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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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The New Music PR Blunder
Monday, October 10, 2011

Music journalists/bloggers and publicists have a unique relationship. Journalists want the best stories, publicists they want their artists in the most possible faces and ears. They usually work pretty well together. Heck, I’ve met some publicists who I now consider very good friends. Over the past six months or so, though, I’ve noticed a new trend in music PR that’s been bothering me, as well as of some of my colleagues (although we’re in competition for stories and jobs, lots of us are friends, and we talk). The problem has been emails that tell us to check out an artist’s new video, or song, not on YouTube, or Vimeo, but “on music site/blog XYZ.” Emails like these are slowly eroding relationships that publicists took years to build. Here’s why.

All writers/bloggers know their place in the writer/blogger hierarchy. I’m not about to tell you Adam’s World is as big as AllHipHop because that’s freakin ridiculous. I’d rather be occasionally turned down for a press pass to an event by giving people website statistics that are somewhat close to reality than be looked at as a liar and a fool for trying to quote some unrealistic number. That being said, nobody likes to be reminded that they aren’t the biggest player in the blogosphere. When an email comes in telling us to check out a video on another blog or website it’s a direct indicator to us, the writers, that the publicist has their preferred websites to work with and, much like with certain VIP rooms, we’re not on the list.

By telling writers/bloggers to check out a song or video that has been debuted on another site a publicist is essentially telling us they feel their relationship with that website is more valuable than their relationship with everyone else. While it’s perfectly fine to have favored sites, and people, to work with, it’s not OK to tell everyone else about it. Imagine you’re a writer who thinks you’re on someone’s short list of people to send new content to only to open an email that slaps you in the face by saying “we’ve partnered with THIS website for this.” That writer will now, more than likely, be less inspired to post up future content from said publicist as the feeling will be “you’re only coming to me because so and so didn’t post it up.”

Journalists love exclusives. They love breaking news. Sometimes this means being the first to post a video. I know that’s not exactly calling a presidential election, but in the blogosphere victories are usually pretty small. When a publicist sends out a video and advertises it as debuting on another site, that thrill of possibly being the first is gone. For a lot of writers there’s no need to even mention it at that point, since it’s now old news.

Unless money is changing hands and websites are paying for exclusive rights to run content first I see no reason as to why publicists are aligning themselves with certain websites over others.

Everyone who isn’t that big in the blogging world knows they aren’t that big. They don’t need the reminder. If you have a song or a video you’re debuting sending it out to everyone, rather than partnering with a large blog or website, gives one of the smaller blogs a chance to jump on it first and become a bigger blog. If there are more big blogs there are more places for a publicist’s artist to be featured that are big. This is basic math, but it’s an equation some folks need to be reminded of.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:27 AM  
  • At 10:38 AM, Blogger Ketchums said…

    I agree with you, but unfortunately, other bloggers give those publicists plenty of reason to take that approach.

    You're actually a blogger that has his own lane, and who covers things partly based on how you feel about them. Many other bloggers/writers ae followers, and almost solely cover things based on who else has covered them. They want to keep up with the Joneses to keep their traffic up, and they only post things that they see have been posted in other places. So what these new publicists are doing is targeted at that knowledge.

  • At 11:56 AM, Blogger iamthegif said…

    I'm in complete agreement with Ketchums. I was building a list of blogs recently & maaaaan, every blog pretty much had the same content on it. The same songs and videos from the same artists. I was on a compilation recently too and once they got a few blogs mad blogs followed and put them up.

    The problem, I think, is more with the blogs than the PR people. Most bloggers I see aren't looking for exclusives, they're looking for what's hot so they can get traffic. They're not trying to discover artists. I mean, one blog had in its submission policy that you should secure a feature from an artists in the industry to increase your chances of being featured. This wasn't a big blog either. It's sad man, really sad.

    Google has this ad planner tool that you can use to see the statistics of a site running adsense. All of the numbers for blogs & music sites are plummeting. This indicates to me that people aren't looking to them to find out what's new. OddFuture, White Girl Mob, Lil B, none of these artists were initially picked up by bloggers. Social media is proving more effective at discovering artist than the bloggers are. Maybe this is the reason.

  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    What you've both said has made me realize a big oversight I sometimes have - my circle of writer friends (Ketchums obviously included) doesn't necessarily represent the masses of the blogosphere, and I don't always remember that. We have real professional standards and we go for good stories rather than trying to chase what will get us the most hits.

    It IS interesting to see that the less professional ways many writers/bloggers are utilizing aren't helping them, and therefore aren't helping the artists. I've actually been having this conversation with another writer for literally the past five years where we note how press days for artists lead to websites all looking the same. Perhaps it's finally caught up with them.

    I think a shot in the arm of professionalism is needed on BOTH sides of this.

  • At 5:15 PM, Blogger JMack @ HoodHype.com said…

    I disagree. The ONLY reason these PR folks are telling you to check out XYZ artists video on ABC blog, is for name recognition. "If NahRight picked it up, then it MUST be good."

    For the same reason a book publisher prints "New York Time's Best Seller" on the cover. To call it a PR blunder is a PR blunder in and of itself.

    Bloggers are the new rappers these days. Nobody is concerned with being original and trusting the fact that being themselves will get them where they want to be. Everyone wants to copy the innovators to try to get to that same place. Its EXACTLY like the music industry.

    What I find comical is the fact that some of these blogs are housed under larger umbrella companies like Complex Media Network, which is my favorites to poke at. They basically have 4 of the same site, youheardthatnew, nahright, 2dopeboyz, freeonsmash. They all regurgitate the same content all doing the same thing, all under the same umbrella with little or no opinion or comment on the content they are posting to avoid anyone getting their feelings hurt or burning a possible bridge to the $$.

    That all does suck, but they all started from the bottom too. The difference is, they started first. And do you know what they are getting? Numbers. And with the those numbers, they get money and with money they buy recognition and with recognition they get respect. And with respect? They get these PR Agency's giving them the exclusives to post which then take those links to bloggers such as yourself to say "hey look, since nahright posted it, its gotta be important because they have widespread respect. maybe you should post it too to get a piece of that"

    They arent doing it to be blatantly disrespectful to you. They're doing it because they are smart. Because you are merely one of 4000 other bloggers out there that will be more than happy to post that artists video BECAUSE nahright posted it.

    So my unsolicited advice would be to not get your feelings hurt because PR people are doing their job. I'd use that as fuel for motivation to create original, powerful content that gets your site traffic to elevate your site above the rest. Embrace the PR companies, make good relationships, network and grow. Stop worrying about if they are telling you about allhiphop, and take the content for yourself and do something smarter with it. Before you know it, they'll be coming to you first.

  • At 5:31 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Interesting thoughts.

    Incidentally, I've been doing this longer than most. I've been writing professionally about music for over eleven years, my blog's been around since 2003, and my 12th national magazine cover story comes out later this month. I have over 300 publicists in my Rolodex and have even been at some of their weddings, I've interviewed Russell Simmons for this site, so this isn't me being all sour grapes, this is me pointing out a recent change in the way music PR does business and how it's actually hurting them.

    You compared apples to oranges at one point in your response. A PR person sending out a blast that a website has the exclusive on a video release is nothing like a book putting "NY Times Bestseller" on its cover. The first has nothing to do with a sales accomplishment. A Billboard award would have been a more apt comparison to "NY Times Bestseller."

    The fact that bloggers aren't original is a problem for both the blogging community AND the publicists, but that's another subject for another time.

    BTW - I've broken more artists here thanks to my Artist Of The Week feature, many of which were the artists' first interviews, than practically any other hip-hop site on the net. Homeboy Sandman's first interview? Yeah, it was here, and it was in 2007. Those sites you mentioned are now catching on to acts I debuted years ago through true networking, not waiting on a publicist to send something.

  • At 7:33 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Clarification: It will be the 12th national magazine cover story I've booked, 11th I've written. One I booked and assigned to another writer while I was the editor of a magazine and working on getting a different story some TV time.

  • At 5:06 PM, Blogger DJCynic said…

    Process stories are kind of silly.

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