So you want to be in a rock band?: Is music journalism a good career move?
To me, it seems rather obvious that a big part of the problem comes from the fact that music journalists are NOT musicians, have NEVER been musicians, nor is having any musical background a prerequisite to getting hired. It’s one thing to be appointed the position of music journalist for being a decent writer, but knowing your field of so-called expertise, in my opinion, is a must. Additionally, in many cases, the writing isn’t even all that superb. Filled with grammatical mistakes, and a limited vocabulary, the average CD review that a band presently receives rarely even utilizes necessary terms from the musical lexicon. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, well how did it even get to this point?
A major contributing factor, which will surely come as no surprise, is the Internet. A vast majority of online music ‘zines expect their writers to work pro-bono, and as one can imagine, if you’re doing something for free, you likely won’t put as much effort into it. Unfortunately the result for the reader is misinformation.
Traditional print magazines like Rolling Stone, Chart and Alternative Press do manage to maintain higher standards, but only at the expense of being highly selective in terms of what goes to print. Because the music industry is so oversaturated, and all musicians are vying for attention, traditional high standing magazines generally can only provide exposure to well-established bands leaving a void for indie artists. This void, unfortunately for us, is being filled by anyone who has amateur website designing skills, and “thinks” that they know something about music. In fact, credence to what I’m saying is illustrated best in the example of Metal Sanaz.
Metal Sanaz is an Iranian-born “music journalist,” specializing in the genre of metal, who largely owes her recent success and notoriety to the advent of Myspace. With absolutely no journalistic training, and her only experience relating to the industry being the fact that she is a “huge fan” (it also helps that she’s hot), she has managed to secure interviews with some of the industry’s biggest names in metal including: Gwar, Dave Navarro, Arch Enemy & Atreyu. I personally have nothing against this woman, nor do I want my comments to be interpreted as jealously or cattiness, but from a music journalism perspective, people like her are contributing to the problem; to say it bluntly, her interview skills are pathetic. For the vast majority of the video clips she has listed on her website, the conversations are dominated by the artists, and her questions lack any sense of thoughtful-provocation or direction. Irrespective of this, her popularity continues to rage on, and in fact, she was recently selected to be a special guest co-host along with Carlos Mencia as part of an Operation Myspace Exclusive concert in Kuwait. I guess one could interpret her success as being due to her ability to bring music back to the people, which is commendable, but that, I’ll leave up to you to decide.
However, this is not to say that everyone’s getting it wrong. In fact, there are some music journalists out there doing more than their share, but consider this: a great deal of them were musicians themselves in another life prior to their journalistic endeavours. Among those giving lifeblood back to the music journalism industry are Canada’s own Kevin Young and George Stroumboulopoulos, as well as former frontman of Black Flag, Henry Rollins, with whom I will be speaking next week in an exclusive interview.
So what do I propose as a solution? Like those mentioned as well as myself, I think it’s not only necessary, but I feel it’s our duty to tell it how it actually is. Continuing with our theme of alternative sources of revenue for musicians, I think music journalism is by far the most rewarding among the other avenues we’ve been discussing. Not only can journalism jobs pay generously, but as well, it is personally fulfilling to know that you are contributing to your industry in such a meaningful way.
I just hope that if music is really what you want, that you know exactly how the biz works. It’s been a long time since talent was the determining factor in the success of bands.
Next Week: ‘Here it From the Pros’ Featurette Launch: An Exclusive Interview with Henry Rollins.