Other Places: The CD And Download Glut

The photograph is of CDs that have accumulated on my office floor because shelf space is a distant memory. The little yellow things are an effort to create a sense of order, tagging sections of boxes by arrival date. It doesn’t work very well.
With notable exceptions for which I am grateful, the publicity releases inserted in the packages with CDs don’t work very well, either. The surplus of both is a problem that did not exist for reviewers in the days when there was a handful of record companies releasing a few albums a month. Big companies still exist, but now there are legions of independent operators taking advantage of the ease of digital record production. Today, a record company may be your auto mechanic or your dentist who moonlights as a trumpet player on weekends, cuts a CD with his fellow moonlighters and hires a publicist in hopes of getting reviewed. They’re out there by the hundreds. I’ve thought of writing (again) about the phenomenon, but my blogging colleague (blogeague?) Marc Myers of JazzWax beat me to the punch, so why not let him do the work? In his latest installment, Marc leads with a paragraph I might have written.

Because I review CDs each week here and contribute to the Wall Street Journal, I’m often bombarded by publicists trying to pitch me their clients’ CDs. Truth be told, 50% of these e-releases are sent to the trash unread based on their subject lines. Another 20% are trashed within seconds after opening. And another 20% are trashed because they don’t inform fast enough. Which leaves 10% that I actually read.

Marc writes about e-releases and MP3 downloads, but the glut of physical albums and publicity releases stuffed into the CD envelopes is even more difficult to deal with. There is no trash button to push to get rid of the unwanted ones. He goes on:

This post is addressed to musicians who scratch their heads and wonder why they don’t get coverage by the print or electronic media. But I warn you, what follows is tough love about the music-promotion business and the media. My hope is that publicists will pick up some pointers and be better at what they do. And that musicians will come to realize that getting the word out requires more than postage stamps and bubble envelopes.

Here’s what publicists and the media won’t tell you about people like me who review music:

I will steal only the first two of Marc’s 10 points and leave it to you to discover the rest of his post. As usual, he includes imaginative illustrations to illustrate his points.

1. I don’t care about your album. Many musicians and publicists seem to believe that offering me free music is some sort of eagerly awaited prize, like sardines to seals. The truth is I have all the new music I will ever want or need. Good publicists know that reviewers have to be seduced with a great sales pitch.

2. Don’t make me work. Asking me to download music is the kiss of death. Downloads are a pain because I have to break away from writing to download, import into iTunes, and then extract from iTunes if I don’t like what I hear. Way too much time and work. It’s much easier to trash.

For the rest, go to JazzWax.

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  1. Fred Augerman says

    Full marks to you for recognizing fellow jazz blogger Marc Myers! Very classy!

    You are both on the “Must Read” list on a daily basis!

  2. says

    You can be sure, Doug, that every musician in the world will obey… NOT.

    I simply love that column; the tips are valuable and helpful :)

    Especially Marc’s verdict: “I don’t care about your album.”

    Everyone would reply with: “But you *will* care about mine!”

  3. says

    How true all this is…

    In my radio days (going back a few decades now) even worse was the follow-up from the Promo Gal/Guy, wanting your response to a record you didn’t ever want to listen to…

    And they took to writing “Promo for O’Reilly” in felt tip marker on the cover, so it wasn’t even of value as a trader at a used-record store! Bastards!!!