Courting bloggers – grass roots promotion that works.

Watchmen image, by Dane Rot blackThis morning, Lo and I went to a blogger’s viewing of Watchmen, The new Zach Snyder film, based on Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel. The screening was in the viewing cinema at the Paramount offices out towards Richmond, and a beautiful cinema it was (if all cinema experiences were like that, I’d go 5 times as often as I do!)

I’ll get to the film in a bit, but what’s more interesting to me is the whole idea of a multinational film company doing screenings especially for bloggers. The invite for this came through Dan Light, a lovely bloke, and an incredibly forward thinking film marketer. He was integral to the Seesmic interviews with Spielberg and Harrison Ford last year at Cannes, and is constantly pushing innovative ways for films to be marketed outside of the usual channels.

So this was booked via an open call on twitter for bloggers who wanted to see the film. Lo and I were both free-ish this morning, so put our names down and went along.

The discussion off the back of it has been really interesting – despite disagreeing with a lot of the other people who saw it, I can’t imagine a more erudite, clued up, smart bunch of film-goers to see a film with. They were a mix of Watchmen fans, culture-buffs and film people, who all had different takes on it. The result was an intense flurry of conversation on twitter about the film (about 10% of today’s twitterstream appears to have been about the showing), with the result that the digital footprint of the showing is probably in the hundreds of thousands of impressions.

It got me thinking about the whole idea of courting those who blog in a particular area. Inviting journos to gigs is a regular thing to do, but as musicians, we really ought to take better care of the bloggers who for free spend their evenings promoting the music they love.

I may well end up doing a ‘blogger’s preview’ of my next album… we’ll see. (if you’re interested in such an event, please feel free to register your interest in coming along in the comments!)

As for what I thought of the film, that raises a whole other set of questions – can I say what I thought if a) I can’t really be bothered to write a massive review of it, and b) it’s really not very complimentary, so may not add much to the discussion…

There are some big questions over the nature of ‘publicised opinions’ – if someone took it on themselves to say how much they dislike what I do (as has happened a few times online), I would find it rather odd, and possibly hurtful, that they took that effort, especially if there was no transaction like the one today where they were part of an invited audience asked to give their critique…

It could also, given the scale of what I do, have a disproportionately damaging impact on people’s perception of me. So I guess the answer lies in the point at which critique becomes bullying… if I was to pick some up and coming musician and write a blog post about how much they suck, that would be cyber-bullying. To write an honest review of a film I’ve been invited to see, that will make hundreds of millions of dollars regardless of whether I thought it was amazing or thought it was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, that’s critique.

What’s also worth considering is, would I write differently if I knew the director or actors were reading it? If so, that’s an issue. It’s on the web, so they might…

I’ll come back and write the review of the film some time later. But for now, I just want to congratulate Dan and Paramount on hosting these kinds of events in such a forward-thinking way. Good stuff.

Here are two magazine reviews that are worth reading, BTW – one good one and one bad one.

And here’s a fascinating piece from the Guardian a while back, where Tom Jenkinson, AKA Squarepusher, interviews a load of music critics about the whole nature of criticism.