Lies, Damn Lies & Marketing Episode V: Biohazard!

Dealing with reviewers can be a trying business. The late Douglas Adams surely knew this. In Hitch Hiker, the researcher despatched to Earth knows so little about the place that he chooses the name of a car “to blend in”. Then, having “painstakingly” investigated the planet, he eventually files an update to the Guide, changing the entry from “Harmless” to…

(Adams was making a point about our cosmic insignificance of course, and the reviewer actually turns out to be about as wrong as it’s possible to be – but just run with me for a moment.)

The “snippet bio” is an odd beast. It tends to be cobbled together by someone who isn’t terribly interested or discerning, from what they’ve gleaned from your website or press release. But mostly from what other snippeteers have written previously – you tend to get reworked quotes of quotes.

Even if they have actually done their own research, there’s still an element of the old tale about the three blind men feeling different parts of an elephant.

If they’ve heard you doing a Chick tune, they’ll call you “edgy”, if they’ve heard you doing a slinky ballad with a singer, you’ll be “mellow” or “plangent”. If they happen to be listening to a lot of Wes Montgomery at the time, they’ll swear you sound like him. If they happened only to be paying attention during the five minutes when you picked up the maracas, you might find yourself dubbed “the heir to Bez from Happy Mondays”… And it’ll stick on that database, then spread to others…

Never mind the Terminators, it's the databases we should be worried about...

Never mind the Terminators, it’s the databases we should be worried about…

I’ve served my time in the press salt mines and I do appreciate what it’s like. You’re only given five words to describe War & Peace – “Long with loads of Russians”? And a great many listings reviewers do try. Bless them (sometimes I wish they wouldn’t).

I was having a laugh with a saxophonist the other day about a bio I’d seen, which said that he combined “the chromatic crackle of Brecker” with the “creaminess of Sanborn”. It made him sound like some sort of firework pudding…

There isn’t really a great deal we can do about this sort of thing except shrug it off. And hey, whatever they write, it’s surely better than not writing about you at all – or even worse, “Tone-deaf egomaniac with a Starsky & Hutch fixation”.

I’ve been, erm, called a few different things myself, and I’m sanguine about it. But if you are really bothered about the way you’re described, you could submit your own carefully composed bio. They might use it – worth a shot.

Good rule of thumb for life, btw – if you want to get the right side of people, make their job as easy as possible…


So it’s not a bad idea to have three versions of your bio updated and ready to go. I’d suggest one in 20 words, one in 50 and one in 200. They can pick the nearest one and chop to fit (if you can charm them into being bothered, of course).

As I’ve remarked before, it is possible to die of modesty, so a bit of own-trumpet-blowing is fine. But exercise moderation with the height of your tall tales. If you’ve never been heard of before and you describe yourself as the living re-embodiment of Coltrane or Tatum, you might arouse scepticism (or downright derision).

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Posted in d) The Dark Art of Marketing, e) Rants & Ramblings
2 comments on “Lies, Damn Lies & Marketing Episode V: Biohazard!

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...appetising young books for sale... Pents book is recommended reading on Gary Burton's Berklee course.

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