A Superlative Life Lost is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
There are few things out there right now lamer than the overuse and abuse of superlatives.
A superlative is an adjective or adverb that expresses the highest degree of comparison of things. “Winningest”, though not officially a word, is a good example. As is the guy who put it on the map next to drug-induced ravings about tiger’s blood.
Socially we’ve devolved. You can tell because we have no real use for qualifiers that say anything of value. In fact, if you look out at the musical landscape, you’d be shocked to know just how many geniuses there are out there who are not only doing things that are the best thing since sliced bread, but are doing it in a way that no one’s ever thought of before. We are so very very awesome that everyone is now the “best.” Everyone is rewriting their art. Everyone is putting a new spin on an old standard. Literally everyone is effing brilliant. Or so our bios say.
Or - we’re not. Or we’re all just pretty much doing the same thing. Just as us. Instead of someone else. In slightly different ways. That come from different experiences. And wouldn’t it be better if - hey - here’s an idea - we just SAY THAT instead.
Or better yet, how about we don’t say it. What if we just do it. And let people figure it out for themselves.
For years, the professional spin doctors have been telling musicians that to effectively sell their music and their talents, they needed to employ the traditional tools of advertising: mostly HYPE. Better known to marketing pros as “promotional materials.” And sold to musicians as “the way you get noticed.”
Unfortunately for us, there’s some stuff that the marketing professionals often leave out when they sell you a book that is all about how to get famous. One of those things is that traditional promotional tools don’t really work anymore. And the overuse of the superlative is one reason.
Another is there is nothing more obviously boring than a sea of people all doing pretty much the same thing yet calling themselves unique. For better or for worse, that’s pretty much where we’re at as musicians. Seas of us - literally millions in the US alone. All roughly doing the same relative thing. But selling ourselves (or rather trying to) as the only one of his/her kind.
While not only ridiculous, this approach to selling yourself tries to ignore a really obvious practicality about being a musician: it’s a subjective art. One man’s musical trash is another’s treasure. So trying to qualify yourself as the best in it probably does very little but mark you as someone who bought one of those “How to Get Your Music Heard” books.
So here’s the good news: the world has changed. Publishing has changed. Marketing has changed. And people are (slowly) starting to catch on that maybe the professionals who once ruled the world of selling shit don’t know as much as they once did about selling shit. And that maybe being totally focused on only selling shit is a bad idea in the first place.
Maybe we not only need to get rid of superlatives, but the whole idea of screaming at the top of our lungs from the rooftops about ourselves. Because - after all - is constantly babbling to everyone about how great you are actually working? And more importantly - is it actually making you a better artist? Or is authenticity - just being who you are and doing what you do to the best of your ability and basically saying that - a better way to function as a musician in the new sea?
So - go ahead. Try it out. Pop open your laptop and start rewriting that band bio. Or here’s an idea - don’t include one on your site at all. Being a writer myself, I’ve decided to whittle my mind onto a clean Word doc and write all the things everyone in the music promotion business told me not to, including mixing the first and third person.
It will go a little something like this:
Andrea Bensmiller detests writing bios and talking about herself. Almost as much as she detests daytime soap operas, fake people, and the American idiosyncratic use of “supposably” in place of “supposedly.”
I love dogs, all kinds of music, well written dialogue, good wine, and heavy debate amongst people smart enough not to start crying when someone disagrees with their opinion.
I have no idea whether what I write as a musician is any good, but I feel lucky that some people I think are great players will allow me to play with them and sometimes even let me onstage with them. Check out my calendar. There is at least always good alcohol at these places. And you know...life is short. And messy. If you can’t spend some time a little tipsy in public listening to good music, then really what’s the point?
Since there is very likely little I could write here that will help you determine whether or not to hire me as a musician, maybe just wander on over to my music or video page and see whether there’s anything there that resonates with your soul.
If not, thanks for visiting and drop me a line anyway. I am known to change my mind frequently about what I like about being on this planet, including music. I will probably like what you like eventually.
And maybe - if I’m lucky, like all the other musicians - I hope to turn that twisted mess of ever changing admiration into something other people might find worth listening to.
(But frankly, lately I just keep crossing my fingers. So, maybe you could cross yours for me, too. Thanks.)”
There. I feel so much better now. Being the next best thing’s got nothing on me.