Contemplating the current life of music magazines

Almost Famous

An interesting piece was published on Slate recently, as pointed out by the Canadian Mags blog.

Slate music nerd Jonah Weiner had a few points to say about the music journalism biz (you know, the one that kind of sort of okay not really keeps me going money-wise, yet I still love it). Weiner brings up what he thinks are the top three points as to why the industry is sitting under Death’s ass.

1. There are fewer superstars, and the same musicians show up on every magazine cover. Not even musicians – does anyone remember last year when Obama was featured on Rolling Stone quite a few times? Yea, yea RS might have changed to be a pop culture magazine from its die-hard hard rock past, but still, if you’re not a tabloid, what’s the point? But I do completely agree with Weiner on this one about fewer superstars. Especially in the independent music scene, we all have a different favourite band every other minute – we don’t leave time for someone to get big enough if five others aren’t just as big. When we’re old and wrinkled and we give our album collections to our grandchildren, what are we going to say to them? “Back then ArcadeFire  BrokenSocialScene TheShins Beck GirlTalk Japandroids LCDSoundsystem MotherMother were the best band EVER.”

(Sidenote: on the Slate piece, under this headline was an ad for aging with a picture of Madonna. I thought that was worth mentioning.)

2. Music mags have less to offer music lovers, and music lovers need them less than ever anyway. This is why magazines like Chart have unfortunately ceased their printed publication already in Canada. We only have so many sources. When I started my internship at Chart in the beginning of 08, I realized how much more dependant they were on the website, ChartAttack. Every day I produced tons of new news content with the editors, and I realized this is where they were gaining their readers. Their publication was geared more towards popular Canadian music, while the website has always remained a melting pot. And these days as I do my own thing here and write for Exclaim and some other sources including Chart, I always second guess myself. “Why would the obsessives of these artists read this? Don’t they already know more than me?” And this is what makes me better at my job – this is what pushes me. What can I offer to the music lovers?

But the thing is – we’re all music lovers. That’s why the ones remaining still somewhat stand. We do this because we love it, and we know we won’t get paid, but it doesn’t matter. We’re all in the same situation. Our writing really could just be conversation.

3. Music magazines were an early version of social networking. But now there’s this thing called “social networking” …. Too true. I didn’t fully decipher this term until a few weeks ago when I realized what I’m doing right now is exactly that. Twitter. Blogging. Linking to anything, really. I say I like a story like this, there you go. That’s all there is to it. Somebody else knows about it. Remember in Almost Famous when William met just about everyone because he was working on one story? That stuff still happens, but in much lesser doses. But Weiner mentions something I don’t approve of – how it’s been the tradition of music magazines to speak in a critic language that fans will sort of get but not really, so that we can seem like we are at the top. We used to be. Now we’re on par, or at least almost there. (It depends who you’re talking to, I guess.) Anyways, this is why I like writing my reviews in a way that everyone will understand. More of my friends don’t listen to the music I listen to, and that makes me want to write in a more general aspect, so that if maybe you don’t listen to this kind of music often – maybe I can help you find an artist to listen to this way. That little thing would make my day.

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I will always love music magazines, and I hope they stay around for a while (not only because I still would like to have some sort of music writing job, but because I still love reading them.) You can read more on my music mag love on an older RoundLetters entry here.

So, what do you think? I’m tired of spending my days thinking of the gloom and doom of this business or just journalism as a whole. I want to hear what you think. Do you think I have a future? (I mean, the business….)

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One thought on “Contemplating the current life of music magazines

  1. New York Magazine’s Vulture wrote an interesting response to this:
    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2009/07/why_are_
    all_the_music_magazine.html

    Music mags are an old hype-machine for a new product, I think. That said, I’d pay a hefty price for a quarterly with long-form celebrity profiles, and New Yorker style reviews… but I doubt anyone else would.

    At least we have Pitchfork, right? RIGHT?!

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