A response to CBC Radio 3’s Extended Play podcast “Do music bloggers have all the power?”

Today I finished listening to Lisa Christiansen‘s new podcast, CBC Radio 3’s Extended Play, about music bloggers. Titled “Do music bloggers have all the power?,” Christiansen talks to Carl Wilson of The Globe and Mail, the guys from Yukon Blonde and a West Coast blogger Brenda Lee.

I have a few things that I would like to point out as a response.

This is a very good podcast episode, one that manages to talk to three very capable subjects and bring up some current questions. It does kind of state the obvious, but I think that this would be something helpful to listen to for people who don’t know so much about this.

But I don’t think that music bloggers have ALL the power. Not yet. I think that someday it will come, but to say that bloggers have everyone’s attention and have the final say in things is not true. And this is coming from me, and I run a music blog! I think there’s a long way to go though, and if the bloggers are going to have the power, they need to know what to do with it. I think that most people who are really into the music scene do look to the internet. And though a lot of music critics have lost their jobs at other mediums of information, there are still a ton left. They are still there for a reason.

Music blogs run a very, very fine line between fan critiques and PR. I am aware that my blog does this, but I like to think that my work as a music critic is able to get past that. I am a critic when I am a critic, and I am a blogger when I am a blogger. But I think that music bloggers, if they are going to somehow take over the role as a music critic, then they have to adapt the core qualities. Good or bad music?

This podcast implies that being that source of PR is so great and powerful. But that’s just it. I don’t exactly want to think of myself as PR. I want to inform my readers who is worth listening to and why, I don’t want to assault you with “OMG SO GREAT”s. And even if I do, or if you do, you have to show WHY it is so good.

Christiansen brings up this exact point, “Where is that line between fan and critic?” Wilson explained his answer perfectly — writing for the Globe has a larger impact on a wider group of people, but his blog writing has a more intense impact on his blog readers, the people who know exactly what he’s talking about. I agree.

But Wilson said that every fan is operating as a critic, whereas Lee says that she would definitely not think of herself as a critic, because why put bad things out there about bands she doesn’t like?

This is where I think that we all can do a bit more work. I have spent a school year’s worth of time researching and writing an article for the Ryerson Review of Journalism about music criticism in Canadian newspapers, and how they aren’t very critical anymore. I didn’t get to focus on the blogs in my story, which is unfortunate, but that’s a whole story within itself. I think there’s a huge weight on us music bloggers to show our readers what is good and what’s not. I may not have an equal feed of positive and negative, but I do work to show negatives sometimes. I think music bloggers should. I don’t want to be thinking that we are just totally free PR. Musicians get cocky about this. It also takes away from the PR people’s jobs.

If music bloggers are going to be thought of as press now, they should be balanced press.

When Christiansen visited Lee at her apartment, she takes a look around at her musical memorabilia and says “these artists should be kissing your feet.” What do you think of this? I think it’s a little strange.. yes, I do like to think that we do a lot for the music community (because we do) but it just feels like…being some fanatic street team. Lee even says to PR agents “if you don’t work well, then the free bloggers will take you over.”

I’m not saying that Wilson and Lee don’t do their jobs well, because they do. But I want to know if you read music blogs because you want researched criticism or writing that shows how much the blogger loves what they’re writing about.

The part at the end is a little concerning, as Christiansen says “Is a music blogger a journalist? Or what is a journalist? Is a music journalist different from another journalist? At the end of the day, it’s where you go to find out your music choices, or who is going to make them for you. Is it important to you that your music critic has been listening to music for the past 20 or 30 years and can site a million albums that you know of? Or is it more important to you to find a music fan like yourself who is going out to shows and has an ability to write about it?”

** Update ** I think that Lee made it clear that she doesn’t think of herself as a critic or a journalist. I think any blog who is similar should do that as well. Lee made a blog for music fans like her, so that they could communicate over things they had in common about music. Music journalism, music criticism, is very different than being a blogger. I think a flaw of this podcast is that it doesn’t make that clear — it seems to lump it all together, saying that they are the same. They are not, and again, I think it will be quite some time until they are. *update over*

What do you think about this? It’s frustrating to me only because I don’t think that music bloggers are journalists. (If anything close, citizen journalists, but that’s another story.) Unless you’re going out there to interview people and tell a story, then you’re just a blogger. I think all music journalists are different and the same as one another in certain aspects.

She also says that music is really all about “following the words or someone who has just experienced music for the first time.” Is it? Really? I guess for her. But music has a different meaning for everyone.

As I said before, this podcast is good, and it does talk to some interesting people, able to show three different sectors of this issue easily. I think that it was an informative listen, especially to know where other people think this is all going besides myself. This hits me in a different way than most, though, as I am both a journalist and a blogger. But I think soon they will start to merge into one, and more journalists and bloggers need to be conscious of that. The part that frustrates me is that bloggers are just this extra-happy free sense of ego-boosting. It’s true in most cases, I just wish it wasn’t.

Sorry for my ramblings, if they seem unclear, but I really wanted to talk about this subject to you. As a blogger, I love getting music news out to you to have immediately if you love the subject in the post. As a journalist, I love writing stories that might make an impact on you or the music community, I love going out to interview people about their involvement, I love showing people ways to make things better. I love what I do, and i appreciate everyone else who does it too. I think it’s a great job to have, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Maybe I’m just ashamed of some of the writings I’ve done, but now I realize I need to work a bit harder at my postings here.

I think this should be a discussion, so please let me know what you think in the comments!

**update 2** My article on music criticism in Canadian newspapers is now online. **update over**

To download the podcast, go here.

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One thought on “A response to CBC Radio 3’s Extended Play podcast “Do music bloggers have all the power?”

  1. Hey Jessica,

    I just stumbled upon this while googling for this podcast episode (updating my CV, y’know). I wish I had read this earlier, except now with my current perspective, I’ve seen my role as “music blogger” change and morph into something pseudo-journalistic, in terms of your definition. I’ve done several interviews and feature pieces, and have the opportunity to do many more if I had the time to dedicate to them. If your conception of the division between journalism/blogging is that kind of specialized content, I think it’s quickly becoming a non-issue, except perhaps the ease of a well-known publication versus a smaller blog in getting artists’ time.

    In terms of criticism, there are music critics in both journalism and the blogosphere. I don’t think music criticism in itself is a medium but rather an approach to content. My approach on blogging is to emphasize on what I enjoy and to avoid giving publicity, positive or negative, to bands that I don’t give the time of day. But I will analyze and discuss the themes and content of albums I deem to be “good.” Criticism addresses both the good and the bad. So perhaps the difference is between degrees of filter for content and not necessarily in kind.

    And I’m sure that economic factors are in play; journalists have to create more content, about music you like and dislike, because it’s your bread and butter. Bloggers generally are not doing it for financial gain (whether for superfandom or ego-boosts or whatever else is not relevant), and the trade-off is time dedicated and often, quality of writing.

    and I was totally being facetious about bloggers taking over the roles of PR. They send us the press releases… 🙂

    Cheers!
    Brenda

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