"I don't care if you sleep with elephants as long as you don't cover the circus."
-ABE ROSENTHAL (former New York Times editor on what a journalist's role should be re: the political process).
"News is what somebody somewhere doesn't want you to know. All the rest is advertising."
- DAN RATHER
"The culture of Music Row? Certainly, you must go along to get along. It's a sin to have an opinion. It's a greater sin to express it.
"In reality, we all have opinions, though the rules of Music Row say all strongly-held opinions must mimic those of the listener. There's not a lot of conceding the right to live and let live, let alone the right to agree to disagree.
"I believe in both. The evidence is in my blend of news and commentary, which must be distinguished from blogging. With all due respect to bloggers, many of them neglect to do one or more of the following: Seek and verify facts, update, post corrections, link or cite source material and obtain permission to use copyrighted intellectual property."
- STACY HARRIS
Here Are Some Frequently Asked Questions...
There is a difference between criticizing a person and criticizing that person's actions. I do not engage in personal attacks nor defamation, but will comment on a shortcoming when it differs from the image of who the artist claims to be. I don't judge you for only wanting to read promotional or sanitized material. That's what fan clubs and fan pages are for and, if that's what interests you, then I would recommend that you not upset yourself by reading news you don't want to read. As for how well I know the artist(s), I regularly see them at their best and worst, while you probably don't have that kind of access, so I ask you whose judgment is more reliable?
1. How do I find out information about old, new or current country recordings? The artist' or group's name? The song's title, etc.? Or how about if I like a certain artist or group's music and simply want to know more about what other music they've recorded?
If you know either the song's title or the artist's/group's name, you can do an artist or title search using any of the listed CD links at the top of my home page. Click through and follow the directions, using the pull down menu and typing in the information you know. If it's the song title, use it to search for the artist or group's name, if it's the artist or group's name, type in the song's title and the search function will bring up the name of the artist or group that recorded the song. You can buy these records at a discount
by ordering from my page, but if all else fails you can call the Ernest Tubb Record Shop at 1-800-229-4288. Of course, in that case you'll have to pay list price plus shipping and handling for anything you order, so why not order at a DISCOUNT?
2. Will you give me or someone whom I think is talented information on how to become a country-music star?
I have to answer a question with a question: Do you or the person who find so promising have more talent, ambition and commitment to your career than those whose names are topping the charts? If not, you would be wasting your time. There are plenty of wannabes who are "as good as." You must be better. Please understand that I do not make the rules, that I don�t necessarily agree with the rules nor do I enforce them. Next understand that rules are made to be broken, but, historically on Music Row, those who go along get along. So, while the conventional wisdom is that to succeed as a country-music recording artist you must be able to write your own songs, someone can counter "George Strait sells millions of records but he is not a songwriter." Faced with such a contradiction, Music Row will reply "Yes, but George Strait is the exception that proves the rule. How many other successful country artists can you name that do not write songs? And what is the ratio of these to those who do?" Must a would-be country star move to Nashville? The same hypocritical "advice" applies here. George Strait has never moved to Nashville, yet Music Row believes that one must pay his/her dues. That includes moving to Nashville in order to prove that you have faith in yourself and expect professionals who can help you to take you seriously. Once you�ve made the commitment to move to Nashville (something I would not recommend until you�ve finished your education), you will want to be seen by the powers that be. Your first step in that journey will be to call Barbara Cloyd, Bluebird Caf� "den mother" for whom you can audition for the Bluebird�s �open mike� night. You�ll want to arrive at 5:15 p.m. each Monday night for the 6 p.m. show. But before you even set foot in Music City, find out the rest of what you need to know by using the resources of the Nashville Songwriters Association, International at http://www.nashvillesongwriters.com.
3. Why does your column have a few typos?
Glad you asked! Seriously, this is very embarrassing to me and I have several answers to this question. One is that in my haste to be first with the news, I get careless- not with the facts, but with spelling and/or syntax. Another is that I don't have an on-line spell checker and if I choose to edit off-line first, it just results in further delays. Yet another is that the Roughstock server (which doesn't affect Yahoo viewers) works on a 15-minute delay. (The tradeoff is a faster downloading page.) Still another reason is the inability to change the small font size of my on-line edit bloc on my composition page. Then too, since I am constantly updating and saving my work, and because my composition page does not have WYSIWYG capability, I sometimes don't know what "version" I have saved- sometimes it is an uncorrected one, rather than the corrected revision- until after the fact.) I update my Geocities page first, then transfer it immediately to the Roughstock composition page. Problem is, the process is not as simple as a cut and paste, so if I make a mistake I correct it on my Geocities page as soon as I realize I have erred, but if it's not a factual mistake I may wait until the automatic correction at the next update, rather than go through the tedium of making a correction at Roughstock.) To top it all off, I have an eye disease called keratoconus that has resulted in a corneal transplant in one eye followed by an intac (intraocular lens) in the other. I have to make due with the inability to see the small print. The good news is that I usually notice the typos-eventually. Again, my composition page is not a WYSYVG edit page, but when I do see the report as it looks to you, with LARGER fonts, I clean up the typos. (Hope you find them amusing sometimes.)
4. I have/am an unsigned act. Will you look at my Web page? May I send you my CD? I'd like to know what you think of my/my unsigned artist's music?
Please understand that the answer is usually no. I realize that the Web page and/or artist is better than any other in your opinion, but everyone who makes such requests of me feels the same way. Because I have worn myself out trying to please everybody, I'm finding the only sane response I can give now is to say no to everybody who wants me to visit their Web site or offer my opinion. That said, I pride myself in featuring major label artists, independent artists and unsigned artists on my page. Only the major label artists (with some exceptions made by Amazon.com) have Amazon.com links on my page. Those links are there because I earn commission on the sales. Amazon codes its links. I enter codes. I don't take or upload digital photos of CD covers, so if you want one of those links on my site for your CD you'll have to obtain distribution through Amazon.com which will then make your code available to me. If an unsigned artist has no distribution and I list her/his recording, it only frustrates those who want the recording and blame me because they can't find it (If you have a CD available for sale on your Web site, however, then feel free to send me a copy and I'll least give it a plug, along with your contact information within the body of my Report.) And you really don't want my opinion: You really want me to tell you how good the music is and no matter how good it is I will rarely think it is as good as you do. Even if I do, I am not a talent scout nor will I burden those who are for the same reasons I don't want you to burden me. These requests just cause resentment.
5. When is my favorite artist's record coming out? What's its title?
Your best bet is to contact the artist's record company. Their information is more current than mine. Release dates constantly change, though, so take such information with
a grain of salt. You can bet your favorite artists do.
6. Why don't you list my favorite artist's CD?
STACY'S MUSIC ROW REPORT lists every country-music CD I receive (with the exception of Christmas CDs, some of which tend to be commercially exploitive of private, religious beliefs not shared by all of my readers), be it released on a major label or on an indy. If you don't see it listed, perhaps the artist, the artist's manager, or the artist's publicist is not interested in promoting the CD. This happens more often than you would think and the results are reflected in careers that are cut short before the artist realizes how quickly such inattention to detail ends a streak of hits.
7. Do you get a ton of e-mail? Do you reply?
Yes, to both questions. I pride myself on responding personally to anyone, supporter or critic, who takes the time to write.
But sometimes I'll take the time to write a detailed response only to find that the recipient has falsified his/her return e-mail address. No more...
Since I don't believe in rewarding cowardly behavior, I do not respond to anonymous e-mail, though rest assured if you identify yourself to me I will respect your confidences. Also PLEASE DO NOT SEND ME E-CARDS!. I appreciate the good thoughts and do enjoy receiving greeting cards via snail-mail, but I simply do not have time to access e-cards (which in many cases are now promotional in nature, having become a favorite tool of spammers), to read them and to reciprocate, which would be the polite thing to do. Also, please don't send attachments. (When I receive these from folks who think they're the only ones sending them, attachments overload the system. In my experience, senders often don't know to practice safe computing and I don't want to take the risk of any down time on my end because their computers are infected with viruses or are otherwise hijacked as carriers of worms and such.) That said, one of the missions of this column, which distinguishes it from cmt.com and some of the others, is to provide the personal touch. Due to the volume of e-mail, I can't always answer in the detail you and I both would like, nor spend much time tracking down answers to your questions if I don't know them off the top of my head. However, I will let you know where to get the answers if you're willing to do the legwork.
Some of you write to me on a daily basis or even more often than that. I wish I had time to chat, but I have a life and respectfully urge those of you who don't to get one also. I certainly don't mind your venting, but if you don't ask a question of me (rhetorical questions don't count) I'll assume you're not requesting a response, because I have no time to philosophize nor argue. Remember, my Report is a mixture of news and commentary. The news is sourced and reported, the commentary is an expression of my point-of-view and/or the viewpoints of those I quote. Just as it is not my intention that readers confuse my reporting with my opinion (holding my opinions to the standards they and I should hold my reporting evidenced in news stories I have written and broadcast over the past 35 years that do not reveal my opinions, as my personal views have no place in those stories), I hope readers will not confuse my opinions with those of the others whom I quote. I may agree with these opinions, I may not. In all instances, I honor my readers' intelligence by trusting them to know the difference! (As my mail reflects, some readers are more intelligent than others.)
8. Any other e-mail you won't answer?
See my answer to FAQ #7. Obviously I can't answer e-mail that doesn't list a valid e-mail "reply" address. You'd be surprised at readers who ask me for information but who fail to provide me with a means, other than through the column, with which to respond. So if you don't receive a timely response from me you now know why. (I pride myself on setting my site apart from those that don't allow for reader feedback as well as those sites that encourage reader feedback but then don't personally respond, though I reserve the right to refer you elsewhere. Due to the volume of e-mail received from all over the world- all 50 states and some 30 countries- I can no longer always answer e-mail that doesn't specifically request an answer or is otherwise meant to consume my time by requiring me to clarify something with a lengthy response because the reader has completely misunderstood something or has intentionally twisted my words while reading my Report. Further, I refuse to respond to e-mail sent for the sole purpose of intending to draw me into an argument.)
9. I don't like what you wrote about my favorite artist. I'm a fan club member and only want to read nice things about that person. You must not know this person very well.
10. I just heard this rumor. Here's what it is: Will you find out if it's true or not and write it up in your column?
That depends. I want to establish the credibility of the person offering the "tip" and, if it's information of a negative nature, to know the motives behind the rumor. Those two factors will give me a clue as to how much, if any, truth is involved in the speculation. If the buzz doesn't pass those two tests, it may unnecessarily hurt people. In any event, it's not something that interests me and I will pass.
11. I e-mailed a press release to you. Why didn't you use it? Everyone else used it, why not you?
You answered your own questions. I'll skim e-mail press releases, but snail mail news releases are preferred as sifting through spam to find news nuggets that may or may not exist is just not a productive use of most journalists' time. (To find a way around my objection-keep reading!) Yes, I realize I can't change what has become the industry standard of using e-mail to send press releases but the smart publicist realizes many other journalists agree with me. To quote Walter Mondale: "They won't telll you. I just did."
If you want to send me publicity materials and you don't have my snail-mail address, ask. (But include what you propose to send me in your request.)
Keep in mind I DON'T REPRINT PRESS RELEASES NOR DO I REWRITE THEM!!! That would be a disservice to my readers. Similarly, IF YOU GIVE THE SAME INFORMATION TO EVERY MEDIA CONTACT, THERE IS NO INCENETIVE FOR ME TO USE IT.. BE CREATIVE! KEEP IT SHORT! Most of all, GIVE ME A SCOOP and that should overcome column space limitations and, in most cases, my reluctance to read and use e-mailed news releases.
12. I like to send e-mail messages in MIME. Do you enjoy receiving these? And may I send you one?
No, to your first question. Please don't, to your second. It looks like gibberish on my screen and I neither know nor care how to decode it. I prefer short, simple and to the point.
13. Do you archive STACY'S MUSIC ROW REPORT?
Not on-line. My off-line file (soon to become files) is rather cumbersome, so I can't provide archival columns, though any request is flattering. What I can do is a topic search of past posts and fulfill a request that way.
14. What's your biggest pet peeve about publicists?
I don't like liars. If you're not going to put me on your press contact list don't tell me that I am on it or- and this is just as bad- "I thought you were on it." I won't call you on it- you're defensive enough as it is- but I know better.
15. What's your biggest pet peeve about managers and artists?
If someone I interview mentions you negatively, or if they give a version of a story involving you that differs from yours and I call you for a response (to provide balance), don't get mad at me as though I necessarily agree with my interview subject's point-of-view. If I didn't care what you think I wouldn't give you equal time. But equal time means stick to the point in question. It is usually a passing reference and will not be presented as the focus of the story, so keep your response concise and on topic. Above all, don't leave it up to me to decide whether or not you want your response printed.
16. What are your biggest pet peeves about country fans- and other journalists?
That some of them personify the term "false intimacy." Some are "name droppers" and others presume to know everybody else's sexual, religious and political preferences and quite naturally assume that their own views and practices are the only way to go. I detest "my way or the highway" thinking on any subject.The ones I feel most sorry for are those who presume to be or otherwise brag that they are friends of the country stars. Sometimes I will gently remind them that "I have talked with (the person whose friend you claim to be) on several occasions and [he/she] has never mentioned your name." It doesn't change minds, though, at least not in the short run. But people can and often do mature.
17. What do you think of so-and-so (fill in the country star's name)?
Can you be more specific? Do you mean how talented do I think this person is or is she/he to be admired? Some of the most talented people are real jerks and some of the most thoughtful and considerate people are not very talented.
18. What kind of gifts do your readers send you?
I've literally received everything from roses to Reeboks from those who, appreciating the obstacles in my path, want to make a personal statement of support for what I'm trying to do with this column, in terms of keeping the industry honest about itself. But, again, material gift-givers, please remember those who are in need, rather than me. I am buoyed simply by your praise (and humbled by your criticism), not to mention that you care what I think.
19. What is your favorite song of all time?
Well, I'm a romantic, so that would have to be "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," by Mel Carter. It's not a country song, but it has been covered by a country artist. Mel's version remains the definitive one, though. He really nailed it!
20. Do you enjoy sticking it to the CMA?
Frankly no. CMA is an easy target, unfortunately, because it is truly out of control, but it has done many good things for country music and I have never lost sight of that.
21. Who is Iceberg?
Iceberg originated as the nom de plume of a source whose identity is known to me but who did not want her/him identified to you. The name Iceberg was chosen because of a reference the source made to the Titanic artifacts then on display at the Opryland Hotel.
As time went on, other sources requested anonymity from me after first identifying themselves to me. Iceberg then became an all-inclusive pen name for credible news sources; women and men who wish to speak freely without fear of doing so.
22. Why do you refer to the Gaylord Entertainment Company as "my company?
A long answer to a short question: When Gaylord Entertainment Company bought the Grand Ole Opry and offered shares of the largely Gaylord family-owned company stock to the public, I was one of its first takers. Shortly after I became a shareholder, most of my Gaylord stock was spun-off to CBS, Westinghouse and Viacom, to the point where I only had a few actual Gaylord shares (for a time renamed New Gaylord) left. That was fine, because Gaylord began to sell off most of its major entertainment-related properties to concentrate on hotels. It was not fine that Gaylord suspended payment of dividends in February, 2000, but if I sold my stock I could no longer speak up at Gaylord's annual shareholders' meeting; something I wish to do until Gaylord either gets out of the country-music business- which some say it has almost single-handedly ruined- or says sayonara to Nashville with the sale of the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium. My earliest criticism of Gaylord included references to its annual report that, for many years, informed stockholders about Gaylord's activities by referring to the company as "your company." My criticism has had such an impact on Gaylord that, after I began to satirize its conduct with constant references to "my company," the term "your company" disappeared from the language of Gaylord's annual report, though the newest Gaylord annual report to shareholders references yet another fiction: "our company."
23. What are E-Mail Extras?
The short-item format of Stacy's Music Row Report does not lend itself to detailed descriptions and observations. Readers have different levels of interest in the subjects covered and views expressed. For those who want more information, I offer E-mail Extras. THERE IS NO E-MAIL EXTRA MAILING LIST!!! However, those who are interested in a specific subject or viewpoint beyond what is in the Report have only to e-mail me for more information, if I've suggested I may have something to add to what they've already read. Because I have to guard against those who misrepresent themselves and their interests, I do require that anyone wishing to hear from me about what may be sensitive information, depending upon the topic, fully identify themselves (first name, last name, city and state- or country, if outside the U.S.). I also ask that you be specific about what you want me to address, as this will save me time having to ask. Thank you.