The Truth of the Matter: EDM.Com's Leaked E-Mail

We chat with Ethan Baer, EDM.com's CEO, on a leaked email which supposedly documents how artists pay for their content to be featured on the site
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Masha Lukashenko
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We chat with Ethan Baer, EDM.com's CEO, on a leaked email which supposedly documents how artists pay for their content to be featured on the site
Ethan M. Baer EDM.com CEO

Ethan M. Baer / CEO of EDM.com

It is very easy to point the finger when we choose to only believe one side of a story. When it comes to scandalous news, everyone is so quick to follow the scapegoat even if the story is much out of context.

Yesterday, Thump/Vice released an “exposé” about a leaked email from EDM.com, which basically outlines how an artist can pay to have feature coverage throughout the EDMNetwork’s various audience channels. The eye-catching title includes the sentence, …May Reveal How Paying for Coverage Has Flooded Us With Mediocre Music”. Who doesn’t love a little scandal, am I right?

This was not the first time that Ethan Baer had to deal with an attack on the Slingshot PR platform. Michael Abernathy of Do Androids Dance (also a former employee of theirs) wrote a similar article about a year ago outing the sketchy services. “Instead of being transparent about these so called ‘promotional’ fees, artists and labels that reach out for placement are emailed with the option for ‘promotion’ in forms of posts and reposts, which has caused a flood of incredibly – average records with massive play numbers without coverage from credible news outlets.”...What a statement filled with perfectly timed, “air quotes”.

Ethan Baer took the time to interview with me so that I could understand more about what exactly the issue is that was described in the leaked email. I would also like to point out that when I was asked to interview him by my editors, I was ready to grill the guy down and expose the evil lurking about. Guess what? There isn’t any.

I watched a video of Ethan on the Renman Live YouTube Channel, where he talks about the purpose or mission of the EDMNetwork; which was to give artists a platform that will help them reach success and make money. What I found most interesting about the video was his discussion on the process of featuring the music submitted to the various channels. The channels receive an accumulative of 15,000-20,000 submissions every month. They have a team of segmented (based on genre knowledge) A&R reps that would collect these submissions and choose 700-800 to be featured based on various different metrics.

When an artist or label submit something, they get put through a standard submission process that is across the board, whether they’re to be featured on the network, to be submitted to the EDMNetwork label or requesting to use the Slingshot PR program. Everything goes through the three step A&R approval and the members of the A&R team are not made aware of what the track is to be approved for.

Ethan iterates that featuring and promoting low-quality music that they know is not going to go over well with their audience, is just as much of a disadvantage to them as it is to the industry. They built their base audience of 5 million to help support their label so that they can continue to find ways to promote talent and get the artists’ paid. The original transaction of the site was not monetary, whatsoever. Artists and labels would let EDMNetwork host their tracks and build their audience platform in exchange for giving that artist/label public support on their various channels. However, EDMNetwork has rejected many offers to the Slingshot platform despite financial offerings.

It should also be known that the EDMNetwork rejected the content of the artist who the leaked email was sent to. Which makes you think if they had actually leaked that email in backlash rather than proper reason.

Any paid content that passes approval is kept separated from free content in an obvious manner. No Slingshot PR track is ever posted in the features feed, they’re kept separate. Paid content is posted in a separate article titled, “Slingshot Spotlight” and have terms such as, “powered by” and “brought to you by” in the details. Brand sponsorships are even more radically clear because they are most often paired with new track releases and include an image, article and links to the source also, followed by the terms, “powered by” and “brought to you buy”. When a brand wants to sponsor a new release, they give the artist half of the payment as a traditional publishing deal; 50/50 split.

The marketing feature mentioned in Dayna Young’s email was for a larger campaign. When an artist reaches out for a feature, EDMNetwork makes it clear that they do not do normal press release style content. “You cannot pay us to host a press release”, Ethan stated. They work with the artist or label to build the campaign of which then they go through the three-step approval process mentioned before.

ALL CONTENT GETS APPROVED BEFORE MONEY IS EXCHANGED. Making it nothing close to payola. EDMNetwork is simply getting paid to engage content with their audience that they would have normally done anyway.

The Slingshot platform is, in fact, a PR service. The views, clicks, and reposts, are not sold to the clients. EDMNetwork cannot guarantee a specific amount of aggregation, they could tell you how many people will see it, not how many people will play or repost it because that is at the discretion of the individual viewer. What the platform does is, “essentially feeding you the audience…”. Not the most pleasant way of stating it, but that is the reality of the industry today.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article about how there are very low payouts for downloads and streams. Ethan is actually on the path of developing a new model that adheres to the new digital environment that the music industry is in. “We’re taking the broken model, the conglomerate model and making into something about the artist and about the single and about the music”. All EDMNetwork is trying to do is generate income for the artists. Does that mean they need to develop a revenue stream for themselves? Of course, a website doesn’t just survive on nothing and the artists doesn't end up starving every month. 

EDMNetwork is an independent, self-funded music project dedicated to the finding new ways to make artists money. Thump/Vice are financially backed by HBO, which is a conglomerate multi-portfolio company. Talk about unbiased integrity, it is more like potshots at the little guy! 

So the point in question is whether or not EDMNetwork’s PR platform encourages low-quality music to be aggregated to the audience? The answer to this can very well be arbitrary because there is a strong tug-of-war between genuine artistry and "selling out" or capitalizing on your music. However, I strongly sense that Ethan and EDMNetwork have the full intention of using their revenue to keep helping artists with talent get heard. Their entire business model runs on the trust of their audience in their ability to consistently provide music that they will like.

Wouldn’t they have noticed if they were posting bunk? 

 I am not bashing or attempting to insult anyone's work, but this seems like a fault of incomplete and out of context information that was carelessly published. A company with a future such as EDMNetwork, should not be roadblocked because they're attempting to restructure an archaic model that needs serious reform.