The Other Side of the Record
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Cutting Back and Moving Forward in 2019
THIS year has been a tale of two halves...
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in terms of fortune and comfort. I have never been really happy at all – I never am and is not the fault of this year particularly – but I look back and there has not been a lot of satisfaction and remembrance. People ask me who my favourite interviews and artists have been and which we need to look out for in 2019. I think and think…and nothing really comes to mind. It is not the fault of artists but I have taken a lot of requests and, against the stress and busy nature of modern life, not a lot has stuck in. A lot of interviews have been a frustrating process and, even as people are pitching now; I am not being blown away and nothing is standing out. I can match a new request with several from earlier and others that are pretty much identical. Few artists can manage a few decent images and so many avoid Twitter because they feel it is not as god a marketing tool as hoped – forgetting that it is a worldwide platform and most of use it to promote our work. There have been some great reviews and interviews but the percentage has been lower than it would have been if I worked for a bigger publication of upped my game. I am sure there is a list I could make of artists to watch next year – I have a feature running with recommendations – but I cannot name too many off the top that I am going to listen to in 2019...
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The modern industry is packed with artists and it is this wave of sounds that can be daunting. I have agreed to features just to get something online and accepted interview requests and regretted it. It may sound all-doom but there have been some rewarding and exciting interviews/reviews that have been humbling and satisfying. It would be foolhardy to do interviews and reviews if they made me angry but the impression I get of this year is a lot of grammar and spelling correction; chasing artists for answers and getting annoyed by the quality of the images I am sent. The songs I am sent make some sort of impact first off but so much drifts on by – it is too close to everything else and there are very few innovators out there. I long to hear something that blows the senses and matches the best of the past; gets me invested and stay in the brain – that has not happened this year. A lot of artists are writing negative songs and many in a major key - and it gets to the point where you listen to the music you know and love. I can be assured of happiness and great revelation when I return to the best of the past: very seldom have I smiled or been put in a better frame with stuff sent my way. It has been great helping the artist and putting stuff on the page that looks great. I pride myself on great visuals and I am very pleased with how my blog looks and the reception it is getting.
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That is the big problem. So many people say it is great and I am a great writer – I cannot agree with everything – and the visual aspect is key. The depth of interviews is one of the reasons why I do things like I do. I send interview questions because it is more convenient for artists and managers and people can take their time. That works well for the most part but there is still too many chasing, sloppy answers – even those whose first language is English are not expending enough effort – and it sort of reveals how much the written word has slipped from our culture. The alternative to this sense of fatigue is being more selective and doing traditional interviews. I will select a few choice subjects for the next few months and am accepting no more than one a day – much stricter regarding quality and originality of sound. Maybe that will lead to very little going online but it seems to work for me. I have always been more interested in the nature of spoken interviews and they are less work for me. The drawback with this new approach is the fact I will be going after artists and no longer accepting requests. I do not want to sit in a pub or some dingy room and record an interview with a band/artist I am not hot about. I have been doing this blog for over seven years and seeing peers – less experienced and able – getting great interviews with IDLES, Self Esteem and other great new acts.
IN THIS PHOTO: IDLES/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Exposed Magazine
My ambition – apart from being on BBC Radio 6 Music – is to have my own podcast that interviews big names. I will pitch the idea at the weekend but it has stoked an ambition and will see me on the level that I am keen to be on. The same goes for reviews - and I will phase them out and only pen reviews of tracks that I am genuinely seeking out and vibing to. It has been great experiencing some fantastic new acts but I have been doing things to make others happy and promote them and it seems like I have not moved on in years. Many writers can come along and produce what I do very easily and music discovery and promotion needs to be important to both parties and not those who come to me. I will still do features – as they are the parts of my blog I love the most – but will get rid of requests in 2019. I will approach acts for interviews and reviews but want to focus more on getting ahead and being where I should be: knocking on the doors of the BBC and the biggest publications in music! It is not worth doing something if it makes you unhappy and stressed and that is why I am only going after bigger acts and those that can create me big and new traffic – I might take a very small number of rising acts that take my fancy but not often.
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Another event that has led me to re-evaluate and focus on myself is the move to London and how things are going. I move out a few months back and have applied for endless jobs; doing everything to find anything and it has been a draining process. I have had a few interviews that went well but I have not been told why I did not go further or get the job. That is as frustrating as hearing back so little after making such an effort. The savings are going down and it is scary to think, having come to London with a lot, I am having to dip into money reserved for me and furthering my career. There has been so little to smile about in terms of the personal side up here – no jobs; living in an area I do not like but can just about afford – it is compounded by vocal and throat issues that are almost scarier than anything. It is probably nothing too bad but a constant hoarse/sore throat is bugging me (accompanied by lurgies today…) and there is that fear there could be personal damage or no real cure. I have fed up and down more than optimistic since arriving and the only way to improve things and focus is to make changes. I am dedicating more time to job hunting and will be only accepting a few new requests from January (not sure what date).
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The rest of what goes onto my site will be artists I am drawn to and, at some stage, audio interviews and a podcast that has a professional feel and is recorded with bigger acts in a studio/radio studio – a slick and polished production that can get people hooked and make a name for itself. There have been some good moments and discoveries but I feel like squandering the true potential I have and what level I should be after seven years! If you’re not taking risks and where you were years ago then you get nowhere and will be overtaken by those who do not deserve to get their sooner. Making sure I dedicate more time to work and, when I get something, prioritising what I write about and what type of artist I have on the blog is vital. Happiness will not be easy or even possible but feeling far less depressed and angry about stuff is achievable – it is making changes that are scary but needed that get those results. It has been good doing things how I do for so long but, as I say, I look back and wonder whether I have done a good job. I am hungry to do a proper podcast and do these one-hour, big interviews with figures from music and the media. That is the goal and, alongside features (and occasional interviews) and select reviews; I will be hunting for work and less of a slave to the laptop! I am not one for resolutions and making promises that will be broken. For any journalist who wants to take a step up and closer to where they need to be has to sacrifice, think about their ow happiness and use their passion to...
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MAKE that break.