Rolling Music Writers' Thread

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Since there's no longer (and hardly ever was) an I Love Writing board, and since there are a quite a few pro and amateur hacks here, I thought it might be worth starting a general purpose thread for the dark art.

I don't really consider myself a journo, having only had a couple of things published here and there (mostly for free might I add), but it would be good to get more stuff in print I admit. It would be interesting to hear more from people who've been doing it for longer than I have.

To get things rolling, I thought I'd ask a staple question that I think may have been toiled over before on ILX, regarding use of the first person in gig and LP reviews. Is this generally considered unacceptable in anything less than the most stylistic circumstances? Or does it really not matter too much? What about the use of "this writer" (don't really like this myself, I'd rather use "I/me" than "this writer", but that's just a personal thing).

Anyway, feel free to discuss whatever you like about music writing and journalism here.

dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:04 (seven years ago) Permalink

I've said before about how I always hated that "The NME was told by Morrissey'" which is fine on the news page, but when it's "Morrissey bought the NME a drink and began .." on an interview, it's dumb.

Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

Wrt first person: depends on who you're writing for and what kind of piece it is. Personally speaking, I've often had issues with the idea of "objective" criticism, so pretty much everything I've written, music-wise, has used the "I." But I've also avoided writing album reviews for publication, preferring to keep to autobiographical essays, short takes on singles, and blog posts, and in those contexts, no one's had an issue with it.

jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

I often use first person, though rarely in a particularly deliberate way. It doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

Tim F, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:17 (seven years ago) Permalink

Something I've noticed that crops up in features like that, something that isn't necessarily wrong per se, but I feel is one helluva boring way to start one of these goes along the lines of: "It is 3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord..." etc. What I mean here is that the intro seems to tell you more about the time and weather and location of the actual interview than about who is being interviewed. Whenever I read features like this I tend to stop reading much past the first paragraph.

dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:19 (seven years ago) Permalink

3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord

^ very accurate summary of state of british indie rock in the 09, though

thomp, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

"It is 3:17pm on a rainy Monday afternoon. The NME sits in a Harringey spit'n'sawdust boozer sipping a pint of Timothy Landlord..."

if you're gonna "set the scene" like this the best way to do it is to say "[the artist] sits by the swimming pool sipping a mojito" - the i/v is about them after all

lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:26 (seven years ago) Permalink

i mean all obv dependent on what kind of feature, which publication &c &c &c

lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:27 (seven years ago) Permalink

"[the artist] sits by the swimming pool sipping a mojito"

The Lex interviews Raygun.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:45 (seven years ago) Permalink

I tend to use first person if my experience is an important part of the total picture. If I'm writing a piece that's based on a phone interview and three listens to the album, I don't do it; but if the publicist has flown me to Ireland to spend three or four days with the band, fuck yes I'm gonna inject myself into the story because I am then part of the story. I never use first person in CD reviews.

unperson, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 12:52 (seven years ago) Permalink

there's no i love writing board per se but consider this thread. a not-just-music writers' discussion might be fun.

New: "I Love Writing"

the first person thing is tricky. back when I wrote for the village voice many many years ago it was practically required in music reviews. as time went on many publications took the opposite tack, pretty much banning the "I" these days in the NY Times reporters are required to don this pseudo anonymity which I think reads terribly. instead of "so and so told me that..." it's "so and so told a reporter" waht? was it YOU or just some other random journalist who happened to be in the room?

m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

ha, you *are* the room!

Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

Maybe 5% of music writing in the first person isn't hacky. I see it as a huge red flag. Unless it's absolutely necessary to the story, don't do it, imo.

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

How is it "hacky"?

jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

Maybe 5% of music writing in the first person isn't hacky.

Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

On second thought:

Maybe 5% of music writing in the first person isn't hacky.

Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

o here we are slagging off writers again, that didn't take long at all

lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:17 (seven years ago) Permalink

there are different kinds of first-person usage. the kind i can't stand is the showy first-person narrative, where the writer becomes some kind of presence. but there's also just the casual "i" where it can be sensible and unobstrusive. "i love the first two tracks" doesn't seem more objectionable to me than "the first two tracks are great" -- they're both obviously subjective statements of personal preference. but i know some editors who will reflexively remove every "I" from copy, so it's good to know the standards you're writing to.

flying squid attack (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

Just slagging off the hacks. If you'd like to defend bad writing, have at it.

Hoot Smalley, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

My favourite one, (iirc)

"Kirk Brandon formed Theatre of Hate around the same time as I joined the NME. At the time, we were both unknown..."

(Can't remember the writer)

Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:20 (seven years ago) Permalink

(many xposts)

I mean, I get into this argument all the time. Generally, I don't CARE about the writer. If the writer was an interesting person, I'd be reading an article on THEM, not the artist I care about. Like wow, the Jesus And Mary Chain helped you get through high school. You and America, buddy.

Generally if a piece of music writing has the word "I" in the first sentence, I usually stop reading, real talk. Save it for your dream journal.

The sad shit is now most mag writing is indistinguishable from internet writing because rates are so low.

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:21 (seven years ago) Permalink

Not that there isn't exceptions blah blah blah strawman lol flame etc

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

What about "I don't know about you but I'm fucking sick of this indie-lite electrodribble that permeates every airwave within earshot"?

dog latin, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:38 (seven years ago) Permalink

Whiney, you do realize you just used the first person yourself five times in two sentences yourself, right?

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:41 (seven years ago) Permalink

I'm posting on a message board, not writing for a paycheck!

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:42 (seven years ago) Permalink

the mark richardson thing about lovely music in stylus is pretty much verbatim all the first person objections ur spoutin btw but imo its top5 great but I suppose its kinda like how it used to be pretty awesome when Buffy had to make some inspirational speech but in the last series she did it every episode and it was really tiresome?

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:44 (seven years ago) Permalink

xp (And I just used "yourself" twice in one sentence, duh.)

Anyway, first person is a tool, like any other tool. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. (As an editor at the Voice, I was frequently known to edit sentences from pitch emails back into submitted reviews in part because the emails did use the first person, and sounded less stiff and stilted and more conversational in the process. I.e., sometimes it helps make for better writing just because that's how people talk. So I've never bought the idea that "writing for a paycheck" required "detaching yourself from the subject.")

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:47 (seven years ago) Permalink

Again, i'm not saying that it's always bad, but there's not a lot of writers who can pull it off without sounding like My First Fanzine

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:49 (seven years ago) Permalink

"The first time I saw Spoon..."

wooden shjipley (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:49 (seven years ago) Permalink

So why would print them (unless it was a really good fanzine?)

Still, especially when space on the page is at a premium -- which it was even when wordcounts could get away with being ten times higher than they are now -- wasted words are wasted words, "I" included. (Though at least "I" is a fairly short word.)

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:50 (seven years ago) Permalink

the mark richardson thing about lovely music in stylus

Think you mean Mike Powell, but Mark Richardson is a good example of someone who uses the first person to excellent effect in his Resonant Frequency column.

jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:52 (seven years ago) Permalink

oops yeah

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:53 (seven years ago) Permalink

If you can write entertainingly, I forgive your first person narrative.

Mark G, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:54 (seven years ago) Permalink

xhuxk on point

max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:59 (seven years ago) Permalink

xp "So why would print them?", I meant.

Anyway, bottom line is, no fucking way does the the detached pseudo-objective tone used in most glossies and daily newspapers make for better music writing than what I was printing week in and week out in the Voice for ten years (though sure, a few pieces I published may have sounded "Internetty" or whatever. Point was to have lots of different voices, so it'd be a miracle if anybody approved of all of them. I didn't want to ban Internetty writing -- which can be good too, sometimes -- either.)

On the other hand, I like the creativity with which guys like Sanneh at the Times have managed to get around the limitations against first person and swear words. A smart writer can work within those perimeters, too, and make it entertaining anyway.

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

its funny you mention sanneh--his profile of michael savage in the nyer from a couple weeks ago was very careful about not using "i" (which i think is generally a no-go in the nyer, except in the personal essays they publish every once in a while) but still managed to tell a set of interesting stories about sanneh's own encounters w/ savage that sort of hinged on sannehs own specific experiences trying to set up an interview... in the end, though, i thought it would have been a better piece if they had let him use an authorial I

max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

wow that got convoluted

max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

I thought about that, too.

Over the years, Savage has noticed that his disdain for the mainstream media is widely reciprocated ... So when he received an e-mail from a journalist asking for an interview, he was deeply suspicious. He read the e-mail on the air — he kept the writer anonymous, and didn’t mention that the request came from The New Yorker — and then asked his listeners, “Should I do the interview or not?”…

About a week later, Savage revisited the topic — “my continuing correspondence with a big-shot magazine writer.” He quoted the latest exchanges, along with his tart response, in which he asked, “Why must all of you in the extreme media paint everyone you disagree with as demonic? Why is the homosexual agenda so important to the midstream media?”


When he invited the journalist into one of his undisclosed locations, he proved to be a first-rate host, chatty and solicitous. A steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation (one of his earliest books was “The Taster’s Guide to Beer,” which was published in 1977), and as the temperature dropped and the sky above Berkeley started to turn orange, he seemed to be working hard to stay suspicious, despite himself. On his next show the next day, a caller asked how the interview had gone, and Savage described his interlocutor: "If I told you he looked like Obama, I wouldn't be far from the truth." Coming from him, this sounded like a deeply twisted compliment.

Sanneh has to resort to speaking of himself in the third person ("the journalist," "his interlocutor") but otherwise does a decent job with passive-ish phrases like "a steady supply of beer refills lubricated the conversation."

jaymc, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

no i think you're OTM, that NYer piece was convoluted. it read to me like sanneh had a personal 1 on 1 reaction to savage that was quite different than what he expected and the resulting article would have been more effective and immediate using the "I" but the NYer has always employed a certain lofty distance from its subjects, even in the 70s it wasn't really into the personal/new journalism thing. well apart from pauline kael I guess.

but journalists do have to meet readers half-way. my problem with a lot of the vintage village voice stuff is that it's so personal to the point of being impenetrable or off-putting.

m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:24 (seven years ago) Permalink

the best first person stuff illustrates how the subject of an interview interacts with other people, rather than "setting the scene"

lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:25 (seven years ago) Permalink

i'm guessing whiney's not big on fiction as a rule.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:26 (seven years ago) Permalink

I'm not big on fiction as a rule either, and one of the principles that was drilled into me when I started writing was that first-person is something you have to earn--expecting the reader who's never heard of you before to go along with I-I-I-me-me-me instead of saying "So what?" and moving to the next item is not generally a good idea--but I love first person writing even if (despite whatever reputation I may have for it due to the 33 1/3 book) I don't use it all that often professionally.

Matos W.K., Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:30 (seven years ago) Permalink

matos if you don't mind me asking: you're not big on fiction as a journalistic device or (gasp) you don't like reading novels?

m coleman, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:36 (seven years ago) Permalink

I don't write fiction or about music, but first-person is the default in my area of writing (analytic philosophy). Sometimes we resort to the royal "we" if we're feeling nervous about first-person. But it was made clear to me that third-person is to be avoided, as is passive voice.

deep olives (Euler), Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (seven years ago) Permalink

hang on, you're not big on reading all?!


lex pretend, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (seven years ago) Permalink

xp I don't buy the "have to earn" thing. I'm not even sure what it means. If I listen to a song sung in the first person, I might be able to relate to, and be moved by, the song even if I'm unaware of the singer's specific biography. Not sure why reviews are necessarily different. You don't have to be a famous writer to have a life that creates a context.

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:37 (seven years ago) Permalink

i thought he meant less that you have to earn it in the sense of being already famous or noteworthy, but in the sense that you have to earn it through your writing--i.e. you have to justify use of the first person in the piece itself, not necc explicitly, but at least in making your "I" of interest to the reader

max, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:39 (seven years ago) Permalink

When it's well done - and it does have to be superbly well done, and yes, generally (but not always) "earnt" - first-person music writing is my favourite of all music writing. (And when it's pointlessly done, the reverse holds true.)

For my own part, I avoid it at least 95% of the time - but then I come from a personal-blogging background, and taking "myself" out of the equation was a deliberate, sought objective.

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:40 (seven years ago) Permalink

My first piece at the Voice (when no reader could've had any idea who I was) and a couple soon after were in the first person, fwiw. I seriously doubt they would have improved if the "I"'s had been edited out. (Whether they stunk regardless is another question, but they wouldn't have stunk less.)

Editorial "we" -- first person plural -- bugs the hell out of me no matter what, though. I never buy it, and I've fought editors to keep it out of my own writing (which usually they've been open to).

And btw, I've also edited at Billboard, where first person is almost never allowed. So it's not like I don't know that drill. I just don't like it much.

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:45 (seven years ago) Permalink

Of course, at Billboard, the writing tended to be more news and less review-oriented. (So first person would have probably have made no sense anyway.)

xhuxk, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:47 (seven years ago) Permalink

i still feel like more people could DIY it and make some money? maybe? there is the youtube route but that's not for everybody. but just a cool website. doesn't cost much. what do people even read online? pitchfork and...uh.....which is my point. advertising. spotify links. whatever. i'm no financial genius. it takes some doing though.

it just seems weird that websites are dead. spotify deaded everything. someone did.

scott seward, Tuesday, 4 April 2017 19:11 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I mean I for one feel that my work is deathless, in that there is no point at which a review is sufficiently old that no one is going to send me hate mail for it anymore

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 20:27 (three weeks ago) Permalink

have things ever been worse? obviously the answer is "no, but you've never" but I can't think of a time in the past... 7-8 years or so with a worse ratio of people who want me dead (via twitter and email, sometimes in those words) to people who want me not-dead (via payment for work)

The convo kinda veered from this original post, but some of this unfortunately seems unique to the experiences of a woman music writer. Like, I don't get all that much hate on Twitter as a guy, aside from the occasional band-orchestrated flood if they don't like a review I write (I had one band tweet at me to go fuck myself, then for the next three days my timeline was all retweets and likes telling me to go fuck myself). But that's pretty tame and just on Twitter—I don't get emails telling me that, and I'm guessing most of the guys itt don't get many hate emails, either.

And yeah, the idea of getting hate mail for a very old review. Never, never, never happens to guys, I don't think.

Evan R, Tuesday, 4 April 2017 20:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

My relationship with music writing and views on it would be INFINITELY different if I were routinely getting threatening mail for shit I wrote years ago. I just don't have the stomach for that.

Evan R, Tuesday, 4 April 2017 20:35 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Writing about music if you're a minority is as bad as it's ever been.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 20:49 (three weeks ago) Permalink

at least fifteen years ago if I applied the queer or Latino lens there weren't 600 posts on social media and another 600 columns and "think pieces" condemning homophobia and racism. Thanks to the flood of such pieces, segments of the readership for rockcrit tunes out in 2017.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 20:51 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I get hate mail from time to time. Mostly when I write about female pop stars as if they have some sort of agency w regards to the product they put out though.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 21:05 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I don't know that the hate mail I get is different from anyone else's, but the proportions are different. the whole thing about hearing more and more people say they've read my work does not really happen for me; if anything, it's less and less. it's mostly a reflection on me, of course, but the situation still exists

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 21:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Re the difficulty in covering new bands, as discussed by the Guardian ex-editor above: the main way I've gotten around that is by writing more previews---so many bands make almost all their money on the road, as ever---and the main way to distinguish between them, if any, is by making the preview mainly a microview of current product---there being only so many ways you can rehash the career saga of most 23-year-olds, however gifted---especially if they keep coming back to town (lotta bands, yeah, but when it's five on the bill at the death metal bar, with some of them sitting in the alley between sets to appease the fire marshall, you do tend to see some familiar faces and backstories two or three times a school year---of course I'm talking about collegetown alt-weeklies, nothing useful for Guardian-type coverage.) Given about 100 words a shot, it can work---compression has its own fascination...

dow, Tuesday, 4 April 2017 21:36 (three weeks ago) Permalink

who says they have more readers now? i think i probably have less readers now than any time in the last like ten years despite being moderately more 'successful'

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 21:37 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I haven't done any writing for six years but it actually started a few years before that. I was able to survive into my mid 30s working at an independent record store and writing about music because Columbus is a cheap place to live and I had meager needs and I was always able to write for a local weekly newspaper (I did so in Raleigh before Columbus, I eventually was editing the entertainment section of a weekly newspaper that tied in with Ohio State) which was consistent work as well as international metal magazines and the odd piece in something more mainstream.

However in 2007 I got a gig at a metal record company however this meant relocating to a new city. The editors at the local weekly newspapers here literally ignored every email I sent and phone call I made. Combined with music magazines drying up and the 50+ hours working at the label cutting into the hours I could have spent hustling up writing assignments, my writing trickled away.

Not long afterwards there was writing on the wall that my job was going away (that writing being all of my duties at work were going away). Right around that time my state legalized poker in casinos and I was able to jump into a job as a poker dealer. I quit the record company just in time to avoid being laid off but suddenly I was making well more than twice as much money doing something I enjoyed (I like poker).

It's funny, the last thing I had published was after I started working at the casino. Out of the blue William Goodman from emailed me. He was supposedly given my name as a Philly writer who could review a rejuvenated Glassjaw concert. To date that is the last publicized music criticism I ever did. (Oddly enough it's still online.)

It's funny because I was paid $150 to review the show. It was a day off at the casino but it occurred to me that getting $150 to review a concert was probably pretty high for what I would get from most outlets, and if I had to take a night off work to do it, I would have lost money since even a bad day dealing cards for 8 hours was netting me at least a third more than that. It kind of solidified my decision.

Well, next week I am getting something published for the first time since then. It's for a friend and former editor's webzine. I won't be getting paid but I am hoping that it might help offset the costs of being a consumer (last year I spent $3,713.17 on music, with about $2,600 of that on CDs and tickets to concerts). I am working days now for the first time in years so my nights are free and I will try and do this again. Hopefully I won't suck too badly at it.

Anyway, this thread popping up now as I am nervously taking steps towards writing about music again made me want to share my story. I wonder if anyone has any advice? Or assignments? :P

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Tuesday, 4 April 2017 23:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

i think its fine if people can do stuff forever, but there is a part of me that thinks its kinda cool if people move on and then younger people take up where they left off. i like the evolution of ideas and opinion. there's something to be said for someone putting their heart and soul into a fanzine for a year or two and then just...stopping. and then other people do the same thing. the conversation keeps going.

this guy i know put on a year's worth of shows at my store. 50 shows? it was too much! it was crazy. but memorable. and that was it. one year and done. and after that other people did stuff in other places and he rented a space and did a series of shows in one space for a summer and on and on. permanence is overrated. maybe that's why i'm not a big fan of reunion shows.

(not really talking about people who write for a living but more the part-time/freelance/love of it kinda people as far as crit/writing goes.)

scott seward, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 00:11 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I write for Burning Ambulance whenever I can. Sometimes that's two pieces in a week, sometimes it's nothing for a month.

I like having columns. It's a guaranteed deadline I know about at the beginning of every month. Right now I have a monthly column for Stereogum, and a periodic column for The Wire (not every month, more like every two or three months).

I don't like pitching, because the stuff I want to write about, very few people care about, and the stuff people are willing to publish, I mostly don't care about. The only places I pitch now are places I have a track record with: The Wire (articles and reviews), Down Beat (articles), and Bandcamp (articles). Most of my income currently comes from other, writing-adjacent work.

I couldn't imagine having to crank out 500 words in, like, two hours whenever Beyoncé releases a new video. That must be pure fucking hell, even if you actually like Beyoncé.

Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Violent J (誤訳侮辱), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 00:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

it's just a job. writing about beyonce on deadline. digging ditches. it's work.

scott seward, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 01:05 (three weeks ago) Permalink

i've dug some enduring ditches

ToddBonzalez (BradNelson), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 01:07 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I have dug the ditch of my life

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 02:06 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I have measured my ditches with coffee spoons.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 02:54 (three weeks ago) Permalink

i like this thread.

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 07:01 (three weeks ago) Permalink

also "500 words in, like, two hours whenever Beyoncé releases a new video" -- when I wrote music news I fucking wished I had two hours, the expected turnaround is more like 15 minutes

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 08:04 (three weeks ago) Permalink

These are fairly dire times, indeed. Actually, for the last two years it's kinda felt like that, though the rot started setting in 7-8 years ago. We were all born a bit too late, honestly.

Crazy Eddie & Jesus the Kid (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 11:48 (three weeks ago) Permalink

My dream for the near future is that, after I move back to Baltimore in a few months, I can find a better paying day job than the one I have now, and...just kinda pull away from freelance. I mean, I like it. I like reviewing albums, I like discovering new artist, I like all that, but freelance once felt novel and "extra" and supplemental income, and now it's something needed to survive in an era of scraping assignment scarcity, so now it's exhausting and anxiety-inducing more often than not. Don't want to feel dependent on it.
Also, honestly, I'm old and a bit sick of how much of an arms race this game feels like now.

To Scott's point above, I guess: In 5-10 years I'll probably drop freelance to a bare minimum and go back to solo zine-ing.

Crazy Eddie & Jesus the Kid (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 11:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink

the madlibs thing she mentions is basically why i resolved to stop writing reviews regularly, i just started having a more-negative-than-usual relationship with my own work (and only after i made that decision did i figure out how much i'd come to depend on reviews as a regular source of income, lol)

ToddBonzalez (BradNelson), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 12:44 (three weeks ago) Permalink

there is a part of me that thinks its kinda cool if people move on and then younger people take up where they left off. i like the evolution of ideas and opinion.

Agreed. How many opinions can one person hold about music anyway? Surely there comes a point when critics are staging the same arguments they've made countless times elsewhere. And that should be the point when you bail.

Aside from the Wire I rarely read any professional writing about music anymore. It's a shame, I used to hoover up so much stuff, but I just don't find very much inspiring right now. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that people who could write intelligently about music are too intelligent to want to pursue it in the current climate.

Position Position, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 12:55 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Being let go from the AMG essentially meant the end of regular reviewing on my part -- after almost fifteen years of steady work I had AMG writing down to a science, perhaps to a fault. I tried to treat the standard 300 word review approach as a series of miniatures -- I might not be able to say everything, but I could say a lot, and well, once I was locked into an album. At the same time I recognized my own ('particularly fine') crutches over the moons, and felt a little tired of that particular voice I created. Losing the small but reliable income was a bit of a stretch for the next few months -- private matters but I could have used it during a rough period personally -- but once things stabilized I can't say I missed what had been a bit of a grind. The downside, though, was that I missed essentially being forced to listen to at least ten new albums every couple of weeks if not more -- 'forced' sounding bad, but I ended up hearing a lot of people I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise, and there were always many diamonds in the rough. Now (per my flood comment earlier) the amount of music I regularly receive is even greater, but the time is less and less to hand -- I used to catch up on listening at work at UCI, and while I can do it here as well it's less convenient -- and since I've mostly now settled into feature writing of one form or another thanks to the general changes in the writing market as many have noted, any reviewing as such would have to be on my own account. No bad thing as a mental exercise at all, but honestly it is mostly a mental exercise than a written one, and if something really excites me I would generally rather seek to interview the act in question for a story. (As for larger theoretical ideas or reflections on the state of things, they come as they do.)

(I wrote all that and then note Position's riff on Scott's point re moving on -- I suspect there's an element of that at play too. I've made my general cases, now I'm looking for standout examples, and not necessarily going into my own aesthetic while doing so, though as ever it remains a happy slumgullion, aiming to take in music across the board.)

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:01 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I miss reading the Wire. Need to find a relatively close bookstore where I can get it on the regular (or just subscribe, already).

And Ned, I feel a lot of what you're saying. Honestly, I listen to less music with each passing year, and tend to spend the most time with albums that really excite me.

Crazy Eddie & Jesus the Kid (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:09 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Here's a contrarian opinion: I love writing about music more than ever and still get paid to do it, and it's a great thrill when a stranger emails or leaves a comment on my blog. I've never pretended the market for rockcrit or filmcrit was larger than a coterie, but unlike the pre-net days, there's always a chance a kid in Poland will disinter a review I've happily forgotten filed in 2004 and write to say it helped her think about Band X – in fact this happened to me last week.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:21 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I still get comments on my AMG work in particular, from people who say it really helped them get into a number of bands. I ascribe this to a certain luck on two levels -- the AMG's continued existence, meaning the content is still out there, still heavily linked to via Wikipedia, etc., and that I had a chance, when the site's content was still ramping up in the 1990s, to write about a number of notable acts who already had a certain cachet. I may consider my own efforts to be reflective of whatever time/mindset I was in -- the ones I'm now most ambivalent about would be my Swans pieces -- but generally speaking I stand by the work and people continue to enjoy it. Works for me.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I see things I wrote for Burning Ambulance pop up on Twitter years later - there was a big spike in interest in a John Coltrane piece recently - and it's fun. But lately I'm searching for stories that will allow me to have an interesting experience while writing them. Being sent to Helsinki back in December to cover a jazz festival, for example. A few years earlier I might have said no to that; this time I said yes, and had a fantastic time.

Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Violent J (誤訳侮辱), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:42 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I just wrote obit pieces for my local weekly on go-go producer Maxx Kidd, and on rockabilly and more guitarist Evan Johns. The Washington Post has not run anything on them, nor have other locally based websites, so my articles are getting shared around a bit.

I write about young living musicians too.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 14:03 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Here's a contrarian opinion: I love writing about music more than ever


ToddBonzalez (BradNelson), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 14:38 (three weeks ago) Permalink


ToddBonzalez (BradNelson), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 14:39 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I just write obituaries for musicians who haven't died yet. And then I wait to share them....

scott seward, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 15:13 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Happy Halloween!

scott seward, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 15:13 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Sorry if I'm coming across as overly gloomy here. It's not all bad and nightmarish, obviously, and getting to cover Trip Metal Festival for SPIN last year was a career-high thrill. (Also getting to cover Ende Tymes in 2014 for Village Voice.)

Crazy Eddie & Jesus the Kid (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 15:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I think I used to have 3 main hopes when writing about music, which for a long time I did about one night a week: that I might connect some music to new listeners, that I might put some music in some interesting context, and that I might demonstrate by example some aspect of how to sustain curiosity and enthusiasm about new music in your own listening life.

It's now my actual day-job to type into a computer in order to try to connect music to new listeners, put music in interesting contexts, and foster curiosity and enthusiasm in listeners directly in their own listening lives. My old column connected thousands of people to hundreds of artists. My job at Spotify helps to connect about 100 million listeners to about a million artists. So that's pretty cool.

There are a few obvious caveats. As a column-writer I was trying to find fans for artists I liked myself. As a programmer, my personal tastes are irrelevant. As a column-writer I was typing prose for people, and now I'm mostly typing code for computers. So if those aspects are integral to you, then the two jobs may not seem related at all. But on the other hand, the pay is better, and where writing reviews actually slowed down my own personal discovery process, working on programmatic music-discovery tools accelerates it.

glenn mcdonald, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 15:56 (three weeks ago) Permalink

*chorus of boos*

an uptempo Pop/Hip Hop mentality (imago), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 15:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink


― ToddBonzalez (BradNelson),

Description, not criticism.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 16:11 (three weeks ago) Permalink

it's been about five years since I wrote regularly anywhere and in that time I've grappled with feeling a void that writing used to fill and yet also being forced to acknowledge that a not-insubstantial part of my satisfaction with it was derived from having an audience of at least some size, whether that was a daily newspaper or a popular website. hence I haven't been able to motivate myself to start back writing for its own sake even if (essentially) no one was reading. in my current position I can't think of a better strategy than what Alfred has done with his blog, but he's worked damn hard to build an audience/community as well as a voice that distinguishes him from a million other people with a blog. what i'm saying is that if I ever do start writing regularly again it'll probably just look like a knock-off of HtV.

evol j, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 16:25 (three weeks ago) Permalink

thanks, evol :)

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 16:46 (three weeks ago) Permalink

yeah, apologies if I am coming off as awfully gloomy; it's just the particular combination of being a quasi-public figure yet still worrying every month how I am going to make rent for the next month, let alone the next several decades of my life that gets to me. which is, of course, my own fault, but recognizing that it's my own fault does not affect conditions on the ground

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 17:04 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I understand, in that sense I feel lucky to have not been in possession of a little more talent and desire than I had, such that might have made it more difficult for me to hang up my cleats and carve out a more stable existence. Writing was never my sole or even primary source of income but I don't think it's a coincidence that I quit in the middle of going back to grad school in serious pursuit of nailing down an actual decent-paying career for the first time in my life. but as I suggested before, not being a quasi-public figure is unfulfilling in its own way too.

evol j, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 18:37 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I think this is pretty much my take, too. I co-set up and wrote for an experimental site for a bit, with a bunch of like-minded people (the Liminal - we had about nine readers, I suspect), which, by the by, ended up with putting on a few local gigs and getting a few bits in Mojo and the Wire - all alongside my hugely unfulfilling day job. I had designs on trying to push it towards something else, but I didn't have the wherewithal, the stubbornness or a thick enough skin for it. I miss the 'public' aspect of it (however small), and the relationships, such as they were, but don't really miss the enforced listening or the drudgery of the pitching/(silent) rejection cycle.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 18:54 (three weeks ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

update: I was wrong, it got worse

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Thursday, 20 April 2017 17:50 (one week ago) Permalink


SSN Lucci (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:08 (one week ago) Permalink

Update: I am enjoying writing and don't hate what I have written thus far.

It's easy though, in that I am no getting paid - and I know that cheeses off people in this thread whose livelihoods are diminished somehow because assholes like me will work without a paycheck. and I get that because there was a time I was resentful of writing for free after I established myself to some extent. I actually turned down writing for Magnet because they couldn't pay me when they first started and I was kicking myself when it became a pretty good magazine that wouldn't give me the time of day when I pitched them.

But getting on guest lists and maybe CDs (in my small sample size publicists seem very reluctant to send physical product to the likes of me) will help offset being a music junkie still even as I hurtle towards 50.

And dig this - I missed writing about music. I missed that feeling when I turned a phrase that I liked or made an observation that I thought was unique and informative.

There are negatives such as paying $500 for a real camera as my wife is learning to take photos so we can spend more time together and I don't have to take them. I was up really late writing and now I am tired with two jobs to do today.

But this weekend I (likely) have free tickets to see a two-day festival with a ton of great bands which would have set me back $160 including ticket fees. And last night I hung out with a publicist and "talked shop" and schmoozed a little and it felt like old times.

It's a work in progress but the positives outweigh the negatives thus far.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:24 (one week ago) Permalink

try having my inbox the day after anything I write goes up, see how much you enjoy writing then, or life

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:31 (one week ago) Permalink

You can always quit. I didn't write for six years and somehow survived.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:33 (one week ago) Permalink

it doesn't matter if I quit or not, there is no statute of limitations on this shit, I still get hate mail about stuff I wrote years ago

a self-reinforcing downward spiral of male-centric indie (katherine), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:35 (one week ago) Permalink

I can see how that would get frustrating. Possibly you can change your email address.

I know how terrible it can be. I am friends with Kim Kelly who gets shit on constantly. I wouldn't want to deal with the shit she deals with.

Fortunately nobody much cares what I write except my editor, my wife and the publicists. And since I am only doing this because it's fun again, I will have zero problems stopping when it's not.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:40 (one week ago) Permalink

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