Fact Checking

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The quest for truth
by Tamara Halbritter

In a murder investigation, a cold case detective may work closely with a professional forensic analyst to review evidence and facts. In the music industry, you also need to seek the truth to protect your assets from harm.

ResearchThe world of digital recording makes it easy for musicians to sample this, patch-in that and outright plagiarize lyrics. By checking a few facts, you can help preserve and protect your own work as well as the work of other artists who truly are original.

Why check your facts?

Being altruistic is one reason. Covering your ass, I mean assets, is another. Failing to do this can be costly: Misrepresent an equipment manufacturer, quote some lyrics without giving the proper lyricist credit or say something untrue about an artist, and you might as well arrange to give your next 100 paychecks to your lawyer to get you out of this mess.

Check the facts to:

  • Keep sponsors happy by mentioning the right equipment manufacturers.
  • Be accurate with song titles and lyrics and give artists proper credit.
  • Avoid being sued for plagiarism.
  • Get the spelling right.
  • Be professional.
  • Not be a moron.

The investigation begins

One great thing about the Internet is that being an online detective is a cinch. If you want to know who wrote Led Zeppelin’s song “Kashmir,” for example, you can do a search on Google.com and find out the writers were John Bonham, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

If you want to find out which agency represents a particular artist, just type your query into a search engine and see which results appear. Think Google is full of putzes? Use Bing.com or Ask.com or some other credible search engine.

I recommend that you cross-check these results (look for similar results from different sites), until you are confident the information is accurate.

Always try to find the original source. For example, if you’re looking for a manufacturer’s name, type in the equipment title and model and see what comes up. Search for original manufacturer websites vs. other places that sell equipment, because they might get the spelling wrong or list the wrong manufacturer all together.

If you want to find a song title from a particular artist, go to that artist’s official website and search for it.

Helpful hints

  • Use the actual terms that you search for as well as “operators,” as defined in the New Yorker Search Help as “… characters that give the search engine further information about how to search for the terms.” These can be symbols such as ? or * that can be “stand-ins” for other characters, or words such as OR in all caps to search for results that contain either terms, for example, “drum beat” OR “drum pattern.”
  • As Dumb Little Man says in “20 Tips for More Efficient Google Searches,” “If you can’t remember any of these operators, you can always use Google’s advanced search.”
  • By weighting your terms, you can emphasize some more than others. See what AskScott.com has to say about term weighting and using logic to indicate a relationship between search terms.

Quoting sources

For pretty much anything you need to write for a band — articles, press releases, web postings — follow the Associated Press Stylebook, the journalistic style guide that most online publications and newspapers use. According to AP style, you should try to work the source into the article, rather than using a footnote or endnote. For instance in this paragraph, I link to the AP Stylebook, which serves as the source. The previous paragraphs also provide hyperlinks to sources.

In your quest for truth, be thorough. J.D. Lasica provides “a deep collection of helpful pointers for anyone doing journalism,” that lists all kinds of sites with information on accuracy and fact checking.

Whichever investigative approach you take, keep in mind that originality is not dead — it’s your job to keep it alive. Good luck on your next fact-finding mission.

Tamara Halbritter is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer and editor who develops content for music, transportation and green industries.

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