The Power of the Press
Today, I am especially grateful to all of the writers and editors of our local newspapers here in Humboldt County who helped save my most recent gig. First, I want to thank Jennifer Savage who has been covering the music beat for the North Coast Journal while Bob Doran recovers. Not only did Jennifer do a nice write up about my show, she reminded me to send a photograph, which would not have occurred to me if I hadn’t read her column. The Hum, the NCJ’s weekly music feature is the best single source for upcoming music events in our area, and it was great to see my picture prominently displayed there.
Kevin Hoover gave me a nice bit of ink in his colorful, and colorfully written paper, The Arcata Eye. Humboldt County’s only daily newspaper, the conservative Times Standard printed my entire 800 odd word press release almost verbatim in their Sunday edition, as did their SoHum sister paper, The (weekly) Redwood Times.
Not to be outdone, my favorite SoHum newspaper, the family owned, left-leaning, free, weekly paper The Independent printed two great stories about my little gig way up there in Eureka, in the weeks preceding the show, and listed it in the calendar section as well. Special thanks to Managing Editor Joe Kirby for going the extra mile.
Even the Tri-City Weekly, an oft ignored, but ever present collection of classified ads fluffed out with entertainment and human interest features, gave me a mention on their Calendar page. Counting the listing in the Arts Alive section of the North Coast Journal, that was a total of six newspapers, six stories, one picture, and nine listings in our local print media, for one little performance at a record store. The show had also been mentioned on one of KHSU’s most popular music shows, Fogou with Vinny Devaney, as well as on KMUD’s Community Callendar.
The biggest surprise in media coverage was a great piece by John Olson that appeared on the RadioHum Yahoo Group web site. John not only plugged my didgeridoo gig, but also mentioned the radio show that I host on KMUD on behalf of the Southern Humboldt Amateur Radio Club called The SHARC Report. Judging by the number of Hams that turned out for my gig, John’s piece clearly made an impact, and all of that coverage really saved the day for me. Besides putting my name and picture in front of thousands of people and luring some of them to come out to hear me play, that press actually saved the gig itself.
To me, as a musician, this little gig at the record store was a pretty big deal. It’s the only gig I have scheduled this month, and Arts Alive actually draws a pretty big crowd in Eureka. I knew that a lot of people would hear me play over the course of the evening. To most downtown business owners, however, Arts Alive is a pretty small part of running their business. Most business owners want to support local artists, and hate to say “no” to anyone who asks to show their work, or play in their establishment.
Bandon, owner of The Works Records in Eureka is especially supportive of local musicians, so when a personal friend of his asked him, just a few days before the Arts Alive event, if his band could also play at his record store on the same night, Bandon said “yes”, thinking that the two of us could split the three hours of Arts Alive.
Now you might think that an hour and a half of unaccompanied didgeridoo solos might be more than anyone should have to endure, but I very much wanted to play for the whole evening, knowing that there would be a completely different audience at 8:30 than at 6:30. I have two new CDs, and I wanted to make this event my CD release party for both of them. I intended to play two sets and demonstrate some of my circuit-bent instruments between sets. Like I said, this performance was a pretty big deal for me, and that’s why I pulled out all the stops on the press coverage.
My experience tells me that August is a good time to send out press releases because the news gets a little thin this time of year, but newspapers still have the same amount of space to fill, so items that might get ignored during busier times of the year, have a better shot at getting ink in August. Sure enough, every single paper I sent a release to, covered the story, and every single paper told its readers that I would be playing from 6:30 to 9:00pm.
So, when I checked in with Bandon on the day of the gig, I pressed my case. In a calculated assault, I began with a Savage blow, and dropped a copy of The Hum from the NCJ, that included that great picture taken by Traci Bear Thiele, in front of him, and let it sink in for a moment. Then I dropped the clipping from the Arcata Eye on top of it, followed by the piece in the Times Standard, The Independent, The Redwood Times, the second story from The Independent, and the Tri-City Weekly. Finally, I dropped a printout of John Olsen’s story from the HumRadio Yahoo Group, which was quite well written and flattering, Boom!
Bandon was overwhelmed. All of the clippings said that I would be playing from 6:30-9:00pm, none of them mentioned any other band playing at his venue that night. Bandon apologized for the mixup, called his friend and told them they could play at his store for Arts Alive next month, but their gig for that night was canceled. Success!
I got to play two sets, show off my circuit-bent creations and sell my CDs all night, as I had hoped. I had a great time, Bandon seemed happy about it, and the audience dug it too. It just goes to show you that despite the explosion of “new media”, newspapers still have clout, and Ham radio can still save your ass in times of emergency. Let that be a lesson to all of you seeking attention in the modern media landscape. Do not underestimate the power of newspapers to to change the course of history.