Saturday, February 11, 2006

The State of the Nation

Last night I read Angry Robot's post regarding posting new or leaked tracks, and his belief that music blogs have lost the grass roots energy and independence that made them unique and vital. In addition Philip Sherburne wrote something similar a few weeks ago regarding the temerity of publicists trying to influence his writing policy by sending him review copies of albums.

I have a great deal of respect for both of these writers, but these posts have got me thinking. The sort of behavior they both describe can be thought of as bad. However, in this post sell out world could it not be better viewed as an industry shifting to adjust to the realities of the modern marketplace. As a former publicist, record reviewer, and dj I understand that the placing of music in tastemakeres hands is a vital survival tactic in a glutted marketplace. Once placed into the hands of a reviewer/dj/ect.. what the recipient chooses to do with that new information is in the hands of the individual. I recieved a lot of tunes in my time that didn't hit me, wouldn't work with my style, and most importantly would adversely effect the trust of my reader/listenship if I started championing only because I got it for free.

It was not so long ago that all record companies were fearful of being put out of business by uncontrolled distribution of any of their content online, and aggressively prosecuting anyone who tried to create new rules. I think I see this distribution of mp3s and promo copies to bloggers as a profound sea change in the way that record companies view the internet. They now see it as a mechanism for profit, and when you are dealing with a business that is the attitude you have to take when thinking about how they function. Businesses almost never act for purely alteristic reasons. When that is taken as a given, it becomes much easier not only to understand their way of thinking but to take advantage of it. I would much rather have companies send fluxbog tracks, for example, than sue him.

It has taken me a long time to come around to this way of thinking. In the 80s and 90s I was very much a hardcore purist towards artists that "sold out" and the tactics of record companies that chose to market "my" music to the world. As I have come to know more and more musicians and artists, I realize that it is a tough business to make a buck in and who am I to begrudge them their livelyhood. I expect to be paid at my job.

P.S. I do not recieve promo copies and am not advocting that they be sent. I do not even have time to listen to the music I have in as detailed manner as I would like. I just like to see all sides of a subject.

and because the best music is often made by indies that often do not have the budget to send out promo copies here is a great track that was not much advertised at all.

Sir Richard Bishop - Mystic Minor 23


angryrobot said...

You make some very good points here.

First, I should mention that it was Sherburne's post that inspired me. I had similar thoughts floating around in my head for a while, but I didn't really get them together until I read that post a few weeks back.

I really don't blame labels and publicists for going directly to bloggers. It's a tough industry and I'm absolutely certain I would be doing the same exact thing if I were in their place.

You are right, in that it's up to the bloggers to decide how they should handle the promos they receive. Sometimes I wonder if there should some kind of "No Promos" seal that bloggers can use. Perhaps we just need some transparency.

The media (and some bloggers) need to stop putting forth the collective myth that music blogging is just of bunch of fans writing about the music they are currently excited about. Those days are over. These people are getting music directly from labels. They are put on guest lists. They get free concert tickets. They are invited to listening parties. They are now part of the machine. It's often impossible to tell if they really like the music, or if they're posting because they think others might like it, and they just want to be the first to post about it. I guess my point is that, as a reader, you have no way anymore to tell how comprimised any given blogger might be. Maybe they're afraid of getting cut off from the freebie wagon. Maybe they just feel guilty if they don't post at least some of the stuff they get. Or maybe they need those promos to have enough material to post five times a day. My point is that you just don't know. As far as blogs go, as reader I want to read about someone's genuine music experience -- that's the value of music blogs for me, personally.

If bloggers start posting music they got from promos , eventually that pushes out indies with fewer resources and, once again, the companies with the most money win. Right back where we were before music blogs.

Maybe market forces will prevail and some bloggers will lose the trust of their readers. We can hope, but maybe that dream is just as idealistic as my own.

hector23 said...

I think market forces have already started to prevail. I have stopped vistiting several sites that I feel might have been compromised, or just plain started to suck.

I think Gutterbreakz is probably the closest thing to a middle ground that is available for the kind of situation you are discribing. He takes promos but yet is adimant about championing a small scene that is anything but clogged with major players.

I do miss the variety that he used to be into. Through his brief histories of bands he introduced me to tons of great things. So I am not sure where that puts him on the continuum.

By the way its cool to have an online discussion that didn't immidiatly degenerate into a flame war. I tired of that at ILM and started a blog so that I could talk about music without engaging in personal attack.

angryrobot said...

As for the blogs that just crank out MP3s each day, with little commentary, I still read some of them. But I view them pretty much the same way I view new release lists at online shops, or any other informational commodity -- it's just a utilitatrian way to keep up with what's new. I don't go there for interesting ideas or discussion, unless your idea of discussion is "Great track! Thanks for sharing!"