10
Dec
09

The Non-Interview: Music PR in the Blogosphere

When I was taking my communications diploma in between my BA, we were assigned groups in which we would have to create a concept for a local magazine and see it through from conception to publication. As my luck always runs, I was saddled with an incompetent, uncreative, unproductive group, whose best idea was some very vague Manitoba showcase magazine. At any rate, one of my journalistic contributions was to be an interview with David Steinberg while he was in town for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Slightly daunting to me even now, but pretty tongue-choking intimidating for an nineteen-year-old with zero interviewing experience. To make a very long story short, I showed up to the show he was a part of, but at the end of the show, David Steinberg was whisked away (despite the organizers promising me that interview), and the day culminated in me standing at the Winnipeg Airport, realizing I wasn’t going to get that story at all. In a salvaging attempt, I wrote an entire story/rant for the magazine about my chasing/stalking adventures in pursuit of David Steinberg. Perhaps in the end it was a stronger piece than it would have been with the interview. Perhaps it was all rather Steinbergesque. Okay, a very anemic Curb Your Enthusiasm or a Seinfeld in which even less than nothing happens. So why am I telling you this story? Because I’m about to write a piece about an interview I have been trying to get for nearly 8 months: an email interview with Chris Corner of IAMX.

Back when Kingdom of Welcome Addiction first released, I decided I would go after a long-shot opportunity (this happens in my periods of mania) by contacting the North American PR representative for IAMX in the hopes of being able to send a list of questions for Mr. Corner to reply to. Being a lowly MP3 blogger, I figured this wasn’t likely to happen. In fact, I had already resigned myself to not getting any reply (based on my general pre-emption of hope and/or faith in myself and others). The only glimmer of possibility in all this was the fact IAMX is an adamantly independent enterprise; albeit, one with PR representation run independently from them. To my surprise, I did get a very prompt response from PR, allowing me to listen to the full album before I received my hard copy, and consenting to pass my interview questions on to Chris Corner. And I had dealt pleasantly and briefly with this particular contact in the past after he had found my essay on independent artists, including IAMX. So far so good.

I diligently listened to the promo stream and wrote up my questions, they varied from “In your opinion, what are humanity’s biggest myths?” to “You’ve opened yourself up to dialogue with your fans via your MySpace blog. What have you learned through this experience?” to “Your music tends to find the beauty in the wreckage and often juxtaposes the two. Are things more beautiful when they’re damaged or destroyed – burning the box of beautiful things, so to speak?” I was consciously making an effort to ask questions that hadn’t been asked of him before, especially as I figured it’s always fascinating to ask interesting questions of interesting people. I sent off the questions and hoped for the best. I still wasn’t exactly convinced this would happen. I’m not a “professional” journalist with an affiliation or concrete deadline. In fact, I was in an odd liminal place between journalist and fan, and I’m thinking it was the latter identity that perpetuated the fiasco that then ensued.

When I checked to make sure my questions had actually been received, I was given the following reply: “Chris should be getting the answers back to me over the weekend (he’s touring Europe right now and internet connection is rather dodgy out there). Hold tight.” This is perfectly reasonable. After writing my review of Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, I emailed the link to it as a courtesy, and held tight. At the beginning of June, I emailed to check in (after all more than a weekend had passed by this point). No answer. A few weeks later, I tried again. Crickets. Then I tried in July – at this point, I was still just assuming I got lost in the shuffle of requests for all the bands under the same PR. From the beginning, I had also included the escape clause of “if Chris Corner is too busy, I understand. Just let me know either way.” It was now August, and so I tried again, but only after I sent one more at the end of the month with a high priority flag, did I get a response. I feel as though I was still pretty polite: “It’s been several months, and as I initially understood, you had already passed the questions on to him. I’m just wondering where the delay is occurring – all I really want is an update. If this interview is no longer possible, I would still appreciate a response. I haven’t been receiving any responses for the last three or four emails I’ve sent you regarding this.” Yes, I started sounding a bit sterner (less obsequious anyway). So, as I said, this finally got a response. A very suspicious one.

It stated that this PR guy had been trying to get a hold of me by email over the summer while IAMX did a short tour of the US. He said he had wanted to set up a phone interview with Chris Corner rather than bother with the email questions. He then said that because I didn’t answer him, he figured I was no longer interested. He also insisted, “I ALWAYS reply within 24 hours of emails I receive.” Now, this might have been plausible if I never checked my Junk Folder, or if my inbox wasn’t receiving emails properly over the summer, or if I didn’t always include my email address and blog URL in the signature of each e-missive. But none of that was the case. Consequently, unless my hotmail account suddenly assumed sentience of its own and decided certain emails didn’t need to get through, these emails about phone interviews never occurred.

Nonetheless, I grudgingly gave the PR guy the benefit of the doubt and said I would be fine with him passing my questions on to Chris Corner again. Note: “again.” This was the end of August. I then waited for about a month before trying for some sort of confirmation. I bet you clever otters know what happened next. No reply. I realize that at this point I was probably crossing the line into pretty damn irritating. But then again, what journalist after a story isn’t irritating? Sometimes it’s the only way to keep getting stories at all. I tried high priority flagging again, and roused a response. Firstly, I was told that he had replied the week before (once again, there was no logical reason why only 50% of his emails should reach me). He told me I had to appreciate the difficulty of Chris Corner being in Germany and he being in the US; the distance was making it hard to “turn the heat on” in getting a response from Chris. Additionally, he said he didn’t know why it was taking Chris so long to reply since he’s usually so quick. Hmmmm….

Now I learned PR in my communication diploma as well as journalism and advertising. PR people are notoriously evasive spin doctors for the most part. They’re a bit like Post-Structuralists that way; the Truth is an arbitrary construct to them. Presently, I’m exhausted by the whole situation, which could have ended months before if the PR guy would have just said, “No, I’m sorry, the interview is not possible.” I was now only persisting because of adherence to principle, the principle being that I deserve some sort of resolution even if I am just an MP3 blogger. I’m not naïve enough to think that journalists don’t get screwed over by PR people; they do – I’ve heard the stories. And I learned early on with that David Steinberg incident (although being a college student probably isn’t much better than being a fan). But judging from the IAMX interviews that have shown up in various online publications (not blogs), I don’t think everyone got dragged along for 3/4 of a year.

I don’t blame Chris Corner for this farce. I can’t be certain of how much communication he has with his PR, and last year, when I included IAMX in a couple of posts, I received my IAMX Live in Warsaw album in a package that had a thank-you message hand-written by Chris on the outside. He thanked me specifically for the blogs. That was above and beyond what he could have or should have done.

I suppose I don’t even need a full explanation of why this interview couldn’t have happened; a simple decline would have been sufficient. Sadly, I reckon this kind of predicament just ends up undoing any sort of façade of independence and accessibility projected through the IAMX rhetoric and ethos (ie: dialogue with fans, band and fans as one tribe, etc). Dealing with this PR flak screen is no different than any number of other impersonal celebrity machines. I was naïve to think that it might be different. Which brings me to a more general point about PR and MP3 blogging.

I realize, that as a blogger, I get slapped onto a lot of mailing lists for labels and artists I couldn’t care less about. Those mass mailings are obvious. There’s something honest in their blatancy (even the ones who try to use your name and mention a small fact about your blog to seem authentic). In the end, this all doesn’t matter if I don’t like the music or the artists being marketed, so I go on ignoring and sometimes I even bother to unsubscribe if I’m getting too annoyed by three mailings a week from the same person. However, there has been the odd PR person that I had more than a few emails with, and some have been quite decent to deal with. But recently, aside from the PR for frYars, I haven’t been getting any acknowledgements that my review links have even been received (this is after I was told to send them on), including from people that I had originally been pretty friendly with. This feels slightly deflating even if all of this shouldn’t matter to me (after all, I’m not doing this for a living). However, I’m just not the type to make promises I know I can’t follow through on, and when I commit to something, I feel obligated to finish it (hence, if I say I will review your music, I will). In theory, the relationship between PR and journalism should be symbiotic (one can’t exist without the other), but it nearly always ends up feeling like an abusive relationship, where there’s only one giver. Email has also made it so much easier to ignore people and blame technology; it absolves anyone of any direct responsibility. Somehow the supposed immediacy becomes less than immediate.

Is the problem here really one to do with identity and position? If I were a journalist attached to something more official, would my questions be more important? In the world of music fandom, wouldn’t it be a good thing if music fans influenced other music fans directly rather than through third party journalists, who often don’t have anything invested in what they write about? Yes, perhaps they can be more objective when the situation calls for it, but I would think fans are the ones who might come up with the best questions to ask because they know so much and care so deeply about their favourite artists. But I’m not sure that MP3 blogs, as liberating as they may seem to us fans on the ground, are viewed as legitimate (a problem all sorts of blog genres face). We might be one more prong of a larger marketing strategy (the digital promotion/word-of-mouth contingent), but nothing more. And nothing that anyone owes anything to. Maybe a lot of these MP3 blogs have done it to themselves by “unprofessionally” just posting straight from any press release that comes their way; although, I’m certain that’s also a regular practice among journalists. They copy and paste their way through a lot of blurbs and stories.

I know my blog isn’t terribly lucrative in terms of marketing and publicity for these artists. I’m not a newspaper, magazine, or even an e-zine/blog like Stereogum. At the same time, I might have fewer, but much more loyal fans in my audience, who do actually discover and buy into new artists they find here. I’ve decided that, ultimately, the best practice for my blogging is to deal directly with artists and/or other music fans. There’s never been an issue with them. And maybe I’ve gotten wrapped up too much in the journalist part of my motivations and forgotten about the fan part, which shouldn’t be relying on PR. I might be shooting myself in the foot here. Or maybe not. I have to engage in other people’s email evasion tactics and futile goose chases on a daily basis as part of my regular job, so I really don’t need it here, too.

And if you want to see the production and power of fandom in action in relation to IAMX, go to http://www.iamxforum.com and download your free copy of a fan-made DVD of IAMX’s first live performance in 2004 in Berlin.

My Secret Friend (Omega Man Remix) – IAMX

Tear Garden (Art Deco Version) – IAMX

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6 Responses to “The Non-Interview: Music PR in the Blogosphere”


  1. 1 hedgehog
    December 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Very interesting article, I enjoyed the reading. It proved me again what a “professional” management IAMX has. It’s a shame.. Chris Corner built very interesting project with really professional music.

  2. December 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Nice article, it really helped me!

  3. 3 Jo
    December 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Great article and one that I can really relate to! Keep up the good work with the blog!

  4. December 23, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you for that ❤. It was a very interesting read and you’re incisively spot~the F on. Growing up in a family of actors….trust me, it is a rare person that will put their previous artistic intentions before the fear of new found fame. & please don’t get me wrong, Chris has had a bit of fame for quite awhile. However, within the past few years he has..(unwittingly i’m sure)..acquired a new fan base that includes a plethora of screaming 16 year old “scene/emo” girls. That would scare the crap out of anyone. You’ve seen his myspace comments. Even when he writes a blog, the intelligent responses or comments are lost in a sea of “OMG you are just sooo B E A U T I F U L!!”. Or something to that effect. That has to get nauseating after awhile.
    I’m just saying that it would be more than enough to turn someone’s stomach. and in turn pick away @ a bit of respect for the people that are their income. I really do hate to assume, but i have noticed that the majority of the idiocy….has been coming from the U”SS”A groupie base…x_x…which is just plain embarrassing for the rest of us. I have no qualms admitting to a personal fascination with Mr.Chis Corner myself, but no one wants to be bombarded w/ doltish drivel daily that puts much more out there than a pretty face & a merchandised product for mass consumption. That sh^t is for Disney bands.
    I apologize for the rant but yours got me good and pissed off about the whole situation. My personal opinion is that he just got overwhelmed. Most of the time, fame like he has now is something that people think that they want until they are faced w/ the reality of it.

    xo,
    SJ


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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