Sjimon Gompers is a freelance writer, editor, advising consultant and part time produce schlepper. He resides in San Francisco, with an eye on the happenings of the local and global coasts. He contributes regularly to Impose Magazine, known for his massive Week in Pop roundups in his column, affectionately titled with tongue in cheek; Goldmine Sacks. Bearing an unusually insightful and a great music mind, Sjimon recently agreed to answer some of our most burning questions about the biz.
1. Is Goldmine Sacks a part of Impose or something separate that was sort of annexed by Impose?
Goldmine Sacks was a column that started on Impose as a way to provide various types of coverage for local Bay Area groups or really artists of interest from anywhere that I feel are of interest and merit. I pitched it to our Senior Editor Blake Gillespie as a column with the tagline of, ‘underachievers of great promise’, which he dug, and that still remains the core ethic of the column along with this half-crazed idea of presenting what is already happening in the industry to some technological and maybe even technocratic degrees with the leveling of the playing field between the underground and mainstream paradigms. Having commenced my work at Impose in the Fall of 2009, the column started small, until one week in 2010 I made a tongue in cheek ‘Week in Pop’ article that featured maybe 3, or 4 artists, and started out with a quick news blurb. Our former editor Jeremy Krinsley loved it, we worked on a loose format for it and quickly the column expanded and turned into a weekly roundup of new media that caught my ear and eye and just kept expanding to even now this very day. The Goldmine Sacks column has always existed to provide new responses, and thoughts that may have been missed when the song/music video was originally premiered on another respective publication. More than that now, we often turn over our own questions and responses toward the media and enter a discussion with the artists who have been more than generous in sharing with us so many perspectives, details, and really more than we could ever want to know about the making of some of our favorite new favorite acts that you truly cannot get anywhere else. Speaking of which, I just revisited one of the early Goldmine Sacks articles that profiles the San Francisco, Wizard Mountain artist Dance Player and it’s still as fresh, still as based and out of this world and as creative as anything else out right now. Not to mention a time capsule from a time when the Bay Area underground was picking up a steam that is in full force today in different ways.
2. What is the ideal format that you prefer to receive submissions from bands?
PR press blasts are always welcomed, and the personal publicist side e-mail is also cool, but the ideal is the direct appeal from the artist about their new project/upcoming release. While this is of course impossibility for all and every artist to interact in this particular super direct fashion, the moments where it does occur it has that home spun personal touch and charm. The DIY ethic inspires all of us at Impose to craft our own creative responses to the media and to hopefully, maybe, possibly put something together that represents what the artist’s sound is doing in way that pays due respect in as best of a way as mere words could ever equate to musical mechanics. As we do it ourselves, we cherish a home network community of self-motivated doers and monotony disturbers who do the same in accordance to their own vision and volition.
3. Besides getting submissions from the site, where are you going these days to hear about new music?
Apart from the pitches I get from across the different circuits, the word of mouth chain link keeps most of our friend circles between the Bay, NYC, Baltimore, Chicago, London, Australia, Michigan, Portland, and so on, all of us sharing notes and chattering about the current happenings within our global villages. Twitter feeds work in this way of relaying, Facebook occasionally, Instagram sometimes, or scouring through the various music site aggregators for kicks. Soundcloud streams, sets, and feeds introduce me to all kinds of things I sometimes overlook, even if the new format sometime cause other open tabs, and online streaming media and other things to go haywire, ha ha.
4. Bloggers can be very busy people who usually have other jobs/hobbies. What can musicians do to make your job easier?
Apart from perhaps what I was discussing earlier about approaching music writers directly, you got to remember that quite often, bar the lie of those fabled 360 packages; musicians have other jobs and hobbies too. I think the key to breaking through to anyone working the press mills can be as simple as just reaching out to a publication. The folks that sometimes don’t get the deserved visibility is because there isn’t enough reaching out going on. You can spend the rest of your life making music in your bedroom or playing the same dank overlooked local dives but it takes a few sentences in a series of e-mails to whichever publication, local, in print, online, international, national whatever, telling whoever about what is going with whichever project in questions and maybe include a Bandcamp or Soundcloud link, then you might be surprised what kind of a response you might get. I guess the message I want to give to folks trying to break though is to put yourself out there, say hi to a writer, blogger, editor, inquire about coverage. Nobody can cover everything but taking the chance of trying to get some bandwidth going out there in the world by yourself can sometimes go a long way. You never know really, and there’s never any semblance of any guarantee, but I guess in that way it’s a process that I could imagine can be extremely daunting. There can be times for writers with writer’s block struggling to provide artists with substantial, deep listened and well thought about coverage, it can be really challenging, and often a struggle to trust that you did the best that you could with those abilities despite whatever mental hindrances.
5. How important is an artist’s subject line when sending emails that you actually open?
Any subject line that doesn’t look streamlined from a bulk blown bcc blast, and of course there are those tricks of putting a ‘re:’ prefix that is actually a great trick because it establishes a previous exchange that sometimes never happened but it’s eye catching all the same! So yeah, cheers to all the clever PR folks that drop the regarding bit, but it depends on various things, sometimes you will be more prone to open e-mails sent from people you work closer with as opposed to the folks and agencies you are only casually acquainted with or maybe don’t work with as often as others. But still, I feel that authenticity is what you look for as a writer, as an appreciator of various types of mediums, so the personal appeal in the subject line that looks tailored toward an inquiry that is aligned with shared interests and excitements for any number of reasons is going to contribute to the surface deduction of how important an e-mail is to look into further.
6. It seems that most artists these days have caught up to the blog phenomenon and are hitting blogs hard with emails (probably more than most can handle). What tips can you give artists for standing out of that now very dense crowd?
Shoot, I guess be ambitious and confidence. Do what you want, have fun doing what you do, remember that you don’t have to be or sound like anyone and/or everybody else. Sound like how you want to sound, act like you want to, don’t let the shape altering criticisms and trivial influences hamper or get in the way of your over all creative goals and visions. Impose has stood out over the years by seeking out new sounds that we are excited about covering and exploring for whatever reasons we individually find within an artist’s sound, directions and so forth. Remember that creativity, persistence and situationism can be your best friends.
7. Any pet peeves that artist do that really bother you to the point of not writing/responding?
Stale, clinical sterile sounds are a big turn off. I mean, it’s more than just saying, oh, I don’t like these kinds of sounds because it sounds super popular, it could be in a car commercial, or some prime time endorsement for some kind of predetermined licensed bit of a product placement or whatever. I mean, it’s all pop, it’s all popular, it’s meant to have an appeal, and that is why the licensing and advertising game is massive because there is some understanding of how these relationships work within this nebulous kind of relative symbiosis. But then sure, artists have to be discovered, and get compensated to survive ideally on their music so they don’t have to work 4, or 5 other jobs to subsist on burritos and 36 packs. But there is something lost in the free form of expression if the authorial-artistic intent is to merely assembly line manufacture your art for the sheer art of seeking marketing for somebody else’s product or schtick. It goes back to the confidence bit, and even though someone else can stand on a soap box and blanch on about the great po-mo decline of originality, but really who cares as long as someone is pouring themselves into the sake of whatever that visions is, even if it means jumping on a lo-fi or whatever faddish synth pop based gravy train tumblr tag of the second. Screw it, it’s a passion, and often times it takes a new creative contender to embody the past’s prior forms and guises to provide a Hegelian synthesis to create something new. Something exciting, new reasons and new rules for how we hear what some, well, most call art.
8. Despite SO many blogs out there, it still seems that some of the same artists are getting talked about over and over again. While there is diversity regarding what some blogs cover, there still seems to be certain artists that pop up over and over, as if they’re fads (a few years back it was Surfer Blood, now maybe Disclosure). Any reasons you see for that happening? And how can bands break through that sometimes invisible wall to get written about?
I think what you have been seeing with those bands that have been getting the big publication ‘spin’ so to speak is the result of numerous factors. First, there is the great millennial collapse of content, this is a result from the general apathy of the public, and could be, would be writers that don’t pursue or want to write about someone exciting they saw at 285 Kent in Brooklyn or Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco for whatever reason. Word of mouth can generate new fans, but if you scour about the interweb, new original writing about new music lacks. In my own work I really wish and lament not having more time to write more about the artists and bands that I enjoy immensely, but between various gigs and deadlines it’s impossible to cover everything with the time you have. The next thing we have seen in the ubiquity of seeing the same content, on the same blogs everywhere has been the higher level conglomeration of your large parent BuzzMedia-SpinMedia entities that have swallowed up the lion’s share of legacies like Spink to the Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, Gorilla v. Bear internet outlets that pride themselves on that ‘relevant’ music buzz cred. These shifts in demographic swallowing, rebranding, hostile takeovers, and soft takeovers have then let the ads sell what is configured to be the top grossing, big selling names that can get banded and framed around your whichever pop culture-lifestyle sites you frequent, tailored with you in mind…based upon a bunch of creepy aggregated analytics data. What this has paved the way for from there is the rise of big branding, ‘too big to fail’ PR machines that ride with the ‘big pull’ clients that are ‘fail safe’ and then are plugged and played into the strategy plan for marketing dominance that works like the backroom style analytics machines that turn the process of any critical investigation, closely listened approach, etcetera on its head by exploiting what was once referred to as a Beatlemania-esque bit of fandom that now rather functions like Google ads that are determined via the data mined systems of social networks and suggestions of those top billing artists that are perfectly presented just for you. Philip K. Dick couldn’t even imagine this, but then again come to think of it, maybe he did all along with precognition scanners and such . But now I’m rambling, the best way to possibly break through these systems is not to work for these sordid plug and play technocrats, but to hone a craft that makes these machines circle around whatever this new, left field sound is that is being made, and to make them bow down in accommodation to the artist and their respective newfound/new-sound talents. This of course is the dream, but the system is changing, devolving, growing, and forever on a rollercoaster loop de loop that recycles trends but always makes room and way for something new.
9. In our experience, there’s a few giant blogs at the top (your Pitchforks, Stereogums, etc), but the people who really seem to take chances on bands are the smaller blogs. Yet they seem to have a very short lifespan these days. How do you stay afloat and how can artists help these blogs alive?
It goes back to creating that global village. Writing about artists from the world over that you have been affected by in some inexplicable way that you make an attempt to relay via adjectives in the hopes that you can capture or give back what they have already given you. It’s that intrinsic bond of keeping in close contact, beyond the publicists, away from the payola but generating interest in the artists that are impacting your world, or another part of the world but even still you feel a connection with based on what their sound does to you. The key is support, and it works in these circular orders of cause and effect functions. The smaller blogs have struggled to keep the lights on, via through keeping it punk and going ad and subscription free, keeping their aim pure and true but also maybe short staffed, and distracted by the other jobs bloggers and writers have to keep the rent paid. It is difficult times all around for both the artist and the writer to keep afloat, but a little innovation and ingenuity can be key. I firmly believe this.
10. What has your relationship been with PR agencies? Do you prefer personal emails from artists or are email blasts from PR firms fine with you?
PR agencies are in the business of promotion, and you’re in the business of highlighting the artists that are reshaping the world that have caught your attention. And in the sea of hundreds of PR rep groups, and thousands, and thousands of artists you have to make decisions on which artists you have time to provide what degrees and levels of inspired coverage. And again, while PR press blasts are often interesting and informative, there is no substitute for direct artist-journalist dialogues.
11. We’re constantly hearing horror stories about bands hiring PR companies and spending loads of cash but getting little result. Any insight on this front? From your perspective, when does an artist need to start thinking about hiring outside help?
After an artist has either exhausted their own personal appeal to the periodicals, blogs, local papers, or if they have found themselves with a local god’s degree of success that can afford a publicist or A&R rep managers to keep things in order and organized, then yes. Otherwise, there is so much already artists can do themselves in respects to self-promotion. Plus, the thing that a lot of musicians forget is that often writers are so happy to receive an e-mail that isn’t sent from some big time PR firm that it can be like a breath of fresh of air. And on top of that too, if the music has something going on that is new, refreshing, or distracting in all the good ways, then the possibilities for featured press coverage can turn very imminent and very possible. For me the ethic always boils down to the DIY approach and ethos, an artist that is best engaged with their talents and if they can manage to bring that to their community and the entire world, then everyone benefits. But again, getting involved with a PR team off the back when just starting out can be a financial risk and a gamble, nothing again is every guaranteed, ever.
12. What bands should we be listening to but probably aren’t?
Oh boy, well let me first give a disclaimer to all the artists that won’t be mentioned, but should be, as there is no way conceivable I could begin to list everyone deserved of further attention and listening in one sitting. So here we go in no particular order; Cool Ghouls, Eat Skull, Future Twin, Permanent Collection, the entire Green Ova Underground, Blissed Out, Foot Village, GANGI, Human Resources, Jensen Sportag, Part Time, Twin Steps, Misfit Mod, Exray’s and or any Jon Bernson project, Braxton/Palmer, U.S. Girls, Shortcircles, Total Slacker, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Glass Gang, Scraper, Slumberland Record’s entire recent output, Space Dolphin Productions, Loglady Records, Mr. MFN eXquire, Molly Nilsson, Jimmy MooN, Scraper, Boat Club, DaVinci, Burnt Ones, Dark Colour, Big Tits, Seatraffic, Steel Phantoms, Dracula Horse Records, Holy Underground Collective, and about 5,000 others who I regret already not mentioning and who just might be your next favorite.