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Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

I Hate Pretending

Okay, full disclosure time: I was originally approached by Warner Bros last week about doing a giveaway for tickets to see The Secret Machines at the Dog Day Afternoon festival at Fort York this Saturday in exchange for some writeup in ye olde blog. Now those of you who’ve been kicking around music blogopolis for a few years may remember this incident from a couple years ago when Warners sent out Secret Machines MP3s to a bunch of music blogs in hopes of drumming up some hype, though only one bit, albeit reluctantly.

That didn’t have anything specifically to do with me, but I was still concerned a bit about the optics of it – after all, this was a band I’d never heard or written about and who I’d first heard of in the context of a clumsy early PR attempt between major labels and blogs. I was perfectly happy to give away the tickets, but the quid pro quo was a bit unsettling. But an arrangement was reached where it was agreed that I would give the band some ink on the contests page which, in my mind anyway, carries less implicit approval about the acts involved in the giveaways. Not that I really expect you all care so much – free stuff is free stuff, right?

But anyway, a funny thing happened as I was preparing to put the contest up – I went to the Secret Machines webpage to look for some basic info and started listening to the album stream of their new one, Ten Silver Drops, and what do you know – it was pretty damn good. For whatever reason, I’d had it in my head that the band were some overwrought glam-rawk outfit with more style than substance and more chops than sense, but from what I was hearing, they were actually a very tuneful and engrossing space-rock trio with a good balance of subtlety and bombast and a definite ear for an anthem. Certainly the sort of thing I could see myself getting into. Which made me quite comfortable with the idea of writing them up here instead of the contests page – and anyway, my Futureheads contest is still running and I wasn’t really looking forward to reprogramming things to run two simultaneous contests…

So speaking of the contest – I have two pairs of tickets to the aforementioned Dog Day Afternoon fest at Fort York on Saturday. In addition to the Secret Machines, you’ve got a very solid lineup of acts including Land Of Talk, The Fiery Furnaces and festival curators Metric. To enter, just email me with “You sell-out! Give me the tickets!” in the subject line. Since the show is this weekend, this will be a limited-time affair – the contest will close at midnight tonight. And since I have the tickets physically in my possession, some arrangement will have to be made to get them from me to you – please be local or be able to meet up in downtown Toronto (Eaton Centre-ish) on Friday or early Saturday. Update: Winners have been selected. Thanks for playing. Even if you didn’t win passes, you’re still winners in life.

A postscript – I only heard about the MP3 debacle after the fact since I never recieved the mailing from Warner Bros asking me to post the track… until about a week after it all blew over. The email was dated about a month prior but had gotten lost in the internet ether until well after I would have had to decide whether to play along or not. Funny, no? Also ironically, there is no free-and-legal MP3 from the new album for me to link, so I can only offer you a video, a MySpace and this Rolling Stone live session.

Video: The Secret Machines – “All At Once” (MOV)
MySpace: The Secret Machines

The Chronicle Herald profiles The Futureheads.

I Like Music discusses the new Sigur Ros single for Saeglopur, out as a CD+DVD package on August 8.

The Guardian reports on the passing of Syd Barrett this past weekend at the age of 60.

Mates Of State’s September 16 show has been confirmed for Lee’s Palace. Also, Harvey Danger will be there on October 3, tickets $9.

CokeMachineGlow argues in favour of the indie artist selling out.

np – DeVotchKa / How It Ends

By : Frank Yang at 8:31 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Ryan Catbird says:

    God, I had forgotten that that whole incident had received a write-up in the NYT, sheesh!

    Anyway, Frank, you should recognize that times have changed quite a bit since that original SM brouhaha! I don’t think you needed to feel any sort of internal struggle about posting that contest; seems like it should be no big deal, since you’ve definitely proven over the years that you’re a stand-up guy with original thoughts to post. Giving someone the chance for free tickets to *anything* is just a nice thing to do.

    When you think about it, it’s funny now to consider how "far" we’ve come, in that in today’s world, there’s this huge over-abundance of mp3 blogs, and 90% of them end up essentially operating as just direct, unfiltered mouthpieces for the PR companies/labels. A new press release shows up in a blogger’s inbox and 2 seconds later, it gets posted almost verbatim.

    Ah, "progress!"

  2. Frank says:

    yeah, it was funny reading over some of the comments in the MFR post just two years ago and comparing it to the mindset today. Maybe if it was another band I wouldn’t have hesitated at all but there’s this instant response in my head about blogs and The Secret Machines…

    But I’m over that now, I think.

  3. craig bonnell says:

    Frank you handled it fine but it is a little disturbing that the major labels play this game. Dangling some ticket giveaways only if you write about the band. Giveaways are fine but the guid pro quo part is offputting. While you were open about it, how many other blogs would have been? How many raves are written just so a blogger can go to a show, get a free t-shirt or some exclusive from the label?

  4. Frank says:

    well to be fair, all I was asked to do was post a picture of the album artwork and say that the Secret Machines album was out now. Not exactly putting copy in my mouth, and they were perfectly cool with whatever.

    My main dilemma was that I like doing the giveaways and these are not cheap tickets so I wanted to feature the giveaway in the blog post as opposed to the contest page (which was occupied anyways). But since I had no exposure to the band before, I didn’t know how to give the contest the prominence I wanted to while offering any honest opinion in the copy. I’m just glad that I liked the band’s music and was able to get behind it honestly. And I’m also lucky I was able to squeeze a day’s worth of post out of the whole thing because I wasn’t really in the mood to write something all-new up.

    And for the record, I haven’t personally gotten anything out of this exchange.

  5. Wade Vroom says:

    Hey Frank,

    I really like your blog and read it every day. I am curious as to how many of the bands you feature come to you via labels. Really, I assume that all of the bands you report on come out of your general knowledge and just keeping up with the industry, and who you decide to write about comes from your experience and likes and dislikes.

    Thanks for telling us how the Secret Machines came across your desk. If you report on a band again because somebody asked you to, can you inform us of this too.

    Thanks. you are doing a great job.

    Wade

  6. Glenn says:

    In my mind, there’s not much of a difference between a post that comes to being because of direct contact from a label/publicist and a post that comes to being from an article. Just about any article is there because there was a publicist working with writers and magazines. I’m not saying anybody is being a mouthpiece or is being manipulated. That’s just how it works. Articles rarely appear out of thin air. A label, or a publicist hired by a label, works to get those articles. Anybody who seeks a greater "purity" in their online music news is going to be disappointed.

  7. Ryan Catbird says:

    I still don’t give a good goddamn about whether something was posted b/c a blogger liked it or because some company got them to post it for them. Either way, I get to hear the mp3, and either way I get to make up my own mind about whether it’s any good or not. Christ, people, you’re only "getting the wool pulled over your eyes" if you are blindly following along like sheep. Just listen to the damn song and decide if you like it; either you do or you don’t. Who gives a shit about where the song came from.

    And then, after a few times of downloading a song that some blogger claims is their "favorite" or "one of the best tracks of the year", and discovering that it’s totally awful, you just learn to stop reading that blog.

  8. dave says:

    i’m not a huge secret machines fan, but if you can find their cover of van morrison’s "astral weeks", get it. it is sublime.