Sunday, October 11, 2009

In the interest of disclosure.

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued new guidelines to remove the veil of secrecy from bloggers' faces. The FTC wants us to disclose whether we are getting freebies or kickbacks in exchange for our reviews. I haven't yet made up my mind whether this is merely well-intentioned government action to protect consumers or an attempt on the part of our government to discredit bloggers. Either way, I've got nothing to hide.

I have at times reviewed products I paid for. But if I can get free a CD or DVD in exchange for my review, I might just take advantage. "Might" -- I have standards when it comes to what I review for One Note Ahead.

Take the DVD set Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Shows. A marketing company contacted me about posting a press release or review on ONA. I wasn't going to post a press release and merely advertise a product I had no connection with. However, I did some research on the product and decided that I would most likely be able to write a review that was both favorable and honest, so I agreed to review it. The marketing company sent me a copy of the DVD set, and the rest was history. I still have the DVDs; incidentally, this article claims that traditional journalistic venues (as opposed to blogs) typically must return products they receive for review, but I really haven't known this to be the norm in music journalism. And bear in mind that I have worked as both a music journalist and a music publicist.

There have been plenty of instances in which artists, bands, and their representatives offered me a complimentary copy of an album or EP for review. I accept the offer only if I believe I can write a review that is (here it comes again) both favorable and honest. I don't review artists or products I don't like; it serves no one's purpose and it wastes my time.

Now, there have also been times when I've offered to review an artist or band and they (or a representative thereof) accepted my offer and gave me a free copy of whatever they wanted me to review. This is just the way things work, people! But I always operate on this principle: if I offer to review an album, EP, or DVD and get a free copy only to decide I don't want to review it, I will pay for it. I will not review it just to avoid having to pay for it.

I have NEVER requested or accepted payment for my reviews. If someone puts me on the guest list to a show or does me some other favor because they like my review, fine -- I don't expect it or demand it, but it's a nice gesture when it happens. But no monetary bribes or rewards! I refuse to play that game as a reviewer and as a publicist because the moment I do, there goes my integrity and thus my credibility. One Note Ahead has never been a money-making endeavor. Why do you think it takes a backseat whenever I'm otherwise occupied? I never wanted One Note Ahead to be bound up with the need to make money because as a music journalist I had gotten so concerned with making money that I began to devote less consideration to the music. I always wanted ONA to be pure in that sense, but that means I need to make money elsewhere and the blog must become a secondary or tertiary priority when my income-generating work leaves me little to no blogging time.

In closing, I will add the following: I no longer make a habit of reviewing albums, EPs, or DVDs I paid for. I might do it occasionally, but most of the products reviewed on ONA from 2008 onward were freebies. If someone gives me a freebie and asks for nothing in return, I may or may not review it. That said, the "Now Hear This!" series is open anything that's available to the general public, whether I paid for it or not. I've only ever reviewed one book on ONA; it was a book I read because someone in the music business recommended it and I happened to find interesting enough to review.

Any questions?

Copyright © 2009 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.
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1 comment:

  1. Well, I think you should be able to accept, and keep, review copies of CDs, DVDs, books, etc., without guilt or feeling influenced by the giver. If you only reviewed what you bought, the results would probably prove predictable over time - not just you, anybody.

    I would like some more reviews, thoughts, etc. on new acts that harken back to the heyday of RnR - by that I mean the '60's!

    Dan Hollyfield


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