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How to handle music journalists
on Tuesday 20 June 2006
by Geoff Nicholson author list print the content item {PDF=create pdf file of the content item^plugin:content.52}
in Career & Management
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by Geoff Nicholson

Handling interviews the easy way!

Unless you've got the luxury of scoring air play or have connections with the right people, the main way your band will initially get its name and face into the public arena is through an interview with a music scribe. This could mean chatting to the obsessed freak who knocks together a local zine or perhaps a so-called 'professional' who spends more time asking questions, listening and writing than catching new music.

Having interviewed many young bands over the years, it's amazing how many come totally prepared and how many have no idea what they're doing. Some don't make it on time, while others mightn't turn up at all ! It's a terrible way to introduce yourself, especially if the other person has been put out - which happens if the writer operates as a freelancer.

While punctuality is of prime importance, the most important element of your public relations arsenal is a promotional package. At the very least, it should contain a biography, sample of music and contact details. Once again, some bands deluge you while others offer a bio scawled in biro on a scrap of paper and an unlabelled tape that hasn't got a case. Others bring their music and bio along to the interview without letting the writer see it before the event, thus dooming themselves to generalised questions such as 'how did you get together', 'what would you say your music is like ?' and 'how did you get your name'.

If these aren't the kinds of questions you want to particularly answer, it's a good idea to add a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to your bio. The interviewer can always refer back to the page for the information. He or she will also be more likely to ask interesting questions about yourself and your music because the obvious ones are answered. You can also use the FAQ and bio to draw attention to certain things you might want to promote - such as gigs, new members, support slots and album releases. If a journalist knows exactly why he or she is talking to you - some are told by editors to write a story at short notice - the interview will flow more smoothly and with more focus. Don't be afraid of being the active partner in the process because a writer may be working on a deadline for five stories simultaneously. A detailed bio, FAQ and taste of your music makes his or her job and the interview process a hell of a lot easier.

Speaking of which, remember that an interview where you raise conversation and take the lead can be to your benefit. An interviewer always comes away feeling good about an interview that turns into a friendly chat. Some interviews break down when the 'yes' and 'no' answers stream out from a person who hasn't thought about what to say or when the questions are drab and generalized. Use questions to bring in a topic you want to raise or simply raise them. Have a good time, but remember that forced attempts of humour sometimes come off like musicians trying to be comedians. Embarassing!

Hell, you don't even have to like the person you're talking to. For all you know, they mightn't like you or your music. Use the interview as a way of promoting yourself. Many a music journalist has been heard to say: 'I don't like their music, but they seemed like great people when I chatted to them.' Sure there's some nonsense involved, but this is the music industry after all. What did you expect ?


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