Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do I Sound Like This?

(Video from the Village Voice. Link courtesy of Ben Johnson.)

Eh... maybe not. My speaking voice is much more lovely.

Update: First of all, I'd like to apologize for the fact that this video plays without prompting as soon as the page loads. I'm aware this is the reason we all left MySpace for Facebook. If it didn't think it was important (or at least pertinent) viewing for most of you, I'd consider removing this post entirely.

Secondly, I wanted to add some of my thoughts regarding Chris Weingarten's opinions of online music journalism and criticism. I would have liked to have done so when I first posted the video a few days ago but outside (read: real world) forces prevented this from happening. I went ahead and posted it anyway sans any of my commentary because a) I found it exceptionally compelling and wanted to share it as quickly as possible and b) I'm very much aware of the culture of "firsties" and I had the mild fear that within a few days this video would be exhausted and irrelevant.

In any case, Weingarten (who I confess, I've never read) makes many points that I myself have made in this space on more than one occasion. It's heartening to hear someone else call bullshit on the "hive mind" blog culture, especially when done as in depth and and colorfully as Weingarten does it: "It doesn't matter what someone writes next to the MP3" and "It's not how you best illustrate a keyword, it's how many times a day you can mention a keyword." Right fucking on.

While I largely agree with most of what Weingarten is saying here, I do have a major point of contention. He seems to claim that pre-internet music magazines were inherently superior to blogs. I won't deny that editorial standards were certainly higher ("some" as opposed to "non-existent") but Weingarten is making what more or less amounts to an argument for elitism and cultural hegemony.

Frankly, major music publications aren't and have never been better at exposing their readers to worthy music than blogs currently are. Take Weingarten's employers at Rolling Stone, who their former writer Richard Meltzer claimed "INVENTED the rock 'n' roll puff piece:"
Rolling Stone in the '70s was, as it remains today, a TRADE PAPER, a record industry HYPE SHEET, a promulgator of mass compliance in the Consumer Sector, a principal factor in the dumbing, maiming, and calming down of the public's taste for a rock-roll beast that had once indeed been not only wild & crazy but GENUINELY ANARCHIC.
That might be a little harsh or considered sour grapes but even a cursory look at RS's history will tell you that they were much more interested in James Taylors and John Cougar Mellencamps than Stooges or Minutemen. And it's not exactly like their non-music pop culture coverage is a recent phenomenon.

My problem with most music blogs is not that they are "lowest common denominator" as opposed to "legitimate" music coverage, but that they follow the trade paper/hype sheet format. It's a sad betrayal of the potential of 21st century communication.

I suppose the utopian ideal is something like thousands of digital fanzines, each reflecting the unique taste and ideas of their respective authors, created with ease and accessible to literally anyone in the world. In other words, individual expression instead of algorithmic-derived groupthink. It's an unfortunate fact that most major music blogs are utterly informed by music biz publicists. Thus, the prospect of free, unfettered exchange of ideas has been co-opted by the mechanisms of industry. Perhaps the internet did cause the death the mainstream but really the major differences are that niche taste (including Weingarten's unkillable indie rock) is much more susceptible to the above process and no one's getting paid.

One has to wonder if Weingarten finds irony in the fact that his video deriding art as meme may well become a meme itself. I suspect he'll find it just as ironic as I do every time I use my music blog to express my disgust with music blogs.

I wrote that I had never read Weingarten but it turns out this isn't true. He is the creator of Hipster Puppies. So he already knows exactly what it's like to be a meme.


J said...

every year, this guy does this.

PB said...

Well, he did it last year at the very least. It's a message worth repeating.

I wanted to write a bit of a rebuttal/commentary for his speech but alas the day job was pretty hectic yesterday. I still might, ex post facto.

Brushback said...

People keep telling me that this guy's making some good points and whatever, but no matter how many times I try to watch this thing I can't help thinking that this guy is just a massive fag.

Brushback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brushback said...

Great, stupid Blogger double-posted me. Maybe the guy is right. Blogs suck.

PB said...

Well, if you're going to double post something, it might as well have a homophobic slur.

Brushback said...

A massive irritant?

MTS said...

Frankly, major music publications aren't and have never been better at exposing their readers to worthy music than blogs currently are.

Eh, that's not quite true. Remember that publications devoted to rock/popular music only arose in the late 1960s -- I'm thinking particularly of Crawdaddy!, Bomp, and early RS. The methods of communication available at that time were not as sophisticated as what we've got now, and so they were doing a good job of exposing people to music and ideas. I wrote a paper for one of my courses about how these early publications were responsible for constructing the model of music journalism over the past and current century. Not much has changed, really.