Why EXCLUSIVES!!! Make Me Hate Music

 Jesus Christ these damn things irritate the shit out of me, both as a label and as a blogger. You know what I mean, don’t you? EXCLUSIVE!1!!! FIRST STREAM OF WAYLOR STIFT’S NEW SINGLE ZOMGWOW!!!1! etc etc etc..

Firstly, there’s no such fucking thing as a fucking exclusive. It’s pointless. This is the fucking internet for fuck’s sake.

More to the point, though, this is just a fucking stupid act of desperation from both sides where they desperately try and exploit people they perceive to be marginally higher up the ladder than them in order to grasp that tiny little bit of extra attention which seems to be all most people are in music for in the first place. Premieres aren’t in and of themselves dreadful, of course – sometimes it’s just a nice thing between a writer who is a fan and a band who appreciate the support – but almost 99% of the time it’s one or the other or both just desperately hoping someone will give a shit about them.

The reasoning is simple enough, I suppose. The band thinks that the publication has a massive readership and by giving them the exclusive, they’ll get that bit of extra commitment from the publication to pushing it to that readership and KABOOM, fame and fortune are inevitable.

Publications, on the other hand, are looking to give as much support to the bands they love, and given how much support they’ve given them in the past, isn’t it nice that the first listen of their awesome new song takes place on our site even though they’re big now. We are building a genuine reputation for supporting the music we love, and showing people our fine taste and curatorial judgement.

The problem is that this isn’t really how it works in reality.

In reality, bands are rather pathetically offering up these premieres so as to give themselves the tiniest extra chance of getting coverage in what they see as the most significant and important publication they can reasonably aim for, hoping that audience and that stamp of approval will do something magical for their careers or give them some vague sense of validation.

The publications, on the other hand, are just looking to exploit buzzy bands to look cool. If we get this super-cool premiere from this super-cool band then all their legions of hip young fans will think that we are super-cool too and then they will always come to our website to bathe in our glorious opinions and we will become significant cultural touchstones for the fashionable youth of the 21st Century. Or if they’re not all that buzzy, at least they’ll spend all day trying to get their fans to come to our site, which means traffic nirvana.

The results are just painful and stupid.

From the point of view of  a label or a PR guy, I fucking hate this shit. It seems pretty much impossible to get a news piece on most of the more influential sites because they just aren’t interested unless you dress the fucking thing up as an exclusive or as a premiere. Why? What a waste of fucking time. If you like it, are interested in the band, or rate the music you should just fucking publish it. If you want to be a tastemaker that’s your entire fucking purpose.  Who cares if it’s a fucking exclusive or if a hundred other sites have written about it – respect your own opinions.

And how can you tell that most of the thinking in this area is a pathetic as I have laid out above? Well if the band are bigger than the publication then the publication will fart out any old recycled fucking news piece regardless of anything, just for the hits. I know this from writing a blog myself that timely articles about famous artists drives a lot of traffic, irrespective of whatever copy-and-pasted shit you put in there – that’s partly why I stopped doing it.

Alternatively, if you’re too small to demand the coverage off the back of your own status and have them scrabbling around after you then you’ll get leant on for exclusives so that they can exploit your entire PR effort driving traffic to their site in an effort to justify the feature. Basically, they are holding you to fucking ransom to push traffic to their site. I am at the point now where I am nervous about announcing things on my own fucking website, in case the fact that it is already out there puts off too many other sites from writing about it at all. I shouldn’t do it. You shouldn’t do it, it’s pathetic.

From the point of view of a music reviewer I find it equally irritating when PR people and bands I don’t know get in touch peddling exclusives and premieres.  I don’t need to be pandered to. There’s no need to offer me an exclusive. I have some fucking integrity, thank you, I’ll cover it if I think it is good or interesting and only then, as I have demonstrated about a bazillion times in the past. Ooh, an exclusive, I’ll definitely write about your shit band now.

What’s actually worse is when PR people get in touch linking me to another website, saying ‘our exclusive new single just premiered on hipsterpish.com, check it out!’ What they’re effectively saying is that now the important people are interested they’re trying to use their status to impress me into writing about stuff, and also that we are so far down the pecking order that they can’t even be fucked sending us the actual press release.  Once the big boys have picked the carcass clean, we small fry are invited to scavenge amongst the bones. Fuck off.

And why? I just don’t see the fucking point. Fair enough, Pitchfork’s Best New Music anointment means a lot of traffic and kudos, and maybe one or two others do, but most of this shit is fucking meaningless. Have you seen how few plays an exclusive premiere on one of the perceived larger online music magazines gets you? Pretty much fuck all, actually. You’re better off firing it around your fans most of the time, and letting their enthusiasm do the rest. Certainly if theirs doesn’t then there’s fat chance anyone else’s will.

The premiere seems to fundamentally misunderstand the network effects of the internet. If as a band you want things to go viral – which you do – then it’s not the one big important site that matters, but the sheer number of sites, fans, pals who share the thing around everywhere. And if as a publication you want to drive traffic to your site then you want the band to be talked about as far and wide as possible so that they get big and everyone starts looking for them on the internet, don’t you? This pathetic, status-conscious grovelling from both sides makes absolutely everyone look shit.

You can tell the good sites because a few of them genuinely do premiere stuff with almost no audience and which no-one else has heard of for no other reason than that they really like it. I love seeing that happen – that’s what music writing should be. But more often than not it’s sites desperately trying to chisel bands for every last bit of audience they can send their way instead of having some fucking respect for their own actual, real opinions about music. And bands are all too often desperately looking for that stamp of approval from the bigger fish and often neglecting the smaller fry, even when they have genuine enthusiasm for your stuff and actually might put some more effort into helping you reach a bigger audience.

Fucking hell, the ‘plea for integrity’. As if the fucking internet didn’t have enough of these already – almost as many as it has spurious fucking exclusive streams of new songs or pointless fucking video premieres.