Writing about music is a privilege & should never be abused

The recent news from Frontiers Records has got me thinking. And the thinking has made me quite cross. So, what better way to welcome in the weekend than with a bit of a rant?

For the record, I am in no way angry at Frontiers Records or any other record label. My anger is vented at those amongst the ‘media’, if you can call them that, who abuse a position of trust to leak albums to the wider populace ahead of the official release date. But more on that in a moment.

First, for those unfamiliar with the recent press release from Frontiers, here is a link to it in full:

Essentially, due to the actions of what is probably a small minority of people who deliberately leak advance copies of albums, Frontiers have had to take the decision to do away with physical promos and even digital downloads. From now on, the only option for journalists will be to stream the albums online via protected sites.

I fully understand this stance from Frontiers. They, like most labels, are in an increasingly difficult position given the advances of technology and they have to protect their interests and those of their artists. But then, I am ‘old school’ – if I like an album, I will buy it. Usually the limited edition as well. I want the physical product in my hands.

However, on a practical level, this decision will ultimately mean that I won’t be able to review and feature much from Frontiers from now on on the Blog Of Much Metal. Let me explain why…

I, like most others, do this as a hobby, in my spare time. I don’t get paid for it and I don’t expect to. It is an ambition of mine, a long-held dream, but whilst it’s just the little old Blog Of Much Metal, I see no way of earning anything from it.

Some friends and family therefore question, frequently, why I do this. The answer is that I love doing it. It is genuinely a labour of love for me. I have had some dark times in my past where music has acted like a rock and helped me through whatever life has thrown at me.

As a result, I want to give something back to the music that has offered me so much over the years. I feel it is as much a duty as it is a passion. If 10 people read a review of an album I have written and a couple of them buy it, I will have made a small difference. I wrote for Powerplay Magazine for many years, again for free, but recently quit that to be able to focus on exactly the bands and the styles of music that I want. If a band impresses me or moves me, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are, they will get some column inches from me on the Blog.

I now have a young family, so my spare time is ever-more limited. With two girls aged three and one respectively, a full-time career, a dog and a partner who rightly requires some of my attention from time to time, I find that the only spare time I have is late at night when everyone else is in bed asleep. I also have the short commute to work and two dog-walks per day where I try to cram in as much music-listening as I can.

So you see, I have to download promos wherever possible to ensure that I have them to hand as readily as possible to sneak in a little listening. In theory, there’s no reason why I can’t access a streamed album on-line via my phone for example whilst out with the dog. Except for two reasons: 1. the punitive expense of using my roaming profile and 2. I live in a rural area where, to be polite, the roaming signal can be quite poor.

If I access streams, they have to be accessed at home. This drastically cuts down my opportunity to listen and therefore impacts upon any reviews I can write. I am not in this game to write substandard or ill-informed reviews; I want to write articles that are knowledgeable, enjoyable and at least demonstrate that I have done the appropriate homework.

This is a real shame because, in the case of Frontiers Records, there are plenty of releases that interest me and those that read my blog. But I’m afraid that I, personally, have no choice.

I’m not complaining however. As I said, I understand the position of Frontiers and respect it. And this then brings me on to the ranting part of this post…

Who I don’t respect are those idiots that decide to abuse a position of privilege for personal gain or for any other unfathomable reason. Let’s be clear, those of us who do get access to music in advance of general release are privileged. It is a perk that we should never abuse. The artists, the labels and the industry trusts us and it is a trust that should not be broken. Remember why we’re in this ‘business’ in the first place – helping bands and the industry in general. Those people won’t care one iota but they have only succeeded in making our job, as legitimate writers, that little bit harder. And it directly affects the bands who we are supposed to be helping.

Take my top 5 bands of all time: Evergrey, Haken, Shadow Gallery, Anathema and Katatonia – none of these bands are stratospheric in terms of their popularity. They all have strong fan bases and make a certain amount of money from their art. But they always need support from us, to ensure that they continue to survive, be it by buying the music, attending the shows or being written about to help drive the first two.

I don’t want to imagine a world without these and other great bands – it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Every person that disregards this for their own personal gain is, frankly, a moron. It isn’t that hard to say no to people. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been contacted by someone out of the blue who asks for me to share a promo that I have. They promise that I can trust them and that they wouldn’t dare leak it. Yeah, right. I wasn’t born yesterday and I’m not in this for financial gain, so I say ‘no’. Every time. As such, there can only be one reason for people leaking music: greed. Maybe stupidity, but mainly greed.

Oh and if that wasn’t bad enough, these idiots also tarnish the rest of us with their mucky brush. I have a blog but I run it as professionally as I can – it isn’t a pirate site or an sloppy venture but that’s the immediate thought for some when they hear the word ‘blog’.

But I shall persevere. I shall continue to write reviews, articles and features on the Blog of Much Metal to the best of my ability because all the while my favourite bands are writing and recoding new material, I want to support them. It’s as simple as that.

3 Thoughts

  1. I agree with you here. I play at being a writer but out of the 120 odd albums I’ve been sent, not a single track has ever been passed on. It pissed me off when I go to trade stands at festivals and see promos in the second hand CDs. Until we can stream directly to our bluetooth ears it looks like there may be a dip in review opportunities.

  2. Well said on the counter point about Frontiers Records decision —- I agree, its gonna make it harder to get reviews of their releases written if we don’t have an advance download or stream to work from. Their albums might get lost in the shuffle of an already jam packed release schedule.

    I respect Frontiers decision, but I take a little bit of umbrage with their feathering all bloggers with the piracy brush. I’m not a journalist, I just write a metal blog, and no one pays me to do it, in fact I pay to keep it up myself. In the time that I’ve been doing it however I’ve managed to snag a small but dedicated base of readers, many of whom buy albums that I’m recommending —- to wit, I recommend that people BUY the albums, not download them. Nor am I stupid enough to upload a promotional copy of an album to some sort of torrent/filesharing database, I barely have enough time to listen to and write about all the music I get at that (who has the time to upload this stuff?!).

    I’m understanding of the label’s frustration, and can’t understand why someone with access to a promo would knowingly upload it somewhere. But dammit, not all of us are doing that, and hey label guys, we aren’t getting paid when we end up writing rather positive reviews of your artists and give them an extra sales bump here or there for a new album. How about a greater attempt at communication and outreach towards the mostly volunteer metal writing community that freely gives your roster a crap ton of advertising!

    Argh, late night, agitated — hah, rant over!

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