Saturday, January 17, 2009

Making the Right Noise

As somebody responsible for having released a lot of other people's music since the early 1980s, I have been on the receiving end of countless demos and bids for approval or even some kind of acknowledgment over the years. Whilst this in itself has furnished me with a tremendous ego-massage during those many times of need, I must confess that I have generally been put off at the very first hurdle by these little bursts of anticipation simply because they always amount to something fairly ordinary and, indeed, expected. At best, there would have been a cassette (back in the 'early days') or a CDR (these days), an extremely dry and rather stultifying biography intent on magnifying the truth about the said artist or group so that they may seem sufficiently 'interesting' enough to work with, and possibly even a photo. Then there'd always be the letter. The begging letter, intent on convincing me that the work of the artist/group concerned would 'fit in' with my label and that they, of course, 'love' and 'respect' everything else I have already done. Which is why, nine times out of ten, the music was either so bad or inappropriate that it, needless to say, did not come close to approaching my actual (admittedly broad, but refined nonetheless...) tastes.

Barely a week has gone by since I began to release music where one or two, or far more, of these little stabs at catching a dream has not ended up in my grasp. Nice and, again, perhaps ego-massaging, on one hand, but likewise generally amounting to nothing more than a nuisance eating into time I don't really have spare for such matters. Of course, I fully understand the nature at work here but, to be extremely blunt, I'm ultimately residing in a highly privileged position (of my own making, I hasten to add). I've written about music since 1983 and, as a result, have always been in contact with an infinite tide of people involved themselves. Because of this, I have even actively discouraged people sending me demos or whatever for as long as I can recall, but I suppose those dream chasers are every bit as ignorant about my background as their music only too often indicates.

Nonetheless, it always got me that that one simple glimpse of one of these packages could tell me so much. A soulless, colourless biography attached to an equally benign letter exuding nothing more than the 'right noises' has almost always reflected the nature of the music within these packages...

I had an email a week back from somebody claiming to have had "a dream" whereby he could "see" a 7" record with a silver cover emblazoned with a gold saxophone. He also said he could recall a "discussion" with "somebody from the label" in this same dream, although admitted he didn't know what this "signified". Then the punchline arrived in the form of him explaining he had some music to send me if I was "interested" and, well, it is on its way to me now. Whilst even the dream angle isn't entirely original, I just liked the fact that this approach was at least a little different to the usual.

The music may well still not amount to much, but my interest has been piqued. And, right now, that actually adds up to something which stands head and shoulders above what I normally receive.


flora_mundi said...

i'd be curious to know if you've noticed any similarities in the notes you've received from artists who did turn out to be interesting.

Richo said...

Good point. Although, to be frank, I can't recall anything that stands out right now. The best demos or samples of music I've received over the years for my 'consideration' have usually just been accompanied by more personal letters or notes. I always preferred this to a standard package containing a demo and bio, etc. clearly assembled with a view to being sent to dozens of labels in the vain hope one would 'bite'. What's more, the personal letters often then referred to the magazine or other releases on the label, thus elevating the senders above the other hordes of hopefuls through their at least showing a glimmer of insight.