In Regards To Public Relations & Media Management in Country Music

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:

PR Passed off as Journalism

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.

9 thoughts on “In Regards To Public Relations & Media Management in Country Music

  1. Shelly Mullins November 23, 2015 / 11:25 am

    HAHA. Josh! Hey, when you tell me no, that’s that. I might try to sway you, but I would never threaten a journalist.

    We PR people who are saddled regularly with non-mainstream content are constantly seeking outlets like yours (because I can already assume 90% of outlets aren’t covering anything but Blake & Miranda’ break up , including the new gossip about Gwen Stefani; Luke Bryan and Eric Church; etc.). If you are a new artist, you aren’t likely to get radio play either.

    Imagine my job…. “Would you please consider putting your ears on this project by a new artist named….NO….but….NO….can you just…NO, NO, NO!” Meanwhile, you are getting paid to produce results.

    I have many, many friends on the journalism side. I realize they are doing a job and they all have different directives from their editors, so if they say no, I respect that (and I respect that MUCH more than when someone says maybe but has no intention of covering and then I spend the next month beating my head against the wall to follow up).

    Journalists often get mad at PR people and PR people often get mad at journalists. However, in the end, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Without PR folks, content would be a bitch. Without Media folks, there’s no point in even generating content.

    Happy to be working with you & to have found your site!

    Fondly,

    Shelly Mullins

    ProMO Image

    Nashville, TN

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott November 23, 2015 / 12:13 pm

      You’re one of the people who get it Shelly. I’m glad to be working with you too, as you’re nothing but a professional. You have a great day and great Thanksgiving.

      Like

  2. NoahHibiscusEaton November 23, 2015 / 4:43 pm

    I’d add Roughstock to the list without hesitation.

    And it’s not meant to defame them or their contributions either. Matt Bjorke is one of the hardest workers I know, and is to be commended for his far-reaching contributions to mainstream country as a whole. He is also a great, down-to-earth guy.

    But while I acknowledge the fact that he is speaking from a commerce-minded standpoint, which part of your job description is essentially analyzing things from a hypothetical lens as to how certain material and trends will fare with certain sets of fans and the general listening public, which requires taking a devil’s advocate approach……………..I nonetheless think Bjorke and others can be part of the problem too when they choose to act dismissively toward some journalists and traditional country fans and mischaracterize us as closed-minded, “Get off my lawn!” types.

    Thus, Roughstock is often hard to take seriously for me as well, even while I know they’re speaking squarely to a specific commerce-minded subset and are just doing their job.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lorenzofloris96 November 23, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    I recently had a fight with that Billy Dukes asshole because he was praising Thomas Rhett’s fucking garbage called Vacation. He immediately brought Chris Stapleton up in Rhett’s defense claiming that, since he has co written South Side, calling Rhett crap would mean calling Chris garbage. what an idiot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • southtexaspistolero November 24, 2015 / 3:25 pm

      since he has co written South Side, calling Rhett crap would mean calling Chris garbage.

      And…?

      Hell, there are a lot of us who think Stapleton is seriously undermining his credibility by putting his name to so much mainstream dreck. Again, I get that he’s gotta pay the bills, but I really, really hope the attention his album has gotten is enough to get him away from writing that crap. (Ah, for the days of George Strait & Tim McGraw covering Bruce Robison…)

      But to the topic at hand, yeah, Taste of Country and The Boot are complete trash. I have often defended blogs as offering better, more objective commentary than a lot of mainstream media outlets, but that seems to have been turned on its head at least with the above-mentioned blogs and a few others I could name. I’ve said before that Grady Smith at the Guardian is the best thing going anymore in terms of mainstream country music journalism, precisely because he doesn’t shy away from calling a spade a spade. We could use about five or ten more Grady Smiths anymore.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Scotty J November 23, 2015 / 8:56 pm

    Most of the time It seems that these are just content filler pieces for these sites that they don’t have to have someone write and it makes the site look busier and more active. One of the main criteria for me if I’m going to regularly follow a blog or news site is they need consistent original content and that is where Country Perspective or SCM really stand out from some of the others like Roughstock which seems to be an industry shill for the most part or Country Universe which is a crazy bipolar site where they have manic phases where they have all kinds of posts followed by weeks with virtually nothing. I imagine it can get tough sometimes to feed the content whore but it definitely leads to a more legitimate and professional website than these others which seem to post every release from a PR outfit that comes across the transom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NoahHibiscusEaton November 24, 2015 / 1:22 pm

      I love Jonathan Keefe’s contributions at Country Universe (he used to contribute to Slate Magazine), but otherwise agree with you on that site.

      I contributed several reviews to them in the past. Though I do respect the writers there, there’s something about that site that feels clique-ish; where you have one writer publicize a review, and the rest of the staff often high-five each other and, if you’re a guest offering a differing viewpoint, they can get thin-skinned.

      Then again, many think Saving Country Music is clique-ish as well, and I’m a regular commenter there, so……..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scotty J November 24, 2015 / 2:30 pm

        Sometimes Country Universe seems like it’s only purpose is for the contributors to write for the other contributors and if an outsider disagrees they are ganged up on and that is not a good atmosphere to have.

        Not sure if I would call SCM clique-ish as much as it’s divided into factions. You got independent country people that hate everything mainstream, you got your Taylor Swift fanboys, you got your ‘get off my lawn’ types, you got your people that think Strait and Jackson are pop and you got your big picture people (where I fit I think) that just observe and chime in occasionally.

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