So you want to send your new album to press 3 months ahead of time, but you’re sick of your tracks being leaked before it’s even released. What’s an artist to do? Without question, this is the most contested issue regarding the promotion of a record today. As a publicist, my hands are tied: no journalist worth their salt will review a record without hearing the entire record and, at the same time, I’ve witnessed too many artists have their art brazenly stolen. In the end, I believe it’s far riskier to withhold the music (and thereby forgo press) than it is to send CDs out, get ink, but get it leaked too. In this two part series for Ballin PR, I spoke with veteran journalist Adam Bernard who has his own take on promotional CDs.
Ballin PR: What would you say to an artist who doesn’t want to send out promos to press?
AB: If an artist doesn’t want to send out promos to press then they should be prepared to not get any press. It’s as simple as that. No one is going to write about a restaurant without tasting their food and no one is going to write about an artist without hearing their work.
Ballin PR: What is your advice to getting around the downloading situation?
AB: Sadly, there really is no getting around the downloading situation other than by knowing the writers you’re working with. What artists should realize, though, is that CD sales only make up a very small portion of their potential earnings. Touring and merchandising have always been the true staples of an artist’s livelihood. Obviously all of this is affected if we start talking about the 360 deals some labels are trying to sign artists to, but that’s another discussion for another time. So while it’s terrible that people are uploading music, and yes, it’s probably costing artists a few dollars, it isn’t necessarily the end of the world. An optimist might even go as far as saying that some of those downloaders could end up concert goers, which would more than make up for the small loss in CD sales.
Ballin PR: How do you feel about watermarked-drops on promos?
AB: Most of the time I won’t listen to a CD if it has anti-piracy drops on it. There have been a select few instances when the drops were only one or two per song, and they weren’t that intrusive, that I’ve let it slide, but they REALLY take away from the listening experience. Anti-piracy drops are bad all around, even for the artist. Honestly, if you’re an artist do you really want a drop filled CD to be the representation of your work that gets reviewed by the press? There’s also the possibility that after so many drops the writer’s disposition changes while listening to the album and that can greatly affect a review.
Ballin PR: What about streaming links?
AB: I’ve reviewed a few albums this way, usually because it’s been the ONLY way to get a listen to an album that we NEED for the issue, but I’m not a fan of streaming links. Yes, they get to people quicker and there’s no chance of piracy, but on the same token as not wanting to have an album filled with anti-piracy drops be the reviewable representation of one’s work, does an artist, when he or she really thinks about it, want their work to be reviewed based on how it sounds coming out of a set of laptop speakers? Not surprisingly, a lot of writers use laptops, and laptop speakers don’t exactly provide the kind of sound quality a regular stereo, or even a car stereo would provide.
Ballin PR: What would you say to an artist who has had their albums leaked before they are released by journalists in the past?
AB: I’d say that it’s horrible that they had to experience such a lack of professionalism. It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone is equipped with a strong set of morals, but that’s something we have to deal with in every aspect of life. Just because one writer screwed you over, though, don’t take it out on the next one by blowing off your interview days. Remember, it’s not all about the quick sale, it’s about developing a fan base that will support you over the next ten to twenty years that will ensure your livelihood. If you stay professional you will have a much better chance at making that happen. Artists and publicists need to remember that it’s not just the content of the album that matters, but how that content is being listened to. I interviewed Dru Ha, founder of Duck Down Enterprises, a few years ago and when the subject of how he likes to listen to demos came up he noted:
“…you’re in your office, that’s your work environment, that’s never when I listen to music. A producer will come in and say they want to have a meeting with me and I’m like you want to have a meeting with me for what? The last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer in the middle of a business day, of business hours, and listen to your beats, because that’s not how I would listen to your beats. How I would listen to your beats is after a couple of drinks, laying back, or being in my car, or going somewhere, or being relaxed, and that’s also difficult to even have a work environment and try to get into music. You listen to most of your music in your free time as a consumer, as a fan, so that’s really what we are, we have to be fans first and I get stressed out during the day so I don’t really maybe have time to give something my full attention.”