Future of music journalism: It’s about the audience (?)

The dozen “music journalism” professionals at yesterday’s Condition Critical panel of the Future of Music Coalition’s three-day long “policy summit” became somewhat divided (at least from my perspective) over the course of a well-attended hour & three-quarters session. At one end of a spectrum of opinion were the old guard — me, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune and Tom Moon, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer — asserting that good music journalism puts the music in context, “illuminates, educates and entertains” its readers and reaches beyond its niche to satisfy those who are not devoted yo but may be curious about a given musical topic. At the other was Raymond Leon Roker of URB/URB.com and Todd Roberts, co-founder of the Daily Swarm, who suggested that success in music journalism comes from amplifying, echoing and reinforcing the interests of the largest attractable audience. I may be drawing this too reductively, but it felt like an argument: developing substantive content vs, ever-better marketing, without much interest in content, using the processes of social media.

I may have misunderstood this panel completely; I was never quite sure what we were supposed to be talking about, or to whom. Moderator Casey Rae-Hunter of FMC, who described himself as a recording engineer who had worked as a music journalist, posted the opening question: “What value do music writers bring to music, when it’s so easy for everybody to hear any music now [via the web]?” Co-moderator Fiona Morgan, formerly a writer/editor for the Independent Weekly serving Raleigh-Durham and now a graduate student at University of North Carolina studying public policy issues regarding journalists, wanted to know “What’s the new business model for music journalism, considering the old one is broken. Who will pay for music journalism in the future?”

Panelists found it much easier to answer Rae-Hunter’s question than Morgan’s. Eliot Van Buskirk, a staff writer at Wired.com, began by suggesting the critic’s role is now more that of a “curator” (current buzz word) than consumer guide; that a crit makes a list of new releases bearing his seal of approval, and flourishes or folds depending on whether he/she is believed or not. Molly Sheridan, of the American Music Center’s New Music Box, agreed that there are more “reactors” commenting on music in digital media than ever before, but that those who are “anti-conventional” have a clear and distinct place, rising above the chatter.
Then Roker proposed that music journalism online is in a “transitional phase” regarding the responsibilities (and compensation) of critics, but that now “the audience is king,” and that websites featuring music criticism must aggregate content, must syndicate content, and must look at what advertisers are doing for themselves in consideration of adopting the same forms of pr to ostensibly “journalistic” structures, because they’re popular. He urged thinking of music journalism as a commodity to be delivered to those who will support it — advertisers — in whatever form they want. Sir: If you’re reading this, have I paraphrased correctly? 
Roberts followed, agreeing that journos bring “point of view” to their postings, that the “consistency” of a point of view gains an audience, and that there is always a possibility of “the smallest blogs can become the biggest blogs.” Apparently this is the experience in indie rock, the music genre the FMC conference seeemed most friendly towards, but it hasn’t happened in jazz, blues, Latin music, classical or contemporary composition, bluegrass — and musical form less vulnerable to the whims of the pop world than those subgenres that splinter off from pop.
I was startled that Mike Riggs, City Desk editor of Washington City Paper, proclaimed “We’re not worth what we’re getting paid” when Twitter is spreading information about new bands and venues better, and that some of us ought to “find something else to do.” I really didn’t get what Scott Plagenhoef, editor-in-chief of Pitchfork, was trying to say about the audiences’ “need for filters” — apparently, music journalists who can separate the chaff of indi rock from the wheat; he and Maura Johnston, editor of Idolator which she described as a one-person shop, seemed to be in agreement about how hard it is to gain rights and work with record labels, especially when their publicists maintain conflicting pr policies  in different territories (i.e., US and Western Europe). ‘Scuse me, but if relations with record labels are at the top of the concerns list, maybe one ought to “find something else to do.”
Johnston did air her hopes for the survival of content that goes beyond paparazzi photos of celebs. She raised the difficulty of a small website “establishing an identity,” and complained when metrics are driving coverage, regardless of the coverage’s “value.” David Malitz, a staff writer for the Washington Post, said his boss sees value in the local listings he compiles more than his occasional articles or blog postings.
It was Moon who chided current (young, indi-rock oriented) music journalists as being “unknowledgable and incurious”, Kot (a 29-year rock critic for the Chicago Tribune) who brought up that the rush for scoops, 24/7 news cycle and increase in must-do tasks for those journalists lucky enough to have staff positions has resulted “getting a lot of the stories wrong.” He was the one who proposed that all reviews must “illuminate, educate and entertain,” and proposed that the way to have a future in writing about music is to do it well, not to suck at it. Pretty much where I come down on the issues, though as a freelancer rather than a staffer I believe that other sustaining work besides writing itself have become a) necessary and b) harder than ever to secure. All we can do is keep trying.
Did these comments respond to the moderator’s questions? Maybe one, not two. Nobody but URB’s Roker touched the biz model question, and he got some heat for his willingness to abandon the traditional firewall between editorial and advertising (though he maintained he’d published no stories that breached conflict-of-interest protections). He and Roberts seemed to be saying music journalists should do what they do because they want to do it, regardless of compensation (during this “transitional phase”). Meanwhile, audience members asked for “big picture dreaming” about what online music coverage could be (I spoke of integrating music, text, video into one “article”), and wondered why wealthy philanthropists did emerge in cities like Boston and Denver to underwrite publications “like newspapers” in the public interest. (“After 25 years of journalism being derided by the prevailing political forces?” I asked back. Doesn’t seem too likely). 
Did I miss something in this discussion? Another audience member questioned privately why there’s no Pitchfork for jazz, or URB. Got me — but it behooves me to take a look and consider what those sites are doing that might attract advertisers and audiences to what we can construe as less fashion-specific musical expression.

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  1. says

    It was nice to meet you, Howard.
    A few responses:
    1.) While I don’t remember exactly how I said it, what I wanted to communicate is that there are many more music journalists in the game than the market will support. I’m sure you’d agree that there’s a lot of objectively bad criticism out there being written by paid music journalists.
    Now that a resident of St. Cloud, Florida, can go online for music news and reviews from all over the country and is no longer bound to her local paper, which has never invested in quality music writers, what’s the better use of money? Unless the paper is missing out on a vibrant arts scene, I’d say the best option is to jettison its mediocre critic(s) and focus on subject areas it can cover more effectively.
    While this kind of thinking will probably contribute to Tom Moon’s frustration with niche writing, we’re beyond theory. There’s a budget and smaller and mid-sized media need to meet it.
    2.) Re Indie rock: There’s much to be learned from the business model for sites that focus on this kind of music, like Idolator, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Fader. I would hope that jazz, too, can benefit from this, but I know the differences between the two genres’ markets are stark in almost every respect, w/r/t number of venues, record sales, the popularity of back catalogs versus output by contemporary artists, etc.
    3.) Re relations with PR people: It’s a legitimate concern, especially with indie rock. Whether we like it or not, there are working journalists who need the traffic that comes from posting free music to supplement the page views they get from serious analysis. It’d be nice if we could all take a principled stand against the shenanigans labels and marketers pull, but even us youngsters want to do whatever we can to stay employed. Even if it means forsaking certain aspects of our legacy.
    HM: I wish instead of lining us up to face the public FMC could have had the music writers explore issues together in a roundtable, so we could actually have time to search for common ground. Re the St. Cloud example — I would have thought in the pre-web days a newspaper in that community might have a part-timer or freelance music writer or staffer who did the occasional local story or recordings roundup as part of other responsibilities. The St. Cloud reader would have had access to music mags so they weren’t limited to local opinion. The writer, if he/she was ambitious and clever, would work local stories which might include covering school band competitions, interviews with visiting bands, etc. — which would train them to be better than mediocre and give them contacts they could use to get assignments from larger publications. There has always been more genuine need for local music reviewers than local movie reviewers, since movies are seldom made locally (nor are tv shows, so local tv reviewers are not necessary, either). The hard-pressed publication today in a small community might have NO arts section, thus really saving $. I suppose the better way to go would be to have an online arts section that encouraged reader-content but was managed by a staffer (who could oversee several art forms’ forums). The alternative to not having local arts writers on staff is to cede the work to local bloggers, who chat with each other about new releases and shows that came to town for fun. This is ok, but it does reflect the demise of local journalism overall, and a community’s aspiration to have a professional platform for well-informed, thoughtful local voices on the arts.
    I spent some time after posting looking at Pitchfork and Idolator. It’s hard for me to imagine the jazz audience getting interested in coverage of the sort on those pages. Jazz.com, JazzCorner.com and AllAboutJazz.com all try to appeal to jazz fans interests, with varying success. But what most distinguishes them from the indie rock sites is the lack of support from a record industry or any other commercial sponsorship. Not only is the jazz demographic different than the indie rock demographic, so is jazz’s commercial support system, which isn’t a system and doesn’t support much of anything.
    One of the reasons that as a 25 year old writing overnight reviews and LP reviews for the Chicago Daily I chose to concentrate more on jazz, blues, the kora player at Northwestern U and the gamelan orchestra at the Field Museum than on rock acts (after assignments including Leon Russell, Toots Hibbert, Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens, the band Chicago, the Ramones and Nick Lowe, among others) was that I didn’t have to fence with publicists as much, and the musicians I spoke with were more down to earth, with something to say. It may have been a wrong turn for me in terms of financial planning, but I’ve never regretted the decision from a social and aesthetic viewpoint. I’m sure there are issues in popular music journalism are necessitate close and diplomatic collaboration with major labels’ pr machines, but it’s a shame that these are time-consuming and news-denying problems. It makes the journalist an adjunct to music-sellers, used to give away “free” the very stuff we’re supposed to be monitoring. What you describe, Mike, is a way to stay employed, but not employed as a reporter or a critic. Analysis doesn’t need to be deep and heavy, but journalism shouldn’t be driven by someone else’s business (I mean a record label’s, or a local venue’s, or a music instrument store’s). Yes, the jazz mags work closely with the major labels such as they survive, and jazz journalists have their issues with pr people, but I don’t think those issues have become as overridingly significant for jazz publications. Maybe it’s that the market is smaller and so there are fewer publicists hired to ride herd and limit access, more who are trying to stir up interest however they can. But working hand-in-glove with the corporations whose product is ostensibly being “covered” is a relationship pop music journals forged long ago and I believe it has hampered pop music coverage from being all it could be. Consider sports writers — do they treat athletes with attitudes directed by team owners? Well, the die is cast for pop journalism, it is what it is and it’s nice there are people employed, youngsters or not. I’m sure the trivialization of one’s mission — to write about music — must rankle. As we get older (how did that happen?) we do what’s most important to us, each individually. I favor investigation of pop culture over its glorification. To glamorize the fleetingly glamorous is somebody else’s job, which pays better than mine. But at least my time and my sentiments are my own. I’m glad I’m not a news photographer allowed to photograph a concert performance only from the stage pit, and only in the first three minutes of an hour-plus show.

  2. says

    I just read Greg Kot’s Book, “Ripped”. I think he started well, and I am sure that he thinks he continued and finished well. But as he went, he picked specific popular music bands to discuss. If he had stayed with his original more general premise, the book could have been really interesting, what with the shift to web streaming audio and .mp3 music downloads being experienced in all genres.
    My review is at Amazon.

  3. says

    Hi — Just wanted to point out that the discussion of dealing with labels and publicists was in the context of the “blue sky” portion of the discussion, in which we were discussing the potential for streaming audio, video, and the like in the context of music journalism. And the reality is that if you don’t play nice with the business side on the occasions that you do host multimedia on your site, legal action will come down — especially now, when people in the music business are looking under the proverbial couches trying to find money anywhere they can. (Trust me when I say that most of them, from majors to indies, don’t really buy the “fair use” argument that was floated when you were discussing the multimedia innovations you saw at USC last week.) Suggesting that one go into “another line of work” simply because one is cognizant of the music-business absurdities they have to deal with in order to richly cover the music they’re interested in covering seems to me both outrageously flip and unrealistic about the current realities of music-related Web sites as businesses. Which, like it or not, are a concern if one wants to eat and continue to do this as their primary job.
    (And Mike, I don’t really think that Idolator is an “indie” blog! But that’s another discussion for another time.)
    HM: Thanks for your note, Maura. If music biz cooperation is what’s driving readers to your site, fine — cooperate, collaborate, whatever you have to do to get that traffic. I’m sure you’re working at least as hard as covering the music you like richly, and that’s the point of what we as music journalists want to do, as I know you agree with, from what you write. If the traffic is only coming to visit yr site because of what the labels are providing after much negotiation, why even bother to write? Just give the visitors what they want, that content from the labels. But then it seems to me you already are in a different business. The record labels used to call it public relations and pay well for it. It seems to me one can “richly cover” music one likes without much contact with record companies, although — full disclosure — most of the music I write about I either pay no cover charge or ticket price to attend, or receive as cds and downloads for free. I have also accepted transportation and lodging from festivals I’ve covered, either having gotten an assignment from a publication that will not pay those expenses, or working with the fests to provide enhancement programs such as panel discussions, etc. For all this I thank publicists, venue operators and music producers — but not by affording the music any special merit just ’cause I received it. And I’m not implying you do anything different. Good luck and stay focused!

  4. Alex Lemski says

    All the arguments and rhetoric such as above about context, how Jazz can “benefit” from other genres and experiences, it comes down to the same ol’ divide or better stated, opposition to Jazz since I can remember: Jazz cannot be “successful” unless Capitalism/Conservatism takes control – compromise your ass off and Jazz will turn into the super star the industry wants us to be (to collect the profits), and the hell with the art, history and creativity that we want the public to listen to, learn about, not cave into an industry common denominator…

  5. Fiona Morgan says

    The panel discussion felt like only a starting point to dig into very complex issues, which is why it’s so great that you’ve written such a thoughtful summary and offered a forum here to keep the discussion going.
    In retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me that the question about business models wasn’t the one writers most wanted to talk about, nor does it surprise me that the most direct response to that question generated the most heated exchanges.
    If anyone is interested in learning more about some of the alternate business models being tried during this great transition we’re in, I recommend checking out this report from a nonprofit media conference at Duke’s DeWitt Wallace Center on Media and Democracy from last year. Of particular interest is this paper (PDF) on the “L3C” model, a hybrid non-profit/for-profit model that I think has a lot of potential for journalism. (This lead me to one small correction: I’m at Duke, not UNC.)
    HM: Thanks Fiona for your comment and correction (Duke!). One of my frustrations with panels in general has been that there is little followup, though we all understand the panels to be only the beginnings of discussions. If we are convened and state our positions and expose our disagreements, why don’t we then form a online group that can continue to hash out the issues? Whose responsibility would that be? How do we take what’s happened at diverse conferences and aggregate the info so we can carry on and get somewhere? These are of course questions that don’t have immediate answers, but I hope such continuing forums could emerge.

  6. sam stephenson says

    Howard, many kudos to you for publishing this debate on your blog, and engaging so deeply in the matter in the first place.
    I don’t think I have any answers, but I feel that jazz has an opportunity not by attempting to replicate the alt-rock models but perhaps by tapping into the existing alt-rock infrastructure – Pitchfork and successful labels like Merge. I believe this is a potential bonanza for both sides.
    Radiohead, Wilco, Sonic Youth, even metal groups like Mastodon and Mars Volta – have been using elements of jazz on a basis that seems to be increasing, not to mention jam bands like Derek Trucks.
    I believe if you took the audiences for these bands and put, say, John Ellis and Doublewide, or the Strickland brothers, or even the Branford Marsalis Quartet (with its hip new 18 year old drummer) in front of these audiences, they’d get off on the music, and then buy some recordings. BMQ is one of the jazz groups that doesn’t hurt for audience, but there’s never been a more violent collision between an artist and his audience than the current BMQ and fans who pay to see them perform. Put BMQ in front of an alt-rock audience and the place would be on fire, I believe.
    It’s like two singles being across the bar from each other – in separate parties, having no idea the other exists – and potential is there for a wonderful 50 year relationship with fun and growth and learning.
    How to achieve this overlap? I have no idea. There are economic issues and marketing issues that seem too daunting to overcome.
    HM: I agree that alt.rock audiences seem likely to be open the music of a large swathe of current jazz artists. I guess it requires the alt.rock and indie rock bands to suggest some of the jazz groups — and jazz aficionados could name a couple dozen likely candidates, if asked — perform on the same stage with them. Or for a visionary producer to put on shows crossing genres. I have no idea why this doesn’t happen with some frequency. Anyone reading this from booking agencies know what the problem is/obstacles are?

  7. Mickey Horwitz says

    I like the idea of exposing one audience to lots of different music genres. Of course, there was a fabulous TV show back in the 1980’s that did just that. “Night Music”, hosted by Dave Sanborn, made it possible to see and hear jazz, rock, folk and country all in one sitting. Nowhere else would you find Betty Carter and John Sebastian performing on the same stage in one evening. Or Sonny Rollins doing a long solo improvisation, followed directly by Lou Reed.
    Unfortunately, NBC didn’t have much faith in the show and it was relagated to 11:30 p.m. on Sunday nights. I believe it lasted two seasons.
    Wouldn’t it be great if this kind of mixing-it-up in live performance were encouraged and promoted? Well, the media companies and the record companies have become more short-sighted than ever. If it doesn’t fit into a little box they can slap a label on and sell to the lowest common denominator, it doesn’t get done.
    As for music journalism, there just isn’t much of value that emanates from the larger media. When I look in my one remaining local newspaper in Seattle (whether the print or online edition) there is little jazz being covered. When it is, it’s a review of a show. New recordings are not reviewed, and there is certainly no intelligent critique. The Earshot Jazz Festival is starting here next week and the performances will, undoubtedly, be worthwhile. They usually are. But even Earshot’s newsletter is filled only with reviews rather than critiques, probably because the promoter of the festival cannot be expected to publicly judge the work of its visiting performers. So who will do it? Who has both the qualifications and the confidence? No one in Seattle, that’s for damn sure.
    HM: Paul deBarros, one of the colleagues I esteem most, has been a steady chronicler of the Seattle scene for many years. I think he’s completing a biography of Marian McPartland, but otherwise know he would be on top of Earshot, which by the way he was instrumental in founding years ago (the kind of connection & history which does sometimes make things like this a bit of a conflict of interests. . . . )
    I remember Night Music, still have a few of the episodes on vhs, and I think it was Branford Marsalis with whom Betty Carter jammed, while Sonny Rollins took his great solo in the midst of a Leonard Cohen song. But yeah, we need more like that. Miles electric on Sat. Night Live. Sun Ra. Rahsaan storming was it Dick Cavett’s show? Etc. Jazz on tv, jazz in the clubs, jazz on the radio — all to get to the real jazz, the jazz beyond jazz, the stuff people really want and need (Ok, it’s a late night, I’ve been at a party. . . )

  8. says

    Howard, you wrote:
    “He and Roberts seemed to be saying music journalists should do what they do because they want to do it, regardless of compensation (during this “transitional phase”).”
    This is something we musicians hear more and more of as well.
    HM: Hi Samm — yeah, that’s what I heard and have been hearing from other sources, too. However that’s not the deal most of us made with our profession when we entered it, which may or may not be different than most musicians, I don’t know.
    Like my buddy Francis Davis once said, “Most jazz critics aren’t frustrated musicians, they’re frustrated novelists.” For me 35 years ago journalism seemed a more secure choice of how to express my writing impulses than fiction. I love music and enjoyed turning readers on to music they hadn’t heard of before, and figured I could learn a lot about life and about writing by doing journalism on a professional scale that would pay for a modest lifestyle. I might instead have pursued fiction-writing while supporting myself until a breakthrough with non-writing jobs that didn’t demand intellectual commitment. Over the course of a longtime writing, my professional pursuits have limited my non-pro writing, though I still do it; in the meantime I’m completely identified with my journalistic work and have earned some gratifying regard for it (and the effort it takes to keep going backseats my efforts to publish anything else). Now some publishers are urging I turn my pro pursuits into pro bono work. I can do that, or ignore those publishers and find my own method of publishing my journalistic work, or abandon journalism completely and decide to just launch (finally!) my ambitions for other writing to support me. Though that market ain’t any better than it’s ever been, the journalistic market is significantly worse than it has been.
    The comparision to musicians’ situations is thus: You’re a creative musician and either decide to a) play only creative music or b) play creative music but play music that makes you enough $ to live on, whether in theater pit bands, jingle sessions, compromise gigs. Now the pit bands, jingle producers and collaborations you’re willing to serve ask you to do that work for free until the market gets it together to support them financially again. Do you say hell no, or ok?
    Musicians say hell no; we’ll play, which we love to do, but for no $ we may as well play only what we want to, not service gigs. And playing live is an end in itself — a performance that can be offered to anyone in earshot with no action beyond playing the instrument. Though a performance is more likely to get good audiences in good presentation circumstances, typically provided by producers or presenters, musicians can go play what they want on the streets or subway platforms or rent parties and take donations.
    Writers can also say hell no, we’ll write what we want, but writers still need to publish what they’re writing somewhere, somehow. The equivalent of playing on the street is self-publishing, which requires not just doing the writing (“playing”) but the extra job of printing up the writing or building a website to feature it and amplify that the writing is available. Readers aren’t just going to stumble into “public” writing, like what they read and donate, nor are readers accustomed to taking even slightly seriously writing hawked by the writers themselves in public spaces. Publishing on the web offers no income stream, nor is it a successful teaser for some other monetarily rewarded work (as MP3 samples on a Myspace page are teasers for the musicians’ paying gigs). A lot of writers are producing writing for free, because we love to (this blog, for instance). And I personally have always thought, ‘Ok, the musicians work like this, I can, too.’ But there is a breakdown since writing isn’t performance and writers aren’t paid much, often or regularly to read their works, to make their work a performance.
    Why don’t the publishers do what they love — publishing — for free? They’ll say they have overhead — and the new online publishers may be publishing with a financial loss, but they do that intending to establish their publications as viable for revenue streams. The writers, like the musicians, aren’t writing with the intention of someday being able to attract income — they’re doing it for the now; later, income-attracting writing will be another writing activity entirely. And will still need publishers or self-publishing to monetize the activity. Publishers may tell us down the line that web publishing is still in transition re income streams; there is no clear business model we’re transitioning towards. But until they get their model together, writers are stuck — yes, like musicians stuck without record companies or welcoming venues. You’re not going to work for a venue for free while it gets its business model together, and I’m not going to write for such publications. Doing the blog at least I have total control and am prey only to those market forces I embrace, not those I serve at a publishers behest.
    I don’t know how other writers consider their free writing; there are several jazz publications, hard-copy and online, that do not pay their writers yet the writers keep writing. Good luck to us all.

  9. says

    I hear you Howard: “…that’s not the deal most of us made with our profession when we entered it”. Seems our deals have been rendered invalid. They’ve reneged on us!
    Thanks for your thoughtful and lucid comment. Though I see what you mean about some of the differences between pro musicians and pro writers, there is a good deal of common ground between us, here in this gaddam “transitional phase” (wish it’d go ahead and TRANSIT, fer christsake, so we can get on with whatever’s supposed to happen next).

  10. says

    So the things that still baffle me, a week after this conference, are:
    The business model questions seem fairly unresolvable, at least in a roomful of yammering journalists. Howard’s nicely drawn analogy above, re: similarities of experience for musicians and critics, pretty much nails the ground-zero level of the debate. We spent time well about that level, though. Brains far bigger than mine will have to figure this stuff out.
    Still, the sorta overarching questions about the work of the critic and the value of criticism remain: Does the critic simply act as a watchdog/sentry for the audience (“Buy This! Avoid That”), or also aspire to speak, occasionally, to the art itself? I’m reminded of the arrival of Nirvana: At that time, many critics (myself included) were inspired to write about the band in connection with all that had become trite and packaged about rock and roll. To me, this is a huge difference between the critic and the blogger — the sharp critics get at the specific issues raised by a work, and also take a longer view of the entire artform.
    not to overlook the experience of having heard a ton of music, being able to draw connections between things, etc. and, equally importantly, the discipline of listening to and evaluating things that aren’t one’s personal taste. this is huge: the fanboy bloggers write on mostly what’s in their wheelhouse. the professional critic, the good one anyway, is tasked to investigate many disparate things from different realms. one becomes a different listener by doing this.
    I believe the above is important for several reasons — it’s vital to the education and development of more discerning listeners. that’s part of the role of a critic, too.
    in earlier times, there existed a kind of protracted conversation between the artist and the critic (and, by extension, the audience). out of that came all kinds of interesting reactions to art and then an artist’s responses to those reactions. the artist actually sometimes learned from his or her press. now that rarely happens. the artist wisely does not trust his/her arbitors. can’t trust them — they haven’t earned the trust by tackling the work in a journalistically responsible fashion. as a result, there’s little informed or nuanced discussion about a work or an artist’s overall contribution. there’s no challenging the assumptions, very little back and forth — the artist increasingly works in the dreaded “vacuum.” and the audience doesn’t benefit from reading/witnessing this ongoing exchange. result: the art stagnates, or evolves more fitfully. the audience becomes less engaged, and over time becomes less equipped to encounter the new and the provocative, etc….
    OK, sorry to go at such length. And thanks.
    HM: Thanks for your comment, Tom. Personally I don’t see why a blogger can’t do what you suggest a critic does — it’s just than most of us (them) don’t. What’s distressing to me is that the websites promoting music journalism on the panel didn’t seem to want their bloggers to dig deep, either; that’s not part of the way those sites present blog writing.
    In other words, maybe I’m using this blog format all wrong, writing in depth and length and making broad connections or covering stories as if they’re “news” too frequently (I’ve been told this). But I go on at length because the space is available and if I’m going to use the time/energy to write I’d rather it be something I can hope is substantial. If I used this artsjournal.com space just to say Yay or Nay about cds and shows, I’d feel it is a lost opportunity and that I wouldn’t attract readers who want something more than just consumer guidance; I wouldn’t be using skills and approaches I’ve developed, my stock-in-trade presumably distinguishing my work from that of others. Then too, if I had print assignments for those stories I cover in depth and length then I might not put them here, or have time to do more than make a stab at hanging some quick opinions out as my blog content.
    So I conclude it’s not the blog format that works against good music journalism, it’s maybe the online market for good music journalism that scoffs at that kind of music journalism — determined by our online music journalism consumer, or so the online music journalism publishers say and then make a self-fulfilling prophecy by encouraging little beyond the focused coverage that they post.

  11. says

    Let’s start an online discussion group, then. Who’s in?
    HM: Set it up, Casey, and I’ll promote it to members of the Jazz Journalists Assoc., Rap and Rock Confidential and the Music Critics Assn. of North America, for starters.

  12. says

    Thank you for sharing the blog on twitter, which brought me over here. First time I took a look. Beautiful writing. I need to read you more.
    HM: Thanks Carol — I’ll take this opportunity, as well, to admire the jazz writings of your late brother Richard Sudhalter.