Opinion: Free-for-all? Download that promo. Or not?

RockmusicRaider - Promos are free

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a somewhat desperate tweet from a PR agency. Its representative bitterly complained about some reviewers downloading all the music promos sent their way but never returning any written article. Apparently, once the agency accosted the webzine (or ‘zines), they were told that simple downloads don’t guarantee reviews.

Of course, that didn’t sit too well with the PR guys. But the ‘zine’s opinion does strike a chord with yours truly over here at RMR HQ.

Let’s take good ol’ RockmusicRaider as an example.

Promotion agencies, labels, and bands of all couleur usually inundate our ‘zine’s inbox with a gazillion requests of all kinds. Promos for review, press releases, stuff that might take our fancy – or not at all. And on top of that, a ton of scammers and spammers want a piece of this reviewer’s unpaid ass for a variety of reasons. It’s a constant barrage that rumbles forward like one of those infamous tank attacks of a long time ago. 24/7, at all hours of the day. And that’s perfectly okay, it’s life as we know it.

Some of those wares comes well packaged through pristine services like Haulix that give us reviewers enough information to work with. Others, however, just send stuff helter-skelter, with often half of the information missing, what have you. Or they send you their tunes over terrible services like Google Drive that – more often than not – give up the ghost halfway through the action.

And it is not always as simple as it looks.

Often you have no choice but to download these promos sent to you directly. Like – for instance – with the folks that insist to get their wares to you through the free version of WeTransfer. You see, this service is a great tool to send someone a relatively large file. But its load expires after 2-3 days, and that’s an issue with services like ours. And that forces us to pick them up blind and check them later. However, more often than not, those will never make it on our review pipe. We just don’t have the resources to look at all incoming emails within some 24 hours.

Now, the question remains, of course.

Should we mean reviewers just go ahead, download everything, and never return a shred of virtual paper? After all, PR agencies, labels, and bands just send them to us, right?

Well no, it’s not that easy and nothing is ever free. As a matter of policy, RMR only downloads promos if there is an interest at the outset. We don’t think it’s fair to just go ahead, pump all the music we can find off their streams, and enjoy our vast music universe. Or worse still, leak or sell them, even if the music is usually watermarked1).

That doesn’t mean – however – that all promos in our music library also get a review. You need to understand that scouting means giving a record some 30 seconds to 2 minutes max of our contested time. If the wares on offer won’t talk to me, down the trap they go. If downloads don’t render correctly from the zip file, they will not be looked at. And so on, and so forth.

Also, the first screening sometimes sounds promising. Only to find later that a review may not necessarily be a match in heaven. Or it may be overly negative and not necessarily add value to this blog or the musicians in question.

So, what should the golden rule be?

We said it before. Not all downloaded promos will score a review. That may be a bitter pill for some PRs, labels, or bands out there, but also a fact of life. However, this ‘zine here does not condone just downloading everything for the heck of it.

Those promos sent in good faith are no free-for-all. And if content is downloaded, it should be seen as intent to review. And not as some hoarding operation that will make the downloader look worse than Scrooge McDuck leering at his overflowing vault.


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