So, I was on a freshman class field trip one time down to the Gulf Coast. A group of six of us were staying in a hotel overnight and attending a seminar the next morning. The chaperone was our basketball coach; a middle-aged flub whose appeal had waned where sarcasm had waxed. Out of boredom, I had taken to the hallways of this place, staring out the windows at the dimly lit sand wishing I could figure out a way to get some beer and a bit of freedom. It was late, and the parking lot was dark. But I was positive I had just watched our coach kiss some woman and then get into her car, inexplicably driving away in the night. I knew immediately that this was grounds for mayhem and the time was now. And I have said all that to say this… This memory is what came to mind while listening to the first track on this demo by What a Waste, “Nailed to Your Southern Cross”. The sticks count in and instantly you’re hit with a motivating bassline that says action. I like it already. Tip of the toes kids, the pit is a calling! “You won’t see me. I’ll see you”, is what it sounds like he said. And that’s what I’m thinking jumping in that pit. The song is quick; in and out in just over a minute. I do hope the final cut gives us a bit more of this gem.
Moving on. Second track “So Far Away” finds Dave on the vocals with trail-offs at the ends of vocal bars leaving listeners with an almost melodic presence; almost. I like his style. It’s cool to scream your ass off. And maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but when the grit is mixed with a bit of butter, I like that. A quick two-and-a-half-minute track that, at a minute and twenty-eight seconds in goes through a change-up. And this change-up slowly builds in pace until they plop the original rhythm back in our laps. This is good stuff people! It’s like they’re milking the anxiety cow’s teats for all their worth. I’m spewing adrenaline.
Next up is the title track “What a Waste”. And apparently some guy works every day and has either pissed off Dave, or Dave is telling us the over-worked guy is pissed. Whatever the case may be, the guitar gets a little funky in this one. I mean its punk, but with a little snazzle-razzle on it. Ok it’s just a sharp note followed consecutively by the two flat notes beneath it. But I like the way Joe twangs his thang.
“Huffing Glue” is almost as short as the first track at only a minute thirty-seven and the final track on this demo. I think my laptop was huffing glue because it kept pausing, or buffering, whatever that means. Anyway, good ole Billy on drums counts us in and we blast off into a four-note mainstay broken up by a couple high notes that signify the chorus is here.
All in all, they’re quick, they’re tight, and pay them their respect. This is a middle finger to your day, to my day; something to spruce up your morning coffee. And I needed it because I’m out of creamer and sugar. Whoever said “once you go black, you never go back”….. lied. But to the ex-members of A Hanging, The Pallbearers and AR-15 that gave me this lovely dose of audio intensity, I say thank you. And definitely, definitely follow up on this project with an expansion, both in catalog and song exploration. With that, I will hand over the reigns to Neworleansmusicians.com member and bassist for The Grooxs, Jorge Caicedo.
Jorge: This is the demo debut of What A Waste from New Orleans. Four tunes of straight-ahead punk rock with the Black Flag and Circle Jerk influences coming through nicely. The rhythm section of bassist Bobby Bergeron and drummer Bill Baxley, both of whom were in the excellent A Hanging, keep the bottom end tight while the guitars and vocals do their thing.
The tunes are more of a mid-tempo style as opposed to straight speed, although “Huffing Glue” is the exception. As per punk aesthetics, the songs are short, catchy and to the point. Catch these guys the next time they play a show, it’ll be well worth your time. You can get your cassette or digital download plus more perks using the Bandcamp link below.
Spiders are born knowing how to spin a web. Fish are born knowing how to swim. Humans, on the other hand, are born only knowing how to suck. And I say that to say this… as musicians, we have no innate knowledge of what it is we need to survive this musical landscape.
In any given situation, communication is king. If you can convey your message without losing your audience’s attention, you win. Sometimes a win just means holding their attention for those few minutes. Because through repetition, they will become familiar. And through familiarity comes a comfort of sorts, which gives way to curiosity. “Oh, I remember seeing something about them. Who are they?” And then you’re in.
Or, you’re up, I should say. Now it’s time to lay out the goods. And you do have the goods, right? Sure! This is your last album, your latest song, your newest merch, etc. But this is all geared toward the consumer. What about the music professional? What “goods” do you have for that person? You can’t lay down consumer goods for this person because they don’t care about any of it. And you can forget a hokey motivational band vision or personal perspective. In comes the EPK, or electronic press kit. Now there are EPK builders out there for free or a fee, and these are just to name a few: Wix.com, Bandzoogle.com, Gigmor.com, Reverbnation.com. But rather than allow mass distributed templates be your guide, I would recommend doing your own research on what exactly it is your target wants or expects to see and hear. I’m going to outline a short list of what many would agree are the industry standards. I might recommend a cover letter just to introduce your band. This is something used in all professions and you can easily look up its inclusions online.
A biography – This will consist of a brief history of the band, as well as a current roster. If your band is new, I’d sub the band history for individual members’ past bands and preferred style of music. But definitely keep this short and focused on notable highlights because this is merely the set-up.
Visual media – Everybody likes some good eye candy, right? Just make sure its high resolution. Low res gives ‘em indigestion, and they’ll surely quit biting. So, a few still photos of the band are in there. And mix it up; maybe one of you all posing, and the rest on stage in your element. If at all possible, be sure to include a video. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a professionally shot music video. Your band performing will suffice in its absence. But please, sub your recorded track for the live audio. Nothings grinds my gears more than a band video submission that sounds like it was shot in a cavernous, echoey wind tunnel.
Stats – No matter the catcher you’re pitching to, these people are bean counters in essence. They need factual verification that your band is worth investing time or money into. So yes, your previous show attendances are important here. You might say, well David, our show attendances are shiyte man! We’re not playing stadiums over here! That’s ok people. Along with those attendance numbers should be club capacity numbers. This will frame things into perspective. Another stat to include is your social media following (boo, hiss). I know. But despite the field being littered with vanity metrics, this number illustrates potential at the very least; the potential of your band to gather ears and eyes, as well as the potential of the social media account holder to DIY. Take, for instance, a promoter’s standpoint. If the band isn’t going to do all they can to draw a crowd, they’re not worth risking the investment. And you can present this proof of work succinctly by making use of your platform profile’s statistics page. I might also point out here that, in constructing this portion of your EPK, you too will see where your band lacks. And this will give focus to your band priorities.
Demo – Now this one may seem like a no brainer. But the manner in which it is presented comes into question. We’re dealing with a completely digital experience. So, your music is going to exhibit your flaws, flawlessly. If you don’t have a quality recording, go make one and revisit this article when you’re done. With that being said, how shall you present this quality piece of audio? You want the professional to hear you, but you don’t want to draw them away from your EPK. So, if you’re going to store your music online and furnish a link in the EPK, make sure it opens up in a new tab on their desktop. This way when they’re finished listening, they won’t have to retrace their steps in the browser to get back to your EPK. If you’re storing your whole EPK online and providing them that EPK’s link in your initial contact, you can embed a player in your EPK. I recommend both. Not only am I the type to cover all bases in preparation for a presentation. But people have mixed preferences for various reasons. Some recipients might not want to blindly click your unfamiliar link, exposing their computer to possible viruses. So, including an emailed link to your whole EPK is out for them. And some may have filters set on their email client to refute html in the body of emails. So, embedding a player within the email itself is out for them. You can attach an Mp3. But understand emails have data limits. So, make sure you can also fit that video in your email along with this Mp3. A third option, and probably your best, is creating a PDF file. This can reduce data issues and group your media into a sweet portfolio. But if you opt not to go that route and run into data issues, complete songs or videos aren’t a necessity. If the talent is there and you’re the right one got the gig, they’ll know before your song is even finished playing.
Press – This one is a favorite of mine, selfishly. Because, in covering the scene, it’s part of what I do here at Neworleansmusicians.com. If you’ve had any album reviews, any show reviews, any interviews… this is their time to shine. In my opinion, the best way to present this is to include a notable quote contained in that review or interview about your band or song. And then be sure to cap that off with the link to that press piece. Because in the court of public opinion, the quote alone is considered here-say. And again, if you’ve led them to your EPK stored online, make sure this opens in a new tab. Keep your captive captivated!
Contact Info – I’d like to dispel a few myths here. Some say a Gmail seems more legit than a Yahoo or other email provider. This, in my eyes, is nonsense. Just make sure you respond, as they say in Acadiana, toot sweet. That means quick, fast, and in a hurry. And hey, SPELL CHECK all correspondences! Another myth is that it’s wise to pose as the manager for your band and include that contact info in place of your own personal info. Maybe that gets you places with some, I really can’t say. I’ve always been of the school of thought to let your work speak for itself. If you conduct yourself in a professional manner, you will be treated like a professional. And being spotted as a fake is perhaps the most unprofessional thing you could do. So, with all of that out the way, just be sure to include multiple forms of contact; email, phone, social media, all of which you monitor religiously.
So, these are the bones of this monster. Now to whom shall we send our Frankenstein? The usual suspects consist of A&Rs, Talent Buyers, and National/ International Press. But these days there’s also playlist curators and bloggers to think about. One character I definitely want to throw in this mix is a Music Supervisor. Because sync licensing is an excellent way to get your music into the ears of people who weren’t even looking for you in the first place. Sync licensing paves the way for your music to be included in film. And this would entail a ton of streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, as well as online destinations like Youtube and Vimeo. So, let’s not forget about sending that guy your EPK as well. The point here is to realize that your EPK must contain utility for not only a record exec., but a music supervisor, someone who books shows, or someone who publishes on playlists or blogs. Its job is to depict your band from multiple angles of utility.
When I was a kid, I kept a binder. In it were my own drawings of men and women; soldiers, if you will. Picture something like G.I. JOE. I gave them as much visual detail as a kid could, complete with weapons. I listed their strengths, weaknesses, and back stories. And it didn’t matter that this binder had no particular use. I thought it was the greatest. Often times we build things the way we see fit. Not understanding that the rest of the world sees things differently. It may take us a long time to build a solid band, a cohesive set list, an image, an EPK, etc. And when we’re done, because of all the hard work we put into this thing, we feel as though it has strength and weight in the world. Our perception is skewed though, by the manifestation of our vision. Suffice it to say that other people have other visions. And that’s to be expected. But within that you cannot discount the importance of industry standard. For many, it is the only known way to operate. And any deviation from this may spell trouble for a band trying to get from one side of Mr. Important’s desk to the other.
BUT! (there’s always a but) As our friend in marketing, Mr. Seth Godin, once said in his famed book The Purple Cow, “The key to success is to find a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.” And that’s one big, important rump roast of “but” right there! Because when considering your band for their project, I guarantee you most if not all of the business figures listed above ask themselves, what makes this band different from any of the others I’ve reviewed today?
So, in closing, I’d like to advise you to cover the industry standards as well as encourage you to add just a little bit extra, in substance as well as fashion. Perhaps the cover letter dubs your band “Tragic magic in a bottle…”. Or maybe your demo includes the person’s name you’re pitching to, “HEY SMITH! LISTEN TO THIS!…” I could walk you through the birds and bees when it comes to how to be different and stand out to that desired significant other. But to be honest, we must all find our own way in this game. And I do prefer to reserve strategic guidance for members of my website. Throughout all of this, I want you to realize that like life, your EPK is not over once you write it. It is a constantly moving, growing, living story. And you should be always revising it and adding to it like a diary. I wish you all the best of luck in your journeys. And I thank you for taking the time to read this.