Saturday, October 11, 2003

Q AWARDS: THE RESPONSE: While the awards themselves were what you might expect, the responses of the Record Label Executives attending them (presumably on work time) are quite eye opening. Polydor's Jim Chancellor writes to the Record of the Day magazine to ask, erm, "Where was the grub?" - showing an sharp eye for the priorities of the evening. Clearly times must be hard at the label if their staff are worrying about having to fork out for their own dinner on the way home. Mark Collen - the senior Vice President of Global Marketing at EMI - also sat right down to write to RotD, to whine that "the artist community was more respectful in attendance than perhaps Q treated them in return - some out of place comments that would have been better at the Brat Awards." In other words: How dare they mock us - we did them a favour by turning up, didn't we? From a major figure in an industry which sues its customers, from a company whose idea of marketing is that Sleeping Wiht Ghosts style sell the suckers the same shit twice concept, complaints of a 'where's the respect' nature sit a trifle uneasy.

In the same edition of the magazine, Paul Smernicki has taken time out of managing Press & Artistic Development for Polydor (is the development of its artists such a low priority there that the chap responsible for it has to top up his job with extra press duties?) to defend the way music journalists are now frogmarched in to listen to albums for review in the offices rather than getting advance copies to sell down the Camden record and tape exchange ("review in the comfort of their own homes over a period of many listens.") The issues around this subject are, he says, just as frustrating for them as they are for the journalists, but, you know - sometimes promo copies have been leaked onto Kazaa, and occasionaly found for sale in shops. (It's true, actually, that one of the most ignored instructions is the 'Review Purposes Only. Not for retail sale' label that any good haul at a second hand stall will wear plenty of times over. Paul won't name names, but he has them, and says they'd surprise us. Respectable music journalists are doing this. And while not everyone's bad, "the potential fallout of just one abuse of trust for an artist and record company could be, and has been, so catastrophic that it's a risk deemed unacceptable." Wooooah... hold up there... awkward, maybe; embarrassing, certainly - but "catastrophic"? Has a potential number one album ever been kept out the Top Ten by a music journalist's unthinking swapping it for beer and a packet of pork scratchings? Would there be an instance of a label being brought to its knees by an unfortunate release of a new single onto the P2P network? Has there bollocks. "Our New Media Department estimate that Songs For The Deaf lost 30,000 sales as a direct result of it appearing online pre-release." Well, yes, we can see how that might be the case - certainly giving people the chance to hear what a hoary old bunch of grey vests that album was may have put some people off, but let's just poke that contention with a sharp stick for a moment. There's no way of knowing how they came up with the 30,000 figure - we're sure it wasn't just plucked out of thin air - but even if the figure was scientifically created by scientists using slide rules, how on earth could anyone sit there with a straight face and say "These sales were lost because the album was online before the release date; had the album not got onto the P2P networks until the day of release, then those 30,000 people would have gone off and bought the album in a shop instead. They wouldn't have waited until one of them had, and then waited to download it off him. Oh no."

But Paul doesn't want us to think any of this is his fault, oh no - "these security directives never come from PRs themselves, but are policies directed at board level. There's little point moaning down the phone at Philipa, age 18, from thingumy PR." So, as well as being a condescening snot to people who work - generally for very little pay - at the sharp end of the music sausage, he's also suggesting, clearly, that gripes be directed straight to board members. Music journalists of the world: there is your mission.

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