I finally scored a music review in the National Press - but it took 4 years!
You can never rely solely on your friends and family to buy your music album. You need to get it out into the public. Ideally, you need radio play or even better a Music Critic review in a newspaper.
As the Composer of the (now) soundtrack for The Silk Rags Project (which donates 38% of proceeds to Australian Cancer Research Foundation), once again I thought I’d aim high. And unless you are linked to a music label or have a publicist that you can afford to pay, it’s a case of camping out on their doorstep or resilience.
This humorous blog is about the latter – plus a tad of flirting and becoming a complete pain in the butt to finally achieve a quarter page article with an extremely flattering photo!
"PLAY IT AGAIN SAM"
It was Easter 2009 when I first emailed Noel Mengel. Noel was the Chief Music Writer for the Courier Mail,the largest newspaper in Queensland, Australia, which is where I live. Noel seemed to have the best job in the world as he constantly got paid to go along to huge gigs and interview some of the biggest names in music.
You name a band and Noel has seen them. You name a big star and Noel has interviewed them. You name an album and Noel has reviewed it.
Through his decades of dealing with the likes of Springsteen, Young, Townshend and McCartney though, Noel just hadn’t yet realised that I was sitting only 45 minutes away from his desk and waiting to be discovered. Along with every other singer/songwriter in Australia.
So how did I finally manage to break through after a mere 4 years?
FIND A SHARED INTEREST - AND ABUSE IT .... A LOT!
My previous endeavours to get a one-line comment or review from someone in the music industry have been rather hilarious but ended in a brick wall.
At the time, I hadn't yet met the talented scriptwriter Briohne Sykes, so my solo album hadn't been merged into the soundtrack of our mini-musical. However, I decided that I needed just ONE LINE from Noel Mengel to help me promote it, so I emailed him at the Courier Mail telling him of this unusual multi-genre album which had been composed, recorded, and produced in my spare bedroom and hospital whilst undergoing treatment for cancer. I included a hyperlink to my website where he could listen to it.
Within a day, Noel had replied! He’d get back to me. I decided I loved Noel Mengel there and then. This bloke was obviously going to bypass the new Coldplay album and listen to mine instead. ‘Viva La Vida’ had nothing on me.
A couple of months later though, I’d heard nothing. So, I decided that I needed to share an interest with Noel and checked him out on the Courier Mail website. BONUS! Apparently, on his turntable at the moment was ‘Quadrophenia’ by The Who.
I emailed Noel telling him the true story of how I was in fact an extra in the film ‘Quadrophenia’ and reminding him of my original request. JACKPOT!
“Really?” replied Noel. “Did you actually end up in the film or on the cutting room floor?”
Noel was very excited. Not about my album though. So, we had a few email exchanges about my experiences on the set of the film and he was even more impressed when I confirmed that I had been included in the film.
Turns out Noel also loved The Who and so commenced a series of emails about British bands that we both loved and had seen. But no emails about my album! Even though I constantly signed off with lots of kisses and a PS of “and I look forward to hearing what you think of my album dearest Noel”.
After a year, there was still nothing from Noel about my potentially platinum selling album. By this stage I had a bet on with my music partner Steve, who was convinced that I would never achieve further contact – let alone a one liner from Noel.
And then the Rock Gods themselves, THE WHO arrived in Brisbane and I scored some tickets at great expense.
Should I let Noel know that the Quadrophenia film extra would be there too? After all he was bound to be going – he wouldn’t miss this concert! I have to say, I was 8 rows from the front, and it was truly awesome!
As I scanned the paper the next day, I noticed that Noel had indeed attended and written a fantastic review of the show. Oh, what the hell - I emailed Noel and told him that I had also actually been there.
“I think I saw you there” he replied. “Were you dressed as a Mod, and did you arrive on a scooter?”
He’s a cheeky one that Noel Mengel. He promised again to listen to my album and get back to me.
Over the next 2 years I tried again and again and even emailed him advice as to emerging bands that he really should get into. In fact, when the latest album from Elbow came out, I even wrote a review of the album and emailed it to Noel, telling him that I had ‘saved him time so that he now had the time to listen to my album….’
"Thanks" he wrote. "I'll do just that".
"PLAY IT AGAIN SAM - I SAID PLAY IT!"
Roll on another year – during which time I had no contact with Noel. He must have been really pining for my emails, but our computer relationship was OVER. I'd dumped him. Dead in the water. Finito. And I’d been plodding along without him.
But one night I watched a Neil Diamond interview where he was asked what advice he would give to songwriters. He replied:
“NEVER EVER EVER give up. No matter how many times”.
After 4 long years, I grabbed a bottle of wine and with ‘Cracklin Rosie’ blaring in my ears, I typed away to Noel.
“It’s been a while” I said. “Have you missed me? Just thought I’d let you know that my album is now an endorsed fundraiser for Australian Cancer Research Foundation, is on i-Tunes, is up for sale in every ABC shop in Australia and I’ve just been featured on Good Evening America TV.
It’s not selling heaps, but I managed to achieve all this without your one-liner. Come on Noel – surely this deserves one line? love dee (no kisses this time).
PS: Do you actually know how to change your website... you’ve been listening to Quadrophenia for the past 3 years.”
Within an hour, I had a reply. Within 2 weeks, I’d scored an interview and a rather glam photo. Within a month, I had a quarter page article in the Easter Weekend edition of the Courier Mail. Best of all, Noel took me out and bought me coffee. His one-liner is now gracing the front of my album. Steve lost his bet.
"DON'T STOP BELIEVING": It's about the 'Journey'!
He’s a damn nice bloke that Noel Mengel. So nice in fact, I’m going to plug his book ‘RPM’ here even though he didn’t ask me too.
If you are a musician/band longing for that review, and like me, didn't have the money or influence, I'd suggest swallowing your pride and just never giving up. Research the music critic or journalist beforehand to come up with common ground. If you get in print, it doesn't matter if you don't make any sales. The thing is that you achieved it. And you can use it on your publicity for years.
The Silk Rags Project provides you with an educational reading and listening experience so that you are able to personally help your friend who receives a cancer diagnosis. You'll laugh, cry and learn.
Plus we donate 38% of our proceeds to Australian Cancer Research Foundation. It’s different and it’s making a difference – so can you…and so can journalists and the media …..why not let them know about it!
Why not share this blog with other aspiring musicians who may need a nudge. Or comment on whether you think it is worth going to all the efforts that I did (crazy though they were!). Or if you are a journalist wanting to know more about The Silk Rags Project please get in touch with us via our website contact page.