You know why people hate Taste of Country and The Boot? Well besides their tasteless attempts at whoring for hits by exploiting international and personal tragedies that cross the line of decency. They’re nothing more than two giant ads.
I’ve touched on both of these outlets before on the site, most notably when I called them out out for their dismissal of the importance of reviews. At the end of the day all they care about is the bottom line and how many hits they can get. They do not serve the reader. Instead they serve their advertisers and labels. Simply put they have gotten to the position they’ve gotten to by passing off press releases as articles written by journalists. And hey they’re not alone in employing this tactic. This is something that is a problem in all forms of journalism in 2015. In addition to passing off press releases as news, slide shows and lists are another cheap tactic that sites use for click bait.
If you’re curious to how you can spot when sites are copying and pasting press releases, here’s an example taken right from Taste of Country:
This is pretty easy to spot. How this is a news story? It’s not. This is something a PR person sent directly to Taste of Country and they simply copy and pasted it and then published it. I receive emails like this all of the time from artists about how they’re doing charity work or performing with the troops. Many times they don’t even send a message along with it. It’s just a press release. They assume you’ll do it without a problem because hey they’ve already did the work for you, so why not just copy and paste it? This is free content for the journalist.
No. When it comes down to it these are just glorified ads or sponsored content if you will. But since you don’t see a corporate sponsor, you don’t think it’s an ad. It goes deeper than this as you’ll see plastered along the sides of their site articles such as, “Unthinkable Tragedies,” “Best Dressed at the CMA Awards” and “Country’s Best Couples.” All of these are rabbit holes designed to rank well in Google and drag readers down a rabbit hole. They’re time sucks designed to sucker people in. There’s no useful information, but rather junk that appeals to the lowest common denominator of thinking.
Why do I bring this up now you ask? This has been happening for a while you’ll say. Well it’s in regards to getting into it with a PR person who approached my blog in hopes of featuring two new artists. These were you typical, garden-variety artists that pop up every month and then fizzle shortly after. The music is not good at all. I said I wasn’t interested. They pressed for reasons why. Then I gave them the most honest feedback possible. The response? In an offended tone, basically said I blew it with working with any of their bigger named artists and that I wasn’t professional at all. I ended up apologizing for making a mocking tweet about the email that has since been deleted. I’ll admit this was uncalled for and own up to this mistake. But I’ve realized that I shouldn’t be apologizing for anything else. In reality it’s PR people like them who should be apologizing to sites like mine.
Independent sites like mine don’t owe you labels or PR arms a damn thing. And you don’t owe us anything either. But you know why you should be apologizing? Because you’re expecting us to do your job. Journalists have been expected to become PR arms for artists and their labels. We are expected to be nice and treat every piece of information they give us like they’re holy grails. We’re expected to treat each artist like a special little snowflake whose music is sunshine and rainbows. This all comes back to Taste of Country and The Boot. They have created this problem by letting these PR and media management companies essentially control their sites. There’s a reason you don’t hear a peep from these sites when it comes to critical commentary and real news. So all of us independent sites are expected to fall in line too.
It’s not just mainstream country artists who go to these sites with press releases. It’s also you independent and Texas country artists too. You go to them with exclusive videos and content, despite the fact that us independent sites bang the drum louder and more frequently for your music. But hey as I said you don’t owe us anything. You’re just trying to get your name out to as many people possible. Just remember this though: the reason you’re not on the radio is because of these sites controlling who gets to be popular and who doesn’t. They don’t give a damn about your music and their readers don’t either. So you’re simply shouting into a messy void. And at the end of the day I thought you’re trying to get fans?
Now I’m not attacking all PR people and media management groups. I work with many fantastic people in this field who are nothing but a pleasure to work with and communicate with it. In fact there are many labels and management groups that have brought a lot of great artists and music to my attention that I’ve featured on the site. And they have no problem with me giving brutally honest reviews on their artists. Why? Because they get it. They know that readers like you are more likely to read an article with genuine thoughts, even negative ones, more than a copy and paste PR piece. These PR people realize what our job is as writers and journalists. They know their role too. People don’t want to read the thoughts of a biased source, but rather someone just like themselves who will react, dissect and explain what’s at hand.
The entire point of this article is not to attack or offend. The point of this article is to inform you the readers of how stuff operates in the country music media industry. It’s to help you realize when you’re being sold lies and deception. It’s to help you find reliable purveyors of information who have your best interests in mind and not the labels. Honesty is the key to any relationship, whether in business or personal affairs. This is a lesson that everyone in the country music industry needs to learn, from the very top to the very bottom. Nobody should ever apologize for being honest.