Is the internet really good enough?

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
This evening I went to the RIU&SA panel chat show. It was good.

At one point in the evening the complaint emerged on the panel that Music Journalism was dead in the press. NME was compared to Heat magazine by Gina Birch. In spite of being lucky enough to write for a couple of very esteemed, very wonderful magazines, work I undertake in a spirit of high seriousness and emotional dedication I sort of agreed a bit.

I suppose the thing about the NME and Melody Maker and Sounds in their heyday was that they had such enormous momentum. They came out every week! And hundreds of thousands of people read them cover to cover. The (quite excellent) titles I write for come out once a month and quartely and they have, i suppose it's fair to say, a quite small readership. I reckon those conditions, completely without regard to the kind of writing thats being turned-in, aren't suitable the kind of mind-melting density, the "heat" that the inkies used to generate.

Someone, I think it was Tom, piped up with words to the effect of "it's all on the internet now!", and rather than feeling sort of stirred, well things can get extremely passionate and very involved and trans-national to boot, I felt kind of ambivalent. Now I've dedicated as much energy to the internet as anyone, and I just wonder if rather than being this site of extreme freedom, it's a sort of ghetto. And I'm posting this in the "thought" forum, cos I wonder if that doesn't apply to other subjects just as much.....
 

egg

Dumpy's Rusty Nut
I don't think it's anywhere :(

It might be on the internet, but I read differently online, skimming rather than engaging.

Consistent editorial policy and tone of publication are hard to achieve when people are getting paid less or not at all.
 

martin

----
I don't think it's so much a 'ghetto' to readers - most of the blogs are fairly easy to find, and I have actually read a lot of them with the same attention I'd give to a mag / paper. They probably become a 'ghetto' to the writers though, as its a fairly solitary activity.

Still, even though me and my friends at school hated the NME, we'd always read it and comment on how we couldn't believe anyone would give House of Pain or the Melvins a 4-star review. Whereas, if you say, "Did you see the latest post about Hatebeak on Pop Is Dead blog? It's this thing on the Internet", it's like yeah whatever. I disagree with egg on the payment front, maybe this was the case 5 years ago, but I think writing for peanuts or nothing on the Net has become so commonplace now, it doesn't stand to reason that there'll be a resulting drop in 'quality' (which is surely subjective, anyway?) I have to be honest and say that, of all the blogs that hover around Dissensus, I've never read one that I thought was 'shit' in the slightest.

As for Gina B, presumably she just wants page after page of overblown retro bollocks about how 'great' the fucking Raincoats were.
 

soi

Member
martin said:
I have to be honest and say that, of all the blogs that hover around Dissensus, I've never read one that I thought was 'shit' in the slightest.
definitely, but aren't these blogs just the equivalent of the quarterly magazines? if you took the best of the music blogs there would be far too much excellent stuff to fill a weekly that would kick the arse of nme. reading blogs takes time, and the biggest problem is it takes reasonably affluent time, and solitary time too. i think to put too much faith in blogs to create the 'heat' risks taking the community out of things.

i mean, i read a lot of blogs daily but that's because i am sitting on my arse at home or in a job that gives me a desk and a computer. you can't buy the nme on the way to work and read it in yr fag break like you used to

and hell ye i am with you on the melvins, they deserved 5 stars at least :)
 

martin

----
soi said:
i mean, i read a lot of blogs daily but that's because i am sitting on my arse at home or in a job that gives me a desk and a computer
Yeah- it's constrained to fixed terminals. You can't kill a boring long train journey with a blog, sadly. And if someone from work should come over to see what yr reading, you're more likely to click the window shut and then pretend to be scrutinising some email abut the company charity 'fun run'.
 

owen

Well-known member
where I think the problem is with 'the internet' isn't the writing itself (come on, the last few years on the blogs have featured some of the best writing about music i've ever read, perhaps the best in a lot of cases) but the (unnecessarily, considering its free) limited readership and the lack of connections to actual music-makers themselves is a problem.

one got the idea from the panel thing last night that the music press and the bands were egging each other on to go further, each inspiring the other- that simply doesn't happen now- there is very little connection between the two (with the arguable exception of the junior boys...)
 

egg

Dumpy's Rusty Nut
so there's mroe distance then, both between artist and press and reader and press?
 

owen

Well-known member
dunno if 'distance' is the word (as surely the internet is inherently more participatory), but eg, (according to the myth anyway) paul morley bigging up dollar had an effect on pop discourse in a way that, for instance, woebot and simon's attempts to revive 'rockism' won't- mainly because of the difference in the size of audience- and the make-up of said audience.

also, martin's comment upthread about how with the inkies you could talk to all sorts of people about the ideas or reviews or whatever but if you mention its something on the internet you get blank looks is absolutely spot on- most people i know are to one degree or another interested in pop, philosophy, politics, all the stuff that gets talked about here and on associated blogs- but just don't use the internet in that way. partly i think because you DO often have your boss looking over your shoulder!
 

jomina

Hypnotoad
WOEBOT said:
I suppose the thing about the NME and Melody Maker and Sounds in their heyday was that they had such enormous momentum. They came out every week! And hundreds of thousands of people read them cover to cover.
That was me. Back in the late 70s I read NME and Sounds every week, as you say, from cover to cover and then back again.

Those were sombre, troubled times. Music often reflected that and provided us as listeners, but obviously writers and musicians as well, with a stage on which to express ourselves.

It was all quite po-faced :), but the momentum you speak of required music to be understood as something more than "just" music to dance to or get gently and mellowly stoned to. The two pet hates of the papers, after Thatcher, were hippys and disco, after all. There was a belief that music could change things, or at least make a difference, hence Rock against Racism and Rock against Sexism - and, eventually, even Band Aid.

This is not to say that everything was great then and really crap now (although as I head into middle-age, that particular tempatation is never far away :) ), but that the way music was perceived was different then. It played a different, and arguably bigger, role in many peoples' lives.

Someone, I think it was Tom, piped up with words to the effect of "it's all on the internet now!", and rather than feeling sort of stirred, well things can get extremely passionate and very involved and trans-national to boot, I felt kind of ambivalent. Now I've dedicated as much energy to the internet as anyone, and I just wonder if rather than being this site of extreme freedom, it's a sort of ghetto.
Fandom always has been a ghetto, surely. The internet simply makes it a much, much bigger one.

The internet has allowed me to experience a vast array of music that I never had access to before, and I'm not talking about p2p, either. On ebay I can find albums that I never saw either in my local library or in any record shops (except Sterns circa 1981 - and even then...), and there are boards and sites devoted to a huge range of music that were never talked about in the papers. I can buy FLAC files direct from Smithsomian, or the entire catalgues of Tangent or Ocora or the LSO direct from their websites. This was not possible before...
 

Rachel Verinder

Well-known member
I think we have to be careful not to assume that, because we as individual bloggers might be tired of blogging, that the concept of blogging is tired. If music blogs don't influence or change things, at least in the short term as opposed to longer-term, subtler osmosis, then that's not the fault of bloggers; more a rueful acknowledgement that the print world, and perhaps The World In General, act and think like dinosaurs - slow-witted, slow to catch on to things.

Thus we can have the controller of Radio 1 saying that no one could come in and do John Peel's job, when I can think of at least 200 people from this world, off the top of my head, who would make a roaring success of it. Or we have broadsheets raving on about this fabulous new music website they've just come across called Pitchfork - no offence intended to the latter, but it's a bit like the Guardian in 1978 going on about this great new band called Roxy Music.

Also it is in the interest of the corporate-controlled media that people are not made aware of the music blogosphere, for this enables them to continue their symbiotic/parasitical relationship with the mainstream music press, which as we all know exists on the basis of favours done (will Uncut ever do any live reviews which aren't of "Uncut Presents" gigs?) and encourages solvent retards in the misguided belief that it was all over in 1968/1979/1985/1996 and there is nothing left to do except consume and re-consume different configurations of things they already know.

Thus it's left to us to lament in our own perspectives of "the only sane voice left, crying in the wilderness." Other than that, we should just enjoy doing it. I stopped my blog last week for personal reasons (mainly to do with intense exhaustion, both mentally and physically) but I'm not proclaiming that everyone else should.
 

Woebot

Administrator
Staff member
sensible reflections all round. i dont think i have any less respect for contemporary bloggers as such, actually i have a nagging suspicion that there is some other small burgeoning network out there, people getting fired up in the way for instance you marcello did during COM. just that "we" are unaware of them/it.

actually i still feel really positive basically about the internet, its just that when it comes to feeling grandiose about it, in the manner of suggesting that its the sole cradle of "proper music criticism" i suppose i sort of recoil a little. wince, maybe. i suppose i see the net as performing a function, as being more a resource/source of energy/hub than as a substitute for more literary criticism. as jomina remarks, that can devolve into fandom *guilty as charged* but if it then serves as a sketch/launchpad for thought and action then i guess that's fine.
 

Rachel Verinder

Well-known member
I still get fired up by music - both new music and old music rediscovered/uncovered - but I don't feel the need to write about it as much these days. The phenomenal output of CoM - both in terms of quality and quantity (even after being edited, the final manuscript still extends to 575 pages!) - required reserves of energy which I simply don't have any more. The comparative non-urgency of Maja and Koons, I feel, made for less compelling reading. As Morley said in Words and Music, after a while the music writer inevitably runs out of things to express, or ways to express them, and is in danger of ending up twisting the music to suit his own agenda (or, to put it another way, once you've said what you wanted to say and gone through all your specialist subjects, then there isn't much left).

There's also the danger, as you say, that the meme of "proper music criticism" can lead the blogosphere into becoming a rather smug, self-satisfied insular mindset, and therefore an Aunt Sally for the next generation of bloggers to come along and gleefully trash. So really the only solution is to move more towards the concept of community. Whatever folk here may think of ILx - and clearly I speak as someone with a foot in both camps - it has succeeded rather splendidly in building up a connective global community. The idea of FAPs happening in Australia or in the Midwest is quite an achievement when you think about it.

But I'm also quite intrigued by the possibility you raise of a parallel blogosphere universe, where people are doing equally worthy stuff without our knowing about it.
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
I missed this thread earlier, but it wasn't Tom who said all the good writing is on the internet now, it was one of the other ILM people who I didn't know; the same guy who asked the 1st question, which I don't remember anything about any more.
Matt, I think you're absolutely right. internet writing is an absolute ghetto - it's counter-productive and an absolute waste of time, for my money. That's why I've stopped writing anything more than a paragraph about music on Breaking Ranks, leaving the MP3s to speak for themselves, and am absolutely insulted when I am described as a "blogger" - I am a journalist of some years' experience and not inconsiderable success, DAMMIT!
That might sound pissy and I in no way mean to belittle the sterling work that many folks do on the internet - i still enjoy reading Tom's stuff, our Marcello's and quite a few others (have to confess I don't read enough of them: I'm time poor and reading on a moitor gives me a horrible headache after a while) - but as long as good writing is to be found on the internet, in all its free, DIY glory, magazines don't *have* to raise their game.
Also, doing anything for free essentially devalues it - if you're prepared to give it away, what does that say it's worth, really?
 

Rachel Verinder

Well-known member
Yes, I had a bit of a flare-up with some troll on ILM last week about that latter point.

Thing is: OK, there's a book deal, so I'm not strictly doing it for no money, but that's not why I was writing. To sum it up glibly, some people write for a living, but I was writing to live, if that makes any sense. In that way I was working in the way that someone like Bill Fay works with his music - he just keeps on writing and recording songs without any thought of their ever being released, or even of anyone else listening to them. What's important to him is that "service is done to the music," and for me the important thing about CoM, above all else, was that appropriate service was done to Laura's memory (the "Me" of "Church of Me" wasn't "me," but then you knew that). Whatever other rewards come as a consequence of that work are necessarily secondary. That isn't to say that I turn my nose up at advance cheques - quite the reverse! - just that money's not the primary motivator behind the exercise.
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
no, i totally understand the reasons for CoM, Marcello and that's to a certain extent a different kettle of somethingorother to many blogs - CoM worked for the very specific reasons it was done, blissblog works because it's sort of a notepad/place to bounce ideas round/community hub. plenty of others make total sense, too, silverdollarcircle now, heronbone then being great examples.
i just didn't like my old blog, i didn't like the reasons i was doing it (and in hindsight i shouldn't have done it - that's why i took it down) i.e. not getting any proper writing work, distracting myself from the rut I was in etc. the mp3 blog i do now, with pretty pictures and no waffle, is a much better thing. it works in happy conjunction with my paid writing, djing and stuff, so it's different - a fun, optimistic little web presence that i hope people enjoy, rather than something to distract from a then-stalling career.
this is all totally about me and not meant as a critique of anyone else's work, though.
one other thing is key for me - i'm an incurable romatic about printed work. i love it and there's no way any piece on the internet ever feels as good as one that goes into a mag/newspaper, regardless of its penetration, longevity or whatever. you never see anyone reading your blog on a bus (unless it's one of marcello's insanely long piece that you just CAN'T read on screen!) and, for me, nothing's better than seeing my byline over someone's shoulder on the way to/from work!
i'm interested to know marcello whether or not, regardless of your need to do CoM and its obvious worth and meaning to you no matter where it was published, whether or not there's something nicely legitimizing about it going into book form, on paper, for posterity - y'know something to show yer mum/grandkids/nieces/nephews etc? I know it would feel that way for me.
 
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Rachel Verinder

Well-known member
Well it would certainly be legitimate in the eyes of my mum, who has absolutely no concept of the internet or computers in general, to say "look! my son's got a book out!" Also in the eyes of Laura's friends and colleagues, both at the Bodleian and at the Brookes library - special copies are going to be put on display in her memory when the book is published - so from that perspective it's important that I get it right, because people will be reading it who aren't necessarily savvy about developments and trends in the undercurrents of music, and they should be able to get the main story that CoM was telling (for the same reason, I've said to my editor - not that I have any influence over who reviews the book - that in an ideal world I would prefer a "non-music" critic to review it (Hermione Lee? David Thomson?) as this would prove the underlying worth of whether CoM works as a piece of writing). To have CoM in print, between covers, would be tangible proof that once upon a time, both Laura and I existed.

Interestingly enough, one morning on the tube there was a woman sitting opposite me reading something she'd obviously printed off her PC - from surreptitious glances it was clear she was reading CoM! I thought of introducing myself as the author, but realised that I would be answered with a look of utter contempt and an expression in the order of "yeah, right."
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
see, it wasn't just me!
more seriously, i thought that might be the case re the book.
we're not thinking that differently and that's why i'm glad the deal came through for you.
it sort of seals everything and puts it forward as a story worth telling; something that should go into libraries and be in people's homes and part of culture/history.
things on paper always feel more "of record" to me, that's all.
 
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michael

Bring out the vacuum
stelfox said:
things on paper always feel more "of record" to me, that's all.
Whatever anyone might say about the legitimacy of that kind of feeling, it's very much the case with music too. Consider releasing (or having released) a CD vs. having a page of MP3s on soundclick or wherever.

Even the amazing stuff I've discovered via web labels (this guy lomov blows me away for post-Chain Reaction ambience) feels really different to me than if I were able to pick up a slab of whatever flavour of petro-chemicals with the same music etched on it. I don't know what I think about that, but if I'm being honest, it's the truth.
 

michael

Bring out the vacuum
I feel a bit like I just stepped in on a rather serious and personal conversation to take things on a complete tangent. It's a weird mix of off-the-cuff and very earnest on dissensus, I find.
 

stelfox

Beast of Burden
not a problem mate, i know exactly what you mean. i think it all comes down to that cult of the artefact, be it with records, writing or anything. it's nice to pick up and hold something if it matters to you (so you can count on selling at least one book, marcello!).
 
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