by Jono Diener
Hearing the finished product of an album that you and your friends have just created could be one of the most rewarding experiences in an artist’s life; owning the physical copy is just the icing on the cake. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into a product, and finally, it’s time to show it to the world. Everyone silently crosses their fingers and waits for the reaction. But before an album hits record stores or leaks on the Internet, it makes its way to the press. Writers will receive an email or package of your work, click play, and permeate it just enough to write a review. Maybe they’ll sit on it for a week, or they’ll listen to the first songs and copy the writing from another post. Either way, your art is now judged and the result is released to the outside world. Your fate is in their hands. The person holding an instrument faces the person holding a laptop. With this weird, unspoken battle going on, I never thought I would end up being the one on both sides.
Unlike many musicians, I am one of the few who also contributes to the journalistic side of this industry. I contribute articles like the one you are reading now in print or online publications that have publicly judged me and my band for years. Fortunately, for the most part we have good reviews and the press on the whole. Of course, there were a few times when we saw a review and thought we deserved better, thought a writer was lazy, or needed to read negative thoughts of interest from someone else’s point of view. One thing that kept our reputation intact was not to attack people who posted negative things about us. It sounds silly, but I see it all too often via social media. One group will publicly tweet their bad review and insult the writer and the post instead of thinking about the long-term repercussions. Labels and PR agencies make sure your work is exposed to the world. It’s up to you to make sure it’s good enough for a positive reaction.
I have always treated my role in my group the same as that of a politician. I try to represent the best interests of the group, and every publicly shared decision or opinion is thought through critically. I think our music should be talking rather than trying to get easy retweets by disparaging someone else. It’s the same with sites that try to get “clicks” from controversial stories. Let’s use a true story to prove my point. A member of the group pretended to sell laptops and kept the money for the drugs. The initial post calls attention to someone else’s fault, and rightly so. Over time, the same individual cast in the press receives more attention than the people who deserve it. It’s redundant and unfair to the rest of us. Every once in a while I’ll make a joke or post an opinion on something ridiculous like this, but I try not to help someone at E! True Hollywood Story style success. If you look at it from the band world, if we did that sort of thing to someone in the press, we wouldn’t be treated the same in the future. We would have burned a bridge. You must remember that the people who review your file or appoint a writer to write an article about you will now have a bias. You could lose an article, cover or advertisement. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend yourself: you just have to choose your battles. It is not a faceless industry. It’s politics.
I often see my friends in groups and the press competing in a public forum. A sarcastic comment can start on either side and it’s just a spark before a huge explosion. I’m usually the guy who sees the fight from across the room and tries to calm everyone down before it gets ugly or embarrassing. I was on tour with a musician who admitted to lying to the owner of a huge music site to prove that his site was not credible. Stop for a moment as we break down this logic. The words that came straight out of the band’s mouth are now a lie, but is it the press’s fault for believing and publishing them? Then you see the same group member crawling back and forth trying to advertise a new group after their previous train crash inevitably ends. The same goes for members of the press. Don’t come out from left field and say an unwarranted rude or sneaky comment to someone in a group, be upset by their reaction, then ask for an exclusive later. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. If you are writing something about them or their work for your new article, use it as a way to express your feelings. Being rude to get attention is just plain childish.
As someone who doubles in this industry, I firmly believe that the most profound impact will come from your art, whether it’s music or journalism, not your Twitter feed. Want to move up the food chain? Act like a respectable adult. Treat people with courtesy and be open-minded. Have discussions rather than arguments. There are no more untouchables in the industry. If you are making a statement you better be able to support it because chances are you have some sort of criticism for it. The negativity should just make you work harder and prove that person wrong the next time around. As always, people will read this and I will come across some negative comments. The difference with me and a lot of people is that I take it as constructive criticism. I’m changing my way of thinking and doing my best to perfect it next time. The music industry needs role models, so this is less of an article and more of a challenge for everyone to step up their game.
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