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Most readers appreciate a 'Vested Interest disclaimer' at the head of an article about these kind of things.
Hyperdub was a website before it was a label I think. Kode9 was using it to write about urban dance culture before making a label to release his own stuff before expanding it to Burial and lots of artists it has now.
Keysound is run by Dusk & Blackdown, Blackdown is a journalist who writes for p4k, other places and has been blogging for ages. I think it was set up to release their own stuff too but now its expanded quite a bit.
I guess if you have access to music no one else does and have the means to put something out then go for it. Oh I guess you have to think there is an audiance too or you might as well just make yourself a copy. Those guys do more than blog though they where all really involved at the start of the scene thru DJing in clubs/on radio and producing as well as writing. I don't see anything wrong with it unless you do loads of epic reviews giving 10/10s and stuff. You can do cooler stuff instead like get your artists to do special stuff like mixes, interviews, gubbins... Those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head that arn't DiS.
but is it any different to the practice of Index Points etc., for journalists?
do you mean the likes of Tim Jonze (NME and now Guardian Music online editor) releasing Glasvegas' debut single? or Imran Ahmed going from NME new bands editor to A&R-ing the likes of Iwasacubscout and Vampire Weekend at Abeano/XL? Am pretty sure, mid-90s, a lot more folks 'in the media' (like Lamacq with Deceptive that put out Idlewild, Elastica, etc) had labels.
certain editors of certain magazines being part of certain deals involving advertisers, artist coverage, access and personal financial recompense.
you mean like a certain magazine, named after a certain british punk band, that have a cover CD that coincides with with a new bands feature and to be given one of these features and to feature on the cd, you have to take out a certain amount of advertising?
that the end of year list for a certain music magazine was altered. One of the allegations made was that certain editorial staff of this magazine had a deal with certain record labels which meant that they would receive some form of remuneration if particular albums sold well.
i remember a certain magazine editor changing the staff voted album of the year poll to reflect his personal taste. i don't actually do a staff voted poll because of this, as i don't see why the most agreeable should rise to the top and think it's important to weight things based on those who have the most input and also those who have specialist knowledge. but anyway, this is yet another aside...
how is that different from fanzine/tape labels?
Most of the music I buy are from labels that were BBSs/blogs/online cmmunitities. The 'community' was diverse enough for there not to be a conflict of interests. Blogs that turn into labels advocate a style of music; nothing wrong with that.
If you are talking about more well know blogs covering mainstream/indie music I dunno...
like PF, DiS, All Music, etc. In either case, biases will develop. Some of them are weird, like how every PF writer hates Mars Volta, or how lots of very average British bands get good reviews here (safety wink). I don't usually jump to the big conspiracy theory, that the advertisers or whomever are somehow influencing the editorial content, though. Having had some experience with this website, I can say that other than a short little intro to the reviews up for grabs, I've never been asked to write a review in a certain way. The editors of this, and other music webzines I'd guess, are more concerned with delivering quality content than pushing an agenda.
Now, the blogger than starts his own label. Here we're mostly just talking about some dude who loves music enough to put his money where his mouth is. Where's the harm in that? So I'm gonna say that that is both natural and good. Even Sean doing his thing for a spell--I had no problem with that. (Who wouldn't want Emily Haines on their cell phone?)
From a writer's point of view, it's a tricky thing sometimes. Like I've been asked to write a profile piece on Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray fame. OK, so I think "Fly" was a stupid song. Is it a big compromise for me to write up this article in a positive way, like my editor wants? I don't think so. I can couch my words such that I can be complimentary to the subject and not come off as some hired ass kisser. At least that's what I tell myself.
I don't think you need to be a journalism major or an ethics professor to know what constitutes a "conflict of interest." We know when there is one, and how certain pieces need a disclaimer and how certain pieces should just not be written to avoid it.
I think it's slightly more sinister when labels don't take the same name as the blog/site. I understand why Transgressive isn't called Rockfeedback as there are different people involved. It's perhaps a little more sinister when a label owns a share of an editorial outlet and any bias that arises, although in most cases, like the sadly somewhat defunct Playlouder and Beggars group (XL, 4AD, etc) getting lots of exclusive streams back in the day or Buzzmedia, the company that owns a share of Stereogum and sells ads across a lot of major acts, is reportedly part-owned by Universal (and I mostly know this as I once had a meeting with folks from Buzzmedia in the Universal offices).
Personally, I think all sites and labels put their pennies where their passion lies. Some labels, when they're run more like businesses than hobbies that are a bit like a mixtape-gone-a-bit-more-serious, the dynamic really shifts. For instance, if Warner or EMI started buying up blogs and telling them what to cover, the blogs would probably die and the releases wouldn't have much credibility.
Whatever happened to Perez Hilton's label?
I'd say 'sinister' is a slightly over the top moustache twirling description for something often fairly mundane.
As you say quite often slightly different people are involved or the name of the blog just doesn't sound good as a label name, or maybe they see the label eventually going off in a different way to the blog, or etc, etc.
yeah, i shoulda called the DiS label something else, as the label primarily reflected my taste and especially considering Martha Wainwright, our biggest seller, isn't really something we would cover on DiS... although we do cover Rufus, Feist and Cat Power, and there's a lot of love for folkier stuff like Emmy, Johnny Flynn, Blue Roses, etc so not a billion miles away.
I run Song, by Toad Records, but it all started with the Song, by Toad blog about five or so years ago. If you want to ignore conflict of interest stuff, it is absolutely natural.
Being a music blogger (as opposed to a professional writer) seems to come from an evangelical desire to constantly bore people senseless about the kind of music you love. Being a record label is almost exactly the same instinct, but taken to an even more exhausating and commercially suicidal extreme - it's just about a desire to get things you love heard by as many people as possible.
But as to this 'journalistic ethics' bollocks, I just don't buy it. I may have respect for a lot of individual journalists, but I have none for the elevation of the professional writer to some sort of ludicrous pedestal of integrity or ability, because it doesn't seem to bear any resemblance to reality at all. As oceanRain points out above, you are far more likely to be required to say things you do not actually think to be true as an actual journalist.
Now, a lot of bloggers are just plain bad writers, and increasingly, as it has become a more established medium, a lot of people are just on the internets to pimp their shit, which is crap for everyone. But as marckee points out above, it depends an awful lot on the details of how you do it.
My readers always know when I am writing about bands in whom I have a vested interest, be it in terms of finance or friendship, and they don't seem to have a problem with it. I never review records by friends or on our lable by pretending to be objective about them either, I tend to review them in a more anecdotal way, talking about the story of how they were made, or what the band in question were trying to achieve.
The worst conflicts of interest for me, however, are never related to the label, because that is up front and obvious, loud and clear. The hardest things I find are the fact that several people who could be very useful to the label side of the business, for example, ask me to review their artistic enterprises on the blog, and I may hate them. Or when people who are close friends release albums I hate, and expect me to write about them on the blog. Or stuff like that. So there are many conflicts of interest in being a blogger, particularly one with your own label, but they are often one step removed from the ones you might expect.
Basically though, if you're honest and up front about where all of these conflicts lie, and operate on the basis of full disclosure at all times, then there doesn't seem to be a problem. It's all about integrity of voice, I think, and as long as you maintain that integrity people will be cool with it.
because we are kind of a blog. and we started a label back in 2003?
How about Catbird Records, they were quite early I think. And Autumn Tone is run by Aquarium Drunkard.
The latest is My Old Kentucky Blog with Roaring Colonel Records. Their next realease is pretty good actually - Burnt Ones. http://www.myspace.com/burntonesforever
I think there is definitely going to be a major issue in the rather near future as actual media outlets struggle more and more for money and the people selling things realise that their advertising money can buy an awful lot more than just placement and banners. There is a real danger, in my eyes, that content becomes bought and paid for as a tool of advertising.
There are already so many magazines run exclusively as vehicles for ads that it can't be long before the publishing houses are replaced by the ad agencies, and the editorial becomes simply a small part of creating a more general 'brand space' (or whatever it gets called). Why bother courting a bloody-minded, independent publication when you can find any one of dozens of perfectly capable unemployed writers to create pretty much any content you think will serve your commercial purposes.
If you were careful about pitching the tone of the writing itself, I reckon the record industry could easily sidestep those troublesome music mags and simply go straight to their consumers with the exact message they wanted them to hear. Elle and Cosmo are pretty much exactly this already.
Sorry, total digression, but what you said about BuzzMedia in particular makes me very, very twitchy.
most of the acts who would be considered core to DiS now announce all their news and reveal exclusive content direct to fans, its got to the point where we're just aggregating.
plus a lot of the more amenable people who'll post anything, are much more likely to get love from labels and prs than people like us who are hard to please.
...the worse off we'll all be.
The only real way around that is to provide extra value yourself, but of course that always requires more effort and skill and is more expensive.
But with that level of compromise in the professional sphere, I find myself wondering just a little about how people can question the 'ethics and objectivity' of a music blogger with a record label. Yes, it's a question, but it's rarely very disguised, and seems trivial compared to the conflicts of interest faced by real publications and professional journalists.
most journalists are controlled by what their editors commission them to cover, they don't get much free reign to write at the lengths they want about what they want... which is just as well as most mags would be full of stuff about The Fall and Teenage Fanclub, and little else.
It's either "exclusive" things to a website, though this is obviously audio and visually based. Once something's on the internet it's there, an "exclusive announcement" is kinda pointless and impossible in a way.
Or it's a press release.
and it's not like anyone really credits their sources anyway.
or if you get a beasties boys world exclusive that runs on 360 sites worldwide that you get more than a few hundred clickthroughs to read the full feature. and get more clicks from an unofficial fanblog about the band than rolling stone, nme and Q combined.
but this is somewhat of an aside...
can only be considered a terrible, terrible thing.
Natural gets my vote.
For me it's a natural extension.
I like music enough to spend my free time writing about it(www.sluttyfringe.com), with no real expectation of any reward except the enjoyment I get from hearing new music and giving a band/producer/dj/promoter i like a bit of a push.
And because sometimes you find a band that you really, really like and who for whatever reason don't have a label, or in the case of our first release a track that was never going to be released and which we loved it felt right to set up a label (www.hotpockets.info).
I figured that if you like them that much, and you have the resources, why not press up a few lovely coloured 7"s.
In my role as a 'blogger' I do get exposed to a lot more bands who have yet to hit the wider press or industry's radar, so it's natural that some I'd champion and inevitably become closer too and some I'd want to work with on a more professional level.
Maybe with us this happens a bit more as I also throw a lot of parties and clubnights, so i'm always looking for new acts to play sets and if they blow me away live, I end up booking them again and again, and it develops from there. Over the years some bands I've ended up managing, some I've helped with their PR or bookings and some I've stuck on vinyl.
I don't think anyone would ever read a write up on Slutty Fringe of one of our bands though and be under any illusion that we dont have an obvious vested interest in them. But it's never really occurred to me that it would ever be considered a problem.
Hopefully though someone might go well these guys have vaguely decent taste, if they're willing to spunk a shit load of money on new bands once in a while with little hope of breaking even then perhaps I should at least check out the band.
But I'm under no illusion that we have so much control over our readers thoughts that we can con them into liking something they don't.
At the end of the day posts about bands we put out constitute about 1% of our blogs output, so if they dont like it, there'll be something else along in a minute untainted by association.
As for the influence of advertisers on what we blog, well at the moment all the ads on SF, have been for companies/record labels/club nights run by friends and we have tended to give them away for free.
This will probably change very soon, as I've just finished a long running DJ residency that effectively bankrolled the site and we need to recoup just some of our ever growing costs. Plus we're getting more and more enquiries from labels about running paid ads (and for quite a few bands that i personally don't like), so we need to make a decision soon.
As we only tend to write about stuff we like at least i wouldn't have the problem of wanting to write a negative review about something being advertised, but I can see how the advert would colour some people's view of positive things we might want to write and that might become an issue.
Funnily enough though we were recently paid to help promote a party for a car manufacturer, and this did involve us writing editorial not just an advertisement running on the site, which i would consider more of a direct endorsement. I really had to think long and hard about it.
In the end though the sum they were offering was enough to make a decent dent in the debt mountain that is our record label and i figured our readers were A) sophisticated enough to know the score, B) as they could get into the party, they got something out of it.
Also as it was a car being launched not an album by a crappy indie band it seemed almost more like an abstract concept (I mean I don't know many people who go out and buy brand new cars, maybe I just know poor people...).
I was writing the blog, unsigned bands would get in touch, and I knew I had a sizeable enough audience who read the site every day who liked the band in question, so we initially planned to help them do short runs of self-releases so they could release something and make a little money until a proper label came along.
It just turned out I was relatively organised and very stubborn, so it ended up becoming much bigger than I ever imagined. The two still seem like natural extensions of the same underlying instinct though.
ah see it's just the 'make a little money' bit where we diverge dramatically
The rest are still firmly in the red. But then, vinyl is very, very expensive, so I am not surprised. All our vinyl releases are a/ by far my favourite and b/ a long, long way from making any money.
do you mean some releases make the loss on others easier to bare?
I budget project by project.
So, we spend a certain amount on a release (generally just manufacture, digital distribution admin and the cost of a couple of hundred promo copies, because we record everything in our living room with existing equipment, and it tends to be mixed and mastered in-house too). Then, once the sales have recouped that amount, we share the profits 50/50 with the band. The aim is for every release to break even, rather than be lucrative or massive, so that we can continue to do what we do.
So far only Nothing Broke, Pissing on Bonfires and All Creatures Will Make Merry (yes, already!) are paying back to the label and the artist in this manner. Those records are all by Meursault, and all our other releases have cost more to manufacture and market than we have made back on them thus far.
Our sums don't even begin to factor in the time I spend on anything or stuff like that, so to claim that we are making money in any general sense is completely laughable, but in the long run all of our releases are likely to break even, because the expenditure is measured in relation to the profile and work rate of the band.
At our size we can't, by ourselves, make a band famous, the only people who can really do that are the band themselves by getting out there and writing and playing as often and as well as they can. So if a band are unheard of and rarely play we'll only make 1-300 of anything they release. With Meursault, who work their arses off and have a track record of selling records, we can confidently invest a bit more.
But basically our label is designed to be sustainable in the long term on small budgets - it's highly unlikely any artist will be able to give up their day job working with us.
who's a massive blogger/critic kind of guy and has just put out his second (I think) album.
especially as a lot of the more generic 'blog music' (for want of a better term) is often more about the production aesthetic and what it represents, than a semblance of 'song'/big melody.
West Norwood Casette Library does funky/dubstep sort of stuff, jimi's blog interviewed him recently: http://sonicrouter.blogspot.com/2010/05/interview-west-norwood-cassette-library.html, you might like it I dunno.
but while obviously you've distanced your self from the term 'blog music', that second sentence seems to suggest there is a homogonous, or even a majority that do similar things - which simply isn't true, to take a non-music example, I was reading a blog discussing Heidegger last night, and many of my favourites focus on 70s/80s Soul and Disco stuff, so yeh, there is no 'generic blog music', it's just depends on what blogs people happen to want to read.
There are an awful lot of blogs that focus largely on material that gets ignored by larger magazines, and provide a space for it to be chatted about and played. Hence stuff like Sonic Router, really.