Feb 222014

artwork by Kati Astraeir, which has nothing to do with this post

The subjects of this post are a bit awkward for me to discuss, but they’ve been on my mind lately and the more I can get off my mind and put onto yours, the more light-headed I’ll feel. So here goes:

Premiering new music or new videos is something that music sites and metal blogs like to do. Premieres are publicized by the people who get to do them and by the bands, as well as by labels and PR agents, if they’re in the picture for a particular release. That drives traffic to the sites who get to host the premiere. When you get to premiere a music or video, you also have the pleasure of sharing something you like (though I guess some sites will premiere music regardless of what they think of it).

You’ll notice that a lot of sites prominently use the word “exclusive” when they do a premiere. When used correctly, “exclusive” means that the site in question is the sole source for the music — you can listen to the premiere at that location, and nowhere else. In some cases the exclusivity period may not last long — the band or label may upload the music somewhere else a day or two later — but sometimes it may last for weeks or even longer.

The way to ensure exclusivity is to premiere the music in an embedded player that can’t be copied and embedded by anyone else. For example, if you upload music to SoundCloud for streaming, you have the option of disabling the “share” feature that allows other people to copy the embed code and use the widget to stream the song or album on their own sites or blogs. Why do people do this?

A photo by Peter Ahlroos, which has nothing to do with this post, of an Icelandic geyser a second before eruption

I presume that in most instances the site that’s doing the premiere either asks for or insists on exclusivity when a band, label, or PR agent offers the opportunity. The sites that do that are generally ones that are trying to make money from page views (because they host advertisements on their pages, for example). They get fewer page views from a premiere if other sites are also able to stream the music. I suppose they may also get the psychic gratification of using the word “exclusive”; it’s kind of like saying, “Hey! Look at me! I’m cool!”

I don’t understand why a band or label would want a music premiere to be exclusive to only one site. It seems like, for them, the more people who listen to the music, the better. Allowing other sites to freely embed the music player from day one would help spread the song or album around and expose it to more listeners. That’s why I presume that in most instances, when a premiere is exclusive to one site, it’s because the site asked for exclusivity (“I’ll scratch your back, but you need to scratch mine, too”) — or maybe the band or label just assumes that’s what the site is going to want. I can’t imagine that listeners care one way or the other whether the premiere is exclusive to the place where they’re listening to the music.

I’m guessing about all of this because we never ask for exclusivity at our site when we get the chance to do a premiere. This isn’t a money-making venture, and although it’s fun for us to get more page views rather than fewer, we’re happy to have the embedded music players we use shared around the web. We have done exclusive premieres in the past, but that’s because the person who offered it to us pitched it that way, or provided us the code for a player widget that couldn’t be copied and duplicated elsewhere. I guess in those instances they just assumed we would want an exclusive.

Sometimes the use of the word “exclusive” is an oddity. For example, I’ve seen instances where a song premieres on the same day on multiple sites, with each of them using the word “exclusive”. This often happens when one site is based in Europe (e.g., Terrorizer or Metal Hammer) and another is based in North America (e.g., Decibel). But, the internet being global in scope, listeners usually aren’t limited to listening to new music only at the site that’s headquartered somewhere on their continent (unless there’s some sort of geographic scope restriction in the player that’s being used).

Calling a premiere “exclusive” is even more odd when the player that’s being used is a YouTube stream — which can be viewed directly on YouTube and can be embedded by anyone else, anywhere else. That kind of premiere is exclusive only in the sense that, for an instant in time, one site is the first one to play the song or video publicly.

It’s kind of like calling an interview “exclusive”, e.g., “Exclusive Interview of  Devin Townsend!” I mean, it’s not like the person being interviewed has agreed not to talk to anyone else. It’s exclusive only in the sense that this particular conversation, using these specific words, only happened one time, but I don’t think that’s how most people view the word “exclusive”.

I don’t mean to criticize people who use the word “exclusive” in the case of interviews or premieres that aren’t really “exclusive”, as the dictionary defines the word. There’s no harm in it. It just seems odd.

I also don’t mean to criticize the sites, bands, or labels who premiere music in the genuinely exclusive sense. I experience momentary frustration when that happens in the case of a song I really like and want to write about here, because I’m unable to include the song stream in the article. And even though I used to be puzzled about why a band or label would limit the exposure of their music in this way, I now understand the business reasons for exclusivity (or at least I think I do), and I now try to respect those reasons by not stealing the widget code for use here, even when, with a little hacking, I could.

Well, all this is now off my mind and onto yours. If you have any thoughts about any of these topics, please leave a comment.

  14 Responses to “EXCLUSIVITY”

  1. I agree with all your points. I think sites having exclusives is more a point of interest for readers then writers/site owners wanting to re-post. For readers, it gives them a reason to continually check in with a site to see what they have to offer others don’t. I know I check a few more sites daily then I used to, mainly due to them getting exclusives.

  2. this is a pretty interesting post, i always enjoy hearing a little bit of behind-the-scenes information about the music “industry”. like you mentioned, the word “exclusive” doesn’t matter much to me when i’m really just interested in hearing the latest song by a band i like. i guess if i had to decide on a universal protocol for song premieres i would just prefer that bands release their new tracks to the media as a whole on the same day. that doesn’t mean i don’t understand why certain websites go out of their way to get exclusive premieres. but if page hits are the sole reason for reason for premiering a song that would sure make it seem like the website in question is driven more by the almighty dollar than the passion for great music.

  3. Good post. I too understand the business reasons why a site would want an exclusive premiere, but from a fan perspective it only limits your options. And yet for small bands, the allure of a big name site and reaching a broader audience is hard to say no to sometimes. It’s quite the conundrum.

  4. I’m sure there’s some good for a site to get the premiere exclusively, but honestly, if I don’t find the writing at a site interesting, or the recommendations good, then I’m not going to stay for long. I would think websites would want to cultivate long-term, reliable readerships (I would also think this would be advantageous to advertisers in looking where to advertise. Then again, I don’t have my own website per se, so the only perspective I really have is that of the reader, who sees having to go to another page for streaming as a minor hassle, and not a way to recruit me to a site’s readership.

  5. The strangest things I’ve seen are “exclusive” streams of albums that were available on Bandcamp. Besides not being very exclusive (like the Youtube streams you mention), why wouldn’t the label want the site to feature the Bandcamp player, and give the listener the option of downloading/purchasing the music immediately?

  6. Interesting topic. I see where you’re coming from, but I also see why some sites would want an exclusive stream for traffic generation. But as you state, often it seems people don’t understand the word ‘exclusive’ and pop the label on any old stream. I do wonder how much extra genuine traffic a site would generate from an exclusive stream (i.e. ‘genuine’ as is actually going beyond the page with the player) – most of time if I have to click through to another site I do so just to listen to the album/song and that’s it.

    Also, that photo! I could stare at that for hours – and I haven’t even been near any drugs 😉

  7. I’m not sure if this counts. If a band has a facebook site they may require that you like them just to listen to their song. How do you know if you like the song? But, they ask you like them first. I think that limits their exposure too.
    I think you’re right a site has some status symbol. It’s not like that site is going to get a piece of my purchase.

  8. Well, if it can be played through your speakers, the audio can be copied. If the video can be seen on your monitors, it can be recorded. If it’s on the internet at all it’s anything but exclusive. There are tons of programs that can cap/record full screen videos in HD an it’s even easier to record the output audio of your PC right back into your PC.

    Most of this is pretty easy to figure out as well. The way I see it, is the second you put anything on the internet and provide any form of public site/media/outlet the link to it, all exclusivity is lost. One of the many reasons I release music for free digitally.

  9. I think in a way, the concept of exclusivity serves to generate a perception of scarcity that can generate listener interest. If I’m browsing the web and I see that a big band has released a new video, I’m likely to think, “Well, okay, I’m going to see this all over the freakin’ internet for days. I’ll get to it eventually.” Whereas if it’s labelled “exclusive,” I might think, “Okay, better go ahead and watch it while I’m here.” This doesn’t really make much sense, because it will inevitably end up all over the internet eventually. But brains can be funny things.

  10. One just mentally omits the word “exclusive” while reading. So, any exclusive is the same as a nonexclusive to One.

  11. Exclusive streams are like a funnel. Forcefully letting people pass through a certain conduit . It comes as non shareable soundcloud links, non-searchable youtube links, and finally site specific (reminds me of the absolutely dumb Pitchfork one).

    Traffic generation and putting the idea of “we are way up in the ladder” in terms of reach out there an seems to be their sole goals. So many sites go for this but i feel sad, especially so, really if they come with that “share” option made unavailable on soundcloud. It does not take some sort of high math to calculate or well..understand the more it gets shared, the better reach it provides. And sites like these usually have common as well different reader bases. It also sort of diminishes the importance of said site’s written content. I myself would rather prefer the term “stream” rather than being bent on being so conspicuous and self important. But then people doing this for a living cannot be blamed either. Oh well..

  12. Great post, Islander. I can only speak for MetalSucks here, as we definitely do a lot of “exclusive” premieres. The below will probably shed some light on how our process works, which a lot of you may find interesting.

    You bring up some great points here. And so:

    1) We insist on non-embeddable players to capitalize on the traffic, yes, you are absolutely right. Our servers are hella expensive, this is our full-time job, we got mouths to feed, so we need to ensure we get as much traffic as we can. That said — we won’t just take anything, we have very stringent standards that basically boil down to whether both Axl and I agree a song or band is great. We regularly turn down premiere pitches from huge bands that just aren’t our cup of tea.

    2) If we’re going to go through the trouble to pump a new song up as a big deal — do a big fancy write-up on it (more than just a usual post), put a “Featured” link in our site header, talk about it in our email newsletter, maybe even play it on the podcast — we need to be getting something more out of it from the record label / publicist than just a regular post. Otherwise why go through the trouble of “premiering” anything at all? We could just post an embed when the song comes out just like every other site does with a whole lot less hassle. Having the song be “exclusive” and having MS be the only place its available ensures that the label scratches our back while we scratch theirs by promoting the hell out of the song.

    3) Don’t even get me started on YouTube “premieres”! Complete stupidity, it makes no sense for all the reasons you mentioned. Unfortunately more and more labels are insisting on YouTube “premieres” these days because all they care about is building their YouTube play counts to a) have an impressive number they can show booking agents and managers to prove that people care about a band, b) earn some incremental ad revenue from embedded YouTube ads. MetalSucks will not run a YouTube video as a “premiere” except in a couple of very specific exceptions (the recent Behemoth trailer being one them… the band insisted on YouTube but promised to link us from their Facebook page, which was a huge traffic influx we could not turn down).

    4) Having different sites premiere the same thing in different parts of the world is also complete stupidity for all the reasons you mentioned (chiefly: the Internet is worldwide!) and we won’t do it on MetalSucks. I understand why bands want to do this — different publications can be better at reaching fans in their own territories — but it doesn’t make sense from a worldwide website’s perspective.

    Hopefully that clears some of it up for you.


    • Thanks for the info. As I said, I was guessing about a lot of what I wrote, and I’m glad I wasn’t completely off base. I’m also positive that if we were running this site as our real jobs and depended on income from it to pay for the overhead and put food on the table I would be hoping for exclusive premieres. Hell, I get obsessive about our traffic numbers now, even though they mean zero to me financially. 🙂

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