You may or may not have read earlier today about an NYU student who punked the music blogosphere by fabricating a track (in 20 minutes, no less) and touted it to the internet as new Salem single “Nite Daze.” The student’s prank was actually for a class entitled “Digital Art with Brad Troemel,” and her assignment was to “intervene into society using the internet.” Well, she certainly intervened when multiple independent, alternative blogs picked up and published “Nite Daze.” The Quietus, a small but reputable British independent online music and pop-culture magazine was one of the duped. John Doran, co-editor and founder of TheQuietus.com talked to The L (via the internet) about his reaction to the prank and what it means for the music blogging community.
The L: What was your initial reaction to the news? How do you feel about it now?
The Quietus: My initial reaction was – “Odd, but let’s get it up as quickly as possible.” We published it, within a minute or two of it coming in because we’re Salem fans and we wanted to be the first to break it. I can’t be certain but it was at about 7pm when I published it. I’d been up since 7am and working since 8am. I’d normally be in the office until 10pm but I was leaving at 7pm to go and watch Azari & III do a live set. They’re a band I’m really keen on at the moment. I remember joking to the other member of staff who was in, ‘I guess we’d better listen to this.’ We played it once and said, ‘Wow, that’s a load of shit – but then it is a demo.’ And left the office to go to the gig.
It was a bit of a shit prank as pranks go. It only worked because the student bought the email address that made it look like it had come from a bona fide PR group in the States. Salem have changed PR firms a lot recently and I’d normally deal with the UK PR firm. I get between 400 and 700 emails a day from literally hundreds of PR firms – plenty who I’m not really familiar with and I don’t really have long to check the provenance of each one. I’m not really bothered how it makes us look so much as I hate bands who use cheap publicity gimmicks to get their band noticed and I’m not a big fan of having my time wasted. I work between 70 and 80 hours a week on a website which is pretty much a labour of love and the freelance work I need to do, in order to keep myself in baubles and biscuits. I really fucking hate having my time wasted by anyone as I’m pretty much constantly tired and angry.
Also, bear in mind that this is by no means original. Check the number of spoofs that spring up on p2p file sharing sites knocked together by people wanting to take advantage of hype. If the student had done this and got away with it they’d have my respect but no one with any time to inculcate the new track would have fallen for it.
The L: Why do you think the blogosphere is so nuts about Salem to begin with?
The Quietus: I don’t know. I run a website. I haven’t really read any blogs apart from 24 Jazz Funk Greats, Simon Reynolds and K Punk and they don’t talk about them. I go on the ILX message board who despise them with an almost hilarious vigour. I find the cruelty of Chris Weingarten’s writing about them very amusing in a perverse kind of way but other than that, it gets on my nerves how badly they get misrepresented.
The L: What do you think this type of prank demonstrated about the kind of music we disseminate and value?
The Quietus: It didn’t demonstrate anything about the music. Or not on the Quietus anyway. It failed totally as it only made the news section where there was no critical judgement. Our news story read simply: “We’ve just been sent an MP3 of a demo by Salem. Check it out:” If we had have reviewed it saying, ‘We think this is ace’ or ‘This is utterly terrible’ then I’ll concede that the ‘experiment’ might have proved something. I feel sorry for any site who went into any kind of review of it but that’s for them to worry about.
The L: How do you feel about the pressure to be first-on-the-scene in music journalism?
The Quietus: It’s regretable (sic) but there you have it. The Quietus is 100% independent and run by three people with no investment or backing. We bust our fucking balls trying to keep this site providing in depth interviews, reviews and news. And how do we do this? By reacting really quickly to breaking “stories”. We need to have really good google presence for me to earn the paltry amount of £100 a week (do a google conversion and start weeping) and this is for a 70 hour 7 day week, which is kind of destroying my physical and mental health at the moment. I don’t see how me wanting my website to be considered alongside things run by AOL, NME, Yahoo, MSN etc is such a bad goal for me to have. We’re quite clearly running the superior website to most of the massive corporate sites out there, so why shouldn’t I want people to read it? You have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to raise enough advertising revenue to keep a site like this running when you don’t do advertorial, when you don’t do shitty site take overs, when you refuse to take money from credit companies, the oil industry, the motor industry etc in advertising, when you don’t sell feature coverage to major label new signings and – most importantly – when you refuse to cover big names who don’t have artistic merit, even though it would earn you a lot of cash. I used to be a news journalist in London in the 90s and when working for the Evening Standard (a large London newspaper) we had five deadlines a day. I don’t see the internet as being any different. I like the buzz of having to be on the ball (even though I wasn’t this time, I fully admit) and I like being under a lot of pressure.
The L: Is there anything else you’d want to add to the discussion?
The Quietus: The student has proved themselves to have an absolutely brilliant brain for marketing/advertising. I hope when they graduate from the arts course they’re on now they get the job they deserve – working at boardroom level in communications and marketing for Burger King or British Petroleum. The ultimate result of this now, is that as an editor, I’ll have to spend even more time checking the source of each of the aproximately 700 emails I receive a day just incase some over privileged wanker has decided to commit fraud as part of their course work – given that now I can’t even trust emails from PR companies any more. Maybe I’ll start working 14 hour fucking shifts instead of 13 hour shifts. What this means is, I guess we’ll be posting a lot less in the way of new music by new bands from now on—so well done, that art student.