Promos, Etiquette and Community

April 7, 2016

There’s no doubt that digital promo services are an integral part of the electronic music world. From a label/producer’s perspective, it provides some much-needed exposure before a track is released to the public, with the added benefit of providing what can be an excellent source of feedback about the release. From a DJ’s perspective, you’re getting access to brand new tracks, for free, before anyone else can buy them. I’m lucky enough to have been the beneficiary on both sides of the coin, and I can say that being in either position is enviable. However recently a couple of producer friends of mine shared some feedback that they had received on a few of their promos, and to be honest it was shocking. Not only was it excessively negative, it was intentionally insulting to the producers and the label. The person providing the feedback was the same in each case, which is good because it means it’s not a community-wide problem. I’m not about to name and shame this individual, and I ask that nobody else familiar with the situation do so while commenting on this post in social media either, because it would just continue the cycle of negativity and that’s not the purpose of this post. I’m posting this because I thought it might provide a good opportunity to inform people and encourage conversation about what – speaking primarily from a producer’s standpoint – the real value of a promo is, and maybe touch on some basic etiquette when providing feedback.

As mentioned above, the obvious reason to send tracks out on promo (at least in a “business” sense) is to gain exposure for the tracks. The hope is that enough people who receive the track in advance will play it so that others will hear it, thus generating a desire for people to buy it. Traditionally the hope was that it would be played out at clubs and events, however – at least in the hard trance scene – this has changed considerably due to the severe lack of events catering to that style of music. So now we hope it gets played on internet radio shows or featured in mixes on sites like MixCloud, SoundCloud and even YouTube. The right exposure can mean the difference between a track that actually gets sales once it is released and a track that quickly gets buried by the sheer volume of releases available in the digital age.

The other reason to send out a track as a promo – and, for me at least – the potentially more valuable reason, is for the feedback a promo receives from the people it is sent to. Every producer I know welcomes this feedback – both positive and negative. You read that correctly – negative feedback, as long as it is constructive, is welcomed with open arms. We can take the criticism, honestly! Trust me, anyone who has ever released a creative work to the public, sent a demo to a record label, or put something they have had a hand in creating up for scrutiny by others can deal with rejection. The ones who can’t don’t last long – they quickly give up. The reason we welcome the negative feedback is because it helps identify things we can improve on in our productions. Essentially, positive feedback inspires us to create more, but negative feedback inspires us to create “better.”

Which brings me back to what prompted this post. Excessively negative, insulting feedback serves no purpose and accomplishes nothing other than to make the person giving the feedback look like a complete dick. If you don’t like a track that you’ve been privileged enough to receive as a promo, that’s fine – if you’re inclined to say why, be honest, but be constructive and as specific as you can within a sentence or two. Remember, somebody included you in an exclusive list at least in part because they value your opinion – make the most of it! If you’re not inclined to say why, that’s fine too – just say it’s not for you. Don’t be a dick about it.

If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely thank you for reading! I don’t typically use this platform to rant about things, but this particular issue has been both confounding and infuriating. I honestly can’t guess at the motivations behind the individual who decided that insults could pass for feedback. Maybe they thought they were being funny? Maybe (hopefully?) they didn’t realize that the producers often see the feedback from promos? Maybe I’m just over-reacting? After all, we’re all guilty of poor judgement from time to time. And if that’s all this was – if these incidents were just lapses in judgement rather than a consistent pattern of behaviour, then it’s unfortunate, because in a small community like ours there is no anonymity, and these incidents are not likely to be easily forgotten by the producers involved. And I think ultimately that’s why I’ve ranted on about this. It has taken what should be an opportunity to behave as a positive community, and turned it into a negative experience for everyone involved, whether they realize it or not. And that is the truly unfortunate thing about it. Members of the hard trance community should be working together and learning from each other to rebuild what was once an amazing scene, not tearing each other down for the sake of imagined cheap laughs.

Thanks for reading.
– Alex (XLS)