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The Rockologist On Internet Music Journalism And The Character Of My Content

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In Seattle this week, we lost a local journalism institution when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stopped the presses for good. The P-I was one of our two daily newspapers, and the other one — the Seattle Times — is also reportedly in financial trouble.

I knew the rock critics at both papers. Patrick MacDonald — wily old veteran that he was — got out a few months ago when he announced his retirement from the Times after decades of covering everyone from Hendrix to Nirvana. MacDonald no doubt smelled the writing on the wall, and decided to get out while the getting was good.

As for Gene Stout at the P-I — well, I'm not sure what ol' Gene is gonna' do. I always liked Gene though. When I was working in the record business in L.A., he once stayed at my apartment in Burbank, and we went to see a comedy show featuring the guy who used to play the bartender on the Love Boat. Gene himself was always a genuinely likable and funny guy. He used to refer to beer for example as a "meal in a mug." Definitely my kind of guy.

Word is that Gene's old paper the P-I will be trying things out as an exclusively online publication. And this, to be honest, has really got me worried on a couple of fronts. You see, much as I love the internet — and don't get me wrong, I do love the internet — I have also seen the damage it has done to two institutions I happen to love very much — music and journalism.

It doesn't take a genius to see what the internet has done to the music business. While downloading has made music instantly accessible to everyone — and in the process of doing so turned every old-school record industry marketing apparatus on its ear — it has also done so at the expense of both sound quality and, subsequently, artistic vitality.

If MP3s and the like blew up that whole music as commerce dinosaur for good, they did so at considerable expense. Unless I'm mistaken here, the only really viable casualties have been the independent record stores and record labels once run by actual music guys. These days, the music business is being largely run out of the corporate boardrooms of megalithic companies that give less of a shit about music than the suits at Sony or Warner ever did.

The result? To be right honest, I'm sick of this shit. Record store closures. WalMart Deals. Ticket prices that all but shutout the youngest and least well off fans. Artists reluctant to experiment with the infinite possibilities of the recording studio — since the final product will likely only be heard on thumbnail sized speakers anyway, if at all. Don't expect any future Dark Side Of The Moon, Born To Run, or OK Computer in such an environment.

It doesn't take a genius to see what's happening. But this article isn't about that. This is about that other victim of progress — journalism. Specifically, it's about music journalism.

Years before I ever embraced the whole concept of "blogging," I was a music journalist. I plied my trade at a number of publications — most often freelancing articles whenever and wherever I could. But I cut my teeth at a Seattle paper called The Rocket.

When my editors there used to send me back for rewrite after rewrite of something as simple as a review of the new album by Sir Mix-A-Lot, it used to really piss me off too. Guys like Charley Cross and Grant Alden were tough as nails, but they were right in doing so. They not only made me a better writer, they also upheld a journalistic standard. Things like journalistic credibility and the overall vision of the publication mattered back then.

If it was shit, or if it wasn't relevant, we either called it as such or we just didn't review it at all. The quality of the writing also had to pass a strenuous standard of quality. Our readers didn't always agree with us as a result. We were called pretentious, elitist snobs and worse. But they did trust us. Somewhere in the nineties, this started to change.

The thing I most started to notice was a laziness as college students writing for free music wrote reviews that read more like press releases. Because who wants to piss off a record company or publicist giving you all that free music, right? As long as the tap is running, why shut off the spicket?

Then there was the new elitism. The more obscure the band, and the less people have heard of them, the better. Which led us to the flavor of the minute, attention-span deprivation we see as being the hallmarks of both music journalism, and the music industry itself today. And people wonder why the music biz is in the dumper.

Which brings us to the internet. With journalism, as with just about everything else, anything goes on the internet, right? This is all fine and good when it comes to blogs. If Joe Blow wants to start Joe Blow's blog to talk about everything from his shitty date last night to his obsession with comic books for an audience of his mom and his buddies, that's fine. In fact, God bless him for having the outlet to do so.

Unfortunately, this lack of any basic journalism 101 class standard has spread to the larger websites as well. What used to be called "writing" is now referred to as "content."

"Content" is a lot like what they used to call "product" in the old school music industry. God, I used to hate the word "product" back then. The record companies were all about pushing out as much product as possible. Didn't matter if it was the Ramones or Right Said Fred, as long as it got out there.

And it is much the same with internet journalism today. Fact checks? Truth? Fiction? Sources? Credibility? Forget about it. It's all about "content." And in the world of internet "journalism," it's a game of more is better, where quantity trumps quality every single time.

Do the incisive and thoughtful pieces still get through? Sure they do. You're reading one right now. But searching for that ever elusive needle in the greater internet haystack of articles where only the most basic standards of grammar are often applied — if they are at all — can be a challenge at best.

What exactly is the standard for internet music journalism today? Pitchfork? Blogcritics?

All I know is I miss Lester Bangs. And that we sure could use him now.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Mache

    …and sorry too for the spelling mistakes, and any grammar mistake. I checked my insane thoughts too late

  • Mache

    It’s human nature to feel rejection to changes. You can either live fixed in the past, Jorge Manrique said it best “todo tiempo pasado fue mejor” (any past time was better). Or you can be positive and choose to see that changes bring opportunities, I like this better. Because eventually all dies, and it’s much better a death through transformation, than a death that’s just a “turn off”.
    It was amazing how music turned to be one of the biggest industries of the world, as big as weapons, or pharmaceutical. Certainly that was something that help to keep hope in humanity during the 80s and the 90s. But then it turned so big that the art of music started to be just like any other mass consumer product, and commercial music started to be a bit insulting for those who love music for real. (well, at least for me)
    Besides during the 90s there were still many places in the world (like Latin America or Asia) where it was difficult for music lovers to access easily to music that they (we) wanted to hear, but we couldn’t because it was too far away, and either too expensive to get,or even wors just impossible to buy. So I remember with love when Internet allowed me to listen to bands that I knew for just one song on a movie, or that I was curious about because I read about them on a magazine or a book, or I heard someone talking about them, but I couldn’t get one album of them to actually knew what was that music like. I fell in love with Internet when I realized I could search any kind of information of bands that I already loved but I had few knowledge of their history, that I didn’t depend anymore on the taste of the few people that was talking on radio shows, or video tv shows, and the few music journalist that at that time were all as old or older than my mom. I appreciate all I learnt from them, but I was thirsty for music, and my source was not enough for me. Internet brought me music as I dreamed I wanted it, so much music I’m wishing I could live 300 years old to listen to all of it, and enjoy it until I’ll get tired of it. (That’s not going to happen though, probably I still have ten more lives to live before I feel I don’t care about music).
    It’s sad that good music journalist have left the building, indeed. But basically, because there’s no more big business on this, or because they are just done with it by natural reasons. However, the fact that now it’s harder to live of only doing music journalism is a barrier that’s filtering through motivation, so those that want to write because they love it and really really want to do it no matter what they are doing it, and then this is discouraging those that wanted to do it for the fame of it. And those that really love it, can do it for free, they can open their own blogs and through all their insane thoughts to the e-air. And then natural selection happens always (nature is smart), those that are interesting and match better with a bigger group of people will eventually get their reward in a bigger traffic/readership (if they have a proper SEO system though). And those that are not that good, as you said, that will depend mostly on how loving our their moms, and how many good friends they have. In any case, what I felt like saying here is that I think is fine that music industry, and music journalism are changing. It’s challenging for the heads of the industry, so it’s refreshing too. New dimensions are opening for all the entities and people involve in the music biz, and actually for everybody who loves music, new areas are opening to explore and that can’t be something to complain about. Also, sorry for sneaking in, and so late.

  • Wow. Well, I know squat about compressions and whatever the hell else you guys know about nuts and bolts of audio fidelity. I do know that the sound in my little Sansa is pretty decent. And that’s fine enough for me. So there’s that.

    Also, I keep finding my ‘new music’ through compilations and soundtracks. Also of course, through my friends here on these pages. But those mix discs – great stuff.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Sure… I agree with you. But, it doesn’t make it right. Just because the masses don’t give a hoot about sound quality doesn’t mean it does not matter.
    Those few in charge of the dilapidation don’t fully understand what it is doing to the product as a whole. Sure, they can blame it on illegal downloading all they want but an inferior product is the real reason why people aren’t buying as many CDs as they used to whether it is the actually audio quality or the lack of good songs on the CD.

    hell, producers used to listen to prerelease mixes in the car, because that’s where most people heard stuff (via the radio). did that have a negative effect on the recorded product? probably.

    It’s a possibility if the producer didn’t care how they captured the recorded audio but back then after the choice of microphones & the brand of instruments & amplification used, they only had one way to record which was “Reel to Reel” plus they had the generational loss from cassettes when they finally mass produced the recording,so, imho, the producers of today have an obligation to use the great technology they have in their hands the right way – To archive audio with integrity and not just for the quick buck!! Hopefully, the bands that are making a stand against this bullshit will cause a trend and send those shallow futhamukers packin!!

  • let’s face it, it’s all part of the more commercial side of the industry flailing to get more ears to listen. is it working? i have no idea. we can plain about the degradation of sound quality until we’re blue in the face but i think we’re in the minority.

    hell, producers used to listen to prerelease mixes in the car, because that’s where most people heard stuff (via the radio). did that have a negative effect on the recorded product? probably.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus


    it is a misconception because the dynamic range reduction when the level is raised beyond the maximum amplitude isn’t the same as the information loss when converting that amplified track to Mp3.
    Whether or not it’s an “Attention Getter” is purely subjective. Some people might feel it is done so that people can hear the music better during crucial listening times like driving or on a personal device while on the T or walking.

    Ultimately, it does take away from the sound quality that is correlated with CD technology but so doesn’t the equipment used to make the recording, thus, another debate.

  • it’s not a misconception. studios ask for the extra compression because they know most kids just listen on earbuds. it’s an attention-getting sort of thing.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    it did so indirectly since it is the primary format used on digital players.

    Sure, that’s the misconception that people have. I’m not sure as to why because an Mp3 is a lossy format that a CD can be ripped to but it isn’t what studios use as a format to record. Plus, the size of the speakers really have nothing to do with the issue other than that you can’t really hear the artifacts of Mp3 through smaller speakers(earbuds) but that’s a different debate all together.

  • But I’m likely totally off.

    no, you’re not. there’s already been tons of stuff written about that very issue.

  • Wasn’t trying to imply that you personally think that music is more important than surviving Brian. a part of this discussion has been that the majority of people simply don’t care about the sound quality of music. I’m suggesting that another factor in that is the expense of getting good equipment.

    I may be wrong on the loudness stuff, but my understanding was that though mp3s might not directly have influenced the loudness war, it did so indirectly since it is the primary format used on digital players. And that people prefer the louder music as it is often played through cheap earbuds. But I’m likely totally off.

  • But all of this instant access to music has created a double edged sword. On the one hand, any band in a garage can put its music out on the internet. On the other, there is the none too small problem of finding said band an audience in something as vast as cyberspace.

    This is very true!

    And who, aside from me, can ever forget the experience of hanging out all day at a record store, tracking down different LP’s/cassettes/CD’s to find a good artist/good music? It’s also the trial and error thing that makes you learn about good music. I used to plan overseas business trips around where music stores would be, always asking business partners where the local music store was. Now it gets much more boring. “Just check out this site, and it will tell you all the good stuff.” I don’t want to get on-line to find good music. I want to read a paper, go to a store, talk about it with fellow enthusiasts, see people play it…etc.

    In this sense, the Internet sucks. But again, it is a double edged sword.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    First off, I never said that survival,especially in these times, should take a back seat to electronic purchases. You should actually read my entire comment before replying.

    Second,“Loudness War” has nothing to do with Mp3 technology. It has to do with the reduction of the dynamic range of recorded audio on laser and optical disc technology(and some vinyl) by increasing volume levels beyond the capabilities of said technology. AND, artists don’t record directly to lossy formats so that really isn’t a concern when they want to(or if they can) write material that pushes the envelope.

    Third, I have to agree with El Bicho. I’ve only really ever gone by my friends and family for music suggestions. BUT, nowadays, I’m the one who is usually making suggestions about bands to people I know and to the people I chat with on the internet…

    [Yea,Yea..I know you have seen my comments here]

  • do you have to talk about me in public like that? sheesh!

    Funny I actually thought about you when I wrote that, but while you might have some snob sensibilities, generally you’re a pretty cool guy mark 😉

    I don’t see how anyone can be so passionate about music and not want a great experience.

    Wanting and affording are separate things. I don’t have a great system, I’ll admit. Not because I wouldn’t love to have one, or that I don’t care about sound quality. I simply haven’t been able to afford one yet. I’m also not settled enough. There is no way I’m gonna spend a couple of grand on a stereo only to have to keep in in my mom’s garage or some storage bin because I’m traveling.

    I suspect most music lovers would like to have a great sound system, but things like food, shelter and raising babies trump that. If we’re lucky as we get older we can start buying better equipment. But until then, man, just enjoy the tunes.

    I will agree with ya there though Glen that the mp3 technology has changed the way many bands record causing the off maligned ‘loudness war’ which is not such a good thing.

  • the general emphasis on quantity over quality diminishes not just music journalism, but journalism as a whole.

    i totally agree. it’s too bad that the internet/eyeball count model doesn’t seem to encourage quality. at least, not in most cases.

  • All of this MP3 discussion is just side-chatter. The article may have addressed the downloading thing, but what it was really intended to be about was internet music journalism. My position is that the general emphasis on quantity over quality diminishes not just music journalism, but journalism as a whole.

    Quite frankly Bicho, your response puzzles me since we have spent many a late night discussing this very topic into the wee hours. Unless of course, your just choosing to screw with things (as you often seem to enjoy doing).


  • I really don’t get what all the hubbub is about other than you not being happy with the way things are and thinking your way is better, even though you are in the minority. Sorry to say, but many of your views come off as close-minded.

    This notion that there are too many options and they are too hard to find is ludicrous. I prefer going through websites where I can hear samples of songs rather than the olden days of yore when sometimes all you had was the album cover to base your roll of the dice. The Internet allows for a direct connection between the audience and artist. I don’t need some music industry worker who is trying to find the next new thing while milking a current trend being my filter because I know what I like. Same goes for the stuck-up Tower Records employee.

    If the majority of people actually cared about sound quality, they wouldn’t have listened to AM radio or 8-tracks through factory-model speakers. Convenience trumps.

    Most people I know make their music choices based on what they hear or word of mouth from friends, not what some “qualified music writer” says about it, which by the way everyone is entitled to be. Now whether said writer suits your tastes is a different matter, but if you don’t like them, either don’t revisit their writing or else call them out in the comments. Much like with music, I don’t need a filter telling me what is good music writing.

    If content being the king is an issue, then you are certainly free to come up with a business model that works better.

    By gum, I’m off to take my horse and buggy down to the general store because I need to send a telegraph.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    BUT, the quality is what leads us there.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Convenience has always been the winner.

  • For right now, the battlefront is between convenience and quality. Convenience is winning.


  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    can be just as passionate about music as the guy with the big vinyl collection and the state of the art system.

    And soon enough, because that person is just as passionate is gonna learn about sound quality and the different formats. There’s no way around it. It’s got nothing to do with snobbery! If you are truly passionate about music then you wanna hear it in the best possible environment. If you don’t have the money to purchase the best equipment then you get something to help you get by until you have the money. It took me a while to get the system I have, so again, I don’t see how anyone can be so passionate about music and not want a great experience.

  • I kind of feel the same way about record stores that you about book stores and libraries Mat. I should also add that I’m not totally down on downloading. I do it just like everybody does — and have in fact been able to fill some holes in my music collection (albums that have gone out of print and rare concerts mainly) with the MP3s.

    I just hope that at some point a happy medium can be reached, because when a medium affects the music landscape the way this has — well, just say that the flaws can, and in some ways have, had a negative impact. In this case, its mainly come with all the record store closures and the way the inferior sound quality has affected the way that records actually get made these days.


  • …the guy with the big vinyl collection and the state of the art system. And the snobbery is getting old, fast.

    do you have to talk about me in public like that? sheesh!

  • just like finding new books, i far prefer holding the thing in my hand after sorting through a physical collection.

    While I have absolutely no problem getting large swaths of my music from the Internet, I cannot stand the idea of the Kindle. I love my books. I love the smell of a bookstore and the look of a library.

    On the sound quality front, there’s something that we often forget: most people just don’t care. And, honestly, that’s a good thing.

    I think I would add that because people don’t care so much about sound quality doesn’t mean they don’t love music. The kid whose life is changed while listening to some lousy quality mp3 through his lousy earbuds, can be just as passionate about music as the guy with the big vinyl collection and the state of the art system. And the snobbery is getting old, fast.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    well, it’s a weird thing, because i’m very introverted

    Wow.. Seriously, I wouldn’t have guessed it at all.

    As for Home Theater, I find it funny that stores like Tweeter & Circuit City when out of business while places like Spearit Sound & Natural Sound still trudge on. I think it’s because stores that cater to trends are no longer relevant. As much as people follow what’s popular they still don’t want the record industry telling them how to handle their purchased media. I’m not too concerned about people ripping audio to Mp3 from a CD or that Mp3s are going to stop artists from producing mind-blowing work. I’m concerned that the compression methods that studios are using when they record an artist are going to nullify or negate whatever quality we thought we were getting from that technology.

  • I didn’t get to address the journalism issue. I think I’ve registered my issues with Pitchforkmedia pretty well in the past, but one thing in favor of the internet is that there’s a lot more people talking about a lot more music than ever before. Before the internet, I had to rely on magazines to review things, and if they didn’t, well, tough. It was either stumble upon something and give it a shot, or never know anything about it. Luckily, I was a very adventurous buyer with a very open mind, but I sure remember my friends saying the phrase we all know “this only has one good song on it.” You can’t say that you don’t have a chance to sample things these days, at least for the majority of things. Mainstream listeners definitely cannot say they didn’t have the opportunity – Amazon and Itunes give them 30 second clips, which is more than enough to determine if the songs are any good.

    On the sound quality front, there’s something that we often forget: most people just don’t care. And, honestly, that’s a good thing. I know, I know, that sounds hypocritical, but it’s not. I think people are more interested in more music today than they ever were. I hear/see people I would never expect to be into things mention artists that seem outside of what would fit the norm. It’s thanks to the internet and mp3s that they get exposed to stuff they never could have.

    And they don’t care what it sounds like. They never did. People happily listened to transistor radios to hear the music they wanted to hear. They’d do that today if they had to. It’s only a small portion that actually gives a dump about sound quality, and we’re just vocal enough to keep it out there so that people actually notice, but most people don’t really care all that much in the end.

    The days of the mp3 (and its ilk) are numbered, however. The home theater rage is going to start waning (see the pathetic reaction to Bluray for one sign) and we’ll see a renewed interest in home (and probably car) audio, and that’s when we’ll see people being woken up about the nature of lossy audio compression. I think the corner has already started to be turned with the backlash against Metallica’s and Ben Folds’ awful-sounding albums last year. When something normally that minor makes major headlines, you know it’s getting ready to bubble over. What I am most curious about is how people are going to react about the time the spent ripping, stealing “collecting” mp3s, and dumping their CDs because they’d never need them again . . . only to realize that those CDs had high quality audio on them. The record industry will be only too happy to provide downloads of lossless audio, I’m sure . . . at a price.

  • well, it’s a weird thing, because i’m very introverted…so you would think that the internet would be a great thing for me in this respect. but it’s not.

    i totally enjoy being in the company of like-minded people, either at a bookstore or record shop.

    making purchases on the internet does nothing for me. i’ll be amazed if it ever does.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Maybe,the reason is because it is how you grew up??
    In those years,that is how you “discovered” the music you love…

    Yet, there is an emotion that ties you to that. It’s not necessarily a better way to find music though I am not criticizing that method. I, personally, have the same experience with searching the web.

  • as much as i love finding new music on the internet, i don’t think that my love of record shops has anything to do with nostalgia.

    there’s the listening to new music and there’s the discovering of new music, which i think of as two completely separate things. just like finding new books, i far prefer holding the thing in my hand after sorting through a physical collection. maybe since the anniversary of record store day is coming up, i’ll write about it…because it’s a prefence that’s very strong for reasons i can’t quite put my finger on.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    But your points are certainly well taken.

    I guess I don’t say this enough in my quest to change people’s minds here on BC. Mark, Glen & Tom always have understandable points. In this case, I do agree with Tom more but I definitely understand where you guys are coming from.

    I totally agree with you on Mp3s,Glen, I always thought it was retarded to sell devices based on how many songs you could fit but a lot of these newer “Mp3” players can now play lossless formats. There is a growing “interest” in these different compression methods possibly due to people’s renewed love of vinyl and education overall from spending time on the internet.

    I also agree that living in the computer is wrong. Hell, where would you go to the bathroom? (canned laughter anybody..) Seriously, imho, I think the computer/internet can make things more efficient or can be the same as spending hours in a record store. Obviously, record stores weren’t as great as people made them out to be because we now have this newer model that is taking over. I always feel that nostalgia plays such a huge role when people talk about how technology is ruining the world,yet, when it is finally accepted, things turn out pretty good. Like Tom said, the plethora of music available now versus having to order it from some dude at Coconuts(back in the day) is freaking awesome! And having to pay a small fortune because it was imported sucked,but, now a lot of these imports can be found through local distributors online. AND, now you can get even more specific by visiting the record label’s website to find more stuff in a particular genre.

    Ultimately, I don’t think we need anymore marketing for people to be able to surf the net better… I think we need guides such as this site and others to do things with integrity in the face of adversity. As for the music industry pushing “product” they still do that shit accept,in the US, people love the shit their pushing:(

    Finally, I LOVE THE INTERNET!! I don’t have to listen to a mass of worthless stations on the radio anymore. I don’t have to rummage through the heaping piles of crap at the local record shop to find something good. I can find out what’s up with a favorite band without having to sift through some over-priced,over-rated “music” magazine that has too many pics and follows trends to make a buck! I can also send links about interesting articles, music,games,etc.. in an email instead of having to call each person up individually.


  • The average schmoe also likely spends less time at the computer, and more time doing the thing called…life.

    this is true, though i tell ya…there is a new crop of average schmoes growing up whose life is IN the computer. sad but true.

  • Its become so damn impersonal though Tom. And a lot of good people have lost their jobs too in the wake of all this, umm, “progress.”

    I mean sheesh, did you know there is now a website in Seattle where you can have beer brought to your damn door? Thats either one more reason not to leave the house, or a new incentive to get out there and experience actual life in the real world.

    And the sound quality has suffered — you’ve written about this yourself on more than one occasion Tom. As Brian has said, there are ways around this (flacs etc.). But the average schmoe is less likely to take the time to seek out all this new music out there, and if he finds it the quality is more likely than not to be inferior.

    The average schmoe also likely spends less time at the computer, and more time doing the thing called…life.


  • I was mainly referring to the MP3’s, because that has unfortunately become the format of choice when it comes to downloading…hence, the music consuming public becoming conditioned to accept inferior sound.

    As you said, not everyone is as passionate about music as we are.

    But your points are certainly well taken.


  • I must be the lone freak here. I find it WAY easier to find the oddball stuff now than before the internet. Jesus, I remember days of driving from record store to record store hoping to find that One Great Thing and coming home with a pile of random stuff. Now I have at my fingertips an entire world so deep with relevance to my interests that it is impossible to measure. There are many times when I struggle to decide just what it is that I want to buy because there are so many things I’ve found. I mean that I have to LIMIT myself to one or two things of many things that I want. Just using three sources you could blow a paycheck – Allmusic, Wikipedia, and Amazon. So I don’t agree – the world of the music freak is way better off due to the internet. Maybe it isn’t the same as trawling the racks, which I love and do weekly as well, but if you’re interested in the new, the world is your oyster due to the internet. I love it.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    It’s just that actually finding it can be a problem because nobody has yet figured out a new model for effectively targeting the precise audience all these new bands out there are seeking.

    That to me sounds like a marketing problem that would only affect the people who don’t necessarily love music to the extent that we do. Personally, I love searching the net for music because it takes the “ordering” guy out of the equation. To me, Myspace is only a way to listen to a sample of a band’s music that I found by surfin the web…

    But most of these damn things are either so compressed or have such low bit rates

    If you are talking about FLAC,WMA 9.2, or any other “lossless” container then you are mistaken. You wouldn’t hear any compression. As for Mp3, I completely agree… It’s a shitty format but it is easily sold to the masses because a lot of people don’t understand the difference.

    Why make a multi-layered, genre-re-defining masterpiece when 90% of your fans won’t have the equipment necessary to properly appreciate it?

    Because 90% of your fans never purchased the right equipment to listen to music..Ever! Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think that it is important to purchase this type of equipment, thus, again, why Mp3 sells!

    But, I don’t that mass mentality stops artists from using newer techniques in the studio. Look at SACD or DVD-A. The people interested in creating music on that “multi-layered, genre-re-defining masterpiece” level will always find the better technology to do so. Whether or not that society picks up on it has always been the challenge.

    As for low-fi, your major labels have been waging the “loudness wars” for quite some time, so, even if you think you’re getting better quality from their CDs, you are probably not. They compress the quality to make it louder and to fit more songs.

  • ….And because really great writing can be as joyful an art to appreciate in and of itself.

  • Really, who needs someone to write about it anymore especially if its all “subjective” as I’ve been told here.

    because it’s fun to read somebody’s enthusiastic report of something they’ve discovered?

  • Yeah, back to mono. Thats the ticket.


  • Why make a multi-layered, genre-re-defining masterpiece when 90% of your fans won’t have the equipment necessary to properly appreciate it?

    there’s some truth in that but remember, we did listen to Spector’s wall of sound on crap-o-matic am radios.

  • Oh, my dear Mr. Gupp-meister, of course we value your opinion. In fact, when you jump into the mix is usually exactly when things start to get interesting.

    A couple of things though.

    I’m gonna repeat this for the umpteenth time in this thread, but I have never suggested that there is a lack of great new music out there. There’s more of it now than ever, and I know that. It’s just that actually finding it can be a problem because nobody has yet figured out a new model for effectively targeting the precise audience all these new bands out there are seeking.

    MySpace and all the rest are great news for bands who otherwise have no avenues to get their music out there. Finding that great new band is another matter entirely due to the needle in a haystack model of the internet.

    Secondly, when I speak about how download models have resulted in an overall de-emphasis on sound quality, I am speaking in the most general terms. Because it is generally the truth. You mention Steve Wilson, and most of his music that I’ve downloaded has in fact been on either flac or mp5 formats.

    But most of these damn things are either so compressed or have such low bit rates, that quite frankly, they sound like “shite” (hey! I got to use your favorite word there, Brian).

    Case in point was Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Like everyone else, I took advantage of the free download when offered (I paid them $5.). But when it came out on CD, I couldn’t even believe it was even the same album it sounded so much better. I heard layers on the CD that I never knew were even there on those damned MP3 files.

    The other point here is that the downloading revolution also means that artists don’t have as much motivation to explore innovative or new studio techniques. Why make a multi-layered, genre-re-defining masterpiece when 90% of your fans won’t have the equipment necessary to properly appreciate it?

    Don’t get me wrong, because I also have a healthy appreciation for low-fi…but I think you get my drift here….


  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I know…no one gives two shits about my take but here it is anyway:

    Most consumers stopped giving a crap about the quality of sound when they bought into CD technology. It was sold as the indestructible disc..Yea..until someone left theirs on a dash on a hot,sunny day or got a deep enough scratch *Smirk*.
    But, the upside was the digital movement and with it comes the advancement of digital memory(memristor) or hard drive space plus compression formats that aren’t as crappy as Mp3. Ultimately, as I have said before, it’s a journey back to analog,digitally. Sure, it will take time but when we get to the point that we can record an artist and not only capture the full spectrum of sound BUT we don’t loose any of the sound when we make copies of their material then people will have all but forgotten Lp,8-track,etc..
    (Come on,Glen,your beloved Steve Wilson is offering up his tracks in FLAC which doesn’t lose any sound quality from CD)

    As for not being able find new music on the web…lmao. Dude, not only can you find new American artists but you can be connected with the rest of the world to find new music and most indie labels offer better music & better quality than their major conglomerate competition. Really, who needs someone to write about it anymore especially if its all “subjective” as I’ve been told here.

  • True enough Mark. I’ve got no problem with the eye-popping shit either…at least as long as it doesn’t come off as just plain stupid anyway.

    I’ll take goofy, gossipy news any day. Britney dances naked for the pope? Bring that shit on, brother.

    But if someone just has a personal axe to grind — you know, Bruce Springsteen is a douche bag or something along those lines — I just don’t have the time or the patience for it. It cheapens whoever happens to publish it in my view. As does writing that is riddled with factual errors or hyberbole.

    Not that I’ve ever engaged in hyperbole myself of course…


  • i totally agree on the quality thing (and have certainly done my own amount of bitching offline about the writing on certain websites), but given the model of more eyeballs is good, i don’t know that that gets you anywhere.

    i’ve wrenched my guts a few times writing pieces, published them…only to see them vanish in the wind.

    it seems like on the internet, you can get more traction by being provocative. you know, write a story about how Slash is overrated or something, then watch the kooks (and their eyeballs) come out of the woodwork.

  • Josh isn’t Lester Bangs (and neither am I for that matter), but he is certainly of our best, and I love reading COAF (just don’t tell him I said that, okay?).

    What I’m talking about here isn’t an Edward R. Morrow sort of standard…hell, even Bangs himself couldn’t have lived up to that (and probably wouldn’t want to if asked). That would take the unpredictable factor out of the internet equation and would also make for a lot of hopelessly dry and boring stories.

    All I’m asking is that the bar for internet music writing be raised just a little. That the writer can put a sentence together, that he more or less knows his stuff (and is willing to research the subject if he doesn’t), and hopefully that he can code a URL (something I had actually had to learn once I started doing this internet thing myself).

    Thats all. And that really minimal level of a skill set is often not even met on a lot of internet sites today. The emphasis is on content, content, content and more, more, more rather than even minimally substantive writing sometimes.

    I’m all about looseness, and I’ve always been a fan of the so-called renegade or outlaw journalism. Lets just make sure that the outlaws know how to actually fire the damn gun when asked though.


  • I get that, and agree, mostly. The days you are longing for are certainly dying. Print newspapers will eventually be a thing of the past. Magazines struggle. But there are some cool online places to take their place. Places like salon and slate offer good writing, though not necessarily about music. While Pitchfork tends to lean heavily towards the if-its-new-it-rules, if-its-old-it-sucks attitude you were talking about they do seem to have editors.

    One of the great things that I find from the slew of mp3 blogs out there is not the writing(which often isn’t good) but the enthusiasm. Take our own Josh Hathaway for example. While he is a fine writer, he would admit he isn’t always up to the standards you’re talking about. Yet Confessions of a Fanboy is a great read. It is fun and full of love for music.

    Though you are right again, the really greats like Lester Bangs had both the writing skill and the love.

  • I expected that this article would generate comments from some of the people I see here, and I’m really happy that it has. But I think some of you are missing my point here…

    I’m not saying there isn’t any great music out there now, because there most certainly is. Possibly more now than ever. Which is exactly why we need to see more from the writers who are best qualified to write about it.

    But all of this instant access to music has created a double edged sword. On the one hand, any band in a garage can put its music out on the internet. On the other, there is the none too small problem of finding said band an audience in something as vast as cyberspace.

    Which is why I’d like to see internet journalism standards — especially in something as subjective as music — that more closely match those of the print media.

    I agree with Mat that there are some great writers on Blogcritics. Unfortunately there are also some here, as well as everywhere else on the net, that can barely string a sentence together and have no business being anywhere near a forum that affords such great access.

    At the risk of sounding like the old hippie crank that I probably am, I guess what I’d like to see is something more closely approximating the old city desk at those big daily papers that are rapidly becoming an endangered species.

    And make sure my desk has an ashtray on top, and a bottle of hooch in the drawer.


  • While I, too, lament the losses in the print media, I can also envision (and in some cases, have discovered) how the Internet — more specific, Internet publications — can embrace well-written, insightful music critiques and analysis. I just don’t see it happening enough. And I don’t see it being encouraged, either.

    In talking about the hordes of talentless acts who have released albums in recent years, Elvis Costello remarked, “Just because you have access to a recording studio doesn’t mean you have to make a record.” And I think that logic is applicable in this context as well.

    Just because someone has access to an online magazine in which to express his/her opinion on a piece of music shouldn’t automatically mean he/she is entitled to have it published there.

    If such media outlets have no critical standards for the articles they publish — or their standards are so low that they’re practically nonexistent and inconsequential — than the overall quality of their writing, their ethic, and their validity is no greater than an un-moderated message board.

    Great article.

  • How is it harder to find? With blogcritics and any number of good blogs, plus a couple of cool music friends I’m constantly being inundated with interesting bands.

    I guess you could say there is almost too much, and the problem now is sorting through it all, but to me that’s where the friends and the blogcritics come in. I trust Mark’s opinion (well except for all that wanky jazz stuff)and he (as well as other folks/blogs) have led me to all sorts of wonderful musical ideas.

    It is the same with writing. Sure there is lots of crap out there, but with a little patience you can find wonderful stuff that ten years ago most of us would never have been able to find. To me again, it is the same networking principle. There are some cool writers on BC and they turn me on to other places with cool writers and so forth.

    I’m arguing here with you Glen, but I take your meaning. The Internet has caused dramatic shifts in both industries. Things are very much still in the air in a lot of way, but I guess I’m just more upbeat about where they will land.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Agreed on the content thing. It’s all keywords and hits online, for the most part. There’s the odd gem, but it’s so fucking technical that it’s embarrassing to read.

  • It starts with better writing Mark. As a great writer yourself, you know this every bit as much as I do. Yes, there is as much great music out there as there ever was. It’s just not as instantly accessible as it once was — that is unless you are willing to weed your way through thousands,if not millions of MySpace blogs and the like to find it.

    The internet affords us this great opportunity to reach people — definitely moreso than my days as a writer for the Rocket in Seattle ever did.

    Unfortunately, that same greater access means that anybody with a keyboard can write, and that a lot of those writers being published also suck. You know this as well as I do. Internet journalism is not about “writing” at all –its about hit rates. Its about content.

    And its up to the good writers — yourself, myself, Jordan — to clean up our own house.


  • it’s harder to find for who? remember that part of the reason record stores are going under is that kids just don’t give a hoot about them (obviously, i’m not in that camp)

    i’m not even disagreeing that better writing would be a good thing. i’m just not sure what good it would do.

  • pick UP our game meant to say there.

  • Yes there is as much as great music out there as ever. But it’s harder to find than ever — with the record store an endangered species, its up to music writers more than ever to point the way.

    Since the internet standard of anything goes “content” has lowered the standards of music writing, its up to US to pick our game gentlemen.

    That’s all I’m saying.


  • Jordan Richardson

    there’s still a huge amount of new and interesting music out there.


  • i think the problem here is that we’re right smack in the middle of a big shift from print to…uh, something. and we just don’t know what the new model will look like.

    as far as journalism and reportage goes, the “free on the web” thing will at some point run into a wall because somebody has to be paid to dig out the information.

    as far as the effects on the music industry, yep…the big commercial part of it is in huge turmoil. the independent part? well, that will rise up (in a form as yet to be determined) at some point because there’s still a huge amount of new and interesting music out there.