“A Music Journalist Is, Simply, a Failed Musician…Right?!”
ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
Confessions of a Conten Writer
ONE assumes those who spend their professional time…
slagging off other artists are failed musicians who never fulfilled their dreams. Many, bitter people, fail to distinguish between those who fall into those categories and those who have a genuine desire to succeed in a particular field. It all harks back to that maxim/saying: “Those who can’t, teach”. It is an idiom, actually, and it is a truncated version of a phrase from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. I know a lot of music teachers and singing coaches who get that accusation. Many assume they have taken that job because their aims of being a professional singer burned out. In fact; the most-common occurrence of that flawed assumption is aimed at music critics. If Mr./Mrs. So-and-So gives an album a two-star review and pours scorn on its ideology – there is that pack mentality to attack and disparage those who dare degrade a terrific musician! They have it in their heads she/he wanted to be a musician but couldn’t quite hack it: they fell into writing and can be all smarmy hiding behind their keyboards! As I type this; I am listening to Oasis’ Be Here Now – and the track, D’You Know What I Mean? That is a classic case of fans heaping negativity on reviewers who dared to snub the third album from the Manchester icons. At the time, the album was received with pomp and celebration, mind. It was Oasis during their heyday and many assumed, before they even heard the record, it would be a masterclass – as their previous two albums were...
IN THIS PHOTO: The cover of Oasis' album, Be Here Now/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Many reviews, through fear or without listening to the album, give it big reviews and threw hyperbole and superlatives at every song. Crowds queued around the blocks to pick up the record – a time, in 1997, when we flocked to record shops, hot in anticipation and fever! The album had some boss tunes – the aforementioned opener, Stand By Me and All Around the World do the job! – but it was re-reviewed in retrospect. It was/is too cocaine-laden and confident: a collection of over-long boasts from boys full of braggadocio and ego – not as honed and appealing as an album like Definitely Maybe. The first two records from Oasis were full of anthems and urged people to get together and celebrate life: their third record was crammed with chest-pumping songs that had little substance and inspiration. I saw a few reviewers criticise the band’s motives and, as you’d expect, people went for the throat. It seems to be the same in the modern day: if a critic expresses their opinions, they are open to judgement and offensive spit. There are some critics, granted, who are cloth-eared c*nts. They will not be named but, when genuine excellence is presented to them; they scowl their faces as if they had been offered a night of sex with Piers Morgan!
Most music journalists get into the profession through music – many of them have been in bands and had their time in the sun. I am sure there are some, like me, who are jealous of those who get on the stage and feel the adulation from sweaty and delirious audiences – feeling that love spread through their bones; the confidence and sense of validation they get cannot be easily quantified. Music, in general, is a tough profession and one cannot say why people do what they do. I am sure there are some writers who are a bit regretful they never had the chance to be in big bands or own the stage. The response to that is not to go into journalism and jab at every artist out there. For me; music journalism was a way of filling a hole. I started songwriting at sixteen and could never get it together in that sense. I still have a bit of stage fright and do not have the confidence to get into a studio and belt a tune out. I know my limitations and are not repressing rage through the medium of sarcastic one-star reviews. I would love to get into music and record – maybe down the line someday... – but it would be in the form of an Electronic/samples album…something that didn’t need me to sing or tour.
I feel like I have taken a shot at music and have no lasting regrets. Journalism is my chance to get involved with the music world and have my say – even if it is a bit back-seat and passive. I love discovering new acts and keeping busy. I can be a little less angered because my role involves being positive and reviewing great music. I write reviews for Too Many Blogs and have had to dish out one or two less-than-polite reviews. For the most part; I am free to choose my workload and, if I criticise an act, it is always constructive. I am never full-on-mean or hold any form of spite. I am seeing a lot of colleagues – professional and unpaid alike – who are still exposed to the social media-driven scapegoating. They (critics) are accused of being failed musicians and not knowing what they’re talking about. It makes me wonder whether people value the minds and words of music journalisms, We are seeing a dwindling sphere of printed journalism and a lot of websites come up – they vary in quality and relevance. At a time when albums are readier and more available than ever; can we truly say critics and journalists are a spent force?! It is good to browse and make our own minds up but I am always keen to do research before buying an album.
I may not agree with the evaluation (of the journalist) but it is good to have differing opinions and see if there is a consensus. I am not bothered by any accusation of sour grapes and failed career plans. If anything, this is true: music journalism is less stressful and more fulfilling than recording music. I do not have to worry about raising money to fund my career – although, being unpaid is a little annoying – and have the luxury of turning down requests. I can take days off (but never do) and am not exposed to the worst anxieties and pressures of music. Instead, I get to interact with musicians around the world and have greater freedom and range. My life consists of sitting at a laptop which denies me the chance to get out into the open and connect with people: at the same time, I am not trudging up the country and spending a lot of time on the road. On balance, I feel I have the best of both worlds. I get to go to gigs and hear the best new music around. The real reward is helping a new artist see their music reach new artists and get exposure. Some of my proudest moments come when I review/interview an act and they are overwhelmed by the words and assessment. That may sound arrogant - but it makes me feel a lot better and drives me forward. One cannot underestimate the pleasure you get when interacting with a musician.
Keeping active by promoting brilliant artists is one of the best decisions I have made – even if there are downsides. The constant screen-time can foster fatigue and isolation but I make sure I balance out the work with some time outside. Having done this for over six years; I am in a position where I am looking to build my blog and take it in new directions. Music journalism is, unfortunately, an endangered beast and requires conservation, funding and compassion. We need all the good and ambitious writers we can get right now! I can understand those who hold a certain cynicism for journalists who criticise everything and seem to doubt everything that comes from the music world – there is no real reason being a journalist if you approach everything with negativity and anger. I did not get into journalism to piss on musicians and rally against those who are doing what I cannot. Most journalists are in the game for the right reasons: they want to add their voice and do something genuinely good. We are at a time where there are divisions and debates forming. Rather than questions journalists for being tough on certain acts; we need to urge focus when it comes to tackling the issues in the industry – everything from sexism and mental-health issues to racial disparity and the security of live venues. Music is a community and we all need to be supportive of one another. Music journalism is something we should be encouraging young writers to go into; emphasising the good points and how much good it can do. I am, hopefully, proof you can help others and help a lot of good artists out. Those who claim music journalists are failed musicians – and filled with bitterness and regret – need to turn that negativi energy and realise people like me are here, not because our music careers have flamed out, but because this is the only…
THING we want to do!