Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

  

• MTT POSTS BY CATEGORY
SEARCH
« 10 Websites That Are Ruining Things For My Band | Main | The Long Fail: the cost of digital distribution »
Tuesday
Nov252008

The ugly man behind the curtain in music publicity...

This is a post that I have been working on for a few months… I have been hesitating to publish it because it exposes the ugly man behind the curtain in music publicity.

40,000 CDs come out every year and that means hundreds of thousands of CDs will be mailed out for review consideration.

Where does all of this product go?  This is part of the dirty and taboo subject that no one ever talked about.  No one until now that is.  Randall Roberts of The LA Weekly recently took a bold step by writing an article that exposes the truth about what happens to the thousands of promo CDs that get mailed to music journalists like him. It’s called:

“Gravy Train? With so much music available at the click of a mouse, do tastemakers really need hard copies anymore? Is it worth the waste?”

“Often, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, the so-called “tastemakers” do just that. Of course, finding anybody in the music business to actually talk about this vast and ever-fluctuating underground economy is tough. Ask a publicist what he does with unwanted promos and there’s usually an awkward pause, as though you’d just asked after his porno collection. Few are willing to go on the record regarding their income stream for fear of being blacklisted, audited, or, Bono forbid, sued by Universal, which views every CD it sends out to tastemakers to be its property in perpetuity, long after the disc has languished in a crate somewhere.”

I spoke to Roberts at length while he was writing this piece and I was not quoted in this article but I think it is an extremely eye opening subject for those of you interested in the subject of getting national (or any) publicity and what you are up against on the other side.

As a recovering traditional music publicist and the owner of a digital PR firm, I meet with people at all levels of the music industry.  And they are all mystified and unhappy with their publicity situation: They want more than they have and when they hire a publicist they are left feeling unsatisfied.  I have heard complaints from all levels of artists, about all types of PR firms from the crème de la crème firms who handle household names to the smaller firms that work with emerging artists.

 

Feeling Unsatisfied

An experienced traditional publicist charges between $2,000 and $4,000 a month (before expenses).  And artists, labels and managers always have the same two complaints.

1. Publicity costs too much.

2.  They did not get the PR they were expecting to get in national publications like Rolling Stone and on TV shows like Conan.

As a person who was a traditional publicist for 10 years I have an insiders perspective on this quandary.  And here is my two cents on the subjec:  Doing traditional PR for independent artists is really difficult, and handling PR on a national level is the most challenging and one of the most discouraging tasks I have ever undertaken.  It takes a Herculean amount of effort to create even a tiny ripple in the national press. 

Here is an example of a 300 piece mailer

  • 500 Press Kits in The Mail = $2,500
  • 3 month retainer = $9,000
  • Extra expenses = $1500
  • Total = $13,000

A full national mailer to hit the key must journalists who are considered the the critical “tastemakers” is approx 200-300 packages. If the artist is going on a 20 city tour, that’s easily an additional 200 CD’s. So, a mail out for a new release with a tour to support it  is 500 CD’s  (and the PR campaign has not even begun yet). I’ll estimate $1 per CD, and it’s another $4 in postage and packaging. So that’s $2,500 in materials alone, plus most PR firms charge a premium to have the envelopes stuffed and they mark up for the hassle of dealing with the paper, the bubble envelope, the copies, and the dragging it all to the post office.

First: The publicist mails out the materials.  They must go out three full months in advance, for what is known as “long lead” press: National magazines like Spin, Blender and Rolling Stone. 

Second: The publicist calls and emails the journalists, who are totally overwhelmed by publicists who call them constantly leaving endless pitches.

Third: The publicist must get an answer from each journalist. This is the brutal part of the job. The publicist must get the journalists  to give them an answer so that she can report back to the client.

 

Here are the common answers:

  • “It’s on the pile,” 
  • “I can’t find the CD.  Please send it again,”
  • or simply “yes I received it.” 

And the reason they don’t give you a straight answer is, they don’t want to say no, because they rely on publicists for the next new releases, and they don’t want to be taken off their servicing lists. 

 

Here’s the dirty secret revealed in the LA Weekly:

One of the main reasons journalists don’t want to be taken off the list is them sell their CDs back to used CD stores, to supplement their incomes.

Here is a key quote from the LA Weekly article (BTW, the LA Weekly is a coveted newspaper that all publicists try to place their clients in).

“For a music journalist, these piles accumulate quickly and come with a fundamental set of problems organized around a single reality: There is a lot of music being released in 2008, way more than even the most voracious music hound could possibly digest. The bounty therefore becomes something you have to deal with, like a farmer stuck with molding grain as winter approaches.  So then what? Do you throw it away, and let all that plastic end up in a landfill? Do you donate it to Goodwill, where some thrifty hipster will buy it for cheap? Do you give it to your friends? Do you sell it?”

One key thing this insightful article points out is the story of Augusto aka Roast Beast who is a CD power seller on ebay.  He was sued by Universal for reselling promo music online and he won. the case.

Music blog idolator.com sums it up with a valid point:

“How was Augusto still on the promo lists for these labels—was he selling in-store play copies, or what? If anything, this whole case—and the thriving market for resold promos from people who are drowning in free music that they don’t want—is another sign that the way labels promote music to writers, DJs, and the like is woefully inefficient, and clearly in need of a major overhaul for more reasons than just saving the planet.”

 

Taking Money From Indie Bands &Labels

A record label owner my company works with used to make a healthy living distributing over 100 titles a year and selling a few thousand copies of each in a niche market.  He told me that his number one expense was mailing out hundreds of promo CD’s which in the long run has damaged his business.  The reason: Those very same promo CD’s were getting sold on Amazon and half.com by journalists and used record stores within days of being sent out and he never saw one penny from those sales.

 

Part of the Music PR Food Chain

I used to rent part of my office to my friends who ran a new & used CD store. Music journalists would come in often selling hundreds of new promo CDs to my friends. It’s part of the PR food chain. Releases I would be working were already back in my office before I could even call and follow up on the mailer that I had just sent out.

 

Music Journalists Still Demand The CDs

I’m a member of a list serve called the “PR list” which is a group of hundreds of music PR professionals and they recently conducted an informal survey about sending music digitally to music journalists versus sending CD’s. The response from writers was overwhelming. They insisted upon getting the full CD with the artwork in a jewel case with a spine or they wouldn’t consider a review at all. Why? Because used CD stores only will take CDs that include cases and spines and artwork as the LA Weekly  article also points out.

 

But, Let’s Get Back to Our Publicists Steps

Fourth: The follow up. it took me an average of 3 to 5 calls to get a writer on the phone. And some times up to 10 calls. So for 500 packages and 5 phone calls average and 3 e-mails for package, that was 2,500 phone calls and over 3,000 e-mails.

That time doesn’t include the setting up of the interviews, the call backs and the missed phone calls with scheduling. So in work alone, that’s 2,500 calls, 500 envelopes and paper and endless packaging. And you can begin to see why $3,000 a month is not a lot of money from the publicist’s perspective.

Fifth: Reporting: As you are following up you have the other side – the client who has spent a LOT of hard earned money wanting to know: Where’s Rolling Stone? Where is Blender? What about Late Night with Conan? Where are my definitive answers?

 

So, that’s my publicist reality check…

Please do not get me wrong.  I feel traditional publicity still has a place in this whole music business puzzle however the odds are stacked against you.  I wrote an entire guide that delves into the nuts and bolts of hiring a traditional publicist – It’s called “The Musicians Guide To Choosing The Perfect Publicist and it’s available ion my website for free.”   To download it please visit my site: http://www.arielpublicity.com

Reader Comments (27)

Extremely eye opening - and not at all hard to believe.

So from an independent artist perspective - would you say it is essentially pointless attempting to get anything into the mainstream press?

Many Thanks

Rob

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterI Have Clones

Great article Ariel! I think that digital servicing to writers will be a gradual shift. Mainly due to the generational gap between the younger, more blog savvy journalists who are growing up with digital media versus the more traditional old school writers who are used to receiving a physical product. For now, I recommend sending physical promos to the top tier publications/writers, and digitally servicing the others.

There has already been countless times when writers wanted me to overnight a CD to meet their deadline and I just gave them access to the MP3's immediately. Physical CD mailers do have some advantages as the packaging can stick out, rather than another spam email, but overall the ROI on doing a mailer just isn't worth it anymore - especially when many writers are re-selling the product.

I also think digital servicing can turn from a push to pull effect for music publicists. Instead of the typical shotgun approach to see what hits, publicists should work on building the buzz enough to create the demand for writers to request it. This of course is easier said than done, but I truly believe a creative story angle and a solid album/product will prevail.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I also think this post is great and that it is good to have exposed (however limited this audience may be) the utter waste of talent, resources, time, etc. etc. just for 95% of the hard work being sold for profit by the very people an artist pins many (all?) hope on.

But I must ask: Who here is surprised by this? My guess is not many.

I have said this many time before and I believe it bares repeating (once again) here: There are two main ingredients involved in becoming a "successful" or "working" musician / artist.

1) Great music / art
2) Great communication skills to develop strategic alliances / contacts / connections

Of course there are several other elements. One of these being getting the "great" music heard (one of the points of this MTT post)...Getting the songs heard falls in line with the second ingredient...BUT, I would dare to suggest that this part comes after establishing contacts / connections.

NO, there is absolutely no point in pushing CD's into A/R or PR hands if they never knew of you to begin with. It is a complete waste of time, talent & resources (read the original post again).

As much as I hate it myself, the key is to "Make Contact" first. Be finicky, be selective but make the calls, send the e-mails, go to the parties / events and get to know the people that can help you. If these people like you for you and you like them...AND if you have a cache of great songs / art...Then you just might stand a chance of having them actually LISTEN to it.

Saturation is the enemy along with industry greed and selfishness. "Rock Star" ambition mentality is the enemy too. If you have great music / art, all that is left is to make sure the "right" ears get a chance to hear it when they WANT to hear it. There is no point sending a CD to someone who never heard of you or doesn't know you personally. They DO NOT want to hear it. They do not have the time. But we all know that "friends" make time for each other.

You need a friend in the business. Do you have any? How would you go about making friends in the business?

Might I suggest limiting your expenses on making promo CD's and PR materials. Rather be very frugal about how many of what you manufacture. Spend your money on trips to events that will allow you to socialize with people in the "industry". Things like the Winter Music Conference in Miami each year (lots of fun). This is the kind of place where if you make some "friends" and you have a small supply of CD's, USB sticks, DVD's, vinyl, etc. etc. You can selectively give them to the contacts you have made that you honestly believe WILL listen to them.

I really believe it has always been this way but given the ridiculous amount of saturation in the music environment, this strategy is almost the only option left...Otherwise your music / promo just gets drowned in the sea of unsolicited music being (virtually) anonymously pushed on the music biz types.

After all, many of the "execs" you are trying to get to are human beings just like you. They have friends just like you and they have a passion (well, most of them) for music just like you. Get to know them and get them to know you...Then if your music really is "Great" you just might find your dreams becoming reality.

It is 2008 almost 2009...The days of shagging the proper executive are over...But you can still buy them a drink and talk shop. Maybe even find other common ground to make an even deeper connection. (But if your music / art is crap, you just stay in the studio and tighten up first!)

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

Haha yeah I've been at the store when the writer for the local indie weekly rolls in with his stack of discs. To be fair, he wasn't exactly rollin' in a brand new BMW Z4. Bottom feeders.

The question is, who is finding out what's cool from Rolling Stone and Conan O'Brien? Certainly not the kids at the sold out club shows of the hottest new bands.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterSuperfly

Superfly raises a good point in that traditional media are largely irrelevant to emerging music; sending them CDs is a colossal waste of time and money exacerbated by the cluelessness of many independent musicians who can't be bothered to learn who to send their stuff to or even what genre they're supposed to be. One can hardly blame the journalist for a death metal mag for taking what he can get for the country CDs that cross his desk. It stands to reason that reviewers still want to hold the actual product, because producing a commercially viable CD was once a barrier that allowed journalists to weed out the wannabes, the question is how do we help that poor beleagered soul separate the wheat from the chaff?

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Well in the music environment I think musicians should keep the chaff to themselves and only send in wheat. (Who knows, if they become famous that chaff might be worth something someday *smirk*)

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

the information provided about the money and work that actually go into a proper pr campaign is something some independent artists and labels should pay attention to. i've had some great experiences working with artists/labels who understand the difficulty in garnering coverage for new and "unknown" releases. they've never complained about cost and were positive about all the results. but for each one of those, i've had tons of people send in epk's or cd-r demos asking if i can provide them with a national pr campaign for under $500. it's always particularly amusing when an inquiry of that nature is sent from a supposed "management" company. artists - if your label or manager is trying to get your pr done dirt cheap, it's time to seek some new guidance.

December 1 | Unregistered Commentereblair

@Superfly: As an indie music journalist, I take offense at your 'bottom-feeder' comment. Just because some clueless publicist wants to send me a bunch of crap that will never, ever get covered in the rag I work for (think David Cook, NIckleback, Motley Crue, Buckcherry, just to name a few promos that made their way into the 'sell' bin). Am I supposed to send it back? Give it away? Give it to YOU, perhaps? Look, just because you're not getting laced with promos is no reason to shit on people like myself. I mean, like you said, we're not exactly rolling in the dough. So forgive me for trading that copy of the latest Kid Rock CD for something, I don't know, GOOD. Or dinner. Or a six-pack. Welcome to Capitalism, buddy. It's a bitch.

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Catalano

Great article! If a bit sad, but like the one commentor stated, "who is surprised by this?" For one thing, I do want to state that I have done not near as much time as most at a major music company, but I have received my fair share of free copies and have not sold one yet. People have their flaws, but to have so many indulge in a crime such as reselling promo material on such a large basis is ridiculous. Perhaps it is idealism, but do people have no standards anymore?

But my main point that I felt came out was the distinction made that national PR is rarely effective anymore, but the possibility of PR being focused towards specific market segments could be. That is, if I am a band looking to do a 20 gig tour of venues throughout the east and south United States, that perhaps would be a much more reasonable area to cover?

Also, I donno about most but my objective for my artists are not to have them land on Rolling Stone or even Conan. My objective is the places that reach people that are still interested in music, that is scene papers (Nashville Scene, Austin Chronicle, etc), specific radio stations, maybe a music message forum for Indianapolis, and blogs that focus on those cities (and they are popping up everywhere). I'm not the biggest Obama fan, but perhaps his statment on attacking this problem with a hatchet when we should be using a surgeon's knife is very accurate. And perhaps this is also idealistic, but hopefully the guy at the local scene paper will take more care than the schmoe at Rolling Stone who lost any sense of what music is about long ago.

The worst part is that these people give the rest of the music industry a bad name. Just as the RIAA does not represent the indie labels, please keep in mind that these few guys taking the easy extra $$ don't represent everyone.

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Hey Ariel ... great post, thanks for the shout-out. It's funny, since I wrote that feature, I've gotten MORE cds than before I wrote it. It seems like every publicist double-checked their mailing list after reading it to make sure that I was on it. My office is now overflowing from Thanksgiving, and it's going to take me a day of organizing to get it into shape. And then, after dealing with the hundreds of new cds, I might end up with a few dozen that might land in the paper. Maybe. I wish I had a solution. The only solution is an intern, honestly. (On a personal note, it was really nice talking to you, and sorry I didn't end up using parts of our conversation in my story. Too much to digest. On the positive side, I now pay attention to every Ariel Publicity package that arrives in my inbox, both physical and email.)

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterRandall

Great article, Ariel. I would like to highlight your point that publicists have to be smarter about curating their lists. I've had many instances where I've asked for an address change, and publicists have continued to send CDs to an old address -- a wasted expense. I've also had situations where publicists will keep me on their mailing lists even though I've asked them to take me off it! Again, a wasted expense.

Publicists also need to develop stronger relationships with writers, and learn their tastes and what they actually cover. Another example -- there is one publicity company I work with that refuses to send me its major releases, or at least makes me go through hell to get them. Meanwhile, the same publicist will send me all of its lower-tier releases, even though there is absolutely no chance I will cover them. Why send me something I won't cover instead of something I will? Is that its condescending way of saying it cares about me?

Sending out digital copies is a possible cure, but publicists should still be careful about who they service those copies to. I know one company that used to make digital copies available to its entire list. It recently had to stop because writers would simply turn around and post them on waffles.fm or whatever.

Personally, I still request physical CDs if I actually cover an album, or if I have a particularly tight business relationship with a publicist. But I no longer expect to be inundated with product. In fact, I'm (happily) surprised that I get unsolicited CDs at all! Maybe I'm just not as cool as Randall Roberts.

One final point: I'm not one of those naysayers that thinks that the industry will disappear. People still consume music, and eventually someone will figure out how to profit from it. The fact that it has been a nearly a decade and companies still haven't figured out how to adjust to the digital era may be a sign of their ineptitude. But remember that U.S. automakers, as well as many other industries, are going through the same long-term problems.

Again, great article.

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterPlug One Boss

Thanks for the eye-opening post, Ariel. It isn't, as Milton pointed out, exactly surprising, but the Catch-22 situation described therein is hardly uplifting and once again we're stuck with the dilemma: what to do? Sending out traditional mailers is prohibitively expensive and, apparently, works mostly as a way to get your promo into the used CD market. On the other hand, sending virtual kits often results in them being deleted as they come. I'd like to have your thoughts on this (I found them regretably absent from your original post). I'd especially like to know, whether cyber PR gets comparable results to traditional methods.

Personally, I think Milton and Jim have good pointers for all of us struggling to get our music noticed. Plug One Boss' comments on the publicist-writer relationship were also needed in this discussion, I thought. For the record, I also think that the traditional industry is hardly going to disappear. In fact, I think the changing market will make it stronger than ever. I'll be writing why on my own blog in the near future.

What shocks me is that more publicists don't embrace the shift to digital. I HATE promo CDs. I used to receive dozens a week, first when I was living in San Francisco, and then Barcelona. Since I tend to cover a fairly obscure spectrum of electronic music, and I follow my tastes more than PR (sorry guys!), I got sent tons of material I didn't want, and in many cases never would get around to listening to. The financial (and resource) waste there was just mind-boggling. Sometimes some New York office would overnight me a random CD, maybe something I already had from them, or some indie hip-hop CD I clearly wouldn't be covering, with no reason -- and spend $20 (of their artist's) money to do it.

Fortunately, electronic music has mostly shifted to a digital promo model, so the CDs have more or less dried up. What I don't understand is why more publicists don't embrace digital promo. Often they want to send me a CD, and I say that I'd rather have a link. They won't send a link, presumably for leakage concerns, but this is absurd: When I get a CD, the first thing I do is rip it into my computer. If I were going to leak or share something, which I have never done, it'd be just as easy from a CD as from a download. But this logic just doesn't seem to get through.

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Sherburne

Good stuff. I linked to and wrote about this in the music blog I write for the Houston Chronicle.

http://blogs.chron.com/brokenrecord/2008/12/publicist_reveals_the_difficul.html

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Phillip, I'm a writer that HATES digital promos. I want full artwork, full album context. A pile of MP3 files doesn't do it for me and makes me think of the whole thing as a demo not worth taking seriously.

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterDude

Wow - all of this feedback is so awesome - so many great points and opinions

@Randall I CANT BELIEVE after all we discussed about you getting blacklisted and taken off of servicing lists for telling the truth you now get even MORE CDs than ever before - Hilarious!


@Krzysztof Wiszniewski after YEARS of pitching to journalists mostly into their answering machines we created a system that doesn't "pitch" I learned the hard way that new media makers (especially bloggers) do not like to be pitched by publicists - iI live with a blogger and I see the packages arrive every week at our house...not once has he written about any of the CDs that has arrived because his blog (like most) is extremely personal to him an no outside influence will determine what he posts. I designed Cyber PR to function in the opposite way of the "traditional PR" process - the new media makers come towards us to download music, request interviews and leave feedback for our artists - we only "pitch" them if we can see that they have expressed interest by downloading music - otherwise we leave them alone completely.

@Jeff thanks for the repost at The Houston Chronicle!

@eblair I feel every ounce of your pain.... PR campaigns are 50% client expectation management and 50% skill, pitching and damn hard work!


@Superfly - Excellent point! nobody is finding out about what is hot these days by watching Conan or reading Rolling Stone HOWEVER these types of placements are why people think to hire publicists in the first place and there is always a huge degree of disappointment when those expectations are not met - I can not tell you over the years how many labels and managers suggested we "send the editorial staff at Rolling Stone Pizza from Rays, with the CD inside the box" (I swear this happened 3 times or more) or screamed at me because I couldn't get on Conan or my favorite - Fired me because CD sales were flopping.... When the shit hits the fan blame the publicist - I do not miss those days.....

@Milton you are dead on - it all starts with someone you know! Derek Sivers always points this out in his talks and it is so totally true. I am always amazed to see our more successful artists are the ones that totally understand this and they elegantly work relationships with people in the industry in a wonderful way - I think musicians often forget that we (or at least I and most of the people I know) are in this business to be in contact with creative people and I love and value my relationships with artists. It's funny many musicians who I consider colleagues and friends are not always artists that we represent - they are the smart ones.

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

I still send physical CDs to the people likely to listen to them. If I just want to send an announcement of a CD, I'll send an email and say that the CD is available on request.

My guess is that the same people not listening to physical CDs won't listen to digital CDs either, so you'll perhaps cut down on the waste factor, but not necessarily have better results in terms of reviews and feature stories.

I try to have everything available -- physical press kit, digital press kit, website, MySpace, etc. I've listened to so many media people, club bookers, festival bookers, and radio people. They all want something slightly different, so I try to customize as much as possible and give each what they request.

December 4 | Unregistered CommentermusicPR

Good stuff.

I've found most people still want physical CDs for a few reasons, the main one being you put them in a CD player and music comes out. Digital stuff is great, but you need an online connection, something that will play the type of file received, a compatible computer, etc. People in the business are busy and don't have time to deal with tech support for music they probably won't even like.

Another reason why people don't like digital... Physical CDs are a filter.

Let's face it, we all get too much stuff. Physical product is a good filter of showing who is serious and who isn't. It's easy to send an mp3 via email, so every band and his brother does it. But to send a physical CD takes money, time, and effort. Getting a physical CD shows somebody believes in the music enough to invest in it more than an emailed mp3 attachment to everybody in the database at Music Registry.

On the other hand, from a "green" perspective, digital stuff is great. From a clutter perspective, I love digital stuff. Services like Sonicbids or MySpace, which bring a "standard" format to everything are what is needed to make this really take off. That and getting rid of all the old school music business people who still think we're in the 1970s.

I know guys who still request stuff on cassette. :)

Bottom line-- it's not what musicians want, publicists want, or anybody but the people receiving the music want. If they want digital, some people do, get it to them. If they want physical, get it to them.

December 6 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hooper

People need to WANT to listen or at the very least EXPECT to listen to your music. That means engaging the person / people first, before unloading "product" onto them. Otherwise it is all waste:
Time. money, talent, etc. etc.

December 6 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

I'm sure sending unsolicited music is a waste of time, no real mystery there. But musicians need to stop waiting and hoping for some 'gatekeeper' to decide their music is worthy. Create your music, find your own fans and sell them things related to your music. It's as simple as that. It's called taking control of your music. Besides fans are the best indication whether your music will sell - do they buy or not? Did you notice all the 'experts' who missed the recent economic issues? I can't believe we're still talking about this 'create a cd and get signed' routine.

Plus when/if a label comes knocking you will have your own following and can decide if you want to go in that direction.

December 6 | Unregistered CommenterWill

As an Publisher/editor of a small online publication, I personally do not like writing reviews. I like it even less when a record company whose purpose for existance is to make its owners money, will send me a new release and expect me to honor them with a review. The reasons for my objection are numerous, but can be best summed up in this equation "my time=money". For me this is a tremendous imposition, one for which not one individual within the genre I serve has offered to compensate me.

For me to write an adequate review, I have to normally find a minimum of one full hour of my undivided time to devote to listening to a CD. It's rare that I find that I can comment on what a band, or individual is trying to do with one pass. Often, it may require two or more passes before I draw a conclusion that I can put on paper. When I listen to a CD for critical review, I am not only listening for the lyrics, but the vocalists presentation, the supporting music, and every other element that goes into making a track.

Once I have drawn that conclusion, I have to decide how I am going to approach my subject matter. I can take a formulaic approach to writing a review, or I can attempt to be creative. Either way, putting my ideas on paper is then a commitment of time until I finish. As any writer can tell you, there are an infinite number of ways to approach any topic.

Next, before I have a polished review, I have to edit it and write and rewrite what I hope will convey what I hope may connect with my readers.

As small as my zine is, I tpp receive CDs on a daily basis, each sent to me for one purpose: the musician, or the label is looking for a review.

More often, than not, the request for a review is not a request for an honest opinion. It is a request to create an advertisement that will sell the CD to the readership I serve. I have worked in the small press for over thirty years, and have been involved with music all of my life. But it wasn't until I undertook this latest project working within my chosen musical genre did I encounter a group of people who thought I would do something for them without cost. I cannot count the number of musicians who have contacted me prefacing what they say by saying "I am an independent artist, without a lot of money to spend," a large number of these hoping I would do something for them for "free."

One of the biggest things to be offered to this growing social marketing community, is a service called Musebin. Still in closed Beta, once it is released to the public, it will reduce reviews to the same maximum 140 character limit that, for example, Twitter now limits its text messages. If this services establishes itself, maybe as journalists, we can see the depature from wordy reviews that we find common today, and the trend toward the acceptance of pithy little remarks that the larger press uses to describe both books and albums.

It cannot come too soon.

December 6 | Unregistered CommenterDave King

This is a very interesting article. Thank you to Ariel for bringing such things to the public's attention, however, this should be taken with a grain of salt. First, not all PR firms operate without considering their clients' expenses. At MLC PR we take pride in considering every dime spent whether it's for sending CDs, charging for supplies or even quoting a retainer fee. We don't MASS MAIL CDs unless it is the ONLY way a publication will consider a review, which luckily these days is pretty rare because there are some really cool "NON-SHADY" for lack of a better term editors and writers who will cover your clients' work because of their love for music. We find ways to get the client's music in front of the writer. producer, etc. before even sending a CD and even then, sometimes we do digital links or email MP3s. Everyone has their own ways of doing things but after reading this I am glad my firm doesn't fit into this black hole of CDs in a pile so to speak... My clients will be grateful! :)

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterMona Loring

One thing everyone is overlooking, being a freelance music writer pays shit. Just ask anyone in the business. Pimping some lousy CD's for a few extra bucks to help pay the rent or trading up for "good" music is part of the freelance equation. Selling promos has been going on since the dawn of time and won't stop despite the music business's best efforts. For decades Sounds, etc. in NYC kept afloat with a steady suppy of promo LPs & CD's from writers & record company employees alike. That's a fact. Why all the belly aching now?

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterJD

The only ones belly aching are the poor artists out there who spend lots of money on "Promo's" before they know if anyone gives two cents about what they are doing. I would also say that those folks are the ones who need most to read a post like this.

As for freelance music writing paying shit, that is as subjective a statement as what an artist would consider a "finished" piece. But I also suppose we would need to define what the meaning of "freelance writer" is in this specific case.

Saturation is the enemy and the best weapon against it is Great Works and Great Communication Skills. Those two things go a long way towards keeping your "Promo" out of the used CD stores.

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

If Ariel put half the effort placed into promoting herself and her brand into publicizing her actual artists, she would have broken one nationally now, which she has not.

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterErik J

I think "Dudes" comment is very typical and a good example on why we still need hard copies as promos.
Thanks for a killer article.
Ganga - Downbeat / Chill Out Music

November 11 | Unregistered CommenterGanga

But i think Every band and artist needs a MySpace page. Though, those pages look a bit goofy and cobbled together they suit the music industry.Only in the last few months have bands and businesses really started to take advantage of Facebook. The great thing about this platform is that when someone clicks the “Like” button, it appears on their news feed and most of their friends will see it. I think its cool way of music promotion....

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>