July 20, 2004



Mike Barthel:

"The CMJ samplers were useful precisely for the people who WEREN'T the kind of people who knew how much it cost to place a track and what criteria they used to fill up non-payola'd space. There's not necessarily a connection between paying to promote a track and that track being of no worth; indeed, for anyone who has affection for individiual labels, that would seem to be kind of the point. One of the interesting things about blogs, to me, is the multiple different levels at which they operate, and specifically the different levels of knowledge they assume: the sort of deep but narrow (-ish) background it helps to have to read Simon or Marcello (or arguably Mark at k-punk), all of whom I sometimes find myself just plain not understanding; the shallower but broader knowledge assumed by Matthew's blog or No Rock or NYPLM, all of whom seem to delight in making references geared toward an audience of young cultural gluttons; and the shallow and narrow bodies of knowledge assumed by CMJ and the NME. But the thing is, I (and most of us who didn't have cool older siblings/parents) once had a pretty shallow and narrow body of knowledge, and so for all their faults, hype-happy NME helped get me started. Shallow/narrow becomes deep and/or wide, and having those entry-level resources can be key tools in that process. I don't think Matthew was necessarily arguing for the validity of the CMJ sampler in its present (or even past incarnation), just that particular model. I think what he's promoting is a model of introduction rather than comprehension, and that's what blogs very often—and, I think, usefully—do. They certainly do this better than print media these days, at least on cultural issues; compare the way grime was introduced on the interweb and in hard copy, for instance."


This discussion pivots (but does not end) on disclosure. Most people don't know that labels pay for front-of-store racking in HMV and Virgin, or that even indie labels pay for digital real estate on free CDs bundled with music magazines. Because of the web, more people know about the music business criminals, but the majority of consumers, especially those offline, don't. Take Fahrenheit 9/11. People who read newspapers every day and get routinely enraged by the US government's chronic hubcap stealing may not be surprised by the Moore's allegations. But many, many millions of people are. This is an issue of dissemination. Even those feeling the bandwidth heat avoid plenty of information, sometimes because of the bandwidth itself. (Ever wonder what it would be like to get all your news from Yahoo?)

Buying the shine of an editorial imprimatur is shady business as usual. It is also routine to discover those who can afford placement have some pretty good songs to sell you. As Douglas pointed out, the music and the money don't always land on the same space, but we will give the last word to a song that has yet to fail. Everything.

Posted by Sasha at July 20, 2004 01:58 PM | TrackBack