Promotional Discomfort


Recently, though I realise it’s wrong to be chastise those who provide with such musical pleasure and increasing shelf-space, a displeasing trend has emerged in the world of musical promotion. It’s completely understandable and actually quite canny, but by the weak legs of Jim Davidson does it become frustrating. The deliberate manipulation of promotional music so that (occasionally) discerning listeners will be discouraged from placing digital copies on the internet is spoiling things for those of us who honestly don’t want to do that. Or even know how. Limewhat?

Two recent examples show different ways this is managed. Bill Callahan‘s forthcoming Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (on Drag City) is a predictably quiet and dignifiedly luxurious affair, and completely worth sinking into. You know how, don’t you – late-night walk home, drizzle, warmth, that sort of thing. What one noise do you not want to hear on that late-night walk home? A fucking car horn, that’s what. A proper “AWOOGA!” Fashanu-fucking car horn pissing all over the milieu. But, incredulously, that is what we’re treated to, at least twice in every song. Callahan’s intimations are tremulous at the best of times, forcing one to engage as much brainergy as is possible. It’s not just that it’s difficult to ignore a car horn over a French horn harmony, it’s that you never even realised there was French horn harmony because you couldn’t hear it through your own incendiary, inflammatory and foul fog of a mood.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy‘s forthcoming Beware LP is similarly blighted, but Domino records have taken a slightly different approach. Again, at least two times in every single song, we are interrupted. This time, however, we hear the Prince himself telling us in a quiet and not-too-natural public address sort of voice that we are currently enjoying a promotional copy of Beware by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. Sometimes a similar message is delivered by a bloke with a Mexican accent. It’s not as tear-inducingly aura-destroying as the car horn, but it’s still a tall order to engage with the record properly, without fear of continually being interrupted. Imagine a flatmate who won’t leave the room when you’re trying to trim personal hairs.

There are some other examples (the most annoying of which being my copy of Stereolab‘s Chemical Chords where every song finishes after three minutes or so, regardless of original length – though, in all fairness, the folk at Too Pure did send me a full version when I kicked up a fuss), but these two came within the space of a week and impaired my first impressions of two very hotly anticipated albums, anticipated not least by me. If there’s a demographic of listener that should be given the benefit of uninterrupted aural immersion, it’s the fucking reviewer. Do you want us to have the best possible impression of the album you’ve spent months promoting? Do you want us to hear it the way it’s meant to be heard? Or, worse, do you want us to throw hissy fits like this one? 

Honest, I know there’s a piracy problem. Mostly because of twats. But what’s wrong with my recent promo of the new Dan Deacon album? Nothing, everyone! No musical interruptions, but a clear watermarking process. I’m not entirely sure what it means, but it says it’s watermarked and that THEY’LL KNOW if I do anything weird with it. Or what about my copy of Frightened Rabbit‘s debut album on FatCat? On the cover it simply reads, “PROMOTIONAL COPY – NOT FOR FUCKING SALE”. Alright, I won’t fucking sell it. Surely there are more effective preventative and less debilitating ways to stop piracy than mutilating the sanctity of recorded sound? 


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