The Goodness of Your Heart: A Tragedy in One Act
bill, director of marketing for PS Audio
randy (footnote 1), amateur reviewer for a commercial audiophile website
dick (footnote 2), professional reviewer for an established audio magazine (not Stereophile)
The stage is completely darkened, save for a small pool of light L. and another R. At L. we see randy in his office, sitting with his feet up on his desk. Other than a computer and a telephone, his desk is barren. At R. is bill, sitting in his office. On bill's desk are an "I love Colorado" coffee mug, a half-eaten croissant, several piles of paperworkone of which mostly obscures a small laptop computerand a telephone. As the curtain rises, bill is dialing his telephone; a few seconds later, randy's telephone rings. He answers the call.
bill. Hi, Randy. It's Bill, from PS Audio. I got the message that you want to buy a Bridge II network server card for your DirectStream DAC. You can order it from our retail managerI'll give you the numberand pay with a credit card.
randy. Thanks, Bill, but I've decided that I'll likely wait until the Bridge II is Roon-ready before I place my order.
bill. Okay. But if you wanted to give the Bridge II a test drive, our DirectStream Junior has a Bridge II built into every unit: You could review two products at once!
randy. Well, Bill, evaluating a product like this and writing the review is a considerable amount of work to do, just so I can try out the Bridge II. Then, sending the product back and still having to buy a Bridge II, even at a discount, seems like a lot of work without a lot of incentive . . . [Absentmindedly twirls telephone cord around index finger of his free hand.] Now, if you were to include a Bridge II for my DirectStream for free, I might consider that incentive. What do you think?
bill. [Rolls eyes in disgust.] Randy, I'm really not comfortable doing that. Let's just forget about the Junior then.
randy. That's fine. But you must understand that I don't even get paid for writing my reviews. So, since I feel I'm providing a potentially valuable marketing tool for manufacturers, I try to get something out of it from the manufacturer. Most companies understand that. [Pauses.] I'm sure you don't do your job for free out of the goodness of your heart, do you?
bill. [Stares, mouth agape, in horror. Then regains his composure, rises, walks downstage. As he does so, the lights over both desks fade to black, and a single, small pool of light follows him. Stops at C., turns, and addresses the audience.] In the dozensmaybe hundreds, at this pointof reviewer interactions I've had over many years, this is the only time such a solicitation has occurred. But years ago, an editor at another review magazine . . .
[Fade to black. Curtain descends.]
The curtain rises on the central room of a suite in a nice metropolitan hotel. Upstage, the room is filled with loudspeakers. A steady stream of men and women, some in business attire, file back and forth, examining the wares, chatting soundlessly, and entering and exiting the scene from L. and R. Downstage, bill stands next to an obviously expensive loudspeaker; he is dressed in a blue blazer, flannel trousers, shirt, and tie. As the scene begins, all of bill's attention is fixed on the smartphone in his hands, on which he appears to be typing a text message with only intermittent success.
dick enters from L. and walks toward bill. dick's entrance is accompanied by sparks and a puff of smoke, though not everyone in the audience can see this. dick wears a suit and what appears to be a distinctive hat. He is closer to the loudspeaker than he is to bill, and as he approaches, it is obvious that dick is salivating.
bill. [Noticing dick's approach] Hi, DickI see you're admiring our new speaker. Would you like to review it?
dick. Well, you know, Bill, we take care of our own first.
[A peal of thunder. The stage goes instantly black, except for a single spotlight downstage. bill walks to the pool of light and turns to the audience.]
bill. The manufacturing company I was representing that day didn't care for that tactic any more than I did: They didn't advertise in that magazine, and a review never occurred. In addition to that magazine, there are several review websites that are overtly pay-for-play; I don't deal with them, nor does any manufacturer for whom I've worked. They, at least, are forthright: one knows the deal.
Being asked to give a gift is different. That was someone I've dealt with many times, and while I sympathize with his plight . . . well, to turn around and imply that my receiving a salary for my work justifies him receiving a bribethat's sophistry, and that's bullshit.
[Exit R. Fade to black.]
Footnote 1: Not his real name.
Footnote 2: Not his real name, either.