Please Explain To Me ... Year-End-List Lobbying

The messages started to arrive in late October, just as I was digging my way out from under the avalanche of fourth-quarter releases.

The first one was from a publicist at EMI Music.

Subject: EMI Music Year-End List

Dear Editors and Writers,

It's been a year full of fun and surprises over here at EMI Music. We've been chanting "Viva la Vida", kissing girls and liking it... getting "Addicted" to our newest rock band breakthrough Saving Abel, dancing our butts off to Hot Chip, Yelle, Kylie, the B-52's; marveling at the critical acclaim for Al Green, Alejandro Escovedo, Willie and Wynton and Lila Downs just to name a few. We couldn't end the year without reminding you of some of our highlights. Our holiday wish is that your year-end lists will be chock full of the artists and albums listed below.

The EMI flack then listed 20 recordings, from Laura Marling's superlative "Alas I Cannot Swim" and the excellent Alejandro Escovedo set, "Real Animal," to Kylie Minogue's "X" and Sarah Brightman's "A Winter Symphony" -- as if I'd ever put a Sarah Brightman holiday album (or, really, any Sarah Brightman album) on my best-of list. But whatever.

That same day, another EMI Music e-mail arrived, touting Al Green's "Lay It Down."

I know it's that time of the year to consider records for the "Best of 2008" and "Gift Guide" lists so I wanted to remind you about this amazing album from the legendary soul artist Al Green and give you a chance to hear it if somehow you missed out. And here's an interesting bit of trivia for you: Al Green has won 9 Grammys and NOT one of them is for R&B music!

The pitching/nudging/begging hasn't stopped since, with publicity reps flooding my inbox with ideas about what I might want to put in my 2008 Top 10.

I don't mind the messages in support of a single album, a la the Al Green pitch, even though they're not going to get me to reconsider my thoughts on a particular recording.

But the long "Please Consider..." lists have to stop. Now. They're pointless -- a complete waste of digital space. There's no way I'm going to add an album to my Top 10 simply because it was included on somebody's long list, which is basically spam, only from a flack with whom I have an actual working relationship.

Here's another example, from an independent publicist who lobbied for 19 artists, and then added on three more just for the sake of overkill:

Hi all,

It's been quite a year. One for the history books I might say. Though you may be in the process of finalizing your Year-End lists (personal or professional), I'd like to send out a last reminder about a few of the artists I've worked with in 2008, in case you have trouble remembering that far back (I know I do!). Some of these releases may have flown under your radar at one time or another, but I'd love for you to take a moment to consider them. If you'd like an album copy or more info for any of these artists, please let me know. It's been a pleasure working with you this year and I look forward to 2009!

The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain (Paper Bag)
Apes & Androids - Blood Moon
Chairlift - Does You Inspire You (Kanine)
The Chap - Mega Breakfast (Ghostly International)
Colour Revolt - Plunder, Beg and Curse (Fat Possum)
Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball (TAO)
Frontier Ruckus - The Orion Songbook (Quite Scientific)
The Golden Hands Before God... - Here (Pop Echo)
Hearts of Palm UK - For Life (Hypnote)
Jean On Jean (Molly from Out Hud/Raooul) - s/t (Kanine)
Juliette Commagere - Queens Die Proudly (Aeronaut)
Lukestar - Lake Toba (Flameshovel)
Peachcake - What Year WIll You Have the World? (Subtractive/Planet Awesome)
Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free)
The Present (Rusty Santos) - World I See (LOAF)
School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms (Ghostly International)
The Shys - You'll Never Understand This Band the Way I Do (Aeronaut)
The Spinto Band - Moonwink (Park the Van)
Woodhands - Hearts Attack (Paper Bag)

Don't forget to check out these great, self-released artists as well: Motel Motel, Arms (Todd from Harlem Shakes), and Twi the Humble Feather.

Thanks, that was helpful.

Now let me get back to my CD crates for a last-minute listening session. That's really the only way I'm going to find something that might bump Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down out of the 10th slot on my list.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  December 16, 2008; 1:52 PM ET Flackery , Please Explain , Ridiculousness , Year-End Lists
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Thao is only at #10? Boo to you if she and the GDSD are bumped. I have them in my top 3 of the 2008.

Posted by: DanCorbin | December 16, 2008 3:04 PM

Thao needs to stay in the Top 10! I saw her open for Rilo Kiley in June and she's been in regular rotation on my iTunes ever since.

Posted by: around | December 17, 2008 9:42 AM

I agree that spamming people with album lists is a silly and pointless affair, especially for you, the critic. However, as a reader, I always appreciate lists that remind me of albums I forgot about (who remembers the excellent Autechre album from earlier this year), and also things I haven't yet heard of (upon listening to some bands from the list you quoted, Motel Motel sounds particularly excellent). I suspect journalists have less patience for lists than readers.

Posted by: hikerdude77 | December 17, 2008 12:59 PM

J. Freedom du Lac: A music critic who is employed full-time at a major metropolitan newspaper...but there's a price: He gets e-mails from publicists, some of which annoy him. Oh, the horror!

Posted by: Lindemann777 | December 17, 2008 2:23 PM

I think it is really lame that you guys are so obsessed with the outrageous audacity of music PR. I've worked in this area in the past and in other industries, and it's just part of how things work - people who make stuff want other people to know about it, what exactly is so wrong with that?

Thank goodness we don't see real reporters only writing about pitches they weren't interested in - instead they bring us the news they have filtered and selected.

It is the laziest way to fill a blog with content. Don't you guys have anything of value to contribute to the conversation? You don't see Brooklyn Vegan complaining about this all the time.

Posted by: jtk231 | December 21, 2008 12:05 PM

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