According to the New York Times, Perez Hilton, a.k.a. Mario Lavandeira, the man who has made photoshopping squiggly boogers and drool marks on hapless celebrity heads into a cultural touchstone, is now set to become a highly-paid A&R rep with his own imprint for Warner Bros Records. “The talks are preliminary,” says the Times, quoting unnamed sources close to the negotiations, “and an agreement is not certain, but Mr. Lavandeira could receive $100,000 a year as an advance against 50 percent of any profits generated by artists he discovers and releases through Warner Bros.”
With an estimated 2.8 million visitors per month, perezhilton.com is undeniably a platform of influence. But is this just one more example of the music-industry’s current desperation? While Lavendeira appears to be a genuine music fan and even, at times, an admirably early adopter, especially for European artists, the bulk of his power lies in the size of his readership, not his crystal-ball ability to anoint unsigned artists.
That’s been great news for Mika, the Gossip, and Amy Winehouse,among others — it’s hard to argue he hasn’t had a part in wideningtheir audience. But that has very little to do with genuinelydiscovering and developing new musicians, which is the actualdefinition of A&R. And which, by the way, is a full-time job, notsomething one squeezes in between posts from his infamous “office” atan L.A. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Labels can pay him to spread theword on stuff he loves, but why would they when he does it already forfree? And if he starts pulling play-to-pay shenanigans on the site,readers will smell it and react accordingly.
Either way, good on him and his $100K retainer, but it’s difficultto see him becoming a force of original music to be reckoned with;instead, he should enjoy his squiggle pen and still-legit-for-now”tastemaker” role for as long as it lasts. Hopefully, he’ll maintainthe uncompromised enthusiasm of a true music fan. Once that goes, sowill his readers’ trust — and their interest.