Everyone Loves A Gimmick!

Gimmicks are nothing new in music. They go all the way back to the days of Robert Johnson supposedly selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads. They probably go back further than that, but today it seems that you won't get a first glance without a gimmick. Masks, facepaint, and even teenage girls have been worked into the world of heavy metal for the sake of a gimmick. Anything to get your attention, and if it distracts you from questionable music, that's even better; don't think, just buy!

In the current age of over-saturation, bands are focusing just as much on their gimmick as they are on their music, if not more. A depressive black metal band from nowhere, North Dakota apparently isn't as interesting as one from China. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm sure it has something to do with building hype. I don't feel this way, but someone, somewhere once said, "Oooh, a press kit in broken english, this music must be awesome!" and the hype spread from there.

The entertainment industry is built on fabrication; just like politics, religion, or any other big business. Whatever can convince you to plop down your hard-earned money is fair game. Not to speculate, but I feel certain a conversation like the following has occurred at some record label: "I'm tired of one-man metal bands, how about a one-WOMAN metal band?". Blank expressions fill the room as a young executive ponders, "No? What if she was from somewhere exotic, would that help?". Faces light up as they search press kits for a blonde woman who can fake an accent.

Speaking of which, take current pop-rap pariah, and minstrel show, Iggy Azalea for example. A blonde, Australian woman who fakes a "southern" accent to blend in better with the current crop of commercial, swag rappers. Cultural appropriation is about as gimmicky as gimmicks can gimmick, never mind the fact the she just plain sucks as a professional rapper. The fact of the matter is that reasonably attractive, white, blonde women who don't mind showing their ass, sell a lot of... well, everything!

So what about musicians who just want to bare their souls, and be accepted as who they are; what hope do they have? Unfortunately, not much unless you're a reasonably attractive, white, blonde woman who doesn't mind showing her ass. Otherwise, consider a gimmick! What's that, you want to be genuine? I'm afraid you've picked the wrong business, my friend. In all seriousness though, “making it” on sincerity, and originality is possible, just not very common.

However, there's no rule saying you can't do it all yourself. It's becoming more, and more common for artists to pull quadruple-duty or more, acting as their own road manager, booking agent, PR firm, and salesperson. Indeed, the DIY aesthetic is no longer exclusive to punks, and for better or worse, it's catching on in the mainstream. Sure, pressing vinyl still costs a few months pay, but virtually everything else a label can do for you can be done with lots of hard work, time, and patience. If nothing else, a relatively small monetary investment will get you started, but you're still gonna need to be friendly with people. Make those contacts, and stay in touch!

Until honesty becomes a marketable gimmick unto itself, all the heartfelt songs in the world won't get you much further than the local bar. Not that there's anything wrong with playing there, but chances are, you'd like to play at least one small arena once in your life. I'm not saying you should develop a complete lie of a backstory, I'd prefer all the lies to stop, but what I am saying is: image, and perception matters a lot! Honestly, I think it matters too much, but I don't make these stupid rules, and industry standards. Make yourself into something grand, AND genuine; maybe the tide can turn toward authenticity in music. Anything is possible, and it's up to us as the artists of the world to show everyone else that's the truth.

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