Yesterday, The 405 published an article I wrote that criticised the new music software, Fluence (which allows artists to pay to upload their music to a specific industry person blah blah you can read all about it here). Oliver (Editor of The 405) and myself have been dealing with hella backlash for the last two days that, for me, got a little too personal.
As well as other people who were just flat out disgusted that I even dared to suggest that the music industry shouldn’t be dictated by money, Joe Sparrow of A New Band A Day wrote a sort of counter-post from the perspective of somebody who was asked to join Fluence, which he thinks is “alright”. He definitely held the least aggressive reaction out of everyone who came at us and was v nice about it all when I actually spoke to him, but there were still a few comments in the post (some of which have now been altered at my request) that concerned me. I have always tried to maintain a balance between personal privacy and transparency in my activity, but if this is the kind of speculation people are putting out into the world, I guess I have to step in. So, just to be clear, EVERYONE:
I had absolutely no ulterior motive or stake in the argument I chose to make about Fluence. Joe felt it appropriate to suggest that I emphasised the importance of good PR in my article because I listed a role as “PR Goblin for Birdtapes” in my about section. This essentially boiled down to false assumption on his part, but the fact that he could be bothered to go through my website but not contact me to clarify what it is I actually do before undermining my integrity is pretty frustrating. I never thought I would have to explain this to anybody, but a) “PR Goblin” is a silly inside joke between myself and “Tyler Birdtapes”, b) the definition of what I do doesn’t need to be spelled out to anybody I am not applying to work with but can be neatly summarised as “I help” and b) it’s all irrelevant anyway because anybody who thinks there is money to be made in getting involved with a DIY label needs to have long a sit down. Joe also agreed that PR was “useful”, so I’m not even sure what the point of the original comment even was. I appreciate that he made me aware of the post and corrected it, though.
My involvement in the music industry is not unpaid, but by no means does it pay my way. Contrary to what a lot of people apparently believe, it is not my main job. I have a day job that prevents me becoming homeless. So, any and all music industry work I take on, I do so because I love it and it’s a huge part of my personal life, not because I have anything to gain.
Joe said, “in an era where there are more bands than ever, in an industry that has always been about money and connections, the premise [of Fluence] seems OK” – a very good point about the music industry, but surely a negative one? Fluence is the exact opposite of the message we should be sending to young and/or aspiring musicians. Encouraging them to literally buy into an industry that is struggling in terms of financial structure (hence, I believe, why we have new “services” like this in the first place) is bad advice. Sure, money and connections help if you want to be a big rich rock star like RIGHT NOW or a hype band with a short-term expiry date, but assuming that you can only “make it” via these avenues is such a dated perspective and one you would think we’d have evolved past by now. I think it’s sad that all we can do is perpetuate it.
He concluded with, “Part of what hiring PR is for is to expose your music – not just to potential fans, but the “music biz” connections those PR people have. I’m not hugely sure how Fluence is much different.” Well, it’s different because when you build a PR team you are hiring specific people for their specific services, it then becomes their job to make things happen for you via campaigns, hype etc (or, if you’re involved in DIY, you do whatever you can with whoever you know because the most important thing is generating enough money/exposure from a release to recycle back into the label in time for the next). Fluence is different because you’re lobbing bank at the wind on a gamble that someone with influence will scoop you up, scrub you up and make you famous. And I guess that’s fine, if that’s what you want. Like I said, I have no problem when the Fluence users are label executives etc because they actually have something legit to offer. When Fluence users are bloggers, that is sus as hell because artists end up paying for the time of somebody who should be grateful for every demo submission they get for free in the first place. Dan Carson of NME summed it up nicely: “the essence of blogging will always be discovery, not commerce. sad to see the definition being altered”
To put the relationship between Fluence and DIY in perspective; I think it’s fubar that some “influencers” are charging artists more money to send in one song just to be “heard” than Birdtapes/most small labels are charging fans for a release.
I will be interviewing Shamal Ranasinghe, co-founder of Fluence, next week so he can EXPLAIN HIMSELF (j/k I honestly want to hear what he has to say).