If Only Everyone In the Music Industry Did It Right
The work that I do for Powerplay Magazine and to a slightly lesser extent ThisIsNotAScene and Ghost Cult, I do for the love of the music. I don’t get paid for it. Whilst I’d love to be remunerated for it, the biggest payment I get is non-financial. It’s the buzz of seeing my name in print, feeling proud of a piece of prose that I have created. But more than that, it is the knowledge that I am giving something back to the scene that I love and that desperately needs support. I love being able to recommend good music to like-minded people because in so doing, I have the fervent hope that I am helping that band in a very small but tangible way to succeed or, at the very least, to survive.
I have been lucky enough throughout my 7-year ‘career’ to have been inundated with positive experiences, too many to recount here. Of course there may be the odd small niggle here and there but generally, it has been a lot of fun, indeed a privilege. Someone once said that it is a mistake to meet your heroes because you’ll only be disappointed. But, in my experience, this is a falsehood and, in certain cases, I am thrilled to call some of my heroes friends now. Shadow Gallery’s Gary Wehrkamp for example, or the guys from Haken and Evergrey.
So it is all the more disappointing to have to report that for the first time since I started writing, I have had a really negative experience that has had such an impact upon me that I felt the need to share it.
I will not give any names because I value what I do and do not want to jeopardise my work going forward. However, this is what happened…
I am requested by my Editor to do a feature on a band. I agree because I like their music and feel that it could be a good article to write. The record label contacts me and a date is agreed for the interview with the artist. At this point, I wish to make it clear that the bone of contention is in no way with the artist, as I hope will become clear.
At the end of the email exchange, having committed myself to the interview, I am asked to call the artist directly. I am always reluctant to do this and will generally try to find another option, but agree on this occasion. Naturally, the artist is not UK-based and so I make the international call, conduct a very successful and enjoyable interview and the job is done.
It is only when I check my telephone bill that I realise the cost of the call is around £25 (or $35/28 euros for my international friends!) With a young baby and a household on only one income whilst my partner remains at home to look after our daughter, this is not an insignificant amount of money. I therefore take the relatively rare step of sending a copy of the bill to the record label asking them politely if they would mind reimbursing me for the cost of the call. The reply I get?
Glad your interview went well – great stuff!
Unfortunately we do not cover the costs of phone calls for interviews, maybe this is something the mag can help you out with.”
I was stunned. I may be being completely naive and wet behind the ears but I was not expecting such a reply. In the past I have attended press functions laid on by record labels and everything has been at their expense, fully aware as they are that our articles and opinions will help to promote their artists and ultimately benefit them as the record label. I don’t expect this treatment, but it is very welcome and greatly appreciated. Moreover, I feel appreciated. In point of fact, when many people in the industry discover that I do it for free and often travel significant distances at my own expense to carry out an assignment, they are shocked, but grateful for the effort.
In the case of this particular record label however, I feel very aggrieved. I feel like I have been used and now that they have got what they wanted, they are not prepared to assist me any further. I was prepared to overlook the fact that there was a minor cock-up in the organisation of the interview – both I and the artist were seemingly given different information, which meant that I contacted the artist an hour or two earlier than he had expected.
I have always been a staunch defender of the industry in so far as I never (or very rarely) downloaded any music illegally. A Record collection that currently stands at over 2000 should attest to this. But I now find my opinion wavering.
This is not an insignificant label, a small independent that, like the rest of us, is struggling to survive in a difficult financial climate. And so it rankles all the more that they could be so dismissive and cheap that they couldn’t see their way clear to reimburse me for a small sum of money that I have spent so that I can promote one of their artists. Fortunately for me, my Editor will kindly reimburse me for the call, but I also think that this is unfair. The mag will make money from sales, but nowhere near the scale of the label from record sales, merch sales and the like. You may think that I am being petty or making a mountain out of a molehill but there is an underlying principle here.
I know that it is a fight that is probably not worth fighting because it will only end up making me even more angry and disappointed than I already am. I even suspect that this blog post will draw a line under the whole affair.
The bottom line though is that I will now think very carefully before offering to assist this label in the future. Instead, if at all possible, I will direct my time and attention on those bands, artists and labels that are more deserving, that need the promotion and that are not involved wit a record label that cares more about money than anything else.
Rant over, thanks for reading and assisting in my therapy!