Click Bait & Fake News in the Music “Press”

While content should be “King” – it’s the misleading headlines that drive traffic.

After following a few article suggestions in my Google News Channel (I’ve set up some saved searches for topics that I follow on a daily basis), and for some mild intellectual amusement I searched Google with the following criteria:

“ Brutal”

. . .try it yourself and you’ll get over 2,500 results in less than a second. Alternative Nation’s editors (or headline writers) have found that using the word “Brutal” in their article headlines drive users into a feeding frenzy – but when the website visitors actually read the corresponding article – the content is basically unattributed gossip and lumpish quotes from competing music publishers. Here’s just a brief sample from the first page of results:

  • Van Halen Icon Brutal Rejection By Women Revealed …
  • Jimmy Page Brutal Robert Plant Refusal Revealed…
  • Van Halen Brutal Text Messages Leak: ‘I’m The Asshole …
  • Motley Crue Call Out Brutal Led Zeppelin Disrespect
  • Steven Tyler Reacts To Brutal Aerosmith Video
  • Mick Jagger Brutal Disrespect Of Led Zeppelin Revealed …
  • Mick Jagger Doctor Brutally Rips Singer After Surgery …
  • The Black Keys Member’s Brutal Cause Of Death Revealed …

And as you can see they are also fairly fond of using the expression “Revealed.”

This is a prime example of a quasi-editorial site that re-aggregates and monetizes other sites’ content just like Buzzfeed and Facebook.

Facebook itself is responsible for driving 27% of traffic to actual news sites, but music sites don’t drive traffic to each other. Reverbnation (a social media site for by and for other musicians) allows users to “publish” their press reviews but they don’t wrap it in advertising.

When content from third-party publishers becomes the “content,” there’s reasonable argument as to whether the aggregators should share the revenue with publishers since they are earning money on the back of others sites’ clickbait.

Eric Gales playing a medley of “Voodoo Child, Kashmir, Back in Black, and Für Elise” at the 2017 Dallas International Guitar Show. While this shows some really amazing guitar playing, is it an honest mashup of other bands’ hits and/or a stroke of genius? Or is this musical click-bait?

The Guardian Newspaper’s website ran tests where they sharing “instant” articles on Facebook and on Apple News but soon pulled their content.

If your essays, reviews and articles aren’t actually gated behind subscription pay-walls, for instance, it’s impossible to stop sites gathering your words and relaying them for their own profit.

Like domain name squatters – it isn’t too hard to write code that requires the minimum of human editorial intervention to pretend to build a site that pretends to deliver news about music and the music industry – the difficulty is for audiences’  to determine what is “real” and what is “fake news” – as we all know the failure to distinguish the difference can have dangerous consequences.

(Writer’s note: is a real music editorial site and not to be confused with some others.)

Conrad Warre