It’s so tempting isn’t it? You’ve got this great band, you want the world to know about a gig you’ve done or a fantastic new album you’re releasing. So you think about creating a sock puppet (an online pseudonym) and giving yourself a gushing five-star review on some website or another. Soooooo tempting…
RELAX, DON’T DO IT… WHEN YOU WANT TO SOCK IT TO IT
Let’s take a harsh and depressing view of human nature and observe that there are two things that ultimately keep people honest – one moral, the other practical.
Let’s start with the moral one – it’s short and easily covered (even by a sock). It’s just plain wrong. Even if “everyone’s at it” and “it’s not doing any harm”, it’s still fundamentally dishonest.
Okay, so maybe you’re not convinced by that. The practical one… You will inevitably get caught doing it – it’s a matter of when, not if.
And when you get caught, you’ll look like nineteen types of fool covered in raspberry fool wearing fool hats under a big neon sign flashing the word FOOL. And you won’t be trusted again. Think you can get away with it? Bet you can’t. Read on…
PUTTING YOUR FOOT IN IT
No matter how clever you are or think you are, you’re doomed to failure. In fact, the really clever people are clever enough to realise they’re not clever enough to do this kind of thing.
Most of us are incapable of even coming up with a secure four-digit PIN code. And you’re trying to concoct an online persona, maybe even with a picture, and disguise the way you write – for the purpose of raving about yourself? Subtly, of course. Errrm.
Well, this one-time punter from out of town, who created a comment account the day after your magnificent gig and has never been heard from since, seems to know your band, your music and the venue very intimately, don’t they? They seem to know the staff by name too, and they’re very knowledgeable about the local music scene. And boy do they love you… They’ve never felt the need to comment on any band ever before (or ever again) but they seem to recognise your every musical influence, right down to the last little nuance.
Never mind the Hercule Poirot stuff – ever heard of reverse IP checks? Well, whaddaya know, it seems a certain Captain Sozzleflange from Kazakhstan has just posted a glowing review of Knobby & The Knobheads from the same location that runs the Knobby & The Knobheads website… Busted.
The sad thing is that you won’t gain much and you stand to lose a lot, reputationally. Think about it. The whole point is to ramp yourself, right? So you’ll no doubt, erm, “twat” out the link to this fabulous review to all your contacts. An awful lot of them will twig that you bloody wrote it. Of course they will – they know you, they know the way you communicate, your style. I’m sorry, but no matter how close your friends or how adoring your fans, the word will inevitably leak out that you’re, shall we say (and being polite), a bit of ramper.
By all means go online under your own name and say what a great night it was and even how fantastic you are, if you like. Of course you think you’re brilliant – so does your mother and your dog. No problem. But don’t pretend to be Wally from Wolverhampton and experience an online orgasm about yourself, while trying to disguise your identity by criticising the wallpaper and praising the waitress. Whose unpronounceable name you’ve miraculously managed to remember and even spelt right.
Socks are for keeping your feet warm, not your ego.
Just let praise and criticism come in its own sweet way. As and when it does, either way you’ll truly deserve it. And, as an added bonus, if you haven’t gained a reputation as a ramper, reviews will be trusted as genuine.
A CONFESSION – SOCKCLOTH & ASHES
I used to work as a reviewer and was also involved with a major listings agency. I got the job because I knew jazz in unhealthy and disturbing detail (I could even bore you to tears about the sidemen on recordings). I also knew personally, and had even played with quite a few of the people I was covering.
This was back in the days when there was a premium on prestigious space in print. I played fair. My own gigs made the listings cut sometimes (perhaps rather frequently), but by no means always – I was responsible with the privilege I had. And I never reviewed myself or ever asked any of my colleagues to do it.
I think the online space would be so much better if more people realised that anonymity is a privilege and comes with responsibilities. I can dream, I suppose!
By all means, feel free to ask friends to spout about you. Anyone, in fact – “really glad you enjoyed the gig – tell you what, I’d appreciate it if you did a writeup if you have the time.” That’s legitimate, and at least it won’t obviously smell like one of your socks!