We've been writing for weeks applauding Sandi Thom and 21 nights of webcasted concerts from her UK apartment. After her recent signing to RCA it came to light that the media had romanticized Thom's story; and that this creative promotion by an unknown indie artist was actually accomplished with help from a major publisher who had signed her months before, a publicist, and perhaps in her new record label.
Hypebot has chosen to stand by Thom and those around her applauding their promotional acumen.
I'm not going to bash Sandi Thom. In fact I want to applaud her – or at least those around her – for a good new idea and a great job of selling it...So what if she did have help? Every band has dozens of people behind the scenes who help them including roadies, producers, publicists, managers, agents, record labels and more.
Others like Glenn at from NYC music blog Coolfer takes a dimmer view:
"Nothing is more desperate than concocting a fake story to get attention, and starting out this way is a bad idea. Sure, feel free to gloss over some aspects of her life and highlight others, but don't come out of the gate slinging the B.S. left and right....Thom's first impression was a bad one. Overcoming bad first impressions is a tall order."
Read the full text of the debate after the jump.
From Glenn @ Coolfer : If I read only the articles off the newswire I would have thought Sandi Thom was an unknown, starving artist who was using the Internet to reach out to her fans. Webcasting, the unsung older sister of podcasting, allowed Thom to perform to tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands. Sony BMG took notice, swept in and signed Thom to a recording contract. Dreams do come true.
And why would I believe such a story? Because that's how it was reported, which means that's how her management and publicist sold the story.
As for the details, it turns out Thom may have been starving but had plenty of resources at her disposal. That record contract? It probably didn't come as a result of her webcasts. Those webcasts? They did actually happened but weren't what was attracting traffic to her website. Odds are the media attention surrounding her already promising career is what drove traffic.
It's disheartening to see this kind of wag-the-tail story. What's one of the biggest complaints about the music industry? There's no more artist development. While that may or may not be true, what's painfully evident is that artists and labels are desperate for attention. Nothing is more desperate than concocting a fake story to get attention, and starting out this way is a bad idea. Sure, feel free to gloss over some aspects of her life and highlight others, but don't come out of the gate slinging the B.S. left and right.
Fake stories are easy to sell. (Ask Vanilla Ice.) These days they need one or more ingredients to get journalists' and readers' attention. If the Internet was responsible for the record deal people will lap it up with a spoon. (Ask the Arctic Monkeys.) If the artist was discovered randomly, as if by sheer luck, the story is a winner. Are there hardships in the story? The more the better.
And that's how Sandi Thom's relationship with the public began. Not exactly outright fibbing, but distortion of the truth out of desperation for attention. Look, Thom, you've got a contract with RCA. One would figure they could take some of that Kelly Clarkson money and create a meaningful image campaign that isn't based on half-truths and smoke & mirrors. In a few years you'd be far better off.
The public may never know the truth about Thom. Journalists would have to get off the press release and actually do some investigating for that to happen, and we all know that's not going to happen. But the people in the industry know, and they're the ones you'll need to win over to succeed. And the general public is all too happy to forgive and forget, so if it ever finds out about your pitiful PR campaign it probably won't matter. Industry folks, though, don't forget so easily.
Bottom line: Thom's first impression was a bad one. Overcoming bad first impressions is a tall order.
From Bruce @ Hypebot - I'm not going to bash Sandi Thom. In fact I want to applaud her – or at least those around her – for a good new idea and a great job of selling it.
Glen of Coolfer is right that journalist can be sheep and perhaps to a degree we we're all misled. But selling an artist – in fact selling almost anything – is about telling a story that engages the listener; and to me that's all that was done here. Sandi after all did actually broadcast 21 nights straight from her apartment instead of taking the traditional approach of getting in a van and hitting the clubs. No one ever said she didn't have help; we all just wanted or maybe even needed to believe that was the case. So what if she did have help? Every band has dozens of people behind the scenes who help them including roadies, producers, publicists, managers, agents, record labels and more. The Arcitc Monkeys and Hawthorne Heights may have "started" on the web but it took smart aggressive labels to help them find a significant audience Right now the Flaming Lips almost feel like an overnight success…many years in the making.
The truth is that Sandi Thom's story caught our attention. So what they stretched the story just a little bit? As high and mighty as we may want to get about "the truth"; Thom's was a story that of us wanted to hear. I would never buy a booked by James Frey, but many people do and he's in the top 10 of most best seller lists weeks after being unmasked.
In the end, all that good publicity can do is make people pay attention. After that the music has to deliver. Only time will tell if Sandi Thom will connect with a wider audience, but personally I hope that it will. Sandi Thom was smart enough to capture our attention and "I Wish I Were a Punk Rocker" is not half bad as a song. Go Sandi…we're all paying attention.