Friday, April 14, 2006


Black Crowes controversy

When the FishbowlNY story broke today (see "FishbowlNY picks up Black Crowes story" below), I sent it to more than 80 music-industry publicists, asking for responses. These are the first responses I've received:

Hey Steve,
I can understand being pissed about a "no comp" policy, but you shouldn't blame MSO. I don't know the details as to why that policy is intact, but you can't blame the publicist. We, the flacks, are at the bottom of the totem pole most of the time. I can't tell you how many sticky situations I've been in with the press within the last 11 years of doing publicity. It's like the adage: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Like I said, I don't know all of the details, but I do know that sometimes you shouldn't shoot the messenger.

Hope that my opinion does not piss you off, but I felt compelled to offer you a small insight to the thankless and difficult world of publicity.
Jonathan Wolfson
Wolfson Public Relations

My reply to the above comment:
If you read my original post ("Black Crowes media black-out"), you'll see that I just quote MS0. I'm pissed at the policy, not the middle man - MSO, in this case. Though to be honest I don't know why MSO agrees to enforcing such a policy. It puts them in an untenable situation. My main goal is get a dialogue going about this, which apparently I have. It would be nice if they relented and gave me a ticket, but I don't expect that to happen.

Hey Steve,
Would they let you purchase a courtesy ticket? Usually the bands I really want to see allow me the industry courtesy of buying them. Some bands give comps and some don't. If you really want to go, just buy a ticket like the rest of us music-loving concert goers.
Renee Pfefer
On Tour PR

I know from experience that this is always the management's decision...and as publicists, we have to take their lead and don't
usually have any say in the matter. I'm always skeptical of the reasoning behind the decision. I think it has less to do with
"connecting directly with the fans" and more to do with concerns about the artist's performance or fear of criticism. I think Creed had this policy, too. I also suspect that, like Creed, the Black Crowes probably don't have to worry about selling concert tickets.
Carise Yatter
Razor & Tie Records

Hey Steve,
This is really odd to me. My policy has always been that if someone is covering a show for a specific assignment they get in! Maybe the Black Crowes just don't want press anymore. Then why have a publicist?
Ever Kipp
Barsuk Records

Fuck them.
(Name withheld to protect this extremely blunt publicist)

Jason Roth
Capitol Records

I can't believe those losers.
Anonymous music journalist

I'd never deny you any request ever! It's like mileage plus - you've been a supporter of music and musicians for all of your life. And no matter if you were writing or not, in my world you're rock-journalist royalty!
Jenn Gross
Evolutionary Media Group

Hey Steve,
Sorry to hear about the Black Crowes drama. Since I'm now working as a concert-promoter publicist, we have numerous no-comp shows. If it's a no-comp show, the label does tend to do a buy even if it's minimal. So I don't understand why they're not hooking you up.
Anonymous music-industy publicist

You've gotta understand that "comp" tickets are complimentary to you, but they're not free. The record label, or the artist, pays for them. In most cases, it's an expense gladly incurred in the interest of promoting the artist - either the recipient is reviewing the show, or writing about the band, or the artist + publicist HOPE they're write about the band, or they're taking care of people who already HAVE written about the band, whatever.

But do the Black Crowes need any of this? If they don't like doing interviews, and don't really need to do interviews, why bother? If they don't especially want their shows reviewed, why pay to have journalists there? They don't need to incur the expense, so they don't. Can't really argue with that. And if the motivation is that they want every single ticket for this relatively small-venue show to go to fans (or, in marketing terms, consumers), then I actually applaud that; not enough people in this business remember that that's the most important relationship of all.

I know it's the convention for journalists to be taken care of, and obviously, that's a good thing for all parties involved. But it's a business convention, not an inalienable right. If it's not in the business interest of the Black Crowes to enter into that transaction, why would they do so anyway?

I don't doubt that they're appreciative for your years of support and positive coverage. But [MSO's] Lathum [Nelson] is right - it would cause problems for them if they made an exception for you, with other journalists who didn't get the same courtesy. So they stay off the slippery slope by making the policy universal and inflexible.

That said, I understand your frustration (both professionally and as a fan), and there are always options. Does the opening act have comps available? Or, if tix are still available, buy 'em (or see if MSO can help you do so if it's sold out); if you can't bill it back to the magazine, it's at least a tax write-off...
Anonymous music-industry publicist

My reply to the above comment:
Points all well taken. But still that leaves the press at the mercy of the artist or label or venue to get "comped." There's another model you're forgetting. Sport events. Press boxes. The idea of a working press. That's not the case with the music press and it's always irked me. Essentially, we have no rights. So a pissy band can take it out on the media. To me this is unacceptable and stands in the way of the free distribution of information. It's a form of censorship.

Telling music press to go buy you own ticket is the same as telling a sportswriter to go sit in the grandstand with beer-swilling yahoos. This system is not progressive and I'm surprised you don't see that, especialy for an industry that should be ahead of the curve but instead sadly is way behind it.

Yes, I've purchased tix in the past and billed them to the company. That's a last-ditch solution at best, which btw I will attempt to do tomorrow night outside Town Hall. (Though I should simply boycott the stupid show.) Should it really have to come to this? I'd like to know how many press requests MSO received for these shows - 5? 10? Honestly, what do you think?

I don't think denying the press a free ticket to a music or sports event constitutes censorship in the way press access being denied for, say, a political event or to a congressperson is suppressing anything.

My friend asked if my wife and I wanted wanted to go to the McCartney concert at MSG last October. I said sure, he bought tickets and my pair were three hundred and something dollars. I decided Paulie wasn't worth that to me, and, after asking friend if it was ok (he ended up not being able to attend due to being out of town anyway) I sold the tickets to someone who just HAD to hear "Jenny Wren" live.

Later, I asked for press tickets for Macca for my paper, and was told there were none left.

Shame, but it's really up to them, not me. Same thing happened with "The Odd Couple" with Broderick and Lane. "We have no press tickets." (Translation: your blatherings don't mean anything to us.)

Same with restaurants, which I also review. Some provide free meals, some don't. If they don't want to, I move on to the next place, unless my publication wants to pay for the meal as well as paying my fee for the article.

(And donkeys fly as well.)
For the record, I paid $200 for a ticket to see Cream @ MSG last year. My friend scored the tix on craigslist. The face value was $354. Ouch!
As a restaurant critic, my policy is to accept no comp trips, no free meals, no extra courses, no drinks, not even a bag of chips. My publication pays for it, and when they don't I eat the cost.

When I dipped in and out of music writing (mostly at Spin and the L.A. Times), I was surprised at how different things were. But even then, it was policy to accept comps for shows one was actually covering - it would have seemed bizarre and wrong to solicit expensive tickets just because one wanted to go to a show. Any time artists or record companies (or restaurants) do a journalist a favor, they expect to be paid back, with interest. This is hardly in the best interests of one's readers.
While I can respect and understand the Crows decision, the thought that journos should not be comped and just buy a ticket like everyone else is not one I agree with.

I am a online reviewer - I do occasional reviews for small music websites. Simply said, these site do not pay. I have a full time job and two other part time gigs that pay the bills. I write because I love music but on the same token, I have very limited time to work with. Without the compensation of free tickets or cds, I simply could not afford to cover the bands. The websites I write for could not afford to buy tickets. I am quite passionate about music and feel that I give a pretty informed (and objective) report that helps people get a better idea of what to expect before shelling out hard-earned money.

While I would flatter myself if I thought that my writing is wide-read, if 10 people read the review and two decide to check out the band then the PR is worth it - even if it is a local garage band or a international hit-maker.

Music is a wonderful art, if people don't hear it than it is lost unto the wind.
I am a freelance concert photographer and I do buy tickets to the gigs I cover as I want to support them because I love their music or simply for allowing me to take pictures. How frustrating it is when you are told that the photo pass list is oversubscribed and when you go to the gig (having bought a ticket remember) there are no or few photographers in the pit. In the last 3 gigs I went to where the list was over subscribed two had no photographers and the 3rd had one!
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