Music Journalism, where did you go?

I’ve been wandering the Internet and newsagents on a quest. Many moons ago, I used to keep abreast of popular music, current affairs in it, new releases, next big things… All of this nonsense. I used to read Melody Maker and the NME avidly, amongst other stuff. And they were good, really good, genre spanning, eclectic, impartial and most importantly, about music. I love music. I’m no genre hermit either by any means. I’ll just as soon listen to rock, metal, folk, indie, electronica, classical, world music, jazz, whatever. The genre is not important, just that it’s good. Now “good” is of course very subjective and purely based on one’s own tastes, however certain things are apparent regardless of taste: effort, production values, originality, plagiarism, good/ bad songwriting, musicianship, the ability of the song to change your mood, lyrical content. What I’ve gleaned from my visit back to the world of music journalism and the fruit of it’s orchard, is that the fruit got GM’ed. It’s almost impossible to find someone reviewing albums, gigs or singles that isn’t some kind of scene-biased media whore. Everyone’s so desperate to find the next big thing, or jump on the credibility bandwagon that no-one seems to care about what they’re actually writing. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is, where did they all go? Has the accessibilty of the Internet meant that all the good people, who cared deeply, and most importantly, were educated about the industry, have been diluted by all the dross and subjectivity of everyone and his wife with a blog? Or have they gone into hiding?

One thing that has become apparent, and one thing that terrifies me, is that people actually like these opinionated, biased ramblings. What’s started to become more important than the music, is the image. Look at the plethora of cloned indie bands and cloned emo bands and cloned metal bands and substanceless hip-hop and R&B. If they look the part, who cares what they sound like?

4 thoughts on “Music Journalism, where did you go?

  1. With the rise of a more competitive market for magazines in general, given that the internet is now a popular medium, the music magazines struggle to keep afloat – Melody Maker died years ago, for instance. The result is that the people with the moneybag instruct the editors and, by proxy, the writers to produce articles about artists that shift copies. A good example is Peter Doherty, who’s at best an average musician, but who gave good quote, did drugs, dated a supermodel, ended up in prison, did more drugs, injected others with drugs and so forth. In short, celebrities sell, especially in the British market.

    If you want decent music journalism, I suggest you try drownedinsound.com
    Despite some of the writers being, well, not great, they cover a range of genres, offer up spotify playlists and put on some good gigs.

  2. Yep, you’re absolutely right, it’s sick, and thanks, I will!

  3. hi,

    Excuse my poor English. I was schooled in England.

    I am thinking the music industry has always been this way. And we are just getting older.

    You were right about subjectivity, but in my opinion people (esp. western audiences) are influenced probably more by other things than just the music and words of artists.

    People identify with icons and anti-heroes… their music grows on people when they like the image of person or band, or just the sort of things they sing about (which I guess works the other way also and makes people emulate the image of the band/artist).

    Heck I know people who like music just because it’s obscure, and if it’s popular they don’t get anything from it. I guess I used to think this is pathetically shallow, but it’s real. I probably do it myself to some degree, maybe more when I was younger. It seems to sound ‘better’ when its different, then as some guy who’s a bit older and more experienced could kindly points out it is not different it is actually influenced by bright green monkey music from brazil blah blah blah, which has its roots in yellow chicken music from deep south Lancashire yawn.

    I guess it makes me a bit judgemental when I see people in 30s still picking out obscure bands and trying to be different…. I take a stance , like a grumpy old man. Yesss.

    But i dont really like all this NME music mag critic stuff. Although they probably have influenced me whilst i was younger and prob now. They can help build up an image… tell you who’s cool.. all the crap we think we are too intelligent to be influenced by….. but are… a bit like advertisements. But i dont care for critics, cant quite put finger on why. Spent too much time with museo types or trendies whilst growing up.

    I prefer people to be themselves 🙂

    I have to mention this “effort, production values, originality, plagiarism, good/ bad songwriting, musicianship, the ability of the song to change your mood”
    All subjective. Effort? Originality? You get an artist you like the image/idea of then you allow then to be unoriginal, your mind kinda compensates cause you like em…. they could plagiarise a book and regurgitate it. My point? A lot of western music seems to be all about the image we build of the artist which intern affects our experience of their music and ramblings. You get an artist we don’t like… we hate their stuff…. artist we like presenting the exact same subject matter…we love it. Ha. We could argue it’s the music or tone of singer or something else and try and dissect it and put a clever spin on it… but from my own experience I have been moved by someone close to me performing and that has been amazing to me, but to everyone else waiting to be entertained like KC noted in SmellsLTSprit, may have thought it was bobbins or weak at best. But to me it’s been amazing. Subjectivity again.
    I sometimes think we are getting older, that’s all. Most of the stuff about is aimed at young people who don’t know their ass from elbow yet. Fair play to em. One day they will be unmoved by 90% or crap they hear.

    And another thing! Maybe the music critics are here to guide the sheep? Tell em what they should be listening. Especially if they are about to sit down with some trendy friends and they need some acceptance.

  4. Firstly, your English is awesome. Much better than most of the people who speak it natively.

    I see your point very clearly. Maybe originality was a bad choice of example. If you think about it realistically, what is original any more? Pretty much nothing…

    Your last paragraph made me think actually. I’ve been thinking in my own terms, to me, acceptance isn’t important. Consequently, I don’t feel I need guidance. However, as you rightly put, I’m not everybody, I forgot that. Some people do need this, they do need to justify themselves and what they do, they do need someone or something to gauge themselves against. It’s a shame but it’s true.

    The biggest shame though, is how easily these ‘shepherds’, if you will, are influenced by their sycophantic, self-important goals…

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