This morning I find myself somewhat fascinated by what we can- and can’t- get away with posting online. We exist to nurture the art of recorded music. We’re a small group of hardcore fans, supporting a larger community of like minds. We are the consumers of music. We buy the albums. We buy the concert tickets. The t-shirts. The deluxe box sets. Yet we have to toe a line, because if our methods of support ever dare conflict with a marketing scheme, we’re hauled out as traitors and thieves.
The other day we got some really cool demos from the recording sessions for the new Pearl Jam album. But we’re not going to post them or talk about them, because some lawyers somewhere think… Well, who knows what they think? They’ll take away from the impact of the new album’s marketing efforts? Maybe it would cut into sales? We know that neither of these are likely; The fans would talk about them incessantly (right through walking into Target on release day), while the casual passers-by would simply ignore them. They’re really rough demos. And any internet buzz it might incite would only raise awareness for the album among a bunch of people that haven’t been aware of a new Pearl Jam album since before Axl started working on Chinese Democracy.
But we’re not posting them, for at least two reasons: First, of course, I still await sentencing for “promoting” / “damaging” the aforementioned GNR album, and a new criminal charge would likely send me straight to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison.
Second, we’ve come to respect the artist’s right to determine how their art is presented.
See, we can post these newly-unearthed topless photos of Britney Spears from the Gimme More video shoot, and no one gives a shit. Does posting these photos of Britney’s spheres, at the height of her 2007 psycho breakdown, not disrespect her right to present herself in her own way? Of course it does (not that this right hasn’t already been taken away from her by her omnipotent handlers), but no one really cares, because it doesn’t threaten any marketing plan.
The times, they are confusing. What we know to be promotion is occasionally called betrayal, by parties that we know know better. We know it because we’ve caught them faking it. And when they’ve done it “by accident,” with no one but themselves to blame, what happens? No one gets fired. The album debuts at #1 but… well… it would have sold even more!
If only less people heard it…
That’s just the political side. I suppose I’d “get it” if I was in spent more time in the Industry. But I’ve been an American citizen my whole life, and I’m still struggling with the First Amendment.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails recently went on a well-publicized tirade on double standards:
“Wal-Mart went on a rampage years ago insisting all music they carry be censored of all profanity and ‘clean’ versions be made for them to carry… NIN refused, and you’ll notice a pretty empty NIN section at any Wal-Mart…
My reasoning was this: I can understand if you want the moral posturing of not having any ‘indecent’ material for sale- but you could literally turn around 180° from where the NIN record would be and purchase the film Scarface completely uncensored, or buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto where you can be rewarded for beating up prostitutes. How does that make sense?”
And that’s how we feel every time we have to make a judgment call as “bloggers,” as journalists. We have to weigh apples against ostriches, every single time. Rough demos are a violation of discretion, but stolen photos of an artist butt-ass naked are perfectly fine. Last week, we got a scary cease & desist order for posting a fan recording of a band that fucking “welcomes” fan recordings!
We weren’t the only ones confused by that one.
We’re doing our best to play along according to rules that seem to change daily. We don’t understand how the record industry would prefer that we operate. Not that we’re waiting on them to tell us- They’re clearly still trying to figure out how to operate themselves. But it’d be nice to know the common ground from the battlefront. Because as it stands, we don’t.
Here, invade Brit Brit’s privacy. Disrespect her with all of your filthy, deviant fantasies. It’s okay. She’s famous.
Just don’t listen to the new Mars Volta album, or the new Clutch album, or the new Incubus album. Don’t play them for your friends. Because they aren’t on sale yet.