Call me crazy, but I think the music industry is broken. Sure, it’s still possible for bands and managers and labels to make money, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to do so. The contributing factors are too numerous to mention, so I’m only going to address the one I can control in my professional life: the production of editorial content.When I read Lucas Jensen’s anonymous interview with someone working in publicity over on Idolator.com, I thought my head might explode. On the one hand the interviewee bemoans the now industry-standard practice of completely spamming editors with press releases all too often ignored, only to turn around and gripe that the bloggers who’ve dutifully fallen in line in the past suddenly want too much from them.
I wrote the following in the comments:
I wanted to note that I think publicists made this bed. It was easy when bloggers just wanted to have contact with the music industry which meant they cut and pasted and just obediently posted mp3s. It was simpler then.
Once bloggers had expectations and demands, the job got tougher, but PR is very slow to adapt. I rarely find myself agreeing with Arrington over @ Techcrunch, but I think it’s time that publicists evaluated the diminishing marginal value of shooting off a million emails a day that freelancers and editors automatically delete.
Lastly, I think the best way for publicists to succeed in creating value for their clients is to find creative ways to slow the hype cycle down by working with editors more to figure out what works now.
It’s my firm belief that the practice of feeding blogs tidbits of useless content, whether it’s an mp3 or tour dates, contributed directly to the sense of entitlement bloggers feel today. I lamented it over two years ago when I coined the phrase “gold rush blogging” over at One Louder. I still believe that when bloggers fell in line with the expectations of PR, it started a race to the bottom that no one would win. I feel like we’re getting close to the finish line and I wanted to try to do something about it.
Storytelling got lost somewhere in the publish-or-perish frenzy that typifies today’s music press. It turns out that Rupert Murdoch’s first instinct — that the Internet will destroy more businesses than it creates — was right. We watched helplessly as great alt weeklies became zombie conglomerates drained of their lifeblood by craigslist.org. Fast forward and you’ll see the same bands, mp3s, and news rattling around in your feed reader of choice, creating the echo chamber that passes for music news today.
If that’s not a PR victory, then I don’t know what is. But if you bloggers and editors think there’s nothing you can do about it, then you’re wrong.
One of my foremost goals in 2009 is to work as hard as I can to disrupt the hype cycle as we know it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s probably something akin to trying to turn an aircraft carrier around, but it needs to be done. We writers can’t just sit idly by as the music industry becomes a dog and pony show starring the labels and the technologies that bring music to market.
It doesn’t have to be us versus them. It can’t be if we have any interest in being successful. Hacks and flacks both have a stake in this. I think we can open a dialogue with public relations and labels that will help us better meet the needs of today’s music consumer. We can think constructively about what works and what doesn’t. It’s time for a change, don’t you think?
If you want to know what got me started on this, read Robert Scoble’s analysis of the tech news crisis. He gets a lot of flack for his videos, but I think he’s really onto something here that can be directly applied to the way the music industry conducts business today.