Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thank You, PR People

Last week, a link materialised on my Twitter feed from a fellow (albeit far more popular) music blog called Just Music I Like. It was a link to this blog post, which featured the following statement:
"I have taken a decision to stop accepting submissions from PR's and label representatives with immediate effect and I shall be unsubscribing from every list I have found myself on."
Why? Because:
"I have a very limited time to listen to, let alone write about music for this blog (a lot my blog posts are written after midnight and during lunchtime) and I want to start to discover music organically again and not through perceived bias or constant communication through emails."
Now, upon reading this, my immediate reaction was one of empathy. I know what it is to have an inbox filled with music I don't care about from people I've never met, and again, The Album Wall's following is pretty small compared to JMIL's, so I can only imagine the levels of inundation this person has experienced.

I also understand that urge to "discover music organically again". Music is more meaningful when it's recommended by a friend, or by that hip-looking sage behind the counter at your local record shop. When you start listening to music because some PR person asked you for a write-up - when it's not fate but marketing that dictates what you'll listen to next - then being a music fan ceases to feel like an adventure. Instead, it becomes a series of assignments.

(Plus, speaking as someone with a music blog of his own, I can confirm that it's far more enjoyable to write about a band that you came across undirected, if only because you get to feel smug for 'discovering' an act that nobody else is talking about. Conversely, when you review an album that was  sent via a label or a PR agency, you're almost always joining a cacophony of other voices that your contact has stirred up in advance of the big release, and it's hard to feel special and smug in those circumstances.)

All this having been said...the more I think about that JMIL post, the more I realise that, actually, I've received some really good albums from PRs and labels since I started this blog. Here are three examples from last year alone:

All of Something by Sports
(Sent to me by Riot Act Media)
When I listed my top 10 albums of 2015 back in December, All of Something occupied the #4 slot, just ahead of The Mountain Goats and Belle & Sebastian. Not bad for a set of songs that, had my spam filter been feeling uncharitable at the wrong moment, might never have even tickled my eardrums.

Cracked Picture Frames by Robert Chaney
(Sent to me by Pindrop Publicity)
There's a warmth, a nuance, a realness to this album that you just don't expect from something sent via Dropbox. Many of the tracks that make up Cracked Picture Frames sound like they belong on a classic folk LP from a time before Leonard Cohen discovered synthesisers; this is the sort of album to which I can imagine a certain type of person devoting a makeshift shrine. I Didn't Want Her Anyway strikes the same chord deep within me as Josh T. Pearson's Last of the Country Gentlemen, and that's one of my favourite albums of all time.

Kind of Blah by Frog
(Sent to me by Audio Antihero)
I love getting emails from Audio Antihero. Not just because the label's releases are consistently good, but also because they're consistently surprising - you never know what you're about to hear when you open an AA press release. In this case, it was wonky lo-fi indie rock with a pleasingly countrified tinge. Incidentally, Kind of Blah wasn't far behind All of Something in my end-of-year top ten.

When I started The Album Wall all the way back in June 2013, I promised myself that, whenever somebody was kind enough to send me free music, I would at least repay the favour by listening to it. That's a promise I've utterly failed to keep, but in my defence, I've ended up on quite a lot of mailing lists, and if I tried to listen to everything I wouldn't have time to discover any new music for myself.

(Besides, people keep sending me singles. As I've said before, it's The Album Wall, not The Singles Bar.)

But since label representatives and PR people do occasionally send me things I'm glad I didn't miss, I'm willing to make the following deal: I won't unsubscribe from your lists as long as y'all don't mind me ignoring the vast majority of what the emails send. If the album you're plugging looks like it might be worth a stab, I may give it that stab, and I may follow that stab up with an actual write-up on the blog.

Equally, though, I reserve the right to delete all of your messages without even reading them and not feel bad having done so. Hope that's okay with you. Keep the good stuff coming. Thanks.

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