Promotional CD rant

Recently, Napalm Records started using voiceovers on their promotional CDs. Granted, voiceovers are not quite the full on FUCK YOU METAL MEDIA!!! that digital downloads are, but it’s certainly a tip of a finger gently circling around the rim of my anus. Listen labels, I guarantee (and this isn’t directed at just Napalm Records), screwing around with your promotional […]

by Erik T

Recently, Napalm Records started using voiceovers on their promotional CDs.

Granted, voiceovers are not quite the full on FUCK YOU METAL MEDIA!!! that digital downloads are, but it’s certainly a tip of a finger gently circling around the rim of my anus.

Listen labels, I guarantee (and this isn’t directed at just Napalm Records), screwing around with your promotional CD just annoys the hell out of ALL CD reviewers.

The voice over thing just baffles me. Hey, I understand that you don’t want your ‘45 units in its first week folk metal album’ leaked to the 124 people that are craving it all over the world, but it’s just a disservice to us writers who are trying to help you sell an extra 4-5 units that first week. As a writer, I listen attentively to all albums, I absorb the album, trying to appreciate every part of the music, and having some heavily accented lug tell me what album I’m listening to 4 or 5 times per song really, really derails and disconcerts me as a reviewer. And the voice over generally comes right in the middle of a great bridge, riff or chorus that I’m trying to enjoy. What are you saving? What do you accomplish from this? Bigger albums will leak regardless, but your Austrian Gothic metal album, really isn’t in that high demand, so why bother? To be honest, any voiceover CD’s I get, are immediately bumped to the bottom of my review stack. The fan/consumer isn’t buying a voice over, so why make me listen to a voiceover? You’ve already packaged Your CD in a cheap card slip case, ensuring I can’t trade or sell it if it sucks-which I fully understand, but now I have a promotional CD that I can’t even keep for my own listening pleasure when the review is done-an often small perk of this gig. Assuming your album is at least decent, we as writers are trying to help consumers decide on a product, and more often than not, it’s to help a band or label move some more CD’s, so then why essentially deface your own product that we are trying to help you sell? Why cheapen the experience for the person trying to help you. I don’t write “YOU ARE READING A REVIEW AT TEETHOFTHEDIVINE.COM every paragraph do I? I dont mean to sound unappreciative that that you think my opinion or this website’s opinion is important in the realms of metal reviews by sending me the promo in the first place,  I do appreciate that fact, but you are already getting a quality exposure for the price of postage-throw us a bone.

Also, in the age of ipods and mp3 players, the 99 track thing is just a pain. I imagine, like most metal journalists, I load all CDs for review into my mp3 player and often hit ‘random’, while at the gym, at work, etc. So having your listening experience littered with 15 second excerpts of songs is really annoying. Let’s say I have 80 albums to review and 4 of them are 99 track promo CDs, that means all of a sudden I have not just 800 tracks in my mp3 player, but now 1200 tracks with 396 of them being 15 second ‘tracks’. Ugh. And it’s more likely than 15 second excerpt comes right at the end of my last rep of my last set. Ouch. Again-If your album is a real high profile album-the ‘net guys will find a way to get it and leak it regardless. And truth be told, (and I may be making a broad generalization here) most metal heads WANT the actual CD, not a digital copy, so you 99 track voice over CD accomplished nothing except pissing of the reviewer.

On a positive note, a big thank you to the labels that still actual mail out full fledged, proper CDs with artwork and booklets etc. THAT is what the consumer is getting, let us review what the buyer is getting. Plus it’s actually appreciated as some token for the many hours I put in to reviewing them. This ‘job’ has so few perks, getting a shiny new CD from your favorite band a few days prior to release date, is akin to a surprise blow job in the morning-everything just seems better after that…..



  1. Commented by: Matt Brown

    Erik, I agree. Where’s the trust? What about true relationships between the zine and the label? I would like to think not all metal webzines are equal – even though it seems like some labels treat them that way. Some dude over in Romania that slapped a couple animated .gif flames on his free website he gets with his ISP account, gets treated the same as a website that’s got 7+ years under its belt and a respectable name?!

    I understand how Nathan over at Napalm would want to protect his babies or any label for that matter. BUT, there’s a big difference in how many of these metal webzines treat those promos all the way up the chain to a published review. At Metal Review, there’s actually quite a bit of money spent on just “handling” those promos, making sure they get to the right person, input correctly into the system, reserved by the reviewer, review submittal, editing, and finally the published polished review. And we know as a fact that indie artists are getting signed and readers are dishing out their hard earned cash based on influence from our reviews. Is that not worth its weight in gold, record labels/artists?

  2. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    To all this, I say AMEN!!! Thanks for voicing that Erik!! Voiceovers & 15 second tracks SUCK!!!!

    Mayeb sites should boycott reviewing those promos?

  3. Commented by: Chris Dick


    The trust was broken long ago. Sadly, the white knights among us who don’t share music are punished for the many who do. Thus, labels, whatever their position may be on the matter, are forced to take drastic measures to secure what is basically a product. This is their investment — financially and artistically — they’re trying to protect, so when viewed from that perspective the myriad of ways labels they use to ‘secure’ their investment make sense.

    I disagree with Victory’s way of doing things — hence the blog –, but in labels’ defense, even if it means sticking a finger in a leaky dam, there has to be some attempt to stop the deluge.

    And, personally, the labels don’t care what cost is incurred on the other end of things. It’s our end of the bargain to objectively/subjectively handle music sent to us from labels — that means data entry, creative thought, liner note/one sheet reads on the toilet, etc.

  4. Commented by: Chris Dick

    One more thing: I think the state we’re in (labels, journos, fans) equates to thin ice. We’re all standing on the same ice and it’s cracking everywhere. Times are tense, but it’s always important to remember the relationship — from labels through fans — is symbiotic.

  5. Commented by: Fred Phillips


    I understand what you’re saying, and I went through this conversation with Jon over at SPV last year when they sent out the voiceover copy of the last Iced Earth record. I still think there’s a better way to do it than voiceovers that ruin the listening experience for someone who is, essentially, trying to help you sell your records.

    To be honest, this is the only place where I will review a voiceover. In the other outlets where I write reviews, I’m pretty much in control of what I review or don’t, and voiceovers go straight in the trash. Here, as I said in my Power Quest review, I’ll give the voiceover one listen just so I can write a review. It’s annoying, and at a time like right now, where I’ve got 8 or 10 more CDs on my desk that don’t have voiceovers and a few that I’m really digging, that voiceover CD isn’t going to get much attention.

  6. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Just adding to what I said before. I very rarely like anything on the first listen. It usually takes me several listens to get a feel for the music and let it grow on me. I give most of the non-voiceover CDs that I review at least a week or so of regular listening before I even start to sit down to write a review. Maybe the labels don’t care and there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but for me personally, it’s to their advantage to give me a product that I can stand to listen to repeatedly. It often produces a much better review.

  7. Commented by: Chris Dick

    Sure, Fred. That’s a personal preference. I hate voiceovers and multi-track tracked albums as well. But I think it’s important to look at why labels are using voiceovers, watermarks, 99 track albums, etc. Their investment is leaking before street date, allowing anyone to have it for free. Again, it’s important to separate our fandom from reality. The music business is a business. Real dollars. I’m not defending record labels, ’cause the RIAA does that just awfully, but I think sometimes we journos, who are really fans, don’t always look at the bigger picture. It’s the fan in us that these anti-piracy tools agitate. Anti-piracy ‘tools’ ruin the experience. They know it. We know it.

  8. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Chris- I just dont see how these things really secure the product. Heck, the album will be readily available for download anywhere on the net on its release date anyways, whats it worth for say, 2 weeks of keeping the album from leaking? And like I stated,I think metal heads want hard albums, so even if they do download it, I think most buy it as well if they like it. i think downloading leaks for metal heads (generally speaking) is for previewing. So why punish the reviewers and media/press? I might as well go to a torrent and get an album instead of the promo.

  9. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Also-its not like this is Warner Bros or Sony protecting the leak of some major artist’s release. These are indie metal labels and thier 30,000 units over 5 years at most type records. You’d think any early press exposure due to a leak would be beneficial. Unless the album sucks of course. Seriously-is an early voice over version of the new Heidevolk album really going to affect the sales of that album if its leadked early? (I hate to keep picking on Napalm, but they just made the change so its fresh)

  10. Commented by: Chris Dick

    They don’t secure a product in a real sense. That’s understood. It’s preventative. Like the security bars at Target. People will always steal stuff, but if the average joe doesn’t understand how the system works and is then afraid to steal from Target because of it, then the majority of theft is prevented. Similarly, if the voiceovers, watermarks, or 99 track albums prevent the average ‘press’ joe from ripping the CD, sharing it over torrent, P2P, blog, FTP, etc., then I think the minimal effort it took the labels to put anti-piracy tools in place is rewarded. Granted, albums will always leak. Too many people — press, distro, radio, friends, etc. — are involved in the distribution of music content from labels. For example, I got the advance of Opeth’s “Damnation” from someone in distribution. Press didn’t get promo until a month and a half later. Furthermore, I think the demographic is changing. Sadly. As metal appeals to a younger audience, their habits/preferences are different from the older set. Some may like tangible product. Most won’t. It’s sad, but true. The major vs. indie argument is relative. The $1,000,000, for example, the four majors spend on an artist may actually be the same — financially speaking — as an indie spending $10,000 (which is a lot, actually), for example, on an artist. Resources are tight top down. It’s also important to realize this is a label decision. Anti-piracy ‘tools’ won’t just be imposed on one artist or album. It’ll be across the board — major and minor artists on the label’s roster. It may have zero impact on, say, Heidevolk, but it may have significant impact on, say, the new Vintersorg or Atrocity albums. Using Napalm as an example.

  11. Commented by: Chris Dick

    One more thing: Ask 100 random metalheads how often they’ve bought an album after previewing it through a download.

    Then ask what their ages are.

    Then ask if they kept the previewed album on their hard drive if they didn’t like it.

    Then ask if they’ve shared the previewed album they downloaded.

    Then ask if they’ve shared it anonymously or to friends.

    I think what you’d find in that survey will disturb you.

  12. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Yeah I agree with the age/demographic side of things-younger metal fans are more prone to digital music than actual cds. But how many of those kids are listening to stuff on Napalm and other relatively ‘uncore’ labels?

  13. Commented by: Matt Brown

    Continuing my first rant, I wish the pessimistic labels would communicate more with us. Develop more of a relationship, put all of the cards on the table and confirm that your website/team can be trusted. Joe Blow who owns might not be able to be trusted, and that case should be treated separately.

    The pessimistic labels I refer to are actually in the minority. MOST send in full blown copies of their material. There’s only a few that don’t *coughs* Napalm (Let’s leave him alone already).

    And Chris… yeah, I’m a “fan” at heart, but I treat this as small-business at the forefront. We offer a service to our readers and a byproduct of that service benefits the suppliers that fuel the website with their artists’ material.

    Labels should know there’s a difference between sending a promo to a fan-based/hobby reviewing website versus a website that treats the game more seriously as a business. I’ve had a few labels outright tell us they have high regards for what we do and will send full blown copies of their material. Some get it… some are still too protective.

  14. Commented by: Chris Dick

    To Erik, I don’t think Napalm’s decision to do voiceovers was a U.S.-based decision. Rather, I think it’s Napalm’s European HQ that approved the decision. Only speculating. I think a great deal of kids listen to whatever they get their hands on — through friends, reviews, or other areas like MySpace.

    To Matt, I agree. But I think managing ‘serious’ vs ‘non-serious’ media is a daunting task. I mean, it’s relatively easy to decide places like Decibel, Maniacs, MetalReview, BWBK, Unrestrained!, etc. — oh, and us! — are upstanding publications, but there are literally hundreds of publications claiming to be the authority. What metrics do the labels and their publicists/marketers use to determine ‘serious’? I don’t know. I think that’d be a hard, if judgmental, call.

  15. Commented by: Mark Lennard

    Watermarks are a far more sensible way of “keeping track” of who the party wreckers are. Let’s hope that streaming entire albums on Myspace or the like will keep the serial ‘preview’ downloaders happy … I personally have listened to the new Testament stream atleast 5 times and am ready to purchase the day it arrives. I think Eriks comments are close to the crux in that it seems to be a generational/genre thing more so than across the board. For all the talk about stopping downloads, why don’t they just cap it at the source and block them from BitTorrent etc???

  16. Commented by: Staylow

    I’m with you one this one Erik, 100%

    I’ll come out an say it – I download. Why? Because I want to know I’m getting a quality product I’m going to enjoy before I shell out any hard earned dollars, which I don’t really have much of. The tools are there for me to ensure I’m not wasting my money, so I use them. And if I don’t like what I download? It does get deleted. As far as sharing goes, the stuff I like I share with some friends, who like me, will go buy if they like it, and if they don’t, they throw it away or give it to another friend.

    As Erik said, metal heads want that physical product. Sure, with the younger crowd, most of them probably are not too concerned with that, and most likely don’t have the cash for it. But given a little age, and granted the interest in metal stays with them, I think that would change. Metal fans are extremely loyal – much more so than casual and/or mainstream music fans.

  17. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    I guess I’ve always had a problem being punished for what other folks are doing. Goes back to grade school.
    I think all reviewers have to be “fans.” There’s not a lot of point in doing this if you’re not. I’d hope that most of us got into this because we love the music and want to share that love with other people. Ultimately, a voiceover record is starting with a strike against it before my review is started. Even if it’s a band I love. Going back to the Iced Earth example I used above, I’d been looking forward to that record not just since their last one, but for all the years it’s been promised. I was like a kid at Christmas when I ripped open that envelope and pulled it out. A few minutes into the record though, all of my enthusiasm for it had soured, and in fact, for a while, I was so frustrated that it made me angry with the label, the band and everyone else involved. I wrote a stupid little rant that fortunately Erik talked me out of running and bitched out Jon, who I know had nothing to do with the decision, because it was one of the most disappointing moments in my career as a reviewer. Not professional, I know, and I regret that, but that’s the kind of passion that I have for the music. Yes, I’m a fan, but I’m a fan in position to help them (at the time the IE came out, my reviews were running nationwide in mainstream newspapers every week). Ruining my experience seems a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
    On the subject of watermarking, I’m fine with it … as long as it doesn’t affect the playability of the CD. I’ve gotten a couple of watermarked CDs from major labels that would not play in my computer or my truck, and that doesn’t work for me. My truck is where I do most of my listening, and I like to have the CD playing while I write my review at the computer.

  18. Commented by: Jamie

    Erik, your rants never cease to amaze me.

    I got out of the ‘zine business just at the cusp of this crap. I used to wait eagerly for the next promos to arrive so I could enjoy them as a fan first, reviewer second. I wasn’t interested in leaking them to or sharing them with the general public because I also come from the background of managing and promoting bands. I know what it is to put a lot of hours and hard-earned cash into creating that CD. More so, I know that you need to sell CDs to stay on the road, make more CDs, buy other promo items, put $4.00 gallons of gas in that gas hog you call a touring van…

    So the point I’m trying to make is that if there’s so-called “journalists” out there doing this crap on the side, they should be shot. They aren’t even writing about music because they love it; they’re writing about it because they’re pompous, arrogant assholes who thinks they need to get praise lavished upon them by a bunch of cheapskate jerks who won’t help support these bands they supposedly love.

    I think it’s all of this negative, backward-ass, idiocy that made me bow out of the game. I don’t need to be a part of labels trying to one-up the few bad apples who spoil the bunch (nods to Fred on this, because I know exactly what you mean) nor do I wish to be considered a part of these bad apples either.

    Keep writing and, if it were my decision, I would go right on stacking other label’s/band’s CDs on top of those who pull silly little stunts like that. There’s a ton of talented, amazing metal bands out there who aren’t on labels either who need the press a whole hell of a lot more than bands who are already on every cover of every mainstream metal magazine …or whoever the hell is on Napalm Records. A band called “Fairyland”?? I guess I’m WAAAY out of the loop. I’m just a jaded chick who is still has some romantic idea that music is my passion. ;)

  19. Commented by: Chris Dick


    It’s not the watermark that affects playback in your computer or stereo. That’s probably another anti-piracy tool that forces certain CD readers to not read the CD properly.

    The watermark is a ‘sometimes’ undetectable fingerprint that’s embedded in the signal. Read more here:

  20. Commented by: Chris Dick

    And guys it has zero to do with the publicists or label people you are working with. These are label decisions, and chances are the publicists and label people weren’t in on the decision.

  21. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Yeah. That’s why I regret griping at Jon, who I’ve worked with for a long time at a couple of different labels, and he’s always been good to me. He was one of those guys that gave me a shot when I was just starting out and didn’t really have a history as a journalist to back up my requests. It was a hot-headed thing that I wouldn’t do if I had the moment back. Those guys probably take all kinds of shit everyday for random things they have no control over just like I do.

  22. Commented by: Chris Ayers

    Heck, guys, maybe we should start writing “YOU ARE READING A REVIEW AT TEETHOFTHEDIVINE.COM” in every paragraph of a review like Erik suggested. The sad thing is that I have the voiceover memorized when the clean copy finally arrives — and I hear the voiceover in my head when I listen to the clean one!

  23. Commented by: Morb

    There is no excuse for fucked up promos or digital-only versions. That’s just the label further trying to control things in the days before they bite it. Don’t review anything that doesn’t meet your standards.

  24. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Heres something else that bothers me-how much more $$ does a label save by sending out the card slipcase promos as opposed to the full cd? I often get full cds without a jewel case-no worries, but there has to be some extra cost in making im guessing hundreds of card slipcase promos vs jsut sedning out the cd.

  25. Commented by: AVERSIONLINE

    Voiceover CD’s should be tossed into the trash immediately. No one should review them. Ever. It’s insulting and absolutely destroys the listening experience. If every reviewer told the labels to fuck off and stopped covering such CD’s, they’d have no choice but to stop doing it.

    Also, those 99 track CD’s are a pain in the ass and I generally don’t care for the bands whose material is supplied in that format way anyway (or those labels just don’t send me shit anymore), but you should be able to join the tracks in iTunes (select all the tracks and go up in the menu to “Advanced > Join CD Tracks”) and then import them as complete songs rather than tiny fragments. Assuming that works the way it should you should be set, and it would absolutely defeat the purpose of labels bothering to have their discs severed into 99 snippets in the first place.

  26. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Most of my review listening is done in my truck, and my truck CD player puts a gap between each track, so it’s impossible to listen to the 99-track CDs. If I actually care enough about one of those 99-track CDs, I use a recording program to splice them back together so that I can actually listen to them. It’s a pain, but I hate to not give bands I actually like a fair shake because the label split the CD into 99 tracks. I can deal with that better than voiceovers. At least it doesn’t ruin the music.

  27. Commented by: Chris

    hey guys! i’m managing a french metal webzine called thrashocore(.com), and we definitly had the same thoughts as you have about those voiceovers, “BIP”, and others 99 tracks. Besides, we make fun of it, we’ve made some reviews dealing with the humorous side of the promos, you can check them here:

    it’s in french sorry…but i guess you’ll recognize easily whick kind of promo we are making fun of!

    by the way awesome webzine, i’ve been following Digital Metal for a long time to help me write my own reviews, and Teeth of the Divine is at least as cool as DM was! cheers

  28. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I jsut got the new Arkona Cd from Napalm for review, guess what? No voice over.

  29. Commented by: Hansel

    Maybe I got here way too late.

    Anyway, I have an underground music zine called Deaf Sparrow ( and I could not agree more with this article. I remember the first time I heard those voice over promos from Earache over two years ago. I was disappointed to the max. To the reviewer it cheapens the experience and maybe even affects negatively the feelings on it. Worse than that though is the decisions of several labels to stop shipping physical copies altogether. Metal Blade has already shifted to MP3’s of every release and most of the big labels are well on their way. That is crushing to the underground music fan (all critics are) that not only loves the music, but also the artwork.

    And how about that letter that Nuclear Blast sent to all webzines a couple of weeks back, stating that if their artists do not get interviews (urging us all to invest in tape recorders), the label may just stop shipping promos to all digital media. Apparently this step has already been taken in Europe. But that’s a different issue altogether.

    Keep up the good work!


    Deaf Sparrow

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