Victory Records halts manufacturing of promotional CDs. Who’s next?

Today we were contacted by Victory Records notifying us we would no longer receive physical CDs for promotional purposes — reviews or interviews. Now, unless I’m mistaken Victory Records is the first independent label to make the switch from physical to digital promo. As harmless as it seems, this is a landmark event. Labels, mostly […]

by Chris Dick

Today we were contacted by Victory Records notifying us we would no longer receive physical CDs for promotional purposes — reviews or interviews. Now, unless I’m mistaken Victory Records is the first independent label to make the switch from physical to digital promo. As harmless as it seems, this is a landmark event.

Labels, mostly the majors (Sony BMG, Warner, EMI, and Universal) and their myriad of imprints, have been party to and practitioners of digital delivery of promo to radio through services like PlayMPE (formerly PromoOnly) and DMDS for several years now. It makes deployment of new music faster, more efficient, and a sorta win-win for everyone. Historically, it was singles-based, but now that broadband is ubiquitous, full albums are getting the focus. And like radio, we journalists are supposed to rejoice in this sorta win-win. No more waiting for music. No more ‘it got lost in the mail’ stories. Just get new music fast. At least that’s how Victory sees it. But, folks, this isn’t apples to apples. How radio consumes music is vastly different from how journalists consume music. We’re different audiences with different habits.

So, how does this change our (i.e., journalists) music experience? As a person who appreciates having tangible things, I’d say Victory’s choice to stream albums, as opposed to sending CDs via the good ol’ USPS or UPS, greatly alters the music experience. Not in a critical way, ’cause if the album rules, it rules. If it sucks, it sucks. But who in their right mind wants to sit, tied to a computer, for 30-50 minutes to stream an album they have zero emotional attachment to? Not sure I do. At the very least, it means I pay less attention to the music on offer and, as a result, allow my immediate reactions to flavor whatever coverage I choose to give the music I’m hearing. Not professional behavior, I’ll grant you that. Then again, our (i.e., journalists) hands are being forced with Victory’s decision. Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned. Realistically speaking, if there’s a network glitch (it matters not whose end it’s on), what compels me, other than a Pavlovian urge, to click play again to re-stream the music? Not much. So, at the very most, I don’t cover Victory’s releases. It’s clearly a lose-lose situation.

Now, maybe Victory has compelling research to prove journalists listen exclusively to the label’s music on a computer — not a mobile device like a digital media player or phone — after they receive it. So, receive, rip, and play. Actually, I don’t think Victory has the research. Or, it majorly chafes the higher ups when promos get sold on eBay and Amazon for a single George Washington. After-market resells are, more or less, a non-issue. Sure, promo ends up online at Amazon and eBay or at brick and mortar stores (the very few that are left). That’s been going on forever. Comes with the territory, so to speak. Victory’s chief concern is promo hitting blogs, torrent sites, and P2P networks before and after it’s released. A no-brainer for sure. No label (we’ll throw artists in there too) wants to give away its music. After all, music is an investment. We (i.e., journalists) normally won’t write for free — unless it’s for this site. It’s easy to understand their viewpoint. And, yes, there are a few hundred variables to consider. I’ll leave that to someone’s Master’s thesis. But where is our input? Our voice on the matter. We have none. The two-way street, at least in victory’s eyes, is now a one-way. ‘Our way or the highway,’ so reads the sign.

After spending about 10 minutes on their streaming, login-only website, I’ve found the experience to suck. Real hard. The sound quality is atrocious. The album art is small and resolution terrible — not that it matters really unless it’s Paul Romano. And, the main sticking point and purpose of this here blogenstein, I’m forced to listen to it not in my car, on my stereo, or during my Sunday walk with the dog. Nope. In front of my computer. After working 40-50 hours in front of the computer, the last thing Victory will have me do is spend 30-50 more minutes listening to its streaming-only releases. Just won’t happen. Like Judas Priest on Point of Entry, I’m going to head out to the highway.



  1. Commented by: AVERSIONLINE

    I think this is a TERRIBLE idea. I’ve only had one label contact me so far offering streams for review instead of CD’s, and I told them I wouldn’t do it. For years I INSISTED on having complete packaging, but now that I have an iPod I finally understand and “get it” why so many people never cared about that aspect of it to some degree. So I’ll actually write about high-quality mp3’s nowadays, but streams? Fuck that. Not only is it insulting because of the sound quality, but because they’re expecting someone to – like you said – “sit, tied to a computer, for 30-50 minutes to stream an album”. Ridiculous. What incentive is there for a reviewer to spend their time covering an album if they don’t even GET THE MUSIC to keep for themselves!?

    I totally understand that full album mp3 blogs are a big problem, but that’s not going to stop over this, and a lot of those bands/labels that care could be doing a lot more to police that with simple Google blog searches and emails to the site owners asking for the content to be removed. A ton of blogspot blogs have been getting shut down in recent weeks for giving away full albums.

  2. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Sucks. My payment for most of the reviews that I write is the free CD. With the voiceover CDs and CDs split into 99 tracks that I’ve been getting for the past few years has certainly made me less enthusiastic, and now this? No thanks. Most of my reviews are written in my truck on the way to and from work. It’s the only place I really have to listen to music without interruption. A high-quality MP3 download, you might get me to consider, but I’m never going to be able to sit in front of my computer and listen to a crappy stream. It provides me no incentive at all to review the release.

    Reminds me of a major label a few years back that asked me to do a story and review on one of their bands that was coming through. I already didn’t like the band, but then they sent me a watermarked, copy-protected CD that would not play in my truck, my computer or my home entertainment system. At the time, those were the only three CD players that were available to me. I packed it up and sent it back with a note explaining that I didn’t want the responsibility of somebody possibly pulling the watermarked CD out of the trash where I was about to throw it, and could they please take it back. Probably burned myself forever with that company, but oh well … didn’t like any of their bands anyway.

  3. Commented by: Tom Jonze

    Ultimately guys (and girls) this will have almost 0 affect on your website as TOTD (ex-digitalmetal) reviews like 3 victory albums a year positively. they are doing themselves a favor by preventing bad reviews. well-deserved bad reviews i might add.
    victory had dropped some great hardcore albums early in their career but they have been on a constant, agonizingly too slow, downward spiral into bankruptcy.
    good riddance to their promos …. next up, the label!

  4. Commented by: Chris Dick

    You haven’t read Erik T’s reviews then?

  5. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Are you having a dig at me Chris? :)

  6. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Apparently-Earache is next to be done with promos

  7. Commented by: buzzR

    Cheers to all, just a question, if you should have to use this digi-music for reviews, which system of the two mentioned is the best, or are they both the same? How about sound quality. is it at all passable? Obviously the speakers , and sound card capabilities factor in to the quality…am I right? Any thoughts?

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