Thursday, 5 June 2014

Discussion - PR & Major Label Influence On Blogs - Our Perspective

Yesterday DIY website ran an interesting piece on music discovery (here). Key to this piece was two short interviews with Jacob Moore from Pigeons & Planes blog, a US based site that has a number of people writing for it and is often described as a ‘tastemaker blog’ and Belguim blogger Jarri Van Der Haegen, from Disco Naïveté.

One of the threads of the article was that many of the bigger blogs are becoming overly influenced by the same PR companies and major labels.

A quick look at Hype Machine on any particular day will show you that blogs are covering a huge and varied spectrum of acts – contrary to popular belief they’re not all writing about the same things. 

Our perspective is that there are bigger blogs that seem to be more affiliated to new artists on major labels, often introducing acts after they’ve scooped a management deal or have been signed and the blogger gets to learn of it, via music industry contacts. The blog effectively becomes the music industry crèche for all its baby artists who are just learning to walk.

But likewise there are blogs both big and small that focus on independent acts, knowing that a post on their site, gaining a few hundred plays and providing a quotable line of text for the artist, can be hugely valued by the musician featured, even if they are never going to be the next music industry big thing.

Here at Breaking More Waves we fall somewhere between the two. We like having the freedom to write about what we like when we like and we think this is the same for the majority of blogs – often we have no idea if an artist is signed to a label or not. We’ve just heard a song, like it and write about it. This means we cover a spectrum from major label acts through to completely independent artists at bedroom demo stage.

It’s clear that a feature on a popular blog increases the chances of posts on other blogs. Part of that may be because as Jacob from Pigeons & Planes suggested to DIY “you've got hundreds of other little follow-the-leader blogs who just regurgitate whatever they see buzzing," but we think that’s a bit unfair to the majority of bloggers; if they hear something they like on another blog  there’s a good chance they’ll want to feature it on their blog as well, not because they see it buzzing and want to be on the cool on the pulse bandwagon, but because the music excites them, moves them and grabs their soul and they want to share that feeling. However, whatever the reasons for blogs choosing to post particular tracks, it’s inevitable that labels are more likely to target the bigger blogs who have greater powers of exposure and because they’re targeted there’s a greater likelihood of them turning into music industry vessels. 

Does it matter? We think it does. 

If bigger blogs are featuring more major label acts it’s giving the smaller guys, the d-i-y bands without PR and the smaller indies less chance of being featured and arguably they could benefit from the exposure more than major label artists. But on the other hand, why should blogs just feature independent acts because of some sort of sense of ‘fairness’? Shouldn’t it be about the quality of the music?

Every blogger will have their own take on what they feature and ultimately that’s what we believe citizen journalism should be about. Bloggers are free to choose what they do and why they do it. For example this week we’ve featured major, indie and unsigned acts and even one that was dropped by a major label. It would be churlish to not admit that the majority of blogs are influenced by PR in some way or another (even if they don’t realise it), but as far as we’re concerned we will always continue to seek out talent from many varied and different sources (not just emails from PR companies) to curate a blog that is personal to us. We never want to become just a music industry mouthpiece, we didn’t start writing this thing to be a ‘tastemaker’ or ‘influencer’, we started writing it simply because we enjoy the process of its creation and documenting our music discovery – if we only listen to what major labels and their PR companies ask us to listen to we’re shutting off a big part of that discovery mechanism. That would be a shame.

1 comment:

Leigh Ecclestone said...

From personal experience, that's running a blog and a diy label, most bigger blogs (and that is perspective, I think most bigger blogs will have a lot less hits than you'd anticipate) will only consider releases from a 'contact'.

That contact will vary, it could be a mate who you bump into at gigs all the time, someone who got you into see Arcade Fire a few years back or a respected PR company who has sent you some good stuff in the past but rarely will they take a chance on something new from an email they don't recognise (of course, they get hundreds of mails and it's impossible to listen faithfully to it all) or actually do the discovery themselves (there are exceptions, Tom at GFP and Jamie Milton at DIY being two that jump instantly to mind).

I think that's the main reason why sites are mainly posting about wholly the same thing, the music London scene is actually a whole lot more connected than people would think. So you get a mate of a mate, of a mate and quickly a connection is built with every key UK site. Soon enough they are all posting about the same email.

I guess it depends on what role bigger blogs wants to serve, I see most of them as nothing more than a 'new' music news site for the majority of people who don't need to be first to hear a band. Most posts being nothing more than a paragraph from the press release which has no personality to it at all. I think there is a case to say that acts don't help here either, celebrating five words on a 'big' blog that actually says nothing more than the song track but ignoring a long, considered post because it's come from a 'fan' blog.

I'm not a fan of the increasing reliance on premiere either. What is being 'first' anyway. Chances are you are not in any case, someone has probably posted the soundcloud link before the premiere goes live but big blogs seemingly thrive on the increased 'hits' these apparently send their way and obviously these tend to come from bigger PR companies.

What also irks me is the assumed 'right' to everything, free tickets, guest list, free vinyl, extra kudos and so on. I mentioned this to you the time, at this years The Great Escape when the founder of a much respected UK blog/site waltzed to the front of the (full) Esben and the Witch queue, said a few words to the man on the door, walked to his cronies and then proceeded to take all of them (six or seven people) straight in past the people who had been queuing for however long. I don't see that as a perk of being a blogger, I see that as ego.

There aren't many of us who write purely for fun, it should be remembered that most of the sites have to feed themselves so they need to find a balance between hits and new music but most in my eyes are nothing more than sheep, the real blogs and people who should be thanked, are the people who spend hours upon hours listening to 'new' music and championing it. There's plenty of them both online, offline, on the radio and more. Most of them don't need to be told they are great nor have an ego massaged every week, but I'll say it. Nice one.

Anyway, I've waffled off topic and have come across a little more bitter than I actually am, I've nothing against the majority of sites (with the exception of ones with automatic adverts turned on) and so will leave it there!