I was waiting to see when this post would go up on Homedrone. “Music Journalism in a Post-Print Era” was one of the panels at SXSW (which Gordon and I both agree are often more interesting than the bands…). There’s no shortage of opinion out there about what music journalism is and how it’s constantly changing. But leave it to me to add another voice to the noise.
I really love the question of what advantages established media have over all us computer hugging, WordPress fiddling bloggers. So what do they have on us? Well, name brand recognition for one. Rolling Stone has been around for a long while that the name alone carries a huge weight. Who wouldn’t want their band on the cover or between the pages of RS? Does it matter in the long run that the quality of the magazine has been slipping fast over the years? Not when your name appears in the review section apparently.
I worked for a while at a PR company. And it’s very strange to observe but when given the choice, bands prefer to have their name appear in print rather than online only. Yeah, the best situation would be both print AND online but there’s just something about picking up a physical copy of something and seeing your name in 12-point font on page 14. I admit that while some of the best stuff I’ve ever written only appears online, I tend to be more fond of what gets put into those little Flagpole bins. Forget the fact that more people see my personal writings online. You can’t rip out a blogpost and put it on your wall, getting ink all over your fingers in the process.
But back to the issue (pun not intended) at hand. What do the established mags have that we don’t? Name brand recognition isn’t limited to just the big print boys, you know. There are plenty of music blogs out there that are pretty recognizable in certain circles. I just have to mention 3 Imaginary Girls and stereogum to some people and they automatically know the name, tone, and reliability behind the sites. Note I said “some.” Very few online music journo sites have sunk into the mainstream. The one that pops into my head right now is the often cringe inducing Pitchfork. To me, it’s music criticism for the 4-chan crowd, but I digress.
How much does the name mean to you? How important is it that you read someone’s work in Paste rather than on Tiny Mix Tapes? A lot of why I read certain music critics is because either a) their tastes line up with mine b) they’ve proven reliable or c) I just like their style. I’ve stolen more from Neil McCormick than I’m ready to admit but hey, the guy makes me laugh and he’s good at what he does. For me, it’s not the medium, it’s the writer and his/her message.
So why all the blogger hate? Maybe the misconception that all of us are sitting in our parents’ basements, reposting mp3s and press releases without actually doing any reporting? There is plenty of that out there and those blogs give everyone a bad name. But are these blogs like this here one any threat to the establishment?
Christopher Weingarten (Rolling Stone) believes there aren’t enough people that would be interested in some of these writers’ opinions, much less wanting to read something from “a college-age Lester Bangs jerking off all over a Wavves record.” I laughed so hard reading that. Most of us hacks did grow up hearing about the legendary Bangs and his opinions. And there are plenty of bloggers out there that will do nothing but sing the praises of one or two bands no matter how bad the music. At least I have the decency to label my fawning fits. I will completely admit my biases and you can check on ’em via my last.fm account.
But the fact of the matter is that sometimes a blog can just cover certain things better. A one man operation is far more flexible than a corporation and not bound to as many rules. The only guidelines you have are the ones you make. They’re often more passionate about what they cover too. Remember, most of us don’t get paid to do this stuff! But music journalism isn’t as coagulated and central as it used to be. If you want breaking news, you go to a blog or small outlet, not Rolling Stone.
I can throw stuff up on the blog faster than many news outlets because AMJ is a three person operation. Videos, photos, writing, it’s all edited by us. And I think that’s where a lot of journalism in general is going. You have to balance speed with accuracy in the real-time web. Information now flows from the bottom up, bolstered by facebook statuses and twitter updates. Basic connections are now just as important as having the emails of band managers. You want to hear from the people, not the product.
Anyway, this is just one of many random thoughts that I’m having on this. Anybody care to comment on where you think music journalism is headed?