Today’s NY Times has an interesting article entitled “Warner’s Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note” which offers a important lesson for big corporate record labels on how not to ingratiate themselves with the blogging community.
Last month, the suits at Warner Brothers Music decided to reach out to MP3 bloggers — bloggers who specialize in sharing and discussing music — as a way of promoting a band.
“We are very interested in blogs and I was wondering if you could post this mp3,” a Warner staffer emailed the bloggers. “It’s by one of our new bands – The Secret Machines. They are an indie rock band and we would love for people to hear the band’s music from your site.”
Most of the bloggers ignored it, skeptical about the parley, particularly since the recording industry is actively suing the pants off MP3 file swappers. Other sites like music (for robots) posted it, hoping it was a sign that the industry was finally recognizing the importance of mp3 bloggers. “We’re glad that mp3 blogs are being recognized as a next step in the marketing ladder,” blogger Mark Willett posted on the site. “This is also exciting because big labels like this don’t commonly post mp3s — they sometimes have streams, but rarely downloadable content. So this is a new thing for everybody, and it’s pretty exciting.”
The story might have ended there, but then people started to post comments to the blog. Many of the comments questioned Warner’s methods and motives, but several anonymous comments supporting the record label stuck out like sore thumbs. An example:
“This track is amazing!! Thanks for letting us listen to it!! I never heard these guys before, but theyre awesome. I went to their website and you can listen to a lot of ther other stuff, very cool andvery good!
The teeny-bopper style and almost forcefully mistyped words were inconsistent with the comments usually posted to the site, so Mark Willett looked at their IP addresses, which identify the location of the computers that posted them. Soon enough, Willett realized the anonymous, pro-Warner comments were coming from the same computer that had contacted the blog about promoting the band in the first place – a computer at Warner Music.
The suits at Warner, apparently, had been caught red-handed, posting anonymous messages in defense of themselves. And now they’re doing their darnedest trying to put a positive spin on the situation, saying the anonymous comments simply may have been posted by employees enthusiastic about the band. “We’re not sitting here typing in message boards that the band is great,” a Warner rep explained. “But if somebody in the building loves the band, I can see them doing it. People at record companies are also huge fans.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out on music blogs in the coming days and weeks. The fact that the NY Times is covering it at least shows that some big media outlets revel in watching other media outlets fumble through the blogosphere like a middle-aged guy desperately trying to sound hip with a bunch of teenagers. Reminds me of the ‘92 presidential campaign, when Bush 41 tried to connect with young voters by telling them how “far out” Clinton was. Still makes me shudder with embarrassment…. -andy