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Monday, January 04, 2010

Why I don't listen to demo tapes

I have a rule. I never listen to demos sent to me by would-be recording artists, allegedly for my opinion or just "to see if you can point me in the right direction". I follow this policy for the same reason that I do not judge Most Beautiful Baby competitions: because experience has taught me that if I say I like the demo people will then expect me to do something to make them successful; if I say I don't like it then I am an unfeeling, heartless bastard.

Unless you are the late John Peel with ten hours of airtime a week just itching to be filled up by bands nobody has heard of or you run your own record company for which you make all the major creative decisions, there's very little you can do for a band. The only way to deal with these requests is to develop some diplomatic form of rejection letter, pointing out that quite honestly I am not a talent spotter and my track record on identifying the next big things is not enviable.

But how do you deal with that when you get letters from the parents of a young adult seeking to make it as a performer in the music business who has the additional problem of a physical disability? Of course you sympathise but, really, you want to say, what difference does that make? The music business is a cruel mistress, of course, but nothing like as cruel as the general public, who are indifferent to 99% of musical performers and capricious enough to like Ian Dury despite his disability as much as they appear to like Susan Boyle *because* of hers. In a perverse way, the most honest response would be to write back suggesting that he make more of his disability, even going so far as to make it the central feature of his act. In support of this I could introduce the story of Jack Good, who had booked Gene Vincent on a comeback tour, standing in the wings as his charge performed, mouthing the words "Limp, you bugger. Limp!"