UTM Discuss: The Role of Music Journalism Today

Here we go again.

Music journalists like to feel valuable too, so once in a while, someone will publish the classic ‘Is Music Criticism Still Necessary?’ article in a cry for affirmation, much like a high school teen fishing for compliments from friends with a “:(” Facebook post. It’s been done 1,583,129 times since the internet ruined the golden age of music journalism’s revered ‘gatekeeper’ status, and no one really cares except the music journalists.

The article originally posted by Noisey focuses on the album review, spewing the same Music Journo 101 intro and obligatory Lester Bangs story. Inevitably, it started a discussion about music journalism’s role today and an endless cycle of trash content. When we at UTM became music journalists (as all music journalists before us), we signed a blood oath binding us to discuss music journalism whenever it gets brought up, so that’s what we’re going to do.

What did everyone think of the Noisey article?

Richard: I thought it was a good read. A little dry, but most stuff like that is. I’m not reading to be entertained, I’m reading to gain some new perspectives and that piece definitely got me thinking. The album review isn’t dead though. Much like music journalism in general it’s kind of in a transitional phase – I think in 50 years the definition of review will be much broader.

Connor: It definitely offered a good overview in terms of the how the album review is a bit of an outdated concept in the opinion driven social media age, but it did seem to go in with the idea that nobody is actually reading reviews anymore/ there’s no purpose to them, which isn’t true. It’s just now that rather than being a defining voice they offer a part of the critical conversation.

Nathan: As soon as I saw the words ‘Lester Bangs’ I was bored. I’m fed up of old journalists droning on about him.  It was full of points that have been made many times before. I agreed with a lot of it though. That bullshit about keeping PRs happy with good reviews pisses me off.

Connor: You notice that with a lot of reviews – they’re clearly written to keep the PR happy. Look at some reviews and two thirds of it will read like a press release because that’s what the PR has asked of them.

​Do you, as a fan and not a journalist, still read reviews?

Nathan: I don’t fuck with reviews. I think I just know I can form my own opinion and don’t really care for anyone else’s except friends. I like discussing albums and shit with friends.

Connor: The only real reason I’ll read one is if I’m unsure of my own opinion or if someone is being a little fuckboi about an album I like.

Richard: I’ll read a review of something I like if I’m bored. I’ll watch Fantano or a v-logger reviewer over reading something though.

Do you think reviews matter to anyone anymore? Should we stop doing them altogether?

Nathan: I think it just matters to journalists, PRs and the bands. Bands will get REAL pissy if you give them less than a 8/10.

Richard: Bands getting pissy is hilarious.

Nathan: It’s really lame though. A review doesn’t hold the same weight as it used to, so why are you so mad?

Connor: Bands still care because it gets them validated or can upset them.

Rich: I guess the bands just want their egos stroked more often than not.

Nathan: That’s lame. If you’ve put everything into a record and you’re happy with how it came out, why trouble yourself over someone else’s opinion? You think it’s good, that’s all that matters from an artistic standpoint.

How would you deal with a band who got pissed off with a review you wrote?

Richard: I would rek them on whatever social media platform they got pissy on.

Connor: I had a band get mad about a review I wrote of them while I was at their show, I don’t think they realised I was in the audience though.

Nathan: Really? Wow. I think that article made a good point in saying when an artist does that, they’ve already muddied the integrity of their art. I’d do absolutely nothing, and wank to the thought of me being the better man.

Connor: Yeah, I’d just leave it too, if they can’t realise you’re just one person with an opinion, that’s their problem. You’re deluded if you think everyone is gonna like your shit.

Nathan: MMMHMMHM LOVE THAT MORAL HIGH GROUND.

​As a music journalist what do you hate the most in a music based article?

Richard: Awkward vocabulary. When someone obviously hasn’t done their research and just lays into something.

Connor: A really bad context/opinion balance.

Nathan: I hate seeing the same phrases. I hate it when I do it too. I guess it’s hard to constantly churn out words at Internet speeds without getting too comfortable vocab-wise.

Richard: Or when someone just talks about some boring shit they did as a kid that pertains to music, like: ‘I went to my first rave and took a pill and skanked for 10 hours’.

Nathan: I like those personalised articles though!

Richard: It’s when someone droning on about how X/Y/Z shit indie band from 10 years ago defined their youth and writes a wooden article about it.

Nathan: I’d rather hear about someone’s own unique experience than boring facts about consumption of music and how it relates to Adele’s popularity or some shit.

What fucking sucks about music journalism? Why?

Richard: People being too polite.

Nathan: The lip service and networking. It’s a gated profession if you hate talking to people.

Connor: Music journalists. Too many of them are ego stroking wankers, and it just gets in the way of the writing. Or they’re too stuck in their opinion. See Q reviews editor who can’t handle Dev Hynes being a bigger deal in New York than his precious little guitar band.

Richard: Yes. Also I think money gets in the way far too often. I’d rather make fuck all money and actually make people think with my writing rather than being rich having just churned out droney shit about whatthefuckever.

Nathan: I wish money would get in my way…

​What’s good about music journalism? Why?

Connor: I love features that explore things I wouldn’t be familiar with such as subgenres in other countries, like Noisey are doing with Polish hip hop or Japanese grime.

Nathan: Yeah, I love unfamiliar shit. God bless the Innanet.

Richard: Yeah when some obscure as fuck band gets a feature and I read it and I find some cool new music is the best. It’s what I aspire to do as a music journalist – bring awesome music that I love to people’s ears.

Nathan: That shit was so corny. Rock on dude! For real though, I don’t even want to turn people on to new shit, I just want everyone on the internet to know my opinions and experiences with music because I am a loser irl.

​Is being a tastemaker important to you as a journalist?

Richard: I’d like to think I could develop people’s perspectives. I’d hate myself if I was like a trendsetter or something.

Connor: The internet has completely ripped apart music fans into smaller groups, and less definable ones, that’d it’d be hard to make an impact as one individual journalist.

Nathan: But Fantano though?

Connor: Fantano doesn’t really impact anyone but mu/memes.

Richard: Fantano has turned me on to stuff.

Nathan: I think a better question is: would you want to be Anthony Fantano? … The answer is still no.

Richard: He has a really good knowledge of music and probably some money.

Nathan: I’m bored of his memes now.

​What does a review need to be to shine through the rivers of shit?

Richard: Entertaining and brutally honest. It needs to be filled with the personality of the reviewer. I wanna see what that person thought of the album, not half a copy-pasted press release.

Connor: That can go wrong, because some people’s personalities are fucking awful.

Nathan: If you’re not being completely honest, why are you even reviewing anything, ya know?

Connor: It’d be interesting if we could divide journalism in half – paid and unpaid. Just to see the difference.

Richard: The unpaid side would be better but would take forever and the paid side would be everywhere but kinda lame.

Connor: True. The only site without a motive behind praising an album will be an unpaid one that doesn’t deal with press or advertisers.

What is (or should be) the role of music journalists today?

Richard: Music journalists should be sharing awesome music with people. They should be enriching people’s perspectives on music and current affairs in music. We should be advisors, not trendsetters.

Connor: People who can turn people onto cool shit, or contribute something interesting to already covered topics; otherwise you’re not really offering anything.

Nathan: Just be interesting. PLEASE FOR FUCK’S SAKE BE INTERESTING.

Connor: “Why Adele’s new album is like your mate down the pub” – less of this shit please.

Nathan: Yeah I’m fed up with the happy-go-lucky white middle class journalism.

Nathan: I say more young journalists should start their own shit, LIKE US AT UTM YA KNOW.

Richard: Start your own shit and allow those big companies, because those big companies’ business models will be irrelevant in 30 years.

Connor: Yeah, it’s down to small blogs to change, it’s too late for the big ones. Then they can become the big paid sites and the shit-cycle starts again.

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