The New Trend: Musicians Paying Journalists to Review Their Music

A while back, I was invited to join a site called Fluence, a company that connects musicians with influencers (radio people, music industry folk, journalists, bloggers, etc).  The idea is that for a fee, one of these influencers will review your music.  Given how hard it is to cut through all the noise and have your music heard by someone in the industry, the thinking is that this is a win-win for everyone.  The musician’s music gets heard and the journalist makes a few bucks for their time.

But not everyone is comfortable with this arrangement.  This is from The Fader:

A couple weeks ago, a music journalist friend of mine posted on Facebook that a band tried to “Venmo” her a dollar so that she would listen to their single. She responded to the would-be bribe in pretty unequivocal terms—“not if it was the last piece of recorded music on earth”—and the comments that followed ranged from amusement over the shamelessness of the ruse to laments over the insane oversaturation of the music internet. You don’t need to take Journalistic Ethics 101 to know that accepting money from potential writing subjects is probably the biggest faux-pas that a writer can make, but I was shocked when one commenter pointed out that there is “a whole platform set up to pay journalists to listen to their stuff.” It’s called Fluence, and if you look it up on Google, it’s advertised as a place that “brings creators and reviewers together to help each other.” In the parlance of the site itself, it’s a place where musicians pay a host of “influencers”—or “curators, journalists, bloggers and domain experts”—for “feedback and exposure” for their media.

I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I decided to try it out. I set up an account as a “creator,” plugged in a track from a band I play in, and was presented with a menu of different “influencers” to choose from. I picked out my guy (a music journalist advertised as a writer for a bunch of different name publications, with a little photo and Twitter handle), and noticed that he had an asking rate of $2.38 per minute, for a total of $12.67 for him to listen to the whole song. That felt a little steep, so I didn’t end up submitting my order, but I’m pretty sure that doing so gets the “influencer” in question to press play on a track and write up a little paragraph with “feedback” on the song.

As dozens of Fluence success stories on the site’s blog will testify, there is also the chance that influencers will Tweet, Facebook, or write a blog post about the song you submit. Just this week, for example, an “indie music curator” named Robert Duffy supported “emerging indie artist group” CMBSTN—a quartet of Swedish alt-rockers with a penchant for slick production, emotive vocals and lipstick—by selecting it as an “emerging candy pick” on a website called Bitcandy. Truth be told, the write-up included the disclaimer that the writer had found it on Fluence, but the incentive to shell out a little cash to get people with staff jobs at blogs and thousands of Twitter followers to listen to one’s music seems obvious for the aspiring artist: if CMBSTN hadn’t posted their music to Fluence, would Robert Duffy have ever found out about CMBSTN?

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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