So you want to send your new album to press 3-4 months ahead of time, but you're sick of your tracks being leaked onto the Internet 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. I spoke to journalist Adam Bernard, Urban Culture Editor at Beyond Race magazine and freelance writer, who had his own take on promotional CDs.
NB: 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.
NB: 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.
NB: 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.
NB: 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.