For many years being on promo lists was a dream for all aspiring DJs, and was deemed a pretty prestigious responsibility. Now, for certain DJs, promos are seen as a pain, a nuisance, and a chore. And not one they even have to suffer themselves.
Say hello to the record picker, a new(ish) role in the industry. Pickers are the poor chore-relieving souls who go through the promos sent to a big-league DJ, selecting the ones they feel are relevant. Some of them are full-time pickers who might work for a label or management company and ‘pick’ for a collective of artists. Other pickers are personal assistants. There are even rumours that some pickers are actually the DJ themselves, masquerading as someone else in a vain attempt to look more important than they actually are. Legit or not, all pickers do the same thing: they reply to the sender with a ‘downloaded for <insert DJ name here>’ message with no further feedback offered. And the repercussions of this run deeper than you’d think.
Let’s not get it twisted, though. A picker’s role is arguably necessary in this day and age. One well-known download store told
us they upload over 2,000 new house and techno releases per week, almost all of which will have been sent to DJs as promos in advance, and it’s not uncommon for the most active, A-list DJs to be sent between 50–100 new tracks per day. This isn’t the 30-vinyls-a-week-exclusive-promo-pool situation it used to be in the pre-digital age. To put it simply, DJs are being pelted with more music than ever, and to at least digest some of it, promo management assistance is understandable. In fact, for the biggest of big league DJs it’s actually been happening for well over a decade now. But it’s what happens next that’s the issue. Or what doesn’t happen…
When a tune is merely ‘downloaded for’ there is no dialogue. There’s no acknowledgement of whether the DJ has actually played it at all, and the tremors of this rumble deep down the chain. Without knowing if DJs are benefiting from the music and it’s working in their sets, PRs have fewer ways to promote the record and artist, distributors can’t sell it to stores quite so well, stores can’t sell as many units, and the talented artist is less driven to pursue a career in music.