Life’s a Twitch, Part 3 (The Journalists)

Though many, many more music journalists are on Twitter, these are the people I noticed interacting with the publicists I interviewed the most. Oodles of thanks to  @nightafternight: Steve Smith, New York Times, Time Out New York@anastasiat: Anastasia Tsioulcas, Gramophone, Variety; @gsandow: Greg Sandow, Wall Street Journal, ArtsJournal; and @sethcolterwalls: Seth Colter Walls, Newsweek for their answers.

These interviews were conducted via Telex machine. Just kidding.


How long have you been using Twitter?

@nightafternight: Since April 2009.

@anastasiat: I just went back & checked my profile–since Sept. 8, 2008. Huh. Had no idea it had been that long.

@sethcolterwalls: Since August 2008.

@gsandow: Six to nine months, can’t remember exactly.

Where you motivated by personal or professional reasons?
@nightafternight: The two are largely inextricable in my experience, but personal was probably the initial catalyst.  The short answer is that I was frustrated by my inability to keep my blog updated on a reasonably regular basis, primarily as a result of the promotion and expanded workload I took on at Time Out last August.  I very badly missed having a personal, interactive outlet for thoughts and observations that didn’t necessarily extend from either of my jobs, but wouldn’t necessarily exclude them, either, since they’re a large part of who I am. The long answer is here.

@sethcolterwalls: My last job strongly encouraged that I take the plunge right around the
time I was becoming curious about what was happening on Twitter. So

@anastasiat: Both, honestly.

@gsandow: Motivated by curiosity, and then by professional interests.

Have you even written a feature or review of an artist or concert that was brought to your attention via Twitter?
@nightafternight: Not
that I can think of offhand, no. But I’m absolutely positive that I
have mentioned things on Twitter that led to others taking an interest
and following up on those topics.

@anastasiat: I
don’t think anything has come *directly* out of Twitter as of yet, but
it’s been a good way of tracking live performances, chart position,
newsy bits, fan response, etc..

No, not yet. But just to confirm what Steve said: I definitely learn a
ton from the @nightafternight feed. And I think (slash hope) the same 
sometimes occurs for others with regard to the things I tweet about.
Newsweek multimedia exclusives like Reich’s “Double Sextet” and a Sonic
Youth mashup were both RT’ed a bit. And I’m told Vijay Iyer was a
trending topic for a couple seconds, after I put a stream of his MIA
cover on The Awl.
@gsandow: Well,
I don’t do much journalism these days. But I constantly learn about new
things on Twitter, and meet new people. Example. I saw that a cellist
named Peter Gregson was giving a solo concert at Twitter headquarters.
It was short, of course, and the terrific program (mostly 20th century
and new) could be written in 140 characters. I happened to be online
when the concert took place, and watched the video feed. The guy can
really play, so I DMed him and congratulated him.
That led to
some further messaging. He’s British, happened to be in NY the next
day. We had coffee. Turns out he’s an inspiring musician, in his 20s,
with all kinds of ideas. This past summer he was hired by the BBC Proms
to develop things on their website that younger people would care
about, especially participatory things. He says the % of younger people
in the audience kept rising as the Proms continued. He gives concerts
in specially equipped spaces. The audience can text or tweet comments
while he’s playing, and the comments are displayed on a video screen.
That leads to people talking back and forth about the concert while
it’s going on.
So Peter and I had coffee. The next day, he came
and spoke to my Juilliard class on the future of classical music, where
the students just loved him, and found him inspiring. Two days after
I’d first encountered him on Twitter.

Would you/Do you follow Twitter feeds exclusively of media alerts?
@nightafternight: By
this, do you mean a robotic feed? An anodyne presence like that of the
Met or the Phil? Or an official channel run by an operator with genuine
personality, like the LSO, ECO and Carnegie Hall (at its best)? I
follow all of the above, but I respond best to the last category.

also holds true for artists: Yesterday I signed up to follow one of my
favorite performers, Shakira, then unfollowed literally immediately
because I could see it was nothing but propaganda sound bites from an
outside source. And Napalm Death I couldn’t even bring myself to
follow: The band joined Twitter in February, has racked up some 600
followers, and has tweeted (how I hate using that word) twice. I’d far
rather follow someone sporadic but personable, like Danielle de Niese.

@anastasiat: Absolutely not. (See below.)

@sethcolterwalls: Media alerts? No. But general-audience concert or scheduling alerts? Sure. Those can be helpful

don’t look at Twitter media alerts. I think they’re lame. No
personality. And no information that’s new to me. Not what I’m on
Twitter for. I don’t want to hear that the XYZ Symphony is, yawn,
playing Rachmaninoff. I want to get new ideas. And it happens.

you envision a world in which publicists and journalists will only
interact on Facebook and Twitter, cutting press releases, follow-up e
mails, and phone calls completely out of the mix?
@nightafternight: Not
really, not entirely. Phone calls are still extremely useful for nuance
and detail, I find — and yes, I’m talking about my dealings with
publicists, not the interviews themselves. I don’t foresee a word
without press releases, though I could envision one in which I relied
more on Twitter posts that linked to succinct web press releases,
ideally rich with multimedia content.

If lacking follow-up calls
just means that I’ll be getting unsolicited DMs via a channel I still
view as a precarious mix of public and private, I’m uneasy with that
but could get used to it. The only DMs I actually resent are pitches
that come from people I don’t really know — but the paradox is that no
one can send me a Twitter DM unless I follow them in the first place.
Knowing who to follow is a matter of experience and trust in itself.

we come to an all-Facebook scenario, I am in serious trouble. I am not
now a participant in this particular social-media construct for one
main reason: I reject the use of “friend” as a verb expressing
agreeable contact. I know I’m picking nits; “follow” is not much
better. But “friend” implies a relative interpersonal value judgment
with which I’m deeply, deeply uncomfortable when we are all expected to
navigate the increasingly fine line that is objectivity with due care
and restraint. Believe it or not, that actually means a very great deal
to me, despite the undeniable fact that I count several composers and
artists among my personal friends.

@anastasiat: Oh
good God, no–maybe it’s just in my head, but I feel like that’s
crossing some kind of (invisible, arbitrary) line in the sand. My
policy, as it is right now, is that I won’t accept pitches via FB,
Twitter, or IM. Personally, I really don’t like being confronted all
day long, at random & frequent intervals, with barrages of
information and entreaties to cover something/someone, especially when
I’m writing on deadline, doing an interview, etc. etc. etc. I suppose I
could shut down the feeds/sites, but often I *am* using them to dig up
info myself.

I suppose that’s a matter of personal preference
& time management (ha!) skills, however, and perhaps also partly
attributable to the fact that I cover multiple genres–the number of
publicists’ lists I’m on grows exponentially for that reason.

We’ll still need all those other things, I’m guessing, even if we grow
to depend a bit more on social networking tools. However: can I say I
dislike it when I approve a Facebook friend request from a stranger
(which I generally do, ’cause once you’re there, why not?) and then
immediately find myself bombarded with press releases and invites to
random shows? That’s not fun.
@gsandow: No. Why would that happen? Seems to me we’re developing more ways to communicate, not shutting down old ways.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on Facebook


  1. Paula says

    Personally, I got sick of Facebook. Too many people promoting themselves to their friends. At least with Twitter — it is short. Can’t say I feel the love for Twitter either …but, if you want to find me in Twitland Ms. A here goes: vachon321.

  2. Anna says

    I think Twitter has gone too far, as well. I am sorry, but no one needs to know every single move of every single day. It is yet another venue by which you could lose a job.