(Harry Potter book shipment.) Photo: Michael Henderson.

When should you tune in tomorrow to get the news? Thanks to the fact that some folks do send CDM press releases under embargo, some big announcements should happen at:

  • Thursday, 1:00pm Eastern Time: This is the opening of the NAMM show, so it’s when many embargoes are lifted. Any really big stories that deserve it will get immediately published then.
  • Thursday, 3:30pm Eastern Time: I have some specific stories that are held for this specific time that will definitely be published then.
  • Over the weekend and later: Because I want to actually cover less but do it in more detail, expect other news and analysis over the coming days.
  • The rest of 2009: Some announcements simply don’t make NAMM. We expect some news to come out of this year’s Messe conference in Germany. I expect in the near future trade shows in China will start breaking news. And most importantly, a lot of news doesn’t happen at trade shows. I’m personally excited by the stuff we’ll be seeing at things like our Handmade Music event coming from DIYers.

Some NAMM news is already leaking out today, and on top of that I’m watching as sites are posting press releases that are clearly under embargo. Now, that might seem a good way to get a jump on the news, except it’s not.

  • Some big stories aren’t leaking. This is pretty absurd – I’m seeing forums leaking information and then assuming that they know all there is to know. They don’t. Forums will always do this, and that’s fine – but you can still be realistic. Also, some of the websites that are breaking embargoes on press releases clearly don’t have all the press releases – maybe because press folks aren’t sending them out because they know they’ll get published immediately.
  • Press releases don’t tell you what you need to know. To be able to really cover a story, you need to understand what a press release says, not simply copy and paste. I love the 24-hour news cycle in the blogosphere, but we also need to be able to investigate and ask questions. So, you can either see stuff the minute it’s announced, or wait a little longer and get some analysis. And as you know, I always get everything totally right often get corrected by smart readers who know more than I do, which is the real point of Web publishing.
  • If we don’t break embargoes, we get advance information. CDM doesn’t break embargoes or leak stories – that’s the policy. For one thing, there’s not really much point. If Steinberg had assembled a puppy farm and was experimenting on them to create the next version of Cubase, that would be something that would require journalism that reported on the story immediately. But with new tools, we actually want to have more time with them, so that means respecting embargoes and privacy so that we can talk in more detail later and really understand the technology.

Incidentally, that’s not to say I don’t comment on rumors – I just only do it when I don’t know anything, and I label it as such.

Okay, enough of the rant.

Let us know if you hear anything you think we should care about, as we really do rely on you. And do stay tuned.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    I want to man hug you. Outstanding post.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    Well, if you want to get press releases regularly, respecting embargo dates is a must.

    But the practice of embargoes is stupid given the way the web works. I'm sure the practice is taught to PR people from a textbook written in 1982.

    There are always leaks, and the companies always end up looking foolish trying to stifle those leaks after they've occurred, even though the companies are perfectly justified in trying to control when new product info goes public. At the very least, someone ought to update that textbook with "plan b, roll with it" clause.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I agree companies should have a plan B, but I don't actually think it's stupid to have embargoes. A company wants announcement xx to go live at a certain time because it coincides with a live event (which is literally what's happening here). The thing is, they *don't have to give us the PR in advance*. As a result, what happens is you wind up competing with the copy-and-paste folks who put it up immediately, and you also have zero incentive to come to your (independent) site — everyone can just go to the vendors. The embargo means we know something in advance, we can ask questions earlier, we can run with news that already has some thought in it.

    The thing that would be naive is doing a blast email to your entire PR contact with an embargo on it without assuming that someone in there is likely to leak it. But that's PR's call, and sometimes, frankly, it's fine — my only problem is what to do on my end.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    That's kind of my point, they shouldn't give it out in advance if they don't want it to leak. I know why they do it, because they want to manufacture a bigger splash by getting some folk to post bigger write-ups right out of the gate. But it's amazing to me how common it is to continue to send out advanced news despite the negation of that practice by the equally common practice of leaks and subsequent "please remove all info until embargo lifts" campaigns.

    I think everyone reading your site (and sites like it) respect you for respecting others, so I think you're doing right be keeping to the official PR schedule. But ultimately this kind of backwards practice hurts you as much as anyone, since you can't talk about something that lots of your core audience already knows.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    Peter – you must do the right thing, and that is respect the embargoes and post when authorised.

    Let us not forget that the manufacturers do have a big part to play in the leaky PR machine. On one hand, they want to tease info and build a buzz – 3 new items from NI for example. And while they've done their best to keep a tight lid on it, they can never guarantee a leak-free media chain. And knowing what I know of new products at NAMM, there's a fair percentage of it to be found around the net if you know what you're looking for.

    Another fly in the ointment is regional offices and the relationship they have with HQ and their own market. Info can be given out to dealers without any real embargo, at which point HQ throws a hissy fit because confidential stuff has leaked out. Communication breakdown within the manufacturer, distributor, retailer and press chain is often a mess. I've had one manufacturer threaten to close me down because of info I posted that was authorised by the UK division.

    There's also some tactical leaking going on as well. As you've mentioned, some people think they have the full story and post it all up, but the reality is that they don't and for the very reason that its expected that they'll leak, some give them something to keep them happy. I can only assume we're talking about the same incident here… ;)

    We've both got our respective sites where they are by working closely with the manufacturers, respecting confidences and sticking to embargoes. It also gains us the respect of the readership because we can give additional insight that the simple PR posters don't get.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yep, I agree, Gizmo. (Those of you who don't know Gizmo's site skratchworx, absolutely worth checking out.)

    I can also confidently say there's stuff that's not in the press releases, and stuff that, honestly, will take until well after NAMM before people really get why it's cool. :)

    If everything were leaking, or if press releases were the end of the story, I might feel differently, but I just know that's not the case.

  • http://www.musictechmag.co.uk Mike

    I don't think following embargoes is going to hurt CDM at all. It gives the site an air of authority. We (the readers) know when we come here that we can get honest reviews and news. And CDM knows that the manufacturers are going to play ball, because of this.

    I work for a major UK magazine and we get loads of embargoed releases too, sometimes (although rarely) months before a product is announced, but we only get this privilege because of our ongoing relationships with the manufacturers.

    I for one respect CDM because I respect Peter Kirn, and I wouldn't come back here if it wasn't for that.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    That's skratchworx.com Peter – with a k. Don't make me email you all over again!

    I find that while being a knowledge sponge for industry intelligence is deeply satisfying, it's a double edged sword. On one hand, I get to know about all this super hotness coming out way before most and in some cases (like right now for example) I get to play with it as well.

    But then I sit down to write my various NAMM pieces and find myself having to walk a line that means I have to be especially careful on what I do write because of how much I do know about the future. In most cases, I can only hope that the savvy readership actually do read and think about what I've posted and join the dots themselves and speculate about where particular products might end up. Sadly, there's a small group of readers who skim and kneejerk respond without thought and just don't get it at all.

    And then I have to think hard about why I've told particular info. Does manufacturer X actually want me to speculate and sort of unofficially leak info? It's a bloody minefield I tell thee!

  • fintain

    The only point it to get everyone refreshing their browsers on the release date. Good products should not need this.

    Personally think the most interesting things on your blog are from the independent guys, like the monome, the video of the guy who did the touch screen scratch system etc. The big companies just seem to be rewrapping existing products in different ways and selling them back as new stuff with an associated hollywood trailer and short term gain hype.

  • http://mateomurphy.com Mateo

    Thing is, the biggest leak I know of had nothing to do with sites breaking embargoes, it was due to subscribers receiving copies of magazines containing the news before the announcement. That leads to people spreading news, not knowing they shouldn't have the information yet, and once stuff gets out on the net, forget about it.

    Not that that gives you the right to break the embargo, but it does put you, and especially the manufacturers, in an uncomfortable situation.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ha! Let me take this opportunity to say,

    PLEASE DON'T REFRESH YOUR BROWSER REPEATEDLY TOMORROW.

    Our server would, uh, not really enjoy that so much.

    ;)

    Well, you know, big companies and hype – yes, sure. But I also know some of the people working on these projects, and they're designers, the same as the rest of us. I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that they have a day job doing it. (Not to mention, most of the software companies are anything but "big," really.)

    And some of the tools they make are very useful and can be used right alongside these other tools. A lot of the folks using monome and programming their own software and building their own gear still hook up to Reason or Live or Logic or (on down the list). And many DIY projects make use of things like Max and Reaktor.

    So I still see the commercial stuff as relevant. The real products are exciting to many of us, which is why hype isn't really necessary.

  • poorsod

    Are you allowed to give us a rundown of who we can expect press releases from?

    I know about C74/Ableton, NI, Roland and one more that slips my mind… but is there anything else that we should be looking out for?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, there's some really big surprise news from MOTU you *haven't* seen yet (not the thing that's leaking all over the place). Expect Akai/Numark.

    I'm also hearing some news related to JACK (that surprised me).

    There's some other stuff. I think these will be the highlights, though.

  • lilith

    Beatkangz, despite the marketing this may be an interesting machine.

    I doubt that they'd do it but I would love Roland to revisit the Groovebox. Put the SH-32 or 201 into a tabletop sequencer form, call it the MC-203 or whatever. Also for Yamaha to re-enter the market, not that they will.

  • http://www.orju.net M.A.S.

    I have two questions regarding that approach.

    1. Why is it the presses' responsibility to protect corporate interests? Shouldn't be the presses' responsibility to get information out at any cost and the company's to protect its information?

    2. If you embargo information to try to get it early, but can't release it early, what does it matter? The rest of the world will have the news within minutes that you post it. Also doesn't also just turn you into a free commercial for that company?

  • http://mateomurphy.com Mateo

    I believe the point of the embargo, as far as the press is concerned, is having a good amount of time to write their articles so that they'll be ready to print when the embargo lifts. Otherwise they'd be scrambling to report on stuff as soon as they hear about it, which could lead to poor reporting.

    It's simply a case where it's mutually beneficial to the press and companies being reported on to have a good relationship, it does not necessarily make the press a free commercial for the company…

  • every

    its all about m$rketing.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    Imagine that you as Mr Manufacturer have a super hot new product to show at NAMM. It's in your commercial interests not to let the competition know that this product will be at NAMM for fear that they might just decide to bring along their own perhaps prototype product that could kill the buzz on yours dead. All your hard work is blown and the product that may have had a few months of positive press, suddenly becomes a second placed also ran.

    We as journalists have to work with the manufacturers to bring you the information you need. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, especially if like me, you depend on the good relationship with the manufacturer to get the gear in for a test.

    It would be possible to go renegade and post any and every snippet of secret info we come across, but in such a niche scene, we have the possibility to do much damage. And seeing as everyone knows everyone else, eventually nobody would speak to the renegade because in such a small industry, sources can be quickly traced. And channels for review gear would disappear as well.

  • http://makingsound.free.fr Cyril

    2009 will be the groovebox rebirth ? It's exciting :)

    > Let us know if you hear anything you think we should care about.

    Well, you didn't write something about the new Kyma hardware, Paca Rana & Paca. But maybe you are waiting for something :) I can't believe the price of this boxes. No audio interface, no midi interface… It's just a PC and a software. A great software, but 2900$ ? Comon…

  • http://www.orju.net M.A.S.

    @Gizmo: So if I understand that correctly, essentially you are being bought off by the companies to be a proper lap dog and behave. Don't behave and you get your wrist slapped or worse, kicked out of the boys club.

    In my opinion (again it is only my opinion) that it is the responsibility of the company to do the legwork of not leak their products. This embargo debate has been one that has raged for years in the tech and video games news industries.

    This is the whole beauty of the blogosphere to begin with. It is ruthless, gotta get to it first reporting. The thing is though that this isn't an either or debate. Just like in the "real news" world there is a place for the 60 Minutes type site that is slower but does more in depth and then there is a place for the TMZ's of the world.

  • http://www.orju.net M.A.S.

    Sorry, hit enter and it summit without my last sentence. IMO if you want to maintain the integrity thing then the thing to do would be to not accept embargo'd products to begin with.

    Tell the manufacturer, hey if you are going to give it to me then I am going to write about it, but I am not going to mess with this "I know a secret" jumbo because that IMO is dishonest to your readers/listeners/fans.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @M.A.S.:

    1. I don't see how that would be of much benefit. Needless to say, if we did nothing but dig around for information without the cooperation of the companies involved, they'd resist vigorously and (more importantly) that information wouldn't be terribly accurate. It's not as though there are some big secrets at these companies. I mean, news is great, but a lot of the time I actually prefer what we find out about a tool's musical meaning or deeper design significance. Leaking a little ad copy isn't going to accomplish that — very often, the most interesting stuff to write about a product is when it's been out for a year and lots of people have had their hands on it.

    2. It matters because we have more time. I've got some stories to write up tonight. Then they're done, I've asked some questions and know something, you'll see them tomorrow and meanwhile I'll be working on some actual music. Oh, and by the way, we're talking press releases here more than actual gear/software.

    Anyway, part of what apparently happened in this case is indeed that print magazines ran stuff early. It was a timing screwup. The information isn't complete, so I'd rather get the complete and accurate information on the embargo deadline tomorrow.

    There's no obligation for these companies to tell us anything, and even many non-PR, inside sources won't talk about something. These are small, closely-knit little shops for the most part.

    It's not in anyone's interests — least of all those developers — if we're their lap dogs. I know some of them will get upset when we criticize them in a way they disagree with, but I've also heard them get upset when they feel we're not critical enough. This industry is different from the tech industry in general, though; the vendors are companies with marketing, yes, but they're also part of the community of people using music technology.

    Sometimes, there's a reason to be discreet. You don't broadcast every conversation you have with every friend. The embargo is "I'm not ready to share this with everyone yet, but I'd like you to have a look at it." It can be an opportunity to give feedback early and to start writing early.

    I think the only real gray area is that once a cat is out of the bag, it's tough for other writers to know what to do. That's where it gets ambiguous. That just happens not to be a problem for me yet because I'd rather be late but more complete.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    M.A.S. (funnily enough my initials) – your lapdog description is one take on it. However, it's a 2 way street. If they don't work with us, we'll post whatever half baked crap arrives in our inbox or via text, and end up posting heaps of utter bullshit that essentially misleads the readership and achieves precisely nothing. All the effort used to post rubbish is completely wasted to the point where we needn't have bothered anyway. I'm sure the readership would much prefer to read the facts rather than half baked fiction, and I'd much rather post correct and factual info as well.

    It's not like it's a war – working together means that the reader gets the best possible info. And that ultimately is why we do what we do. Posting rumours is more dishonest than anything else. Luring readers to the site with probable rubbish has zero integrity and serves no purpose.

  • http://www.orju.net M.A.S.

    @Gizmo: Except for the fact that most readers love it and eat it up. Lets be honest here. There is a large degree of entertainment in what we do (i.e. blogging). As I said before there is room for both in this work and the Sonic-State's have that base covered for the most part. I guess the questionable area comes down to where do blogs fall? I personally view them as I do in the tech and games industries and that is to say that rumor and conjecture is more than far game, because hey, it is fun and it invites discussion. Look at this post for example and the comment section.

    What Peter and his crew do with this site is up to them and I respect that and frankly that cultivates a certain type of audience to follow that. I just don't want anyone to be on some sort of high horse talking down towards other sites or forums that don't follow that ideology.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Okay, I can see maybe this was misunderstood. I'm not looking to talk down to anyone, and it's really more practicality than ideology. (I can find more interesting things to be ideological about.)

    There is a larger debate, larger than music tech, which I think has gotten out of hand, particularly:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/12/17/death-to-the

    TechCrunch's situation is very different. But yeah, this is just where I'm at with this, not anyone else. And I think it's something readers should know.

  • http://jerseysandhockeylove.com/blog Tapeleg

    I want to copy and paste this for the rest of the blogging world, especially the ones in my circle of the net. Good job on keeping up cred.

    Eventually, the marketers and pr people will stop sending out embargoed releases, and just email the world when they are ready to go public, and even then, they will need the people they trust. This is another good way to give more credibility to new media.