Every now and then I've been known to have a little rant about something, so I'll pop them here. So here's a new one for November 16.
It's the funny season again. You write a zine, you're told "ooh, you should get review material. You ask labels. Some of them respond. Some ignore you. Some get selective and send you something sometimes. Then, once a year, you get the letters. The letters telling zine editors that, "oi, gitface, we haven't heard from you in a while, unless you prove the zine is still going, we're taking you off the list."
Now, I can appreciate that. There may be some people who just try to take advantage. And funds must be limited. But well, this is me, and I usually manage to find something to whinge about, and guess what, I've got something to whinge about here!
So the letters are on the way. This year, it includes a few stipulations. They say that people only get in touch with the labels for review tickets for gigs and interviews. If you do a webzine, well, unless you're linked by major players, it ain't good enough baby. If you do a zine, you're expect to put the effort in and produce one every 2 months. Or else.
See, I've got some issues with this. These are just my personal reflections of course, based on how I do my zine. It's not meant to be holier than thou. I'm talking about a particular case in a situation where generalisation is being applied.
But see, one label sending these message has an ad somewhere on a magazine. For 9 albums. Of those 9 albums, I've only ever been sent 4. Ok, so unless I really want that album, I ain't buying it. Therefore no review. If there's no review, and I thus don't really know anything about the bands music, I'm hardly likely to want to do an interview am I? Oh I've been sent band pictures, and as lovely dovely as they look, it doesn't really provide me with much to prepare an interview now does it. An interview conducted would consist of boring generic questions. That's bad for me, for the band, and for the people that choose to read the interview.
See, a couple of days after one of these letters, I got a message asking if I wanted to review and interview a band. One of the bands whose CD I'd not been sent. Well, I may go to the gig. If I do, I'll review it, though I won't ask for a free ticket for that, I'll pay. But I won't be doing an interview - I've nothing to ask and nothing to go on. It's all confusing and somewhat hypocritical sometimes.
Reviewing. Ah yeah, that chestnut. This is my personal way of doing things. If I'm at a gig, I'll write a review the next day. Simple. See, I don't think you should have to go along specifically to review it. At a gig, something surely should happen to stick in your mind and discuss. I only ever ask for free tickets if I'm doing an interview. I've paid to see loads of gigs where I'm not interviewing the labels band - so I don't ask for a ticket. However, I write a review. A review should not be reason for a ticket, or if is, then I want to get in free to every gig I go to. Which is a touch unfair. But thus a reason I'm not always in touch and may only be seen to climb out of the woodwork every so often is that I don't think I'm trying to take advantage. If I'm just going to do a review, I'm going to the gig anyway. There's only so many bands on a label, you only really interview them every so often, thus my "contact" with the label is minimal. I don't think the boss would be overly happy with me ringing labels and PR companies all the time during work, "just to stay in touch". It's not what I'm paid to do.
Every two months for a zine. Show commitment. That's tough. Very tough. Perhaps the labels don't realise that some zine "editors" work all day for a living. So the zine is cobbled together in their free time. Anyone who does that is showing commitment. To put a zine together for every 2 months is bloody hard work. You have to find the money to print it. You have to sell enough to be able to afford to do the next one. And do these labels help with that? No. Some will sell copies via mail order IF their bands are featured in them, but most don't. Most of the "bigger" labels don't get their bands to take any out on tour with them. They don't help you to make it possible to create something every 2 months. Let's take the last 2 issues of YAZ. One was 56 pages and with a CD. The other was 80 pages. As well as working for a living. But they were just a bit more than 2 months apart. Am I not showing commitment? The next issue is going to be 80 pages. But it may ultimately take more than 2 months from the previous one. I have to get enough review material - remembering that the labels appear somewhat selective in what they send you. So I have to somehow get enough. Listen to it all enough to be able to do a fair review. Write them all. Interview the bands. Listen back and type the stuff up. Design the zine. Find the money to print it. Somehow manage to sell enough copies of the current one to finance that. Go to work every day during the week. And have some kind of life left. And they want all that done every two months. There are some fine zines out that are quarterly. How will they be affected?
And unless you have links to and FROM major sites, then as a webzine that's it.You're going to get zilcho baby. Ok, said labels however have websites. Well some do. Some even update them. Though at least one of them doesn't even have a links page. The least they can and should do if they're using that as a criterion, is to have a page and link to all the zines they supply. After all, it allows people around the world to see the stuff, which is surely beneficial to band, label, and even, gasp, the zine.
Like I said, not trying to be holier than thou oh woe is me about this. But under these kinds of criteria, there would appear to be a damn fine chance that YAZ doesn't reach the "level of commitment" required, and is seen to only come out of the woodwork when it wants an interview, and will thus be removed from the list. Well sorry, but I can't put any more commitment in than I already do. YAZ isn't a huge publication, it isn't going to change the world. But patting myself on the back here for a moment, there's a hell of a lot of stuff in it - more than a lot of zines. It's not some flimsy thing. Like I said, the last issue was 80 pages. Not that many images, and the font size is usually around 6 or 7pt. Which is small. It's pretty much crammed. Whether it's actually good or bad is up to the individual who reads it. I could make each issue thinner, thus putting out copies every two months on the dot. But I don't believe in trying to rip the people who buy it off. So I try to put together a worthwhile issue with a lot of stuff. That takes a little more time. But it seems that isn't enough for some.
It's a shame some labels don't show the same level of commitment to the longevity of their bands, and to searching for and signing exciting new bands, as the level of commitment they expect from zine editors.
Ooooh Dave, bite the hand that feeds you. Yeah I know. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm hungry. Knaaaaaaaawwwwwwww.