To Promote or to Control?

This is a fascinating exchange on a forum between a musician and users that nicely displays some delicate tensions at play in promoting one’s self in spaces outside your own domain.

Here’s the scenario: A musician has created an independent label page for himself and uploaded some of his music there. He’s then used’s built in recommendation feature to send personal recommendations to users far and wide (a common strategy in some other spaces, but seemingly less common on The response is not all positive — users who’ve received this recommendation have gone to the label page and left comments in the shoutbox that diss the tunes. The musician complains to the forums, presumably seeking staff intervention. He writes:

I want to be able to delete posts by little babies that can’t handle a recommendation so when they post non-constructive criticism I can delete the posts. Like when a whiney user like M—– or J—–666 leaves a post that is nothing but negative and counterproductive I can delete it and keep my page positive and open.

A few posts later, he elaborates his case by defining the label page as something that a (mere?) “listener” can “mess with”:

Why is Last.FM allowing a listener to keep messing with a Last.FM Independent Label holder? This may be an eyeopener for the other Last.FM Independent Label artists out there.

But his definition of (what he sees as) his own label’s space as a promotional space that he should be able to “keep positive and open” (open = controlled) gets no traction. A (non-staff) moderator defines a label page’s comments section as a collective space:

No one person “owns” a artist/album/track shoutbox, thus there’s no trash icon. Mods cannot remove shouts from there either.

Then a few users get in there and investigate the situation for themselves. They challenge the musician and construct as a space that is about the listeners vs “what the music labels, media and so on tell us we should like”:

It looks to me from that album thread that people who like the recommendation have stated so, as have people who hated it.

If Last Fm moved into censorship and negative comments about bands, songs etc. being deleted that would ruin the whole point of Last FM for me – this site should be about music fans, their tastes, views and interests rather than what the music labels, media and so on tell us we should like.

So it seems the solution to this problem is to tailor the recommendations to people who might enjoy the music, rather than sending it to lots of people who have no interest in that style of music.

Another reader argues that this sort of self-promotion on the site should be expected to generate blow-back:

…you really need to lighten up. If you’re going to send out recommendations for your music to random people then you are going to get a few who say they don’t like it. If you don’t want that then be more selective about who you recommend to.Looking through the various threads/shoutboxes I’ve seen you really don’t come across very well.

If someone just decided to listen to your music and didn’t like it, so posted on the shoutbox that they didn’t think it was any good then maybe you’d have a point, but you did ask these people to listen to it.

I don’t think I’d like it, but your attitude has ensured that I haven’t even tried it.

As of this writing, the final post in the thread is a perfect summation of the tensions at play in here between the site’s architecture, the industry’s promotional and image-control concerns (as well as egos), the empowerment of fans that the internet provides through spaces like which users have claimed as spaces in which they can define things for one another:

I don’t give a shit about recommendations; I never look at them.

That said [...] don’t be so sensitive. After reading this thread I was prompted to listen to your tracks. I like them. I even downloaded a few.

No matter what type of musician you are, no matter what genre of music you make, 99.999% of people ain’t gonna care for it.

If you put yourself out there, you gotta be prepared for people who diss you.

Say “NO” to censorship. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

No matter what you’re selling (or giving away), the flip side of being able to promote one’s self to so many people via the internet is that more people are going to tell the world that they dislike you. It’s important to be savvy in understanding the norms of different online environments and watch what works and what doesn’t before diving in one’s self.

Comments (2) to “To Promote or to Control?”

  1. Great find, Nancy — thanks for posting!

    A couple quick thoughts:

    Maybe there were some personal messages that were more heated, but the musician in question seems rather thin-skinned (and comes off as something of a knucklehead). Of the public comments I saw, most were positive and pleasant.

    The irony, of course, is that he appears to have ticked off people by sending out recommendations pretty much at random, all within a system that allows you to easily find music fans that should be predisposed to liking something.

    Anyway, it seems like there’s a lot that could be done within by an individual musician or band — reaching out directly to music fans that are already listening to similar artists and songs. (And maybe by a small-ish record label as well, though at some point it seems likely that getting spammed by record companies would annoy members.)

    It’s something I had considered trying at some point, but was a bit reluctant to do, given my own feelings about spam and such. But I might try a very targeted, low-key campaign when our next album is finished. If so, I’ll let you know how it goes…

  2. That’s a really interesting post, it makes me consider my own feelings about the site. I know, for instance, that I’ve felt some small irritation at it’s growing ‘Myspace-ification’…in other words, that they’ve started taking features from MySpace, such as changing the ‘add as a friend’ system to mirror MySpace’s own one. So instead of just adding someone, and them not necessarily adding you back, you now need to have their consent to be added, and if that is given, then *you* are also added to *their* friends list.

    Why do I care though? Because I’m a snob who doesn’t want to see it getting *too* big? Probably.

    This gentleman was aggressively marketing himself, but then reacting in an overly-defensive manner…and yet, all that had happened was that a few people had said ‘nah, don’t like it.’ Peronsally, I’d have been quite affronted at having spam delivered to me via, and would almost certainly have raised it as an issue in the forums long before he ever did. That he tries to control negative opinions is amazing.

    I mean, if I got a recommendation from someone I had never contacted before, and they were recommending THEMSELVES, and not only that, but they were doing it to lots of people…I’d be pretty annoyed. I did recently find myself getting annoyed at the huge amounts of “Music Advice Center” ‘spam’ that was clogging up the shoutboxes of bands, particularly obscure bands. And felt more affronted still when the owner of the group then posted it in my shoutbox. Some months later, he then sent me a PM, inviting me to stick Music Advice Center adverts on one of the groups I run! Personally, I find this kind of self-promotion obnoxious, but thne my groups are lying dead, and his is flourishing, so perhaps I’m in the minority. Perhaps my views are also coloured by being on the internet long enough that, for instance, I can recall not having to enter ‘anti-spam words’ in blogs like this one. (No slight on yourself, Nancy, I have to deal with a huge amount of spam myself!)

    People who are just getting on the net now have all manner of ways to express themselves, and are invited to do so at every turn, and this story shows the thin line between self-expression and self-promotion.

    (Evidently, this gent was contacted by one of the moderators, and he posted his reply publically (on his profile), and then quickly closed his comments :-)