.

Band info sheets that tell us the band is based on the UK but not where exactly

Photos of the band that are so poorly reproduced you cant make out what they are

Biog sheets with masses of irrelevant information – we havn’t got time to read all these minor details and really dont need to know all that stuff anyway.

Photos with no explanatory captions, so we cant understand much about what the photo shows us.

Biog sheets that fail to explain what type of music the band plays – are they heavy metal, punk, pop rock or rootsy folk rock – it doesnt say.

Sometimes we are unsure as to why this stuff has been sent in.

Large amounts of material, CDs and even DVDs but no covering letter asking us what to do with it.

What do these guys want? Show bookings? Album promotions? Management services? A review? They forgot to say.

A one line letter or note asking “please consider this band for a show booking” or “Please write a review of our latest album” would at least tell us what they want

So if bands are sending out this stuff to venues or record labels, it is hardly surprising that they are not getting any bookings or interest back.

We now have a large collection of band press and promo packs and 100s of sampler CDs

This rather poor collection of material helps us to figure out how to make an effective pack that will actually be worth the postage and get the band results.

Useful links

Band Promotion Blog – Press packs

e-How – Band Promo packs

Band Promotion Press packs

Create a promo package

Article: How to promote your band