because cool kids are boring

Giving It Away

with 2 comments

My mind tends to wonder when I’m driving back and forth to work. Sometimes I think about things I need to do. Sometimes I just have random thoughts about random things. And sometimes I end up thinking about things I’ve done. Tonight’s drive home involved the latter, though it left me wondering about the future.

Tonight’s memory went back to 1996, and the HORDE tour for that year. By 1996, the original HORDE bands had moved on to headlining bigger venues. In their wake though, a scene was beginning to form. Resulting in a plethora of groups slugging it out in the clubs all over the US. At the time, I was a pretty big fan of this scene and the bands around which the scene grew. So, in 1996 I hatched a plan.

Prior to the show I bought a half dozen 9X6 manilla envelopes. In these envelopes I put a flier for The Fantastic Voyage, a zine that was covering this kind of music and who had printed a couple of my reviews; a catalog for the Homegrown Music Network, a distribution company that was created to support these kinds of groups; and I probably also wrote a short letter describing what I was doing and why, and which likely included subscription information for the and homegrown lists, two email-based communities for fans of this kind of music. The center piece of this care package though was a tape of a live performance by one of the groups I was trying to support.

The idea was that here was a group of people who were quite likely to enjoy this kind of music, since they were at the HORDE festival, but who may not have actually heard of any of these groups. Who, may not even realize that there were groups like this playing small clubs. I wanted to help spread the word to these people and turn them onto what was happening. What better way then to physically put the music in their hands?

So, what does this have to do with the future?

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, promoting geek culture is something that I’m interested in. And so I wonder how many geeks are out there who would really dig something like this, but have never heard of it? As I see it, those are the people that I’m trying to reach. When this memory surfaced, I found myself wondering if something like that would work with the geek culture movement?

The idea would work something like this.

Put together a mix tape of your favorite geeky tracks. You can either focus on a single scene, or create something that goes across all the scenes. Include tracks that you love, but also make sure to make room for tracks that may not scratch your itch anymore, but have a tendency to be big hits with a wide variety of people. The idea here isn’t to show off your flawless taste in music, but to hook people on this movement.

Once you have a tape put together (I’m saying tape here because I’m old and I remember when mix tapes actually involved tapes, CDs would probably be a better medium) make several copies of it. Really as many as you can handle/afford and feel confident that you can give away.

After the tapes/cds are created, put a little packaging together for them. Feel free to show your artistic side, but make sure to get in some key information.

(1) A short description of what the music is. If you focused on a single scene, do a short (sentence or two) description of what that scene is. For instance, “the music on this CD is by Wizard Rock (WRock) bands. WRock is a music scene were people write/play songs about/inspired by the Harry Potter books.” If you’re cutting across scenes, then you may want to write something about geek music in general (may I suggest Z’s amazingly brilliant description of “nerd” music).

(2) A listing of the bands on the mix, the names of the songs, and a way that people can find out more info about the group (myspace links are probably the best option here).

(3) Information on where people can find more information about the scene. Links to popular web sites (WizRocklopedia,, Hipster, please!, Game Music 4 All, etc.) are probably a good thing to use for this.

(4) If some of the groups on the tape are playing a show in the area soon, it may also be worth while to include that info with the packaging for a couple of the CDs.

Once you’ve got your package together, then comes the hard part, figuring out how to give it away.

Randomly handing them to people on the street may have a fun sort of surrealist quality to it, but may not be terribly effective. I would suggest finding some near by place or event where people like you may be gathering, and focus on that. Bonus points if it is a place that you already have a relationship with. Where the people working there at least recognize your face as a regular.

So, say you’re tape is made up of mostly VGM artists. May be there’s a local game store that might be willing to let you leave a couple of CDs on the counter for people to take? Or, if you’re doing a WRock comp, may be a book store or a library? Comic shops are another option. Make sure to ask permission before dropping things off though and be sure to stress that these are completely free and that you are not being paid to do this, but instead are just a fan. You’ll also want to be ready to explain what this music is about and exactly why you are doing this. If you’re leaving your CDs in a place where children will have access to them, you’ll also probably want to keep the music free of swear words.

One other thing. It isn’t uncommon for stores to have a designated place where free stuff (usually newspapers or fliers) gets placed. If you end up putting your CDs in a place like this, you’ll probably want to mark them in someway that let’s people know that they can take one and what it is. Some people, seeing a CD or a package lying unattended, will automatically think someone left it there and so won’t take it unless they are told that they can.

If you do end up dropping your CDs off at a store or library, go back a week or two later and see what the reaction has been like. Has the store heard from anyone who picked a CD up? Did they like it? Would said store perhaps be interested in either hosting a show or helping you promote one? :)

What ever the reaction, this is good information to have. Either to plan your next move or to pass on to a band in hopes of convincing them to come play your hometown.

Either way, it gets the word out and lets those of us who have yet to join us, know that we are here waiting to welcome them to the party.

Written by Matt

March 14th, 2008 at 7:47 pm