Over the last eight months, while finishing a book and doing as little journalism as I liked, I took a long, cool overview of the media and made some changes in my life.
One of them was to think niche. After 15 years of writing a weekly column and 30 of being tied to mass-market newspapers, I felt an urge to speak directly to an expert readership.
Writing for newspapers is great fun and I don’t intend to give up, but there is a sacrifice involved every time you put a piece into a paper that is read on commuter trains. Many of the specifics get lost.
Any name that is not a household one has to be explained at sentence length. Every technicality requires a paragraph – and in that paragraph you need to grip the reader’s eye with extraneous generalities. Compromise comes with the job.
What I wanted was to engage more closely with people who knew what I was on about and needed to know more. So when an opportunity arose to write for folk who come with strings attached – players, teachers, students and dealers in violins, violas, cellos and the lower growlers on double-bass - it chimed perfectly with one of my personal urges.
From March, I shall be opening a conversation with readers of The Strad, a 120-year-old monthly whose 55,000 readers know exactly what they want from a professional journal. More than other music magazines, which cater to people with a general liking for sounds, The Strad is about life on the fiddle – hardcore information for a hard-headed profession. In a parlous economy, players are all too often that last to know what’s really going on.
Contrary to common practice, I shall withhold my column from the internet. This is a closed conversation. The only way you can enter is by buying a physical copy of the Strad or, better still, taking out a subscription.
Where the conversation opens out is on the magazine’s website, http://www.thestrad.com, presently being upgraded. I’m looking forward to getting low down and dirty on the fingerboard. All too often people who write about music gets distanced from the source. One of my plans for the coming year is to reach back into roots, and reconnect.