I realize this could come off as the lamest kind of whining, but sometimes, having a job that gets you tons of free music isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and I’ve had a few of them. It’s not that I dislike people sharing their work with me, to the contrary, that’s a huge plus. But obviously not everyone who reaches out is going to be any goddamn good, and you can’t possibly listen to everything that comes down the pike to sort out what’s what. This was a giant problem in college radio and underground rags in the early ‘90s—once the alterna-goldmine became overrun with prospectors and even indie labels were throwing everything at the wall they could, you had ten times as much music to sift through every week, but the proportion of garbage remained constant. (Sturgeon’s Law says 90%. Kretsch’s Law says 98% if you’re lucky.) So you had to figure out other ways of rooting out the bullshit, and press materials were and still are a surefire step one. After their photo (of course), a band’s influence list is always a great disqualifier—sometimes, with just a glance, you can already hear the bandwagon rounding the corner without even troubling yourself with a single song.
The internet only made things worse, from a certain point of view. On the artist side, yes, it’s absolutely fantastic that you can instantly and inexpensively get your work out to a potentially global audience without having to foot the costs of creating and shipping physical product. But from the listener side, that spells an insurmountable glut of available music, and the gatekeepers of the past, namely labels, radio, and media, remain key filters for a great many music fans who can’t spend all day on the hunt. And when you write about music, or book bands for clubs, you can find yourself submerged in unsolicited material from terrible hopefuls. That hasn’t been a problem in my time at Dangerous Minds; artists and publicists who reach out to us seem to understand what we’re all about, and that we almost never do straight reviews, so it’s extremely rare that I get much that’s wildly off the mark or totally horrid, but we’re kind of lucky here. I have a fair few pals who write for more general-interest music sites, and others who serve as concert venue talent-buyers, and they can get bombarded with musical crimes that would make mere mortals like you or me want to stab a motherfucker with a screwdriver.
And behold, someone on Tumblr gets it. The anonymous smartass behind “Why I Deleted Your Band’s Promo Email” is assembling a collection of the crucial lines in bands’ solicitations that all but force you to stop reading, because nothing that could follow will ever convince you that you’re not about to be enjoined to gargle a sonic cat turd. I’m having trouble putting my finger on what sector of the music industry this collector is involved in—the tone of a lot of these feels like they’re coming from strivers on the prowl for gigs, but some of them sound like they’re angling for record reviews; some feel like they were written by pros, others read like they were written by overconfident eighth-graders. Perhaps someday the person sharing these will reveal his or her identity, but until then, here’s an assortment of big red flags that the associated music is bad enough to make you hate all music.