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POP EYE

MCA and Guccione Jr. in Quite a Spin

January 24, 1988|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

It's war between MCA Records and Spin magazine.

Incensed by a recent story in Manhattan Inc. where Spin publisher Bob Guccione Jr. was quoted as saying, "The music business is a whore, so remember you've got to treat it like a whore," three MCA Records execs have launched a counterattack against the back-in-business music magazine.

In a letter sent to "about 150 industry publicists and marketing execs," MCA's Larry Solters, Janie Hoffman and Katie Volk blasted Guccione, saying that if he's wondering where his next interview might be, "he won't find it under the rock he continually crawls out from under."

Noting in the letter that the opinions expressed were not representative of "anyone else at MCA," the execs added: "Nothing in the world of music was ever as bad as Spin made it out to be. You might want to think about that before you give them your next ad or place one of your artists at their mercy. We have."

According to Hoffman, the label's national director of media and artist relations, MCA no longer advertises in Spin and advises artists not to participate in its stories. "We tell them we can't recommend them doing an interview. If a band's management really wants to get involved, we give them Spin's number and say--here, you call them and pitch the story."

It turns out there's more to this feud than Guccione's alleged remark. MCA execs say Spin did lengthy interviews with a pair of MCA artists that never were printed. They were also particularly unhappy about a skeptical Spin feature on teen guitarist Charlie Sexton, which focused more on MCA's marketing strategy than the merits of the young guitarist.

"Spin's editorial coverage has been totally negative--they can't say anything nice about anyone," said Hoffman. "I have more faith in People magazine than in them."

Guccione vehemently disagrees. First off, he insists that his inflammatory "music biz as whore" remark was a misquote. "I never made that statement. What I said was that we mustn't let a record company--like an MCA--turn us into whores by letting them push us to write about their acts and unduly influence our editorial policy."

Guccione said Spin's problems with MCA date back "about two years" to an incident when he said label execs "pressured us to run more stories about their artists by threatening to pull their advertising. I responded by saying that we wouldn't even accept their ads until they apologized--which they did."

Guccione said MCA was upset by Spin's story on Sexton, whom the label has been grooming as a future star. "At that point, they did pull their ads," he said. "But their feud with us is purely petulant. We're a very pro-industry magazine. We've always supported new bands and been a leader in the fight against rock censorship. But we're not here to be an extension of MCA's marketing department."

How does the rest of the industry view Spin? "It's a refreshingly irreverent magazine," said Warners publicity chief Bob Merlis. "I think their importance was underscored when they they suspended publication--I really missed them. I don't know why MCA is so sensitive. Anyone familiar with the rock press doesn't expect magazines to just churn out puff pieces." (Merlis was referring to Spin's two-month publishing hiatus that ended in December following a dispute between Guccione Jr. and his father, Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione.)

As for Guccione Jr.'s claims that MCA had threatened to pull ads, MCA senior vice president Larry Solters responded: "We never threatened to pull ads because of a story. It's understood that advertising and editorial are totally separate. Our advertising department decided that Spin's demographics were so utterly hip that it wasn't worth advertising, since we didn't have any artists hip enough to fit their audience."

So the feud continues. The new issue of Spin (due to hit the stands this week) prints a telegram that MCA sent when it heard Spin was suspending publication last fall. It reads: "Congratulations! We always knew you had it in you. . . ."

The Spin editors--slyly chiding MCA for prematurely celebrating the magazine's demise--offer the headline: "Dewey Defeats Truman, Again."

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