a weekly digest from the staff and contributors of brainwashed
Click here for the current issue
First of all, thank you for your initial interest in becoming a regular contributor to The Brain. It is a pleasure, week after week, to be presenting this stuff to our growing readership, to be sharing our thoughts with readers who respect what we have to say, whether they agree with us or not. It is truly an honor. We all have fulltime jobs, school, and other duties, and pulling off an issue every week is no easy task, but we do.
Our goal is to make things as clear as possible without using too many abstract concepts that simply make very little sense. These guidelines should be read and considered. We should always challenge ourselves to write better every time. There's an old saying, "if we're not getting better, we're getting worse."
|WHY BECOME A WRITER?|
we need you
The Brain always needs new writers. We are a community service of peers: we write about music for our peers. We are not some unattainable music critics holed up in a chic smoke-filled downtown office, we're all over the world and service readers from all over the world.
what a writer can expect
Free music! Yes, if you become a regular, we'll be able to send you free music from a number of different labels and genres. There are more things being released than we have people to cover, and a lot of good music goes unmentioned. We'll never be able to stop that, but we do need good writers to keep things fresh.
requirements and expectations
We need people who can commit to 2-3 reviews per week and are technologically competent enough to upload sound samples and cover images for each review. If you're unable to do this, stop reading right now, return to your home and nobody will get hurt.
It's no secret there are a number of under-represented genres on The Brain and we could use writers who specialize in them. We could use well-versed experts to cover abrasive electronic stuff, dark ambient, metal, underground hip hop, free-jazz/improv, and noise.
Since we are based in the USA and very poor, we can't afford to send promos overseas. Once approved, an overseas regular contributor can be sent materials directly from labels in their country. We will solicit the music, however, to avoid duplication and irritation.
the review is your view
Reviews are the writer's view of a recording or performance. They should be written in a way you would both write to and read from your peers. They are not a place to flaunt vocabulary not used in conversational English nor are they a place for you to try and sell somebody a record. There is a clear difference between the way critics (us) should write and the way press agents, record labels and music stores write.
Recording reviews should be approximately 200-300 words long. Obviously they can be less for singles and EPs and longer for boxed sets, compilations, or reviewing a multitude of releases from one artist in one review. Generally try your hardest to not write anything less than 150 words or more than 500 words. Concert reviews, however, can be longer, as there can be multiple bands covered in one concert review.
keeping it personal
Avoid quoting press releases and liner notes as much as possible. Reading each is helpful to you, the writer, but should only be used if absolutely necessary. Don't ever fall on them if you're unfamiliar with the artist's work, it's too easy.
don't keep it too personal
Nobody cares about the girl or guy who just left you. There are ways to relate the personal experience of listening to the music without referencing yourself and your life.
don't be afraid to be adventurous (sometimes)
The occasional abstract painting method works fine occasionally, it's good for variety and to make for an entertaining read, but you need to bring the topic back to the music at-hand before long.
make a clear statement about the music
Be bold. Try not to meander around statements with wishy washy vocabulary.
redundant tendencies to avoid
- "In my opinion,..." Of course it's in your opinion, that's what a review is!
- It's unnecessary to repeat the artist and title in the first sentence or two of the review as it's clearly listed in the line above it!
- It is unnecessary to list the first name of the artist along with the last name every time you mention their name. (Ex: instead of "Nick Cave has decided this time to put his demons to rest," write "Cave has decided,...")
Avoid using a passive voice
Keep the music and the musicians as the subject. Don't say "this is what one might expect from a marimba quintet," but "expectant from a marimba quintet." You may have to re-write a number of sentences, but it will be worth it in the long-run.
Avoid using the second person
Don't say "you will like this if you,..." Comment on the music from your (the writer's) perpective. Each time the second person "you blah blah" is used, it looks like a statement from the record label, distributor, or store who's trying to sell somebody on a product.
try to avoid name-checking other bands
Using band names is something stores and labels do to try and sell consumers. Don't say "it sounds like a cross between Aphex Twin, Sonic Youth and Nurse With Wound," but actively think about more inventive ways to describe music than using other bands as a reference point.
"In conclusion,..." Just conclude your damn review.
no major labels
The five major record labels we do not cover are:
- AOL Time Warner
Includes Atlantic, Elektra, Reprise, Sire, Maverick, London, Warner Bros.
- Capitol EMI Industries
Includes Capitol, Virgin, EMI
- Bertlesmann Music Group
Includes Arista, Jive, RCA, V2
- Sony Music
Includes Columbia and Epic
Includes Geffen, Interscope, MCA
- Shareholders of multimedia corporations make final decisions
- Price fixing lawsuits
- Wealthy companies that don't give health benefits to all their employees
- Wealthy companies in the most expensive cities in the world that don't pay most of their employees a living wage
- Unnecessary spending on lawyers, RIAA, music videos leaves little left for artists
- In-house publishing clauses in contracts
- Multimedia ownership of film, radio, and concert industries gives an unfair advantage
- The Brain poses a true alternative (as basically every other publication will review major label music)
- Our time is better spent covering things which get less coverage
before you hit send
- Spell check
- Grammar check
- Trim sentences that go on far too long
- Remove excess prepositional phrases
- Try to make sure sentences have a variety in length and are easy to read
avoid incomplete sentences
These are classic quotes from movie trailers and not full sentences anybody writes. Don't ever think that things like these are complete sentences. In a similar way, try not to open a sentence with the words "But" or "And."
grammatical things to note
- Know the difference between its and it's.
- Know the difference between their, they're, and there.
- Know the difference between you're and your.
- Spell out numbers under 10 (one, two, three,...).
- Capitalize days of the week and months of the year.
- Pluralization never gets an apostrophe (ie: CD's, LP's, 1980's).
punctuation and spacing
- Song titles are always in "double quotes."
- Album titles should be italicized.
- Follow a full stop with one spacenot two. Full stops include periods, question marks, and colons.
- Many instances of hyphenation have been eliminated. Examples include "online" and "cochair." Hyphenate elements such as these only to advance clarity.
- Acronyms should never be punctuated.
- Abbreviations, such as CD, LP, EP, USA and UN, should never be punctuated.
- The "am" and "pm" following times of day should never be punctuated.
- Do not use the ampersand (&) unless it is included in an established title.
- An apostrophe points to the missing information in a year, as "Morgan Forster '77."
- Periods and commas are placed inside quotation marks.
Band names, song names are always in mixed capital case: "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark," "The Postal Service," etc,... Don't ever use all lowercase and all uppercase (these are typesetting choices made by the album cover artists).
Everything in the header becomes capitalized, so case doesn't matter when submitting the reviews. However, titles here are put in double quotes to avoid bold italicization and avoid confusion with apostrophes. Do not include format (CD, EP, 7", LP) in the header (ex: Antony and the Johnsons, "I Fell In Love with a Dead Boy" 7" EP - remove 7" EP).
file names and locations
- should be in plain text format
- should be 60 second excerpts in MP3 format
- should be three per review (more if it's a compilation or multiple releases, two if it's only a two-song single, obviously)
- should be named in all lowercase letters and completely spelled out using underscores as spaces and dashes to separate artist from title and remix artist (ex: kid_606-my_kitten-hrvatski_remix.mp3)
- should be in jpeg format
- should be 100×100 for standard CD and LP covers, 100×90 for digipack releases and 100× whatever (scalable) for oddly shaped items
- should use truncated names for easy referencing and file maintenance, but should always be a part of the artist and title (ie: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "No More Shall We Part" should be cavenomore.jpg)
|DO's and DON't's|
as opposed to
|entitled||titled (this words exists with a different meaning, as "titled gentry")|
Avoid these words alltogether
In order not to try and sound like every other amateur, don't ever use these words in a review:
- interesting (it's too vague)
- really (it's unnecessary)
- sophomore (referring to a second album)
- moniker (it's used way too much)
- deliver, serve (bands are not UPS workers nor waiters)
- electronica, emo, ethereal, psychedelic, post-rock, two-step, jungle, drum 'n bass, or any other abstract subgenre that not everybody can agree on (these are reserved for record store clerks to make "sections for dummies")
- curb your desire to use tired prefixes like alterna-, avant-, death-, post-, or suffixes like -core, unless it's used for parodical reasons.
The Brain publishes every Sunday night. Please have all reviews in on Saturday at the latest.
This set of guidelines has been built using various ideas from All About Jazz, AP Styleguide, Chicago Styleguide, Chunklet, and the Harvard University Library Publications Style Guide.
Thanks for reading this entire sheet, if you're ready now to submit a review for approval, please do so in the space provided below. We will try and answer your reviews, but in the interest of time might not be able to. If you're concerned with the quality of the review, re-read all the above guidelines. Good luck!