Earlier this week, British newspaper The Guardian published a feature on The Men From the Press, a web-based service that helped bands pay music journalists to review their records. Just 72 hours later, the service is no more.
All that’s left of TMFTP is a grammatically shaky message which blames “certain publications and traditional PR companies…who have made it impossible for us to carry on through their constant slanderous remarks and activities which have damaged our reputation to the point where we have lost all heart with the project.”
While it’s possible that the site’s owners just couldn’t handle the flaming that the Guardian piece ignited, it seems more likely that this is just an example of sunshine disinfecting; the site’s stated mission – to score ink for bands too broke to afford publicists – sounds suspiciously like payola.
Album reviews don’t count for much these days, and most of the bands that succeed in building their names up do so by spreading samples of their music to as many outlets as possible. And any artist that can’t readily identify the writers, bloggers, podcasters, and radio stations that might find their product appealing has bigger problems than a lack of promotional funds.
If anything, TMFTP might have gotten more sympathy if they’d cast themselves as a site designed to help aspiring journalists. With more and more outlets shuttering all the time, finding a paying gig writing about music has become a huge challenge. As Guardian Music Editor Michael Hann points out in the piece’s comments section, many well-respected publications have lost their freelance budgets, and it leaves writers who specialize in fringe genres (which can mean anything from grime to bluegrass) without an outlet. Bringing needy writers and needy bands together to raise their profiles at the same time kind of qualifies as an ingenious idea.
Unfortunately, it seems like it’s too late for that.
Max Willens is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in XLR8R, Paper Magazine, Death + Taxes, Electronic Beats, HOOP, and The Village Voice. He lives in Brooklyn. Max currently serves as WAMM’s primary editor.