At the cross road: client journalism and reviewing – anyway close enough for jazz?

Does an album that does not avail of the services of a publicist actually exist? Are reviewers guilty, when they do respond to publicists, of indulging in client journalism? Two thorny questions but actually very pertinent ones. So, to the first …

Published: 13 Jan 2021. Updated: 49 days.

Does an album that does not avail of the services of a publicist actually exist? Are reviewers guilty, when they do respond to publicists, of indulging in client journalism?

Two thorny questions but actually very pertinent ones.

So, to the first question: an artist issues an album, as often as not these days, on their own label. Or instead, again quite a popular thing to do these days, pays a label to put their record out via a production deal.

When bands have been around the block a few times and know how the record industry really works and that they need a publicist even if it often costs a bomb and they may not be that happy with the amount of reviews churned out at the end of the campaign because usually they are paltry and all the profile-raising that probably does happen is pretty intangible for now or even ever. Handy euphemism, intangible.

They may be even less happy if they go to a label who will charge them for every last paper clip and cup of coffee but because the label is somehow a brand (meaning: known for having got its name about) has a certain cachet and can, although this is rare, morph into being a sound so happy days punters then buy anything on the label.

The musicians know this, the labels know this. There is a certain magic making in this admittedly, the power of persuasion and appealing to the inner romantic of jazz fans swayed by the look and feel of that bizarre thing, a logo.

Some labels however who do one too many production deals, get a bit complacent after a while and slip out a jazz treatment, the very thing we all need, of the Wurzels happily enough if someone rocks up to pay. Trebles all round.

So the answer to the first question, yes but only if you ask the mystified, people who buy things and are willing to take a punt. Mystified, because all they have as background given the information deficit as no one has written sensibly about it, is limited information based on an outbreak of wit on TikTok.

As for the matter of the second: indulging in client journalism, in many cases, sadly, yes. It happens.

What client journalism is all about fundamentally is a weird niceness and politeness. Some nice person, and they usually are quite nice, gets in touch out of the blue on behalf of the Acme label or whoever and furnishes sa(i)d writer often quite nice sometimes fatally naive with a press release and an album in the post or more likely these day a private link to the album for convenience.

The writer while not consciously aware of what's occurring often desperately wants to please the publicist. Why? No idea. Basic humanity maybe. And there's a lot to be said for humanity in a cruel world. But not really what the reader wants if they actually knew how much of a mug the writer they rely on is and how their opinion has buffeted in the wind between the state of actually being honest and writing bland guff that reads like a caption.

Sometimes it manifests itself as over-praise, other times it's just reviewing records that don't need to be reviewed at all because they aren't reviewable as they are appalling. Or, and isn't this interesting for the subject of a back-of-the-envelope idea for a psychology PhD about the art of making value judgements, too good to be reviewed and therefore not opined-over much. What's that all about?

Don't get me wrong the poor if admirably dogged jazzhead hacks, actually harmless usually despite all the tedious transpotting that goes with the territory, writing down by the bus stop filling up the old jotter, are not ''clients'' in a paid sense at all because most reviewers do not do it for the money even ones who do get a few quid six months after they file the piece. Why do they do it? They have to because they have the blues and that's their way of expressing themselves. It's supernatural. I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees.

No, client journalism is like an in-the-door, out-the-door shelling peas mentality. Get a record, review it because, miraculously, a copy in my hand ''thereof'' I now uncannily hold. That actually doesn't make much sense as a lifestyle choice if you think about it. But it's a ritual and the pubs are all shut.

The whole notion of random bogus reviewing is widespread in a what-do-you-think world where all that malarkey is taken seriously as preposterously witnessed on Dismalgram anyway.

Unfortunately once again jazz writers are the fall guys and mainly have been utterly shafted. The professional ones or amateurs who are actually professionals but now resort to syllable busking online. The whole notion of professional/amateur music writer is laughable anyway. You either are or you aren't a writer.

Why shafted? Because no one in the industry knows let alone respects their role but in a way that is not new. However, the conundrum still exists. Out there a zinger of a press release is being written as we speak destined for the collective single-finger-typist Trainspottery. Wrapping this up: trust your writer. They may not be as popular a house guest as a Pangolin any more but guess who's come to dinner if you really love your music and can put up with Brummie Bryan banging on about old Blue Notes again. Because a review exists however doesn't mean anything necessarily apart from the fact that, cor lummy! Words.

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Come Sunday Moses Boyd on Nefertiti

This week on Classic Album Sundays drummer Moses Boyd, top, looks at Miles Davis album Nefertiti – the influential 1968-released Teo Macero-produced second great quintet LP comprising Wayne Shorter tunes 'Nefertiti', 'Fall' and 'Pinocchio,' Tony …

Published: 12 Jan 2021. Updated: 50 days.

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This week on Classic Album Sundays drummer Moses Boyd, top, looks at Miles Davis album Nefertiti – the influential 1968-released Teo Macero-produced second great quintet LP comprising Wayne Shorter tunes 'Nefertiti', 'Fall' and 'Pinocchio,' Tony Williams' 'Hand Jive,' Herbie Hancock's 'Madness' and 'Riot'. Online on Sunday night at 8pm.