Unethical? Or pay Music Bloggers their Fair Share?

RockmusicRaider - Woman with money - Unethical, or pay music bloggers their fair share.

A lot of howling and bitching by self-proclaimed moralists lately echoed off the walls of the RockmusicRaider office suite. Deep questions galore about ethics, playing to theories that you should not take money for the work you do. That by doing so, your pure creative spirit as a blogger will grow the infamous mold of corruption. Specifically, in the music industry, this view lately became a problem.


Methinks that this is an age-old question that bothers many a journalist out there1). Is it – yes or no – unethical to take money? And if so, why?

But let’s start at the beginning.

If you have the gall to call a blogger a writer or – Loki forbid – a journalist, the wrath of the watchers and adepts of the trve art will find you quickly. And violently so. Because bloggers are a species that needs to be squished without mercy. Unless you work for some august newspaper and they grant you a column, of course. Which is – in essence – a blog, too. Well, bummer. But – hey – if all else fails, they can still take the sledgehammer to your sorry ass. Like with this blurb.

“Blogging is not writing. It is graffiti with punctuation!”

Contagion, 2011 | Warner Bros. Pictures

Agreed, this is an age-old and also pretty time-worn quote. But it’s part of the things I had to hear over my relatively short career as a music blogger. Someone matter of factly yelled that one straight into my face right at the start of the blog. Just to show me her disdain about the know-nothings and wannabe specialists that support those vile face-painted monsters lurking all about the murky depths of the internet. She – of course – knew that I just started a metal blog. As if having a blog already would be unethical.

Oh, you run a blog? Do they still work?

That’s another quote. Spoken with contempt and with a look as if blogging would be some disease that one could contract. A stigma of sorts that the outcasts of the writers’ community will never recover from. Only, there are apparently a few hundred million blogs out there2). And that’s a lot of potential contagion, right?

And in a way, I can understand the often negative sentiment. From the gazillion of food blogs to the reviled influencers, you got the whole spectrum. Some of them are nicely written and researched, whereas many others – well – don’t quite live up to that standard.

And then you have those cheap-shot sites like TripAdvisor for instance. They let anybody rate those travel destinations, restaurants, hotels et al, pretty much with no strings attached. Pro bono, of course, because only scant earnings can be had there, right? So, the outcome is a ton of badly written and utterly subjective microblog posts with a rating attached. A glorified comment column, often worse than the bottom-level boulevard press allows.

But one that can make or destroy a business. That’s the kind of power microblogging can have. And it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Music blogs do however serve a purpose.

Running a blog is no picnic, that’s for sure. It is a lot of work, and most of it unpaid, hard labor. Something made for people that somehow can sustain themselves on sunshine and fresh air with the occasional glass of tap water, like some plant in the corner of an overheated room.

The outcome is actually a service to many. A source of information devoured freely on an as-needed basis. Stuff the internet provides, seemingly out of nowhere.

Reviews, reviled by some as they may be, are part of a marketing strategy in the music industry. A good, professional review can drive sales. But – of course – this is a double-edged sword, as a negative one can do quite the opposite.

And they seem to work. Or how would one explain the tons of requests this blog receives every day? So many that most will never be reviewed for sheer lack of manpower. Unpaid manpower. Things may change if only we could get some decent monies out of such an operation and pay staff writers.

I also sometimes hear that the music samples provided to us are already payment enough. Come again? So, we have folks out there that – as a matter of fact – believe that a blog should not only provide free content but pay for the music they review, too. And they should only deliver positive reviews, of course. Right.

But can you get paid at all?

Yes, you can. There are sites out there that offer remuneration for bloggers. Only, most offer you a pittance AND will wall you in with rules and caveats. And they will want your original content, and only the stuff they like.

Lets take Listverse as an example.

A reputable Top 10 site with lists galore, so many lists. Now, the excited voices of the internet haughtily whisper that about 100 of Listverse’s shiny dollars should be yours, in case you get accepted into their hall of fame. But here’s that terrible couple of words.

In case.

I actually read through their small print3). The rules feature so many hurdles that the US Tax Return started to sound like Grandma’s Sunday afternoon shopping list. And some sense of dread installed itself after a while, too. Because – gosh – only the creamy elite, a few chosen writers, would have paid access to that august webzine. One that – and I quote – will be “read by millions of people”.

Wow, I bow to you, ye gods of the mighty curator community.

Only they kinda forgot to mention over what period of time those nameless millions will visit.4) Every day? Every year, century, eon?5) Never mind. Because here it comes.

To be eligible you need to – and again I quote – “be in one of the following countries: US, UK, NZ, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.” Oops, that sucks. RockmusicRaider will not qualify, and with that goes the major part of humanity.

So, no French bonmots or Russian words of wisdom allowed. But that they don’t even accept links to blogs like RMR really was that one last painful nail in the coffin.

Got it.

But lets quickly turn to the (alleged) monies you could reap.

$100 per piece might sound alluring. But think about it for a second. To sustain yourself you would need to write many articles per month. With all the work going into creating a decent post, you’ll need 96 hours in the day and a boundless source of ideas.

Yet, the hot rumor of Listverse’s alleged pay level is actually good. Most sites offering paid posts shell out somewhere in between of 5 – 100 greenbacks. So, again, nothing that may jolt me out of bed at 4 am and has me hacking away madly at my keen machine. Gosh, unemployment benefits start to sound more alluring.

So, I guess you get my point. There are no riches to be had if you want to get paid blogging, a few exceptions notwithstanding. And – besides – for most you will be blogging your own copyright away in many cases.

The ethics warriors and their cudgel!

Ethics. Defined as – and I quote – “the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group” or “a guiding philosophy” or – again – “a consciousness of moral importance”6). I lately read a few comments and opinions about ethics in blogging. Chiefly, they dealt with the thorny idea of whether taking money for reviews is unethical from a moral standpoint.

Now, whether cuffing everyone about the head with misguided morals is a good thing or not is beyond the point for this article. But the underlying question, the one that keeps me up at night, is about integrity. Can you remain independent, when you take somebody’s money? Because – let’s face it – you become the supplier of the one paying you. And the one who pays the piper calls the tune. Right?

So, it’s less those high-strung ethics that would enter into this train of thought, but more some common sense. A certain logic that will need to be applied when approaching such a potentially thorny issue.

So, will it be unethical to ask for your fair share?

No, of course not, just be aware of what you are doing. Some may think so, though. Because they (still) believe that pushing free stuff onto the internet is actually cool. That goes hand-in-hand with the free music thing that those very same people often push. So, they will wield their ethics cudgel with a vengeance.

However, in today’s world, money runs your life, want it or not. So, getting a salary for your efforts is (would be) nothing but normal.

But lastly, consider this:

If you blog to praise a product, you are – in fact – doing promotion. And that activity demands payment. Or if – in my other incarnation – I celebrate the music of a band I manage through a short blog post, then again, a bill will be due.

If – however – you wish to critically review stuff with a solid degree of independence, then you may want to think twice. It’s that ‘pay the piper’ thing all over again.

He who pays, commands, and you – the blogger – risk to lose your independence and your integrity with it. That’s just the way it is. Ethics aren’t in it, just common logic. And there’s no sustainable solution in sight to get you your fair share, at least for now.




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