Duping the press, music-industry edition

Earlier this week, we asked the mediabistro.com readership to tantalize us with tales of systematic attempts by entertainment companies to mislead the journalists who cover them. Here’s something from the music business. A reader writes:

If you go the the RIAA website, which is the tradegroup for music, you’ll see that they list all their number in terms of “units shipped”. This is basically a BS number, because stores can return anything they don’t sell. As a result, except for SoundScan (which charges for information) it is almost impossible to figure out how many copies of an album are sold, which record companies love because they can tell people that they’ve shipped a gazillion albums, when they actually only sold 15.

What is worse is that it is almost impossible to accurately figure out what an artist got in a deal…

More after the jump. Are you an entertainment journalist? Send us your favorite runaround/deception anecdote. Anonymity guaranteed, if you ask.

Look at reporting around the Robbie Williams deal out of EMI in 2003. Estimates of what he received ranged from $15m to $100m. The company still has not disclosed what was actually spent. One has to wonder how it lines up with Regulation FD to have company officials giving out “shipped” numbers and then bogus guidence on artist costs (which is the major music cost center beyond exec’s salaries). If the SEC ever actually investigated an entertainment company, there would be widespread changes in how they deal with the press. But they won’t. So companies will continue misleading (and what’s more, various executives will tell opposing lies in order to further personal agendas. Its not bad that they all lie. It’s bad that their lies disagree).