Once again music journalists were forced to dump their journalistic rights and beliefs at the will of some publicity power wielding maniac. This time it was the PR company who reps Metallica who asked a number of journalists to remove their reviews on their websites of the upcoming Metallica studio album that they had written from the music they heard at a Metallica listening event that they were invited to by the band. Who knows the real reason they were asked to remove the reviews, but reportedly it was because they weren’t finalised songs.
Why invite reporters, bloggers, to listen to your album if you DON’T want them to write about it? That just doesn’t make sense at all.
Personally speaking I’ve had a similar drama in the past. I spoke to a PR contact I had about gaining access to photograph one of the bands that they represented and it was all cool and I was asked to meet them at the venue to sign contracts before the show, standard gig photography rules applied. No dramas I thought, I’d shot so many bands in the past that I was used to the standard contract arrangements.
Anyway I arrived at the venue, no contracts around as they’d been misplaced so I agreed by a ‘handshake’ that I would abide by the standard rules, I photographed the band and followed the directions that the PR person had given me, I was about to leave and then I was told that the photographs must not be published until I had received written permission by the band and that if I did publish them that I would have to deal with consequences. I complained that those terms should’ve been told to me before the show, but I agreed to them as I thought at the time that if I didn’t it would’ve been the end of my band photography career.
After editing up the photos and providing a proofing gallery online I emailed the publicist, and the band, seeking their approval to publish the images. I didn’t receive a reply within 2 days so I sent the email again, still no reply after a couple of days so I figured I’d give it one more shot. Nup, nothing, nada. I knew that the email addresses were correct as the publicist had sent through other press releases previously and I had received replies when I had commented on them. The photos were never published and are still sitting in my Aperture library.
In hindsight I should’ve just published them after the second email but at the time I was actually worried that this person could give me grief over the photos, however now that I know that if there isn’t a signed contract, and both parties don’t receive a signed copy of the contract, that the contract basically does not exist.
Of course not all PR people are like this, I’ve had some dealings with a few Australian publicity companies and they’ve been very good to deal with, eg. the guys at Burson Marsteller are nice genuine people that are great to deal with, and they have some massive companies that they represent.
Moral of the story, if you want publicity for your band, your product, your whatever, then make sure you respect that we are journalists and we have our integrity to maintain. If you ask our opinion and you get a reply that you don’t like, within reason, do not threaten to sue us or any other legal crap, respect that we have an opinion and that’s what our audiences generally come to us for.
Update – Metallica, the band itself, has since published a news article on their website putting the problem down to their PR guys stuffing up.