Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Importance of a Band Mission Statement

Thanks to abundant media and new technology, everyone on the planet is in a band.

Few modern bands, however, issue a genuine mission statement. And we're not talking about some hardcore act or politically motivated band stating political intentions. That's a manifesto, and should have been left in the early 1980s along with your shaved head and G.B.H. patch.

Go to any band's MySpace page right now. Go ahead -- we'll wait.

Now scroll down a bit to the "About us" section. Chances are it's a band bio. With rare exceptions, band bios are dull and as rote as the story arc to the average slasher film. People meet and make music all the time. Few of the "how they met/who they are" stories are interesting to anyone outside the band.

But a mission statement is an opportunity for a musician to tell an audience what to expect and charm us into paying attention. Even clumsy attempts at humor in a band's letter of intent are better than telling us that they were born and raised in a small New England farming community but life really began the first time they heard a New York Dolls record.

Here's a good example of a successful mission statement from the thrash band Annihilation Time, verbatim from the quartet's MySpace page:

Quite simply the most powerful band in the world at the moment. Forget about the once-great dinosaur bands still roaming the earth (Metallica, Blue Oyster Cult, Winger): their time has past. This planet's future lays in the hands of the mighty Annihilation Time, who day by day, are slowly creeping their raunchy rock and roll across every inch of this dying heap of shit we call a world. Standing virtually alone in sea of garbage music played by garbage people for garbage people, Annihilation Time shines as a bastion of what was once great in rock music; Sex, alcohol, drugs, loundess, filth, and destruction. Taking cues from now deceased masters like the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath, Annihilation Time sonically lays waste to your every brain cell and fiber of being. You have but two options: worship or be crushed.

Nice, huh? Is it true bravado, or self-deprecation disguised as impossibly lofty goals? It doesn't matter. The beauty of Annihilation Time's mission is in the group's directness. Move away old people and vapid entertainment, a scary group of white kids is here and they smell like sweat, beer and bong water. Also, they're loud and offensive.

Another approach to the mission statement comes from Girl Trouble's MySpace page, where they've made better use of the "influences" section by making a vow:

It is our solemn promise that we give you the most value for your entertainment dollar. In each town we will attempt to spread the goodwill of the Pacific Northwest and make sure we clean up afterwards. We sincerely hope you will enjoy our musical performance and manage to catch one of the complementary prizes that K.P. Kendall will distribute during each show. We will strive to be good citizens and obey all safety rules and regulations. Our goal is to entertain in a professional and courteous manner. This is our pledge to you!

The Typing Monkey has purchased consumer durables from paid sales staff who didn't try that hard. The Girl Trouble pledge forgoes the band's usual self-deprecation in favor of light humor and a genuine, almost church-potluck like level of sincerity. Yes, the band has a traditional bio further down the page, but it says more about them that they put the pledge as close to the top as possible.

Dear bands, combos, solo musicians and other musical entertainers: Try harder. Start by immediately removing the carefully crafted band bio you posted and replacing it with a mission statement, declaration of intent or oath. Your music is your product, and nobody wants to know how all the parts of their new sneakers came together. We just want to be assured that these shoes will help us run faster, jump higher and impress people we want to have sex with.