Our work method puts us in a peculiar position indeed — because we do it for free and because we like it, volunteering for the sake of music — always taking into account the fact that it might take a long time to get through it. First of all, we have to deal with the parties who send us their promotional materials and sometimes they don't know us well enough (or might not know our guidelines); then we have to arrange all the details for the delivery, listen to the disc for a few times in order to prepare a reliable review, and then finally publish it on our website. Considering all this, it is not surprising that there may be a few weeks delay between the moment we receive the first request and that of the actual release of our review. However, we can guarantee we will finish what we started — always.
We have already explained our views in the manifesto; the reason why we only deal with physical copies is that we want to give our readers a thorough idea of the product we are reviewing. Be it a CD, a vinyl, or a tape, the artwork and booklet are parts of the whole and are important to get the full picture. Would you buy a car just knowing its engine or just looking at a picture? We believe you also need to get inside and have a look at the rest.
Unfortunately, all too often we still receive emails where we are asked to download and listen to mp3 albums (sometimes even poor audio quality ones). The reason behind this is understandably economic: of course sending digital materials doesn't cost anything (apart from power and the internet connection, or perhaps an account of some online platform), while mail delivery might add up to a lot of additional costs and concerns. Not to mention the fact that when you're dealing with strangers you just have to hope they are acting in good faith and they will get through their part of the agreement. Meanwhile, time goes by…
We have been told many times of people who take advantage of their position and ask for physical releases just to make their disc collection bigger, or people who don't do a careful job in reviewing the albums they receive. These and other issues have brought labels and bands to question the reliability of magazines and websites, to the point where many now prefer only to send digital copies of their works.
This prejudice against those who cheat in order to get more discs is also damaging to those who take their work seriously. Bands, labels and promo offices that are looking to create art should consider carefully how to choose their partners and the people they cooperate with, without relying only on a quantitative approach. Contacting hundreds of webzines — without checking their quality first — might reveal an attitude close to the good 'ole quote from Dorian Gray: There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
I believe there ought to be a strict selection process when it comes to finding new partners: the labels should spend some time in getting to know the webzines, read their articles and check on their reliability by contacting others; just like you would with any other partner. This way, the investment required for an actual mail delivery will never be a leap of faith in the darkness, but rather lead to solid service in terms of quality. Also, this approach actively supports the underground scene by excluding people that work in this field without a clue; nowadays it is so easy for anyone to set up a website and become a journalist, or pick up a guitar and feel like a brand new guitar hero. This approach will also reward those who put real effort into what they do. Keep in mind that in the present day, globally connected world, the issue of quantity of information (in our case, related to music) is fading, replaced by the need to make choices among the infinite array of options that are out there. It has become harder to find the reliable and most truthful of the lot and proceed to the eventual purchase with the appropriate awareness.
This appeal is seriously felt and shared by the whole Aristocrazia staff; we embrace a different way of conceiving music — as a form of art that evolves and exists in its own age. It needs the right amount of time to be enjoyed and can't be done without a few fundamentals. We are a weekly web-magazine and work in a virtual and disant world, but the disc remains a carnal need — both personally and as reviewers; it's not just a stupid whim or a want for a bigger collection. It's no surprise that there is a difference in our relationships with the album we physically own and the ephemeral ones we can find on our hard drives. Sooner or later, love needs some sort of contact between bodies…
As we refrain from accepting every request in order to maintain the high quality of our articles, we believe that the rest of the underground music world should avoid an approach devoted to sheer quantity over quality. Otherwise, bands can become nothing but part of the machine — which would make it obsolete in an instant, replaced by another fad and soon forgotten.
I would just like to conclude with a question directed at those bands, labels and others who still prefer sending digital copies: how can you condemn the reckless spreading of digital materials, if you don't believe in the strength of the physical support as a means of promotion and do not contribute in making this approach popular?