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Be Cool

Why do so many perfectly good bands get laughed at?



So you're in a band. That's cool ... or is it? To revamp a classic bit of pop philosophy from Vince Lombardi: Being in a band isn't cool, being in a cool band is cool. And that, friends, is a tragic and irrefutable fact of the nightlife. What's more tragic and irrefutable: The coolness of a band has more to do with packaging than ability, and many gifted musicians have put all their sonic eggs into one basket, condemning themselves beyond all hope to never being cool, hip, trendy, coherent, or even listenable. This list of common mistakes bands make in marketing themselves has been designed to help younger bands avoid disaster and to help older, lamer bands get on the good foot.

Pointers: Remember this: If you're going to point, whether in concert or in your promo picture, you'd better be pointing at a giant robot, or an advancing army of killer bees, or generally alerting people to the fact that there's something behind them they should be aware of. Otherwise, you're being rude at best. Pointless pointing is one of the most common and devastating mistakes a musician can make and leads people to believe you're an "off-the-rack" person inclined to mistake the repetition of popular film and TV catchphrases for meaningful conversation and ready to shout "hoo-hah" after even the tiniest victories -- like a successful bowel movement. Baby Jason & the Spankers (shown at left, second from the top) provide an excellent example of why pointing is an activity best left to geriatric lounge singers and bird dogs.

Exposure: Being sexy helps a band a great deal, but before relying on your physical appeal, it might be a good idea to consult with friends to determine whether or not you're the kind of person who should let it all hang out or the kind of person who should "hide it with pants." Memphian Larry Changes (exposed in the bottom photo) is a truly interesting guy who sometimes has some bad ideas -- like his promo photo, for example.

Retro Uncool: So you're doing a swing thing, or a doo-wop thing, or a rockabilly thing, or a '60s garage-band thing, or a disco thing, or a new-wave thing -- and you've got the vintage instruments and the duds to prove it. Cool! But if you're doing a 1450s wandering-minstrel thing like Four Shillings Short (third from top), not so much.

Spelling Counts: If you're the kind of person who would name your band Phlip-cide because you think bad spelling is cool, you're probably the kind of person who might open a string of convenience stores called Kwik-Mart or EZ-Shopp. The worst offender in this category is Bang La'Desh (top photo).


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