ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash
Moving with the Times: Music Journalism in 2018
A few things have caught my mind…
over the course of this year. There has been some personal revelation and change; a need to develop what I do and push into new areas. Next year, as I consider how to expand and grow my blog - I have been thinking about the ways music journalism is changing. One of the biggest regrets I have had this year is being too lenient with artists. Quite a few of my reviews and interviews have been with artists whose images and information has been lax. It is annoying seeing so many artists pitch to me and not really doing their research. I understand there is a need to get material out to people and be visible but having that scattergun approach to submitting is not the way to go about things. I have been too soft with some and regretted putting up pieces. The music might have been good but the photos – or the lack of them – have been disappointing and poor. I have encountered people asking for interviews and not filling out all the questions I submit; others who want it published weeks after they have sent it back to me – why are to do an interview and wait for weeks to have it online?! – and others who provide scrappy and flimsy interviews. I have reached a point where I don’t need to go after people for requests – or I can and expect them to comply – so next year will see me becoming a lot stricter with any requests that come my way.
This covers interviews and reviews: if they do not have a selection of good images and information, I am not interested. The same goes with ensuring, if they are interviewing, they answer every question I ask. That tactic could alienate me from a lot of artists and get the workload down a lot. It is an approach I have had to take because I am not willing to see my blog suffer and look shoddy. I have a unique style/format and, if artists are dissatisfied with my rules, there are dozens of other options they could explore. This might sound like a rant from me but it is a signal of where I want to head and how seriously I am taking things. I have noticed a lot of music sites – the popular and big ones we all flock to – adopting a similar approach to their pieces. One would not read an interview with Kendrick Lamar, say, and see a couple of blurry images on the piece; they would not feature any artist/album and produce poor images – nor would they publish an interview where some of the questions were omitted. I have been thinking about sites like Pitchfork and The 405 and the work they produce. I realise they have teams behind them – and have the resources and time to do that kind of work – but it is inspiring seeing great, detailed features on artists; able to hook people with incredible journalism and of-the-moment articles.
There is no reason why a smaller, less-known blog cannot match the big-league sites such as Pitchfork. The reason I wanted to write this piece was to show how journalism is changing and what direction it needs to take in 2018. I am noticing a lot of sites produce the same articles (writing about the same things) and most of the work is written. They do put videos on their sites but most of these are music videos. Interviews, on the whole, are written and one gets very little audio content. In a time where attentions are waning and people want a mix of the written word and audio. Maybe it is a question of traditions and risk but it would be good to see more interviews online that are filmed. All of my interviews are conducted by email but I understand a lot of people are hankering for something tangible and visible. Whether this involves recording an interview – like I would on a radio station – or filming it; adding that aspect to my site seems like a good move. I feel more of the larger sites should adopt this and create that blend of written and spoken interviews. A few months ago; I mooted the possibility of a music YouTube channel whereby one would produce regular videos covering a variety of subjects.
Maybe there would be a series looking at classic albums; interviews with unsigned acts and tracks of the week; features regarding various cities and artists coming from there – essentially, what one might see on a top-notch music site but in the form of videos. I am keen to move into video-based territory - as I feel there are too many sites providing the same thing; sticking with written content and, when there are so many options available, it can be hard to differentiate and distinguish. It is great seeing the range of sites and the quality of journalism but, from my viewpoint, I have spent a large chunk of the year sat at a laptop and not interacting with musicians. I aim to see more gigs and set up an interview series whereby, in one part, two artists – either D.J.s or label boss; musicians or bands – interview one another; the other would be me chatting with a musician. I am ambitious when it comes to chasing established musicians and would like to get a few high-profile artists on my pages. As music becomes more digital-focused and there is less reliance on the printed word; websites need to recognise the changing demands and tastes present in music. There are blogs/sites that combine videos and written articles but there are few sites that produce a comprehensive channel that has filmed interviews, audio documentaries and other videos.
Given the number of vlogs, podcasts and digital stations out there; something that draws these together might be a nice idea. There are few music websites that combine traditional journalism and provide their own podcasts/series. Given the fact Sir Paul McCartney has started vlogging: does anyone in the world of journalism have reason to ignore such an immediate and vibrant platform?! It is a case of controlling quality and ensuring what you put up is of good and meaningful quality. I love the pieces I put out but I feel the best way for me, and any site/blog out there, to improve and evolve is to get into the open and, if you are at the laptop, to think about multimedia diversification. There is the issue of cost when it comes to ambition – travelling to meet artists and filming equipment; paying for new software and technology – but these ‘investments’ are worth the burden. There is a huge, bright and busy music world out there: getting out there and embracing it is a good ambition for 2018. As I introduce regulations and get tougher with artists; I am looking at the broader horizon and seeing what is out there. I have spent so much time in London – and various other cities regarding acts – and have neglected large parts of the world.
It is time to change things and get out there! Another of my ambitions – I don’t want to use the word ‘resolutions’ – is to focus more on northern music and the great artists who do not get the recognition they deserve. I am writing a piece in a few days that will look at Manchester and how, I think, it will gain traction – taking the focus from London and getting back into the public consciousness. In essence; I am eager to explore parts of music that are relatively unchartered and overlooked. It will be exciting stepping into the year and seeing what it holds. I am always researching and seeing what other music sites are producing but there is that feeling, deep down, that there needs to be a sea-change. Printed music papers/magazines are becoming rare and people are getting their content on their laptops/computers. I often wonder, when considering the reader, whether an article (such as this) looks a bit dry and unmoving on the page. I regularly check out the biggest websites (music) out there and, whilst they provide inspiration and guidance, I cannot help wonder if there is something missing. This time of year is a quiet-ish one for music journalists. Most artists are winding things down and making their plans for 2018.
Over the next few days; I will start thinking about the ventures I want to achieve next year. I have been a little stubborn this year regarding the way I publish my work and the format it takes. That need to diversify and provide a balance of audio and visual is the biggest lesson. From my defence: a limited budget has restricted my movements and ambitions but, as I become more committed to what I am doing; I realise I need stretch my horizons and do better. I feel the same can be said about a lot of sites – who have teams behind them – and, whilst budget is a factor for all of us; one can achieve a fair bit by utilising channels like YouTube. The final pieces of this year - aside from some ‘best of’ lists – are going to look at more general themes. The modern music fan demands a lot more from the media: keeping their attentio held and firm is a challenge in itself! We need to learn a lot of lessons as we head into 2018 (and take stock) and, I feel, music will take on a bigger role than any other year in recent memory. The media will be in the spotlight as there will be a lot to write about; the way it is presented to the reader The printed/written word is vital but I have noticed a stagnation and lack of movement in music journalism. Maybe it is not as simple as introducing more videos and features but the need to create something incredible and forward-thinking is clear. Who will take that step…
WILL be interesting to see!