Rolling Music Writers' Thread

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The other good thing was being able to invoice the Voice for the CDs if they weren't review copies. Which took the publicists and the quid pro quo arrangement right out of the loop, very good things.

Gorge, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:22 (5 years ago) Permalink

the first one or two things I wrote the voice were done on spec, but that was seven years ago and i dunno how many places are looking for reviews that aren't mega timely now

da croupier, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:23 (5 years ago) Permalink

the demise of pop music criticism reflects the general decline of print media overall and as Gorge says the disinclination to "pay for stuff" w/r/t music

not just downloading and filesharing but streaming leaks and previews -- all the ways legal and ill that people can access music now has radically changed the role of critic as gatekeeper and tastemaker. getting an advance copy of a new release no longer gives writers a leg-up on consumers. and in the internet age I think music aficionados actually read MORE about music but they do so from a variety of sources rather than one trusted outlet like a magazine or alt weekly or authoritative critic. pardon the cliche but the playing field has been leveled. and over-run with people publishing their own opionions theories rants and discourse on blogs messageboards online publications what have you. scott is right: at this point you have take in your own hands and DIY. figure out something people want to read about and give it to them. the money will come eventually, maybe. better that then making a million compromises and getting your copy shred to ribbons and then getting stiffed just so you can say you're published. it's meaningless.

m coleman, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:26 (5 years ago) Permalink

yeah if I was a young person determined to make a concerted effort to "break into" what's left of rockcrit, I'd just blog a lot, interact with other blogs/forums and send out specs that, if rejected, could easily be worked into my DIY stuff. that infamous ying yang twins piece i did for the voice was originally going to be a blog post until i decided to throw it chuck's way just in case.

da croupier, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:32 (5 years ago) Permalink

xp Yeah, as Anthony says, the timeliness factor ("pegging" everything to release dates, or maybe local shows in the case of alt-weeklies -- in a bogus attempt to be "newsworthy" when really it usually just means kissing music biz butt) is something else I didn't have to worry about much at the Voice.

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:39 (5 years ago) Permalink

"Music Biz" in this case meaning "record labels who want publicity on the day a record is released" and "local clubs who advertise in your paper."

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:41 (5 years ago) Permalink

I'm kinda amazed that the sinking-ship record companies would have that kind of clout anymore; you'd think publications would be freed up to run reviews when they want.

fifteen years ago in my nightmare final few months at R0lling $t0ne I nearly got fired for suggesting reviews not be tied to release dates and daring to run a review of a three-month-old album that had belatedly surfaced near the top of the charts.

m coleman, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:49 (5 years ago) Permalink

i think i've just convinced myself to put out a zine. anyone want to write for it? for free? i'll put out a hundred copies. or more, if needed. i know a cool guy at forced exposure. maybe they can sell it. the aquarius guy is really nice too. maybe he could sell it too. i need a new fun project. um, aside from the new fun record store that i just opened.

scott seward, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:57 (5 years ago) Permalink

scott, i'll write for your zine if you promise to send me a copy.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

seriously!

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 17:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

xpWell, for years (in pre-Entertainment Weekly days, so through the end of the '80s at least) running reviews of albums weeks after their release was more common than not -- especially if, say, the album was ignored on release and now had a couple hit singles. Some albums have to be lived with a while to sink in. Nobody thought twice about doing it then, because it was the sane way to do things. And I'm guessing that, now, it's not so much that the companies have clout as that the practice became commonplace when they did have clout, so suddenly editors (and their bosses) started worrying about being "scooped" if everybody else reviewed an album first, and nobody wants to go against the grain, especially since lots of editors haven't been around long enough to remember when it was any other way. (As if reviewing an album first has anything to do with scooping; as if reviews are even "news.")

xhuxk, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:59 (5 years ago) Permalink

scott, if you do do that, i would be happy to cover some weirdo new music/electronic stuff.

nice! he have the balls to say the truth! (the table is the table), Friday, 14 August 2009 18:18 (5 years ago) Permalink

this thread kinda makes me want to do some music writing, y'alls professional woes sound kinda fun

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Friday, 14 August 2009 18:30 (5 years ago) Permalink

eating ramen noodles is not fun

Whiney G. Weingarten, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:11 (5 years ago) Permalink

what about tweeting about ramen noodles?

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:12 (5 years ago) Permalink

"eating ramen noodles is not fun"
even though you probably don't literally mean that, them's fightin words!

Philip Nunez, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:13 (5 years ago) Permalink

xpost to some dude

I set you up for a subway gag and you bring that? ^^^

Whiney G. Weingarten, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:13 (5 years ago) Permalink

if i'm gonna bring it i'm not gonna bring subway gags

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:14 (5 years ago) Permalink

hey i keep my ass in cheesesteaks well enough.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:22 (5 years ago) Permalink

...

strongohulkingtonsghost, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:23 (5 years ago) Permalink

I Love Style is over here

it's like i have a couple worked up vadges under my arms (HI DERE), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:24 (5 years ago) Permalink

I'm guessing that, now, it's not so much that the companies have clout as that the practice became commonplace when they did have clout, so suddenly editors (and their bosses) started worrying about being "scooped" if everybody else reviewed an album first, and nobody wants to go against the grain, especially since lots of editors haven't been around long enough to remember when it was any other way. (As if reviewing an album first has anything to do with scooping; as if reviews are even "news.")

the result, invariably: a whole lot of reviews that have the exact same sets of impressions that anyone would have from a few early listens. (my own writing certainly included.)

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:26 (5 years ago) Permalink

Aww, I can't believe I missed conversation about the odd overconstructions that sometimes have to go into the journalistic "there is no I" POV thing -- for whatever reason I find it charming when a piece says "at 4pm a reporter arrived at his house" and we all know pretty precisely who that reporter is. (And I actually do find it profitable, to be honest, because the introduction of an "I" into an article really is a major thing that brings forth expectations; there's an actual benefit to avoiding it that's not just rule-based. If Kelefa says "I arrived at Savage's place" you are more immediately led into the frame of thinking okay, what did you, Kelefa, think of him, which is not the article you're reading.)

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:27 (5 years ago) Permalink

Totally Different Subject xpost - the opposite problem = late-breaking reviews that seem to mostly be responding to the conventional wisdom / response of earlier reviews and public reception

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:28 (5 years ago) Permalink

i use I in my record reviews all the time, it is I who is listening, right. fuck the reader.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:29 (5 years ago) Permalink

is that a problem, per se, nabisco? to me it seems like the same thing as the first-person thing: good writing is good writing no matter what pov it takes.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:30 (5 years ago) Permalink

i use I in my record reviews all the time, it is I who is listening, right. fuck the reader.

classy

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:30 (5 years ago) Permalink

thx. (i don't get paid for it either) ;)

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:32 (5 years ago) Permalink

I kept trying to read that sentence like Ludo is in full on "I and I" rasta speak

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:33 (5 years ago) Permalink

lol.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:34 (5 years ago) Permalink

haha I think understand what ludo means though; my worst writing usually comes when I try to "put myself in a fan's shoes" or something like that.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:34 (5 years ago) Permalink

i think that in the post internet age, ppl probably read more reviews for things they have heard, and really want longer expanded bloggy reviews that help parse a record or pinpoint what it is they like about it. I mean, I enjoy reading a review that just gets something 'right' for that flash of recognition, but if i read a review as a buyer guide, I'm just skimming for words that will pull me in and once i've seen enough i'll myspace/youtube/rar depending on my interest and if I like it buy it.

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:35 (5 years ago) Permalink

that's true...in the 90s i would devour these big review sections full of albums i still have not to this day heard, now i tend not to read reviews of anything i'm not either already listening to or planning to get.

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:37 (5 years ago) Permalink

maybe a good writer can avoid using "I" and still write personal reviews, but often those fake objectivie reviews lead to newspaper men praising a hiphop/world music/techno record while you can easily read between the lines that they don't even like the genre.

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:37 (5 years ago) Permalink

I'd wager that it's more about liking records that reviewers, be they newspapermen or whomever, don't have a ton of context for. (Again speaking from experience.)

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:39 (5 years ago) Permalink

Wait, I'm not sure which thing you mean, Matos. The late-breaking review thing? I don't mind reviews that have interesting things to say about how a record's been received, so long as they acknowledge that's what they're about. I'm usually less hot on reviews that sorta purport to be about the record but are actually really reactive, like they're really more opinions about reception of the record, and not the thing itself.

(Or the POV thing? I agree that writing's good from whichever perspective, but sometimes the difference between those perspectives is huge, so it makes sense to completely separate them -- like "Kelefa Sanneh writes a journalistic NYer piece about Savage" is surely violently different from "Kelefa Sanneh writes a personal narrative about his interaction with and opinions of Savage.")

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:40 (5 years ago) Permalink

could be true.

anyway, i do enjoy reading reviews, but moreso when i actually already heard the record or saw the movie. if not it's more like a fast check to see if i should get this thing on my "to download"-list heh.

record reviews are tough, for example a lot of bands always complain about being compared to artist x and genre y, and when i review a record and drop like 10 different artist names it even bores me. on the other hand if it does sound like the entire bunch and a reader might actually check this album because i mention that it sounds like (god this gets confusing) blablaba.

i guess a good review is a combination of all kinds of thing, comparisons, maybe a little personal feeling and a description of the music. (the latter would be true objectivism i guess)

Ludo, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:43 (5 years ago) Permalink

I've gotten a lot more diligent over the years at not saying anything in print that I can't somehow back up if asked about, by an editor or via email or in real life. I delete endless amounts of stuff that might read well or be interesting or provocative, if I realize I'm just saying it to say it, or just because it sounds good or whatever. I try very hard not to do it, and it drives me nuts when I see other people do it. The opposite tendency is just as bad--taking the easy way out, being nice just for the sake of not unnecessarily ruffling feathers. That's the Midwesterner in me, and I delete tons of that shit too. And my favorite writing tends to takes chances and goes for the jugular; I want to do that too (not that I get near it even 10% of the time) but I want it to be as real as I can make it, and that takes a lot of work. I'm not complaining about this at all: I think I'm a much better writer than I used to be and this is the reason why. But when I'm writing about an area I'm less familiar with it can be a hurdle, definitely.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:46 (5 years ago) Permalink

Nabisco: we're on exactly the same page here.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 19:47 (5 years ago) Permalink

some key words have lost all meaning so if some band gets described as a noise band I'm not gonna really know what they sound like, so i'm looking for Lightning Bolt or No Age or Giffoni or Excepter or Wolf Eyes all of whom sound completely different and that clarifies a lot of the other descriptions

❊❁❄❆❇❃✴❈plaxico❈✴❃❇❆❄❁❊ (I know, right?), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:47 (5 years ago) Permalink

I've gotten a lot more diligent over the years at not saying anything in print that I can't somehow back up if asked about, by an editor or via email or in real life. I delete endless amounts of stuff that might read well or be interesting or provocative, if I realize I'm just saying it to say it, or just because it sounds good or whatever. I try very hard not to do it, and it drives me nuts when I see other people do it.

Yeah, I totally go through this same thought process. I think I have such an aversion to quippy reviews and clever angles that it probably makes my copy a little too dry sometimes, but at the same time bending the truth (or my honest opinion) for the sake of a cute one-liner can come out pretty awful.

some dude, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:52 (5 years ago) Permalink

"in the 90s i would devour these big review sections full of albums i still have not to this day heard"

me too! and i was happy not to hear them. a lot of times i just wanted to read good reviews. SPIN used to be great for this, if, you know, i wanted to know what Mikael Wood thought about some overhyped indie BS. that guy is amazing. i can never say it enough.

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:55 (5 years ago) Permalink

i like pitchfork reviews

mo radalj, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

What do all yall music writers think of gina arnold re: injecting oneself into the review.

Philip Nunez, Friday, 14 August 2009 19:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

i kind of miss zany/showy/creative writing exercise pfork reviews sometimes

I'M IN MIAMI, TRICK-OR-TREAT (Beatrix Kiddo), Friday, 14 August 2009 19:59 (5 years ago) Permalink

Matos is way OTM about something there -- it's funny how writing well sometimes asks you to be both (a) confident enough in what you're saying to put out frank opinions, and (b) open-minded and curious and fair. Those things are by no means mutually exclusive; the whole point is they go well together (and often it's fun and exciting to see someone just do one, so long as they're honest about it). But sometimes, especially with criticism, the stuff that allows you to do one of them can be on a pretty fine and confusing line with not doing the other. Personally I think I often err toward the latter and don't do enough of the former.

nabisco, Friday, 14 August 2009 20:00 (5 years ago) Permalink

anyway, i do enjoy reading reviews, but moreso when i actually already heard the record or saw the movie.

I think that's universal, and it's also a reason there's less and less of an audience for music criticism, or so it seems: fewer widely shared experiences. It isn't that music all sucks now; film seems to suck a lot more than music does these days but there's a lot fewer of them, which makes it easier to talk about. And people get mad if you're covering something they're not likely to encounter without seeking it out--they think you're trying to pull a fast one. It's disheartening, especially when, as I've experienced, your bosses basically think this as well.

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 20:01 (5 years ago) Permalink

I always thought Gina Arnold was a better writer than her detractors thought, a worse writer than her champions thought, and way too romantic about rock generally, but I wish I still had my copy of Route 666. (Kiss This isn't very good, though.)

Matos W.K., Friday, 14 August 2009 20:03 (5 years ago) Permalink

I am ending my self-imposed retirement from music writing (except for Singles Jukebox) this weekend. I got disgusted with my own bullshit for too long, but I just have too much to say and no one to say it to.

I don't think I'm the best writer nor do I have the best taste in music but I do okay on both fronts. I know I'll never make money writing again but I'm fine with that now, plus I like getting discs in the mail from strange places so there you have it.

Cave17Matt, Friday, 14 August 2009 20:04 (5 years ago) Permalink

Matos OTM upthread about supply/demand

ILX had some huge argument of whether a 6-graf Clark review was any good because [the argument was] that it was just an extended metaphor. And I was just thinking today, how i'd be more likely to read it/care about it if it was a 6-graf metaphor about Green Day or Animal Collective or something that more than 4 people on the earth care about.

Whiney G. Weingarten, Friday, 14 August 2009 20:06 (5 years ago) Permalink


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