Sunday, August 03, 2003

More Reader Correspondence:

I’ve had an interesting back and forth with one of my readers. He is also involved in the music business as is obvious from his writing. I’m reproducing the correspondence here because it raises several important issues and I feel that it will be of interest to many. I’ve eliminated all identifying information about my correspondent –I know who he is – to preserve his anonymity.

In response to my previous post the reader wrote:
“Wow … I'm one of "them"(the evil side of JM).

Actually, I'm far from being burned out… I have a great time doing gigs and playing out. I could have even played with you at some point. I guess I would know who you are if you weren't under that shroud of anonymity. What I meant was - this topic is like, so 5 years ago. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa - "Shut up and play yer guitar" (no disrespect)”

My response:
"A few points:
1. Just for the record, I don’t believe that there is an “evil” side of Jewish music, just an unethical, dishonest one.
2. I wrote that you seem to be burned out because you wrote, “I mean we all have lost interest so long ago, so why bother?” Also, you went to the effort of sending me an email. I’m glad to hear that you love playing out; it didn’t sound like that from your first email.
3. I’m curious. What makes this topic “5 minutes ago?”
4. I’m taking your inclusion of the Zappa quote it in the humorous spirit you obviously meant it (”no disrespect”), but the implication from both your emails is if you’re not interested in a topic, than I shouldn’t write about it. We CAN have different opinions, right?"

His rejoinder:
"1. Every business has unethical people, doing what they can to make a buck. JM is, of course, no different. You can't expect CY to print accurate reviews of JM, since that is his revenue source. I think everyone who reads the mag knows the score by now as far as the authenticity of the reviews.

2. Don't be fooled - in Rolling Stone, the writers are paid off by the labels, trust me. It's the same as radio - do think what you are being fed is what the people actually like? It is well known that the practices of "payola" are widespread in radio. Nachum Segal show not withstanding - I should know - I personally "payola-ed" him recently for promotion of a certain album. Is it wrong? Maybe. Is there anything we can do at this point to stop this practice, and get free album promotion? No. So basically you have a choice today - stand up for your values, and refuse to participate in these questionable practices and get lost in a sea of other releases, or give in, and have a chance at success.

3. 5 years ago, actually. Because JM has been in dire straits that long ago, and even further.

4. Certainly, you can write whatever your heart feels, no sweat bro - you are entitled to your opinions just like I am mine. Just don't eat yourself up about the whole stitch."

My answer:
"I disagree. JM is different. It ought to be held to a higher standard because the content of the material is mainly Torah and the marketing ought to reflect Torah values. Also, it seems like almost every album is marketed this way.

With regard to CY magazine: I have no problem with his printing purely positive reviews of an album. I linked to Ari Goldwag's site as a positive example of such an ad. My issue is with the fact that these ads are represented as “reviews” rather than ads. No reputable secular newspaper or magazine would run an “ad” like that without including the words “advertisement” on the top of each page. Although you and I and many more sophisticated people are aware that the entire CY magazine is essentially one paid ad, many of CY’s readers do not appear to be aware of this. That’s why he often gets letters criticizing the fact that all of the album reviews are always glowingly positive.

I am aware that “payola” is common in the secular world, but I believe that the “Frum” world should hold itself to a higher standard. I do understand why you felt it necessary to participate in the system to promote your artist’s album, though. Did it work for you? Was it worth the expense?

I may want to use some of this in a future blog post, obviously, as before; I wouldn’t post any identifying information about you."

He emails:
"Feel free to use anything you want for the blog. Hey, maybe I can be a guest columnist once in a while..."

Hmm…. A guest blogger….. something to mull over.
What do you think?