In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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For anyone who writes about music, publicity emails tend to pile up faster than you can possibly answer or mass-delete them—take it from Mr. Inbox 77,000 And Counting over here. It seems appropriate that I’ve been invited to speak on a panel about music PR on Monday, May 21 at the High Noon Saloon, because to the extent that I interact with the world of music PR I’m kind of terrible at it. The panel is part of the Madison Mixtape series, booked by the High Noon’s Maggie Denman and Justin Kibbel. Justin will be moderating a conversation with Isthmus journalist Allison Geyer, music publicist Rebecca Ottman, and me. It’s a very inside-baseball kind of subject but Madison is awash in musicians and I’m hopelessly behind on answering press-seeking emails from a few dozen of them as we speak, so perhaps it’s more relatable than one might assume.
As a journalist, I do want to be reachable and I don’t want artists, especially on the local level, to see contacting the press as some kind of mysterious art. There’s an icky system-gaming attitude that can creep into discussions about music publicity when we make it too complicated. I think it’s healthier if artists concentrate on enjoying their work and connecting with the audience that’s right for them, and journalists concentrate on telling the stories they think are most worth telling.
These are both entirely worthwhile goals and we just all have to realize that they’re separate and don’t always overlap. I usually end up writing more about people I have to chase down than about people trying to chase me down. I respect the artists I write about, but the end product isn’t for their benefit; it’s for the audience that I’m trying to serve. Saying a publication’s job is to promote your show is like saying that your band’s job is to sell beer—it may happen incidentally, but it’s not really the point.
If you’re not able to get to the panel, my only advice about sending press releases would be to do so as far ahead of time as you can, include as much actual music as possible, have some decent photos, and include the basic info you’d want to know if you were thinking about listening to a record or checking out a show. If you ask me to “plug” or “promote” your band I’ll probably roll my eyes a bit but won’t really hold it against you. Don’t offer journalists any kind of quid pro quo (because it’s gross and, in my experience, mercifully rare) and don’t act like you’re entitled to anything. That’s about it. If you sweat about it too much beyond the practical basics, it just takes away time and energy from the thing you love, and I don’t want that anymore than you do.
New this week:
Reid Kurkerewicz had some thoughts on the works of conceptual artist Irene Grau, whose show construction season runs through Aug. 5 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
Cult House Sound’s “C90,” an epic two-part mix, runs the gamut from trap to Kate Bush to dancehall.
Joel Shanahan’s latest Aces column features Toronto-based DJ and producer Ciel, who will perform at Robinia Courtyard on May 19.
On our podcast, Scott Gordon talked with Tessa Echeverria and Mollie Martin, two of the four founders behind the new all-ages venue and arts space Communication.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Remembering one of Frightened Rabbit’s Madison shows. DC experimental-pop outfit The Caribbean will play a July 30 show at Mickey’s Tavern. Madison DJ/producer Ilana shares a new ambient mix. Foshizzle’s James Madison Park parties are coming back soon. The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium releases a new compilation of local jazz tracks. Rapper/singer Ra’Shan has a new single.
This week’s Madison calendar: Comedy MVP Craig Robinson plays a run of stand-up shows at the Comedy Club on State, post-punk legends Chrome make an unlikely return that also makes perfect sense at the Frequency, According To What play sweetly scathing power-pop at the Frequency, and more.
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