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Meeting BP Editors And Magazine Comments


Tom Capasso

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Warning - this is long. If you don't feel like reading this (I understand), please skip to the last paragraph. I must warn you that this is going to sound like Im sucking up to the folks at BP. I assure you that they did not request or in any way influence this (Bill L said the check was in the mail, and you know what that means).

 

The concept of BP Live was to bring the magazine to readers as a live show (I figured it just meant that there would be famous players to see live). There were setup workshops (and lots of gear booths) to cover that part, and plenty of artists as featured players. Ed and others did some lessons, and there was a feedback session (like the letters to the editor).

 

I got to meet all of the editors. I was left with theimpression that they act like bass players they wanted to make sure we were all benefiting from the experience, and wanted to know what we think of the magazine. What comes across is that they all want to do a good job. It doesnt take much to realize that they are under a series of corporate parents and have to make the thing profitable. In talking to them, you could sense this struggle although they were professional enough not to discuss this.

 

Take a look at the picture and see them. They are all gigging bassists. Some vary their styles more than others, but they are players (not writers from a distance). I didnt get to talk too much with Greg or Brian, whose dreds CMDN would appreciate, and who plays in some kind or eastern European band (sorry I forgot the specifics). Nice guys. And weve already talked about Ed, who is really the founder of our community.

 

Chris Jisi spent a lot of time helping with the talent (I saw him shepherding various folks around). I attended his interview on stage with Will Lee, where the two of them sat on a low stage and talked. I noticed that the questions that Chris was asking were open ended and allowed Will to expound at length (which he did with much warmth, humor, and info). But they werent questions that I couldnt have come up with. It became clear through the weekend that, along with inventing the questions and his writing ability, Chris real gift is the ability to make artists feel comfortable and open up.

 

I talked with Bill Leigh (editor in chief, the big cheese) for a while. I let him know that I like the back pages, and that he needs to find a Beller-like person to provide the humor and viewpoint similar to Bryans writing. He agreed. Another point I made was to be careful about pictures sometimes the arrows pointing to parts of a bass or amp arent clear, and that when text is covering part of a picture its sometimes hard to read. I told him the reviews are too nice, but that the recent Blue Thunder preamp review was better (more on reviews later). We discussed having more sidebars and articles explaining the technical aspects of gear. This would include definition of terms for amps and basses. I asked for a basic programming piece for folks starting out with multi-effects (not sure if this is practical, and Bill looked dubious).

 

I (no surprise) suggested that an article or two on the internet life of bass players (I didnt use that phrase, but I will) should be run. He said they have considered running threads from the forum. I ended this topic by threatening to work something up. I also told him that I like his editorial page. You get a sense of who he is in those pages, and in person you encounter the same warm, thinking-past the immediate kind of guy. I really enjoyed my time chatting with him, and he was complimentary about the forum.

 

I probably spent the most time with Jon Herrera (technical editor). I stressed to him that for me, the gear reviews are a real highlight (Im such a gearhead). I challenged him to do whatever he could to improve the reviews, and to do more shootouts. I told him that I like the idea that lots of players test the gear, and that it goes out to rehearsals and gigs. Jon said that there is a monthly meeting where the reviewer presents the gear that is being reviewed, and everybody gets their hands on it. The sound room is shared with Guitar Player (half and half), so the stuff is available. When the review is ready, they go back to the manufacturer with questions, which weve seen in the articles (weve seen the phrase XYZ responds). One change I noticed was that the long-time reference rig is changing. Jon said that they are still using the Demeter/Crest amplification, but the Eden cab has suffered from creased cones (given what that thing must go through, it lasted a long time). Jon is thinking of moving away from a single cab for reference, and is thinking about using a few cabs. This is due to the many different cab configurations popular today. It would make sense to have a 4x10 as well as a multi-size driver cab (like a Bergantino 322, AccuGroove, etc.).

 

Jon discussed the issues with doing equipment reviews. One key element he extracts from the manufacturer is the intent of the gear. If an amp is supposed to sound hi-fi or old-school, the reviewers keep that in mind when testing and writing. They stretch the gear beyond its stated intention, but write the review with the manufacturers goal in mind. Small or new companies are usually happy to provide equipment for review. The larger companies with strong market share seem to need the reviews less due to the fact that their gear is so readily available and popular. The agreement for a review may come before they can deliver the products, or at a time when there is a backlog of reviews pending. Problems with shipping damage can muck up the schedule as well. Jon was asked if they do six foot drop tests with the amps. He said no (did I get the sense hed like to?), but that it has happened. Since the gear goes out into rehearsals and gigs, it does get bounced around. Sometimes there are unanticipated tests.

 

The shootouts present a challenge because its a regular review times 100. I assured him that most of us appreciate and want them. Jon just finished a string shootout with something like 80 sets of strings. He said it was a workout, and that he changed them all himself. Jon himself enjoyed the high-end preamp shootout that was done this year, and will try to keep doing them. I told him he should be on TV when someone is strangled with a bass string, they could call Jon from CSI (Criminal String Investigations) to use his expertise.

 

Jon was asked what happens to the test equipment. It all goes back, but the staff can buy test items at a discount (a perk some of us would die for and some would die from). I kept looking at Jons 5 string F Bass, which was beautiful and felt better than any other F Bass Id tried, wondering if Id seen it in a review. I also stressed that the magazine really needs me to help review gear, especially for shootouts. I wasnt the only one who was volunteering.

 

One of the comments Jon made (which Bill made as well) is that by and large, equipment is good. It is hard for them to find fault with much of the gear they review because for the most part it works and is well made. When you factor in the generally stable (or falling) prices, there isnt much to complain about.

 

Part of my time with Jon was in the Setup Workshop. Ill write about that separately (and include the Fodera / Anthony Jackson info as well), but I thought he did a good job showing us what to do and why. Some of the info here was part of some Q&A time he included in his presentation.

 

OK despite my gushing on, we all have comments about BassPlayer. Its a thread we havent done in a while, so lets use this to get your thoughts. Ill make sure the BP staff knows about this and tunes in.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I have been a subscriber to BP mag since its 1st issue hit the streets...... it has gone through some great changes ... some issues are better than others but they do a great job overall...

 

In response to your comment about the reviews being too nice....I once had a conversation with a very prominent bass builder from California who suggested that reviews are influenced by advertising dollars spent by the particular company being reviewed... and I should not place too much faith in the review...

I strongly disagreed with him saying this was a form of corporate blackmail...which I believe does exist..but not a Bass Player.

 

I never get the impression that their gear reviews are influenced in any way..they do list pros and cons...and repliies from the builder.

But when the corporate parents get involved you never know ...

 

When I read the review I am more interested in features and specs than the authors likes and dislikes but I do read the entire review..

I guess the picture quality could be better in this day and age of digital technology but that is probably cost prohibitive....

 

Some things I would like to see..

 

Like Bassics publication..an occasional CD music sampler for subscribers of some of the artists they review would be nice...

 

A while back they had a series of profiles on the inside back page from private builders..I would like to see more of this from amp builders and bass builders alike...they have had a few factory tours which where very good also.

 

I would love an article about bassist Willie Weeks and amp builder Walter Woods. I know they are chasing Willie Weeks around. How about a Bag End factory tour....

 

I always liked the Working Stiffs section and am disapointed when they dont include it...that should be in every issue.

 

I think they should place more emphasis on BP recomends...I think that should be a larger section...

 

Product Spotlight is weird

 

I would love a shootout of the music stores in the country...

 

Overall its a great read most of the time and I always look forward to the next issue.

www.danielprine.com

 

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I'll 2nd Dan's comments re: "Working Stiffs" (I relate more to those of us in the 'Blue Collar' field than those with record deals), and the "Recommends" column. A solid recommendation on a job well done is worth more to me than any label hype.

 

Otherwise, BP has given me back my $$$ worth in info, education and entertainment.

 

Thanks BP!

(and thanks Tom, for taking the time to talk with the staff and representing the forum!)

 

Jim

Jim

Confirmed RoscoeHead

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Excellent thread, Tom, and excellent replies, my brothers. Ditto on 57p's call for inside tours and interviews with "the little builders" (SWR and Mesa were garage-built products once upon a time)

 

BP still has the lead on what bass players want to read about, so you have my thanks and respect for the work you've put out there. (at least you've avoided Guitar World's "models with guitars" tactics) So let me add what it would take for me to renew:

 

(1) A couple of years back I picked up an issue of "The Guitarist" (UK publication) which featured Brian May (my #1 guitar hero). Was TOTALLY IMPRESSED with the intelligence, honesty, wit and completeness in the articles (no wonder I still quote Irish scholars) plus they included a CD full of music lessons and a test-drive of the then-new Brian May-Burns Guitar as a/b-ed by Brian May.

 

Think about that: an a/b test by the guitar's builder between a production model and his own personal guitar. That took good planning and negotiation to pull off. YES, I'd like to see that kind of relationship and coverage between BP interviewers and musicians like Victor, Steve and Geddy, ferinstance.

 

(2) while it's nice to take a "never criticize" attitude in your product reviews, face it: if you try to make a $300 Chinese guitar sound like a 5-figure custom model, you're going to get raised eyebrows. Don't be afraid to poke fun sometimes; "British wit" is what comes to mind. They've got that style down!

 

(3) Working Stiffs: not that I need to see my mug in your magazine, but you've got some local guys here on the LD working hard to bring their music to the masses. I'd like to see a couple of them in the magazine. Hey, I'd buy an issue just to see what greenboy and jeremyc look like!

 

(4) "Bass in (insert city-town of the month)". Something similar to how Newsweek/Time covers a lead story from multiple angles. One month it's interviews with players/stores/clubs in L.A., next month New Orleans, next month Austin... yeah, it could cost money and force some BP staffers to endure plane trips to different cities to hang out in music stores, check out bands, write copy on notebooks in hotel rooms and internet cafes... hey, got any openings? Seriously, it could sell more issues in a lot of markets, and not just in the city-de-jour. I may not be in Cleveland soon, but I'd like to read about what it would be like to be a bass player in Cleveland.

 

OK, that's enough from a guy who's only worth a single subscription point. I leave the rest to my esteemed colleagues. Thanks again, Tom, and thanks BP for a magazine I do pick up and buy on the stands now and then... as long as it has more to offer than an interview with the upcoming-grundg-band-de-jour bassist.

:wave:

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Tom...

As an editor/writer for several years, I understand the conundrum the BP guys encounter when reviewing products.

 

On one hand, they want to be honest and give their readers useful information about products... but on the other... many of the manufacturers of these products are also their advertisers. And, as much as any magazine editor would like to say their advertisers have no hand in their publication's content, the basic fact is all magazines depend on advertising money to survive and turn a profit. I've worked for magazines of various economic sizes, and this has been an issue for all of them. For some, it's overt ("Erik, make sure this gets reviewed and placed in a prominent place in the next issue... and remember, we LIKE it.. a lot.") With others, it's less obvious ("Erik, e-mail the advertising department and ask them if they have any contact suggestions for that feature you're writing.")

 

The point is, when it comes to magazines, ad content always has some influence on editorial content... except for Consumer Reports, I guess. It's not something many editors will discuss... especially with readers.

 

So... this might be part of the reason why BP's product reviews are "too nice." And, of course, musical products do seem to be getting better on every level as well.

 

And, oh yeah.... if you're serious about pitching a LDLD column idea to BP, I'd be glad to help out or collaborate.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Well, I've got stacks of BP magazines that I've read from cover to cover for many years (and my wife keeps threatening to throw out), and like most things, there are good and bad in the magazine. I think there is way more good than bad.

 

I notice they get slammed a lot for their choice of feature interviews. Either the artist is "clueless" or too "intellectual". It must be tough trying to keep these readers happy, LOL.

 

I asked this once before to BP, I would sure like to see a interview with Peter Cetera.

 

A LowDown(internet bassist) article sounds like a good thing, too!!!

I'm trying to think but nuthin' happens....
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I agree with 57Pbass that "product spotlight" is weird. It just seems like another ad page, only it looks like these products are recommended.

 

And it's the same products every month.

 

I've got every issue ever published and a few rejection notes for articles I have mailed in. :D

 

I don't get too excited about editorial decisions, they are generally fine with me. I really don't have much to complain about except to say that there really aren't too many print magazines aimed at my demographic of one. ;)

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I used to subscribe to BP when Jim Roberts was in the editor's post. I like some of the new stuff in the magazine and Bill Leigh's editorial is the only thing I'll read today; the rest of the articles usually leave me flat. Eventually the luster wore-off entirely. I'll pick it up once in a while at the news stand if I see mention of a bassist up my alley or specific gear, but the covers tend to lose me.

 

I remember at one point when the magazine began to drift away from reality. A featured column with the bass player from Megadeath. When he suggested to the reading audience a warm-up regimen that included 'massage therapy', meditation, diet, selecting roadies among other things outside of the budget or scope of most of his readers.

 

I quickly wrote the editors that this was becoming out of touch with reality. I suggested that they feature a column from one of the readers or the little guys that pay their dues at the local "Park n' Punch" lounge; readers that are their own roadies, sound men, agents, managers. In other words: Someone WE can relate to.

 

No Reply. I resend the letter 2 issues later. Still no reply.

 

The working stiffs column is ok but I think Pro's and Amateur's alike can relate to a struggling club player's month by month diary of progress. But I guess thats why the forum is here.

 

My favorite columns were Rick Turner and Great Basses on the back page. I miss Beller's column.

Needless to say - I won't be subscribing any-time soon.

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